London: Smith, Elder & Co, 1859. First edition. Original red cloth, carefully rebacked preserving the spine, stamped in gilt and blind. Spine darkened, foot and corners gently bruised, extremities rubbed, inner hinges expertly strengthened. Armorial bookplate of Ernest Martineau, West Hill, Edgbaston to front pastedown; contemporary clipping from The Times on the health of the British army laid-in; binder’s ticket, Westleys & Co. of London, to rear pastedown. Complete, with 3 folding mortality diagrams, of which 1 coloured and 26 pp. publisher’s catalogue at rear. Diagrams and facing pages foxed, short closed tear to fold of third plate. Together with a 4-page autograph letter signed (leaf size: 238 x 188 mm) laid in from Sidney Herbert to Harriet Martineau, dated July 1859 at head of first page in ink in another hand, addressed by Sidney from 49 Belgrave Square. Letter creased from folding, with just a couple of tiny nicks. Both book and letter in very good condition. Author’s own copy of her collaboration with Florence Nightingale, signed by her on the half-title, “H. Martineau.”
In the DNB Leslie Stephens described England and Her Soldiers, a literary account of the Crimean War, as “written to help Miss Nightingale,” but her link to the work is far stronger than his comment suggests. “Although Martineau appeared as the book’s sole author, she and Nightingale were in effect collaborators. The latter solicited her help on the issue of sanitary reform, and supplied the data, including printer’s plates for statistical graphs. In a letter to Nightingale dated 20 September 1861, Martineau writes of “Our book” and its success in America. Nightingale bought and distributed copies of the book, although she seems to have been wary of too close association, even in print, with the controversial Martineau, whom she declined to meet in person. Martineau furthered Nightingale’s work in other ways too, producing a lengthy piece in the Quarterly Review (seizing the occasion to promote her own earlier Life in the Sick-Room) and a shorter one in Fraser's on Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing. Nightingale, for her part, brought the Contagious Diseases Acts to Martineau’s attention, which led in turn to the Daily News articles that heralded the feminist repeal campaign” (Orlando). England and Her Soldiers reproduced Nightingale’s pioneering mortality diagrams and ensured that her data reached a far broader audience than a government report would generate.
“Martineau sent a copy of England and Her Soldiers to Sidney Herbert, recently returned as Minister for War. She suggested to Herbert that it would be a good idea to put a copy in each regimental library” (Small). The letter present here is his response. He first expresses his pleasure at hearing about Martineau and Nightingale’s recent journalistic work together: “I was only lately aware of your intercourse with Miss Nightingale on the subject of military sanitary reform, nor did I know to whom the army was indebted for the excellent articles on the subject which I read in the Daily News. Please accept my thanks for them”. He promises his support with regard to the newly published book - “I will do all I can to promote its circulation and perusal” - but is more cautious with regards to its suitability for the aforementioned libraries: “Whether it can be adopted in our regimental libraries depends on others besides myself. Indeed it is a book for the authorities rather than the men”. Herbert’s involvement in the dissemination of Nightingale’s findings was crucial: responsible for her appointment to the legendary Scutari expedition, Herbert had circulated the details in his famous report of February 1858, and “the reforms set in train as a result of the commission marked a turning point in the army medical department” (ODNB).
Provenance: the book with the bookplate of Harriet Martineau’s great-nephew, Colonel Ernest Martineau (1861-1952), son of Sir Thomas Martineau and Lord Mayor of Birmingham 1912-14; subsequently from the library of the historian Hugh Small, author of Florence Nightingale: Avenging Angel (1998). In his Brief History of Florence Nightingale (also 1998) Small quotes a line from the present letter, citing it as from his private collection, but it does not appear to be published in full. (Item #3494)