Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), Reformer of hospital nursing and of the Army Medical Services
Elizabeth Gaskell’s impression of Nightingale in 1854, just weeks before departure for Crimea:
She is tall; very slight and willowy in figure; thick, shortish, rich brown hair; very delicate complexion; grey eyes, which are generally pensive and drooping, but which when they choose can be the merriest eyes I ever saw; and perfect teeth, making her smile the sweetest I ever saw. … Dress her up in black silk high up to the long white round throat, and with a black shawl on – and you may get near an idea of her perfect grace and lovely appearance. 
Queen Victoria’s impression in 1856, soon after her return:
I had expected a rather cold, stiff, reserved person, instead of which, she is gentle, pleasing & engaging, most ladylike, & so clever, clear & comprehensive in her views of everything. Her mind is solely & entirely taken up with the one object, to which she has sacrificed her health, & devoted herself like a saint. But she is entirely free of absurd enthusiasm, without a grain of ‘exaltation’, which so often leads to over strained religious views, – truly simple, quite pious in her action, & her views, yet without the slightest display of religion or a particle of humbug. … She is tall, & slight, with fine dark eyes, & must have been very pretty, but now she looks very thin & care worn. 
From Harriet Martineau’s obituary of Nightingale:
Though dozens of portraits were put forth as hers during the Crimean War which were spurious, or were wholly unlike, her general appearance was well known – the tall, slender figure, the intelligent, agreeable countenance, and the remarkable mixture of reserve and simplicity in her expression and manner … She was the most quiet and natural of all ladylike women; presenting no points for special observation, but good sense and cultivation as to mind, and correctness in demeanour and manners. 
Footnotesback to top
1) Woodham-Smith 1950, p.302.
2) Letter from E. Gaskell to C. Winkworth, 20 Oct. 1854, quoted in O’Malley 1931, p.208.
3) Queen Victoria’s Journals, vol. 42, p.152, RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 21 Sep. 1856 (Princess Beatrice’s copies).
4) H. Martineau, ‘Death of Miss Nightingale’, Daily News, 15 Aug. 1910. Martineau wrote the obituary in 1857, when Nightingale was ill and believed to be dying.
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