I’ve been reading the most amazing book I stumbled upon at the local library: “Letters From Egypt-A Journey on the Nile 1849-1850” by none other than that amazing woman Florence Nightingale.
Yes, that’s the woman responsible, four years after this journey, for founding the modern profession of nursing. One might say this journey began the epiphany that changed the medical support system.
The letters Florence wrote to her family as she took this five-month sailing trip were saved by her sister, Parthenope, who had them privately printed in 1854. This newer publication has been paired with contemporary paintings to form a journal that captures a pre-Victorian look at the state of Egypt half-buried in sand, with distintegrating tombs, and a people living in a stunningly degraded state alongside the greatest civilization in 4000 years.
I’ve been comparing her account to my trip up the Nile a few years ago.
Florence Nightingale, from a comfortable family background, had already turned down offers of marriage, and spent two years of research in the British Museum preparing for this trip. She had knowledgeable Egyptologists at her fingertips. She knew her cartouches, her Pharoahs and her dynasties. When she describes the tombs, her insights are flavored with the casual insouance of familiarity. Her opinion of Cleopatra and Roman temples amuses.
From the jacket cover:
“The brilliant landscapes and unimaginable colors of Egypt also drew artists from all over Europe, and Letters from Egypt is illustrated throughout with the glorious paintings and lithographs of David Roberts, Theodore Frere, Edward Lear and others.”
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, a division of Wheatland Corporation, New York copyright 1987 by Anthony Sattin, Editor, first published in Great Britain by Barrie & Jenkins Ltd. London.