Diary of Florence Nightingale is sent to relative's home

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The Independent Online

Florence Nightingale's diary has mysteriously arrived at a distant relative's home, 150 years after the nursing pioneer wrote it.

The maroon, leather-bound book was sent anonymously in a plain brown envelope to Claydon House, Buckinghamshire, where the nurse once lived. Edmund Verney, her great-great step-nephew, said: "I think the family are slightly surprised and bemused but it's very nice to have it here, among her other papers and letters."

The diary arrived at the National Trust property shortly before Christmas last year after a Radio 4 broadcast about the Victorian heroine. "It was very strange. The envelope was just addressed to Claydon House and we didn't know who it was meant for," said Mr Verney, who lives in the east wing of the house.

The "Lady with the Lamp", who in 1854 led a team of nurses to care for British soldiers wounded in the Crimean War, wrote the diary while touring Europe and the Middle East in 1849. She embarked on her travels after rejecting a marriage proposal from Sir Harry Verney, who married her sister. The diary tells of her study of the European hospital system and her subsequent nursing training in Alexandria, Egypt. In Alexandria she saw, "300 Arabs medicated and their wounds dressed ... by 3 sisters, the Superior and an Arab doctor between 8 and 11am".

The diary has been authenticated by experts, who spent months deciphering her notoriously bad handwriting.Anthony Sattin, an expert on the Egyptian period of her life, said: "I assume whoever returned it knew they shouldn't have it. But I think the programme clearly pricked someone's conscience."