EDITH CAVELL: A Biography by Rowland Ryder


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Edith Cavell, even if not on a scale with Joan of Arc or Florence Nightingale, has been one of the quieter immortals of history. There has been little written about her in years save at that younger level and surely the 1918 film has long since been forgotten. Ryder's careful--in the best sense--just and surely readable biography of the girl whose name, ironically, means ""happy in war"" begins with her unexceptional childhood in a vicarage, her small jobs later as governess, including one in Belgium, and goes on to her training as a nurse, when she was past 30, at the London Hospital, followed by work in a Poor Law Institution. Indeed costermongers and miners found this level, grey-eyed woman far more approachable than some of her colleagues. Later she would return to Belgium to nurse at the Clinique when World War I broke out and the Clinique became an underground waystop for resistance escapers, including General Giraud. Her own implication and the later political repercussions around this case are not pursued too closely though surely she was active: there was one incautious letter home and in others one can spot the interlinear messages. She was shot at dawn in 1915 and few have forgotten her last words: ""This I would say, standing as I do in view of God and Eternity, I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone."" They speak for her, timelessly.

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 1975
Publisher: Stein & Day