23: The Collected Works of C.J. Cala

This comprehensive new introduction looks at spiritual experiences from past to present, from the experiences of the founders of the major world religious.

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True, as the standard-bearer of nursing, she played a decisive role in transforming nursing into a profession for single women of impeccable moral standards; but her actual strictures on hospital care were part of a much broader attempt to formulate a policy on public health through the adoption of better sanitation. Another part of the problem in coming to lasting conclusions about Florence Nightingale is the sheer scale of the materials involved.

The enormous collection at the British Library - the second largest personal archive after Gladstone's - is just the tip of the iceberg.


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At least 14, letters are known to survive, along with printed publications, and hundreds of private notes and memoranda. The scale of the material is one reason why, up to now, there has been no authoritative, fully documented biography. Sir Edward Cook's two-volume Life , published in , is still the best biography, despite the popularity of Cecil Woodham-Smith's Florence Nightingale , which appeared in Future biographers will be helped by a large-scale project which begins publication this year Dr Lynn McDonald's projected volume abridged edition of Nightingale's works will help to clarify the reformer's thoughts on such diverse subjects as religion, the army, the use of statistics of which she was a pioneer , hospitals, women, nursing education, Poor Law reform and so on.

The weight of material combines with Nightingale's long life - in 60 years of active life she understandably changed her mind many times - making her a difficult person to pin down on a definitive point of view. And she remains, above all, a creature of paradox: a woman whose work and standing signified much for the idea of women's rights, but who heartily disliked the women's suffrage movement, and found it almost impossible to work in co-operation with other women; a woman who spent much of the decade and beyond, after her return from the Crimea, confined to her bed as a chronic invalid she is now though to have suffered from a bacterial infection, brucellosis, picked up in the Crimea , but who nevertheless worked with an almost demonic energy in the areas of reform she was interested in; a woman who claimed to dislike the 'fuzz-buzz' about her name, but who manipulated her fame to masterly effect for her own ends.

Florence Nightingale inherited a liberal-humanitarian outlook from both sides of her family. Her mother's father had sat in the House of Commons for almost half a century as an abolitionist, while Florence's father, William Edward Nightingale, who had inherited an enormous fortune from his uncle, fought hard for the reform of Parliament before settling down to the life of a country gentleman on his estates at Lea Hurst in Derbyshire, and Embley Park in Hampshire.

Florence, born in the city of that name in , and her older sister Parthenope, benefited from their father's advanced ideas about women's education.

They studied history, mathematics, Italian, classical literature and philosophy, and from an early age Florence, who was the more academic of the two girls, displayed an extraordinary ability for collecting and analysing data which she would use to great effect in later life. Although, by earlyth-century standards, Nightingale had been given a man's education, she was confined by the conventions of the day, which decreed that, as an upper-middle-class woman, she should spend most of her time in frivolous pursuits and domestic routines.

Florence struggled hard to find fulfilment, against the opposition of her family.

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She felt frustrated by the suffocating existence which denied her the use of her intelligence and energy and which, on several occasions, drove her to the edge of breakdown. Florence's family, who shared the prevalent view that nursing was a disreputable occupation for someone from their background, were appalled at her decision, and bitterly opposed her.

In her parents refused to allow her to nurse at Salisbury Infirmary, but Florence did manage to spend two periods at the Institute of Protestant Deaconesses at Kaiserwerth in Germany, and later visited hospitals in London, Edinburgh, Dublin and Paris, amassing details of hospital conditions and nursing methods.

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Finally, in , she won her independence - and a small income from her father - by being appointed Superintendant of the Hospital for Invalid Gentlewomen in Harley Street. The torture of Nightingale's early years was undoubtedly responsible for the streak of steely ruthlessness that had entered her character. She was graceful, slender, appealing to look at, and she could be charming when the occasion required; but underneath she had an unbreakable resolve, and also happened to possess one of the great administrative minds of the 19th century.

Her sister Parthenope, with whom Florence had a difficult and ambivalent relationship over many years, once wrote that Florence was 'a shocking nurse'. She 'has little or none of what is called charity or philanthropy, she is ambitious - very, and would like I wish she could be brought to see that it is the intellectual part that interests her, not the manual. Nightingale seized the moment when it came. In , a unique opportunity presented itself when Sidney Herbert, the Minister at War, appointed her to superintend the introduction of female nurses in the Crimea and to lead an expedition of 38 women to take over the management of the barrack hospital at Scutari, a large village on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus.

Herbert had been responding to public outrage at reports in The Times of the suffering of the common soldier caused by the incompetence of the British Army commanders. It was vital, both for the future of the government and for the cause of nursing in Britain, that Nightingale succeed. Were you concerned about revealing too much?

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Brian: And factual. Melinda: It needed to be factual or why do it? Speaking of facts, the film depicts your first meeting at the Cadillac dealership where Melinda worked. Brian: Right! Melinda: It was the ugliest car we had. Brian: I liked it though. I chose that one cause I liked it. What did you like about it? Brian: I liked the way it felt, behind the wheel. I just liked it. Melinda: I have a different take on it. Not to look at, to get in it and drive it. Melinda: You see what I mean?

Cars are good to write songs about, too. Brian: Right, well I wrote a few car songs, yeah. What happened to that Seville? No, it was free. Melinda: The Corvette was cool. The Cadillac was not that cool. Brian: When we first met I liked her right away. She was a pretty girl, I thought she had a good voice, you know? I liked her. Melinda: I liked the honesty that Brian brought into the dealership, because selling cars, not too many people are honest with you.

Did you know who he was? Melinda: No. Brian: In the music world. What was your first take on Landy, Melinda? Melinda: He was a fucking asshole. And he ran me around the block for a couple weeks, then he announced he was going to go buy a Maserati. And he was just a creep. And the next thing I knew he brought Brian in.

In the film, Landy splits you two up for a period. Melinda: He totally did. Brian: Right. But Brian and I would see each other once in a while on the highway when Brian was running.

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Brian: She would pick me up and we started to get to know each other, and about two years later we got married. Melinda: You kind of forgot some of the years. In my mind we were done, until the day I almost ran over [Brian]. That scene in the film of your chance reunion seems almost too perfect. Melinda: That really did happen. Brian: No, not really, she swerved toward me. Brian: She almost did, yeah. Not that I was going to run over him, but us getting back together, it was kind of fate. Do you believe in God? But I do have voices, auditory hallucinations. Melinda: He wants to know what your spirituality is.

Brian: My spirituality?

I believe that God is music. So you still hear voices? It still affects you in a big way? Melinda: How could it not affect him? She runs deep, but has temporarily lost her way. The other victim is a priest who realizes he should not be in the priesthood. And he has NOT lost his way. This might sound like a typical story about the priest and the prostitute, but it's not. This story is a romance, and it ends in the most satisfying way you can imagine. He was horrified at the destruction around them. She was still lying against him, asleep. She stirred. She struggled to sit up.

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She looked around them, confused. He took her hand. It was trembling. She was gasping in rapid bursts of panic. In the daylight Frank could now see that they had been blown into an alley.