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TO THE SECOND EDITION.
A SECOND Edition of this little lecture, (or essay, for I hardly know which to call it,) being required within the short period of a month, I seize the opportunity to add a few words to the preface already printed.
The reception, altogether unexpected, which the principles here so briefly and so imperfectly announced have met with, I certainly do not take to be any testimony to the merit of the book, as such, but rather as a proof that it has struck upon a chord of feeling in the public mind, tuned and ready to vibrate to the most unpractised touch. So unlooked-for, indeed, has been the general expression of responsive sympathy, public and private, that the hand, laid thus timidly and unskilfully upon the chords, almost recoils from the sound itself hath made."
Not less have I been touched with pleasure and surprise by the numerous communications
which almost every post has brought to me from medical men, from clergymen, from intelligent women, (the greater number strangers to me personally,) either expressive of cordial sympathy, or conveying practical suggestions, or offering aid and co-operation; - all, however various the contents, testifying to the great truths I have endeavored to illustrate in these pages: namely, that there exists at the core of our social condition a great mistake to be corrected, and a great want supplied; that men and women must learn to understand each other, and work together for the common good, before any amount of permanent moral and religious progress can be effected; and that, in the most comprehensive sense of the word, we need SISTERS OF Caarity everywhere.
In some few of these letters a tone of expostulation mingles with that of kind approval; and my attention is directed to various institutions which exist at present as filling up the want I have pointed out; - for instance, the efficiency of some of the Normal schools for the preparation of female teachers, and the encouragement which has been given to the houses recently established for training sick nurses, are especially dwelt upon. I learn that one of our most distinguished men entertains the project of organizing “classes” for workingwomen, as he has already aided in elevating the mental and moral standard for the workingmen. Again, there are hopes that, in spite of all opposing influences, lessons in elementary physiology will be more generally introduced into schools. God forbid that we should be insensible to the efforts which have been made, and are extending in all directions, for the amelioration of crying social evils! But what we require is not more benevolence, but the general recognition of sounder and larger principles than have hitherto directed that benevolence. With all our schools of all denominations, it remains an astounding fact, that one half of the women who annually become wives in this England of ours cannot sign their names in the parish register; that this amount of ignorance in the lower classes is accompanied by an amount of ill health, despondency, inaptitude, and uselessness in the so-called “educated classes ;” which, taken together, prove that our boasted appliances are, to a great extent, failures.
And, first, with regard to the means afforded for training nurses for the sick. I would ask what is the number of women so trained ? Does it amount to one in every five hundred thousand of our female population? Does it amount to one hundred altogether? and for whose service are these women trained ? Are they distributed among our village poor, our country infirmaries? Up to a very recent period, till the need of nurses for the East excited public attention, were not the greater number of these trained nurses in the service of the rich ? What is done is well done, perhaps; let us be thankful it is done; but is it sufficient? Does it meet those wants in the community which I have ventured to point out in the pages which follow?
Go into yon spacious hospital, provided with all that wealth, and skill, and knowledge can combine to heal or to ameliorate bodily suffering: see the floors how clean, the linen how spotless, the beds how comfortable! the most celebrated of our surgeons and physicians are in attendance; students from every part of England crowd thither;- it is one of the best of our medical schools. Let us approach a bed; - it is a poor pale girl, dying of a slow decline; she has been stretched there for eleven months; the chaplain duly visits her once or twice a week in her turn, for he has about five hundred other human souls to attend to. The physician, as he goes his rounds, pats her on the head; asks her, in a tone of unusual pity, the usual questions; then, perhaps,