Letters written by Florence Nightingale found in Victorian desk to go up for auction

Freshly unearthed letters penned by Florence Nightingale demonstrating her “boundless kindness and compassion” are up for auction.

Letters written by Florence Nightingale are to go under the hammer
Letters written by Florence Nightingale are to go under the hammer

Seven missives written by the nursing pioneer between 1892 and 1894 were found tucked away inside a Victorian desk in Holloway in Derbyshire and are expected to fetch thousands of pounds, said auctioneers Hansons.

The Lady with the Lamp was in her 70s and in poor health when she wrote the letters to the carer of a woman named Hannah Allen, inquiring after her wellbeing.

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Ms Allen lived in Holloway near Nightingale’s former family home and Nightingale refers to her as “Sister Hannah Allen” and a “good old friend”.

In one Nightingale writes asking if she should send some more “pounded meat and orange jelly”, and in another mentions her poor physical state, saying: “You will excuse my short pencil note for I am as usual overwhelmed with work & illness & very unequal to writing a single unnecessary line.”

Hansons expert Jim Spencer said the letters were a “wonderful find”.

He said: “They epitomise all that Nightingale stood for – boundless kindness and compassion and the importance of gaining the right care.

“They demonstrate her dogged determination to ensure the welfare of others. Despite being overworked and ill, Nightingale continually looked out for Hannah.”

The Nightingale letters are due to be sold on Tuesday in Hansons Antiques and Collectors Auction.

Each letter, together with a book inscribed for Ms Allen by Nightingale, has an estimate of £1,000 – £1,500.

The seller inherited the letters in 1986 and recently discovered them in the Victorian desk where they had lain for decades, said Hansons.