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James Naughtie introduces excerpts from the diary
"The Egyptian desert is nothing but a burial ground, full of jackal tracks"
 real 28k

Custodian Ray Sandham
"Somebody was either moved by it or their conscience was pricked"
 real 28k

Saturday, 15 April, 2000, 00:03 GMT 01:03 UK
Florence's 'lost' diary on show
Florence Nightingale
The diary details Florence's travels across Europe
A diary written by Florence Nightingale is to go on display after it was returned to her family by a mystery benefactor.

The 150-year-old book was sent anonymously to Claydon House, Buckinghamshire - the world-famous nurse's former home.

It details the Lady of the Lamp's eight-month journey across Egypt, France, Greece, Italy and Austria, ending in Berlin in 1850.

The leather-bound book arrived in a plain brown envelope at the National Trust property following a Radio 4 broadcast about the Victorian heroine, famed for leading a team of nurses to care for wounded British soldiers during the Crimean war.

It was opened by Claydon House custodian Ray Sandham, who showed it to Florence's great-great step-nephew, Edmund Vearney.

Mr Vearney, who lives with his family in the east wing of the house, said: "It was very strange. The envelope was just addressed to Claydon House and we didn't know who it was meant for.

Was it sent by someone who was so kind-hearted they didn't want any thanks or did it belong to someone who shouldn't have had it in the first place?

Alex Attewell
"I think the family are slightly surprised and bemused but it's very nice to have it here among her other papers and letters."

Mr Verney, 49, said: "I have had a look at the diary, although I haven't read it all, but there are some very interesting titbits.

"It's a personal view which was written at the time - not a recollection."

'Out of the blue'

Alex Attewell, director of the Florence Nightingale Museum in south London, helped authenticate the diary.

He said: "I had no idea such a diary existed and its arrival was completely out of the blue.

"I think the circumstances surrounding its discovery will be an endless source of speculation - was it sent by someone who was so kind-hearted they didn't want any thanks or did it belong to someone who shouldn't have had it in the first place? It's totally mysterious."

Mr Attewell said he was "reasonably" convinced the diary was genuine as the handwriting featured distinctive loops.
Florence Nightingale's diary
A mystery benefactor donated the diary
The descriptions inside also matched events of the period.

They tell of the nurse's travels to study the European hospital system and her subsequent training in Alexandria, Egypt.

It includes vivid descriptions of the people and places Florence visited.

It includes her view of the Egyptian desert as "nothing but a burial ground and tracks of jackals digging up the bodies to show that human life had been there".

The diary will go on display at Claydon House alongside other Florence Nightingale papers and mementoes.

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