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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 July 2006, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
'Lady with the Lamp' lover riddle
Letter from Florence Nightingale
The letter is expected to fetch up to 500 at auction
A letter from Florence Nightingale in which she hints at having a love life is being auctioned.

The letter, written by the "Lady with the Lamp", is a reply to a request for a public appearance in London.

In it, the famous nurse asks if she may bring "a gentleman friend", one of the few times the woman devoted to nursing expressed an interest in a man.

The letter, being sold by Hanson's Auctioneers in Derbyshire, is expected to fetch up to 500.

Auctioneer Charles Hanson said the letter, dated 27 November 1882, was very exciting.

"We all know through social history that Florence was not a lover of men so we don't know if this was perhaps a first boyfriend or who it was," he said.

Florence Nightingale
The famous nurse devoted her life to caring for others

"But the way she has inscribed it in inverted commas makes it extremely curious."

The letter from Miss Nightingale, famous for nursing soldiers during the Crimean War, ends with the line, "Tho my legs be cuttit off, I'll fight upon my stumps".

Florence Nightingale is credited with being the champion of modern healthcare systems.

Born in Italy in 1820 to wealthy English parents, she returned to Derbyshire with her family at a young age and said she had heard the "voice of God", telling her to find her calling.

After spending a few years carrying out social work in England, she was sent out to a military hospital in Turkey as a nurse at the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1854.

Shocked by the conditions she found there, she went on to make improving general health standards and organisation the focus of her life's work until she died at the age of 90 in 1910.

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