Charles Dickens knew Florence Nightingale but why?
When you become aware of connections between people, that seem, on the face of it, obscure, it might just be that the subject is more complicated than it seems at first.
Much social activism occurred in the Victorian period and many of the social reformers were women. Florence Nightingale was one of these women, known for her heroic efforts during the Crimean War, she was a highly significant figure in Victorian public life, far more embroiled in influential and political circles than possibly imagined.
- Florence was from a very wealthy background with considerable political connections
- In the first instance a nurse, she was committed to reform in terms of the health and hygiene of the nation
- She was an accomplished author, whose works had the power to influence public beliefs and behaviour
- Florence was very close to writers such as George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell and Charles Dickens, whose works revolved around the social and economic situation in Britain at the time
- Her own writings on the reform of nursing the poor used dramatic sensationalism to get across the message of the fear of contagion, she invokes the tone of the novel
- Florence is known to have distributed Dickens books to nurses and soldiers, she enjoyed the idea of philanthropy by middle class individuals working alongside the poor, fighting for reform in their own communities
- Dickens and Nightingale worked together on the Committee of the Association for Improving Workhouse Infirmaries
- Florence wrote on many subjects including famine in India where she addresses the politics that brought about such conditions
- When she failed to convey her message in straight descriptive writing she turned to a more narrative, rhetorical style of writing, taking as her inspiration the works of Gaskell and others