TO END OF 1875
A FEW weeks later brought me a letter from A. to tell me that the time had
come for his wife to go to Paris, and as he could not possibly quit his duties
to accompany her, he should take it as a great kindness if I would do so; for,
in default of my compliance, she would be forced to renounce her proposed
career, and the disappointment would be more than she could bear, so entirely
had she set her heart on it. He added that no one had ever seemed to understand
her so well as I did, and the expedition would not occupy more than a few days,
the purpose being the preliminary one of enrolment.
Happily my mother’s state was such as to admit of my leaving her for the time
proposed, and accordingly, in the month of April, we repaired to Paris, whence –
after a few days’ sojourn – we returned to England, my charge having become a
regularly enrolled student of the University of Paris, and holding a permit from
the Minister of Public Education accepting the examination already passed by her
in London in lieu of the usual entrance examination at Paris. This left her free
to study where she pleased until the commencement of the academic year in the
following autumn, when it would be necessary to return to
The toil and trouble requisite to accomplish so much had been so great as would
inevitably have deterred anyone less fixed in intent from proceeding further
with it. Not only was there an infinity of routine to be gone through to obtain
the ministerial permit, but the conditions for the admission of women students
were still unsettled, and it was in the power
of individual officials hostile to their admission to exclude them at will.
These, however, one and all, relaxed their opposition when confronted by her,
and yielded to the charm of her personality, becoming her devoted servitors,
greatly to her amusement and satisfaction. She already spoke French with fluency
and accuracy, a circumstance of no small weight with people so sensitive as the
French on the score of their language. The courage, perseverance, and
resourcefulness with which she faced and overcame obstacles which would have
daunted anyone of weaker will or meaner purpose were altogether admirable; and
it was clear that she was sustained no less by her high sense of the cause she
had at heart than by confidence in her own powers.
Meanwhile I did not fail to be struck by the coincidence of such an arrangement
as I had thus become a party to, with the situation I had assigned to the hero
of my tale, Higher Law, which now bid fair to be in a high degree prophetic.
For he also had been made the companion escort of the heroine on her voyage from
On returning to
Rue Jacob, a situation convenient for the
schools, which I shared with her, any difficulty on the score of our
relationship being obviated by the proprietress’s ready assumption that we were
uncle and niece, in view of which we saw no reason for according more precise
Here she settled down to prepare for her first examen, under the tuition of a
professor highly commended by one of his pupils, an Englishwoman, Mrs. L––, also
a student of medicine, whose friendship proved of much service to her. I
meanwhile occupied myself with the completion of my book, The Keys of the Creeds,
already mentioned, in the progress of which she took a lively interest, as also
did I in her work. In fact, the collaboration for the purpose of which it proved
that our association had been brought about may be said to have had its
commencement at this time, although at present it was purely educational and
preparatory. For while she followed and aided the course of my studies in the
sphere of religion, I followed hers in that of science, and this to the great
advantage of both of us. Because, as she enabled me, by means of her more
particular knowledge at once of science and of Catholic doctrine, to attain to a
fullness of exposition otherwise beyond my power, I enabled her by dint of
logical processes to detect the philosophical fallacies enunciated by her
professor. For he, Dr. De L––, who was a thorough-going materialist, was yet a
man of great talent, and an adept in the elaboration of specious arguments, and
his philosophy was of a character to foster that pessimistic element in her
system which I was resolute to eradicate. Her ability to appreciate and make her
own the arguments suggested by me, and her success in withstanding him, were
such as to give me strong hope of achieving her complete emancipation from
doctrines which I regarded not only as false, but as morbid; and he, on his
part, was not a little surprised to find in his girlish-looking pupil something
more than a match for himself in the profounder regions of philosophic thought.
Meanwhile my growing appreciation of her mental abilities was accompanied by a
corresponding recognition of her physical disabilities; for it was soon made
evident that, while on one plane of her nature she was the most independent of
persons, on another she was the most dependent. And her accesses of weakness
were accompanied by an intensity of suffering which far
exceeded any before witnessed by me, making
life an ordeal which it required a marvellous fortitude to endure. Convinced as I
was that she was called to a lofty mission, I wondered at the
One of the most alarming of her limitations was her liability to sudden
seizures, epileptiform in character, involving total loss of consciousness and
collapse of power. The first of these, which occurred soon after our arrival in
Another liability which made great demands on my time arose rather from the
defective state of Parisian civilization than from any weakness of her own. This
was her liability to be rudely accosted and followed whenever she set foot
unattended in the streets, and this notwithstanding the quietness of her dress,
her concealment of her face and hair, and the rapidity of her pace. She could
not go out alone without being forced to take refuge, indignant and
terror-stricken, in some shop, or to hail a fiacre, and return home in a state
of nervous trepidation, which incapacitated
her for work for the rest of the day. The
only counsel her fellow-women students, to whom she appealed, could tender was,
that she must learn to take such things as a matter of course and not to mind
them. But as she was made of different stuff from them, and this did not accord
either with her ideas or mine, we no sooner discovered the fact than I made a
point of accompanying her wherever she went, taking a book to read while waiting
in the street for her when at her lectures, in which manner I spent from first
to last same hundreds of hours.
Notwithstanding the serious inroads made on her time and strength by all these
liabilities, she worked to such excellent purpose as to pass her examen with the highest
credit and rouse her professor’s enthusiasm to the utmost pitch. A specialist
himself of unapplied science, which he regarded as a far higher pursuit than
medicine, he coveted her collaboration in his own line of work. “A man’s brain
with a woman’s intuition, such as she possessed,” he emphatically declared, “was
exactly what science required, but had never found; and to devote a faculty such
as hers to medicine would be to waste it. Anyone was good enough to be a doctor;
and, for his part, he despised a vocation which consisted, as did that of
medicine, in taking money from people for prescribing to them drugs which at
best could but amuse them.” Flattering as was such recognition from a man of his
attainments, his exhortations fell on deaf ears. The last thing to be imparted
to him was her real motive in studying medicine; and he had to be content with
the diplomatic reply that it would be time enough to choose her line of work
when she had obtained her degree. Meanwhile we did not fall to note the curious
incoherency of his system, as indicated by his recognition of the need of the
woman’s intuition to supplement the man’s intellect, as the condition of a
perfect organon of knowledge. Clearly, it seemed to us, the man was not really a
materialist, even though he believed himself to be one. For, whatever might be
the nature of that faculty – and this we ourselves had yet to learn – no one
would credit matter with the possession of it.
passed, her professor procured for her a ministerial permit in virtue of which
she would be able to pursue her studies at home until the following autumn; and
accordingly, after spending Christmas at the parsonage, we returned to London,
where she studied physiology at the school
recently opened in
In the autumn she returned to
“Mrs. L. tells me very bad news about the women students’ dislike of poor me. I
cannot go into details now, but she spoke to me about the matter very warmly,
and said that the women had told her, one and all, that they were determined to
oppose me on the ground that I was young, beautiful (sic,
I assure you), and well-dressed, and they would not stand me. They are prepared
to go any lengths, Mrs. L. says, in their resistance. I don’t know what I shall
do in the teeth of all this opposition. Her advice is: ‘Shun the women as much
as possible, and do not attempt to consort with them. Go into no
for dissecting where they are, choose a hospital where there are only men’; and
if the men speak to me, she says they must not get any answer from me, even at
the peril of rudeness on my part. She has quite terrified me. It appears that,
after the day on which I went into the dissecting
to see Mrs. L., the students, both male and female, were greatly exercised about
me, and have never forgotten the incident. The women resented my looks, and the
men openly declared that if I came among them as a student they would make love
to me. Mrs. L. was greatly shocked, and determined to warn me if I came back to
It is fair to the women students at
The following letter recounts her first experience as a hospital student: –
“November 9, 1875.
“I wish I could write in a happier strain. Things are not going well with me. My chef at the Charité strongly disapproves of women students, and took this means of showing it. About 100 men (no women except myself) went round the wards to-day, and when we were all assembled before him to have our names written down, he called and named all the students except me, and then closed the book. I stood forward upon this, and said quite quietly,
‘Et moi aussi, monsieur.’ He turned on me sharply, and cried, ‘Vous! Vous n’êtes ni homme ni femme; je ne veux pas inscrire votre nom!’ I stood silent in the midst of a dead silence. He turned his back, and one of the students instantly approached me, and said, speaking in English, ‘Follow us, mademoiselle, wherever he leads us. He will call your name tomorrow.’ I thanked him, and did all the wards bravely, and afterwards went into the theatre, and saw my first operation. It did not affect me in the least, even when the man shrieked, for I was fortified by the professor’s animosity, and I saw his eye upon me. So I plucked up courage to look on coolly and intently all the time.”
“November 24, 1875.
“Here is a pretty story for you. There is in one of our wards a little deaf and dumb boy about ten years old, suffering – poor child – for the sins of his parents, with abscess in the scapulo-humeral articulation. He is an intelligent child, and talks to the students on his fingers. Yesterday he complained in this manner of the bad smell arising from the wound in his shoulder, which is dressed with an ointment not too fragrant. I therefore conceived the idea of buying him a large bouquet of violets, and got him one last night at a flower-shop. This morning I arrived at the hospital very early, before G. (the chef) appeared, and gave my violets to the boy. He was greatly pleased, and hugged them close up to his breast. Then I went back to the salle to wait with the other students for G. After the ‘call’ was over we went our usual rounds with him. When we came to the bed where the deaf and dumb child was, there he sat up on his pillow with the violets in his hand, smiling. G. looked round, and asked rather sharply, ‘Who gave him these violets?’ I was dreadfully frightened, for I thought he was going to be angry about it. One of the students answered, ‘C’est Madame Kingsford, monsieur.’ ‘So!’ said G. ‘She is a woman after all. Only a woman would have thought of doing such a thing as that. Not one of you, messieurs, would have brought flowers to a sick child in the wards.’ Think of that! I have actually won him over by that simple little affair of a nosegay!
“But that is not all. My student was by my side when this happened. I took the occasion to carry out your advice, (1) and I said, ‘You see, Monsieur C.’ (the name of the man who had answered G.) ‘gave me my proper rank. You call me mademoiselle.’ He answered, ‘He thinks you are married.’ ‘He thinks right’ said I. But he did not seem to understand me, for the next thing he said was, ‘Are you not here with your father and mother?’ ‘No, monsieur,’ said I; ‘I am here with my husband and child.’ He said nothing at all, and we went on our rounds. While we were in the second ward he touched me on the shoulder and said, ‘Goodbye, madame; I am going.’ He held out his hand, and I took it, and he went. It is a most unusual thing for a student to leave a ward in this way before the visit is over, and I really begin to think he is a
susceptible young man. However, it’s done now, and I dare say he will be all right tomorrow.”
“I have been working hard all the week, and have made no end of notes. At Mrs. L.’s, this afternoon, our professor astonished me. I had done all the fractures and luxations in six days, with drawings of each, and a résumé of the osseous tissue and Havers’ canals. When the professor saw all these he was unmeasured in his praise. He said he had never seen such good work; it was excellent and most carefully resumed. ‘When will you show me such work as this?’ he asked Mrs. L., showing her the notes. ‘Here have I been teaching you incessantly for three years, and you have never done a single page to compare with one of these. In your hands a pencil is as useless as a piece of stick. Here are all the three hundred pages of Robin and Follin on the fractures of the femur and tibia condensed into half a dozen, and you have not made a single note, nor read half what she has in three times the time.’ And so on; but I shall not quote any more, because it sounds egotistical, and would be useless. I tell you so much only to show the professor’s regardlessness both of Mrs. L.’s feelings and of mine. I am extremely sorry, because Mrs. L. is a very good friend to me, and has helped me in many ways. But it is not in womanhood to sit by and hear another woman praised in such a manner and odious comparisons made. I hope she will be generous enough to forget and forgive all this. But it happens most unfortunately, for she had just before been telling me of an attempt Miss B. has been making to set the students against me, and how she (Mrs. L.) had interfered and fought my battle, saying that I was the most earnest of the women students, and not ‘wild’ in my behaviour.
“Wednesday – I am just back from the hospital. My student was not there! When the call was made the chef stopped at his name, and no one answered. A friend of his came forward and said he was ill. The chef said no more, but scratched his name out. Do you think this can possibly be my fault? It seems ridiculous in such a little time. I only went to the hospital on the 9th, and now it is the 24th. But these French are so funny (...) I have to be off at 7.30 every morning.”
“December 7, 1875.
“I have another adventure to relate to you about my hospital. You must know that G., my chef, has just invented a new apparatus for extension and counter-extension of the thigh in fractures of the femur, the object in view being the attainment of consolidation, without the shortening of the limb, which is invariably the result of this fracture with all the appareils yet constructed. Now, G.’s new arrangement is rigged up in one of the men’s wards for the benefit of a patient who is suffering from the fracture in question, and it is the very first time the apparatus has been put together. When, in the course of our rounds yesterday, we came to this patient, G. examined the machine very carefully, and then, turning to the students, and addressing us all, he said in a loud voice, ‘Is there anyone among you, messieurs, who is able to make me a drawing of this apparatus? I want to be able to reconstruct it at a future
time, and for that purpose I want a drawing of it, and of its adaptation to the limb.’
“Nobody answered; but one of the students came to me and said, ‘We saw your notes the other day, and the drawings in them of the fractures. Since you draw so beautifully, tell G. you will do what he wants. None of us can.’ I did not like to make the offer; but presently, as we passed on, three other students got round me, and one gave me a pencil and another a knife, and another a sheet of paper, and all pressed me to make the drawing. ‘Do it while we are in the theatre,’ they said. ‘You won’t care for the operation to-day; it’s only a case of fistula. Come up here when everybody is out of the ward and make the drawing.’
“Well, they pressed me so earnestly, and I was so anxious to keep up G.’s good opinion of me, that I consented. So after the visit was over, and everybody had gone into the theatre, I came back into the ward, much to the amazement of the patients, and sat down in front of the apparatus and drew it. My drawing took me just an hour; and when it was finished I took it down to the little private door by which G. goes into the theatre. The operation was just over as I reached the place, and G. was in the act of washing his hands. Several of the students who knew what I had been doing made a rush, directly I opened the door, to see the drawing, and this disturbance attracted G.’s attention. He came up to me through the knot of students, and I handed him the sketch, saying, ‘It is the new apparatus you wished to have drawn, monsieur.’ He looked quite astonished and delighted. ‘Comment, madame,’ said he, ‘c’est vous qui avez fait cela! Vous dessinez de ce façon Ia!’ He held the drawing up to show it to the doctors and surgeons who were with him. ‘If I were in your place,’ said he heartily, ‘I should go in for art, not for medicine. A young lady who can draw like this, all in an hour, without any help, to be a medical student!’ Then he asked me if I had ever drawn any anatomical subjects. I said, ‘Yes, the bones,’ and so on. Would I make a few drawings for him? He had a curious fracture of the péroné he wanted sketched for a book he was writing. So I promised; but by this time I was red as a peony, for on operation days the hospital is thronged, and there were about two hundred students present, G. being a very celebrated operator and sub-dean of the Faculté. He then shook hands with me, and so did many of the surgeons with him, and I slipped out as soon as I could, feeling horribly bashful.”
The accompanying are facsimiles of her note-books on pathology and botany, which
were written throughout in blue ink and red, and for page after page, volume
after volume, showed the same perfection of form and accuracy, neither mind nor
hand nor eye ever faltering, nor any erasure, omission, or correction ever
occurring, nor any fault in the French.
[Four examples of drawings by Anna Kingsford:
The foregoing letter closes the record for that year, but the following verses,
which were among its products, seem to me worth preserving. They were written at
her mother on the way to Paris, their
inspiring idea being a remark of mine made under the following circumstances: –
A succession of money losses had culminated in one so serious as gravely to
compromise my independence, and I had written to her saying that it seemed as if
the fates were adverse to our schemes of life and work, and were bent on forcing
me either into writing or marrying for money, neither of which courses would
comport with our cherished aspirations and anticipations. Poet as she was, and
ever ready to translate ideas to their intensest plane, the remark suggested a
situation which found expression in the following strain –
Here, by the sea, which must part
us, I stand,
Looking the last of my love in your face,
Feeling the touch of your hand on
Only, alas! For so little a space;
Hope on my lips, dear, but fear in
Lest not for a time but for ever
Sad that the sweetest of blessings
on earth –
Love and love’s kiss – should be governed by gold;
Sad that a thing of so holy a
Like gross things and base, should be bought and sold!
But gold is the master and measure
Leave to live must be bought first
– love, if it can!
If it can! – To us is the leave
For the Fates are bitter against us, sweet;
I am bound by duty, and you by
And the way is darkened before our feet.
There is none can comfort, for
none must know,
We kiss in the silence, and turn,
I had thought (O fool!) that this
love should last,
Since no man forbade it, and you were free;
But its dead are dead, and its
past is past –
Let us bury them here in the winter sea!
For the smiles must vanish, the
When Fate is cruel and prayers are
So it was ever, and so it is
For the gods are jealous of too much joy.
And Time, the Destroyer, who works their
Has broken our love like a broken toy;
Heedless and heartless, he sings
as he flies,
“Old loves must perish – new loves
Ah! Is it thus? Must the woman
Buys you, buy also the love in your heart?
Is it all past like a tale that is
Will you forget me so soon as we part?
Kiss the strange lips, dear, and court the
Losing old joys in the newer embrace.
I weep: I fain would be gay, if I
But my words are sad, for my love is true,
And every throbbing pulse of my
Is a heart that beats and that burns for you!
No other will love you so much as
Forgive me, forget me; good-bye,
Being curious to test the claims of phrenology, and its ability to interpret her
to herself, she had paid a visit with me to the noted proficient in that
science, Professor Fowler. As he knew nothing of her save by what he saw in the
interview, and held no conversation with her by which to obtain an insight, the
result struck us as a marvellous proof both of the reality of the science and of
the professor’s skill in it. The following is her own account of his report, to
the fidelity of which I can bear witness: –
“PROFESSOR FOWLER’S ACCOUNT OF MY
“‘Yours,’ said he, ‘is a mind of a very high type. Your nature is very intense. You are capable of very deep suffering and of very acute delight. But for this intensity of nature, I see no reason why you should not be a “well” woman.
“‘Some people are vain; – you have not a particle of vanity, but you are extremely proud. People who are vain are affected by what others think of them, and are uneasy if not spoken well of. You don’t care a pin what people think of you, or how you offend their tastes. Sometimes you get flattered; then you say, “Very well, this person has discernment.” Sometimes you get blamed; then you don’t care; you only pity that person for his ignorance, and despise him, perhaps.
“‘It would be impossible for you to be a hypocrite. You are very frank and candid. There is no falseness in your nature. If you like a person you tell him so, and show that you are glad to see him; but if you dislike anyone you are equally frank in your dislike, and never put a constraint on yourself to be polite. When you don’t wish to see people you let them know it.
“‘You have great powers of adaptation. This you owe partly to your pride. You can be equally at home with the lowest and the highest in the land. You are always ready to wait on yourself or to do the meanest services, because you do not think them mean. But you could take your place in a palace with a queen, and be as
queenly as she. You love being in authority. You like to give your orders, and see them obeyed. You like to bear rule. If you were placed in a position of responsibility, you would never shrink from your work; but the greater the responsibility became, and the more onerous its burden, the greater the pride you would have in it. You would carry anything through which you once undertook, for your courage is great.
“‘You are a most independent lady; you care nothing for customs, fashions, or conventionalities. Nevertheless, although liberal in most things, in some you are conservative.
“‘You are a child of Nature. You love Nature, and seek her everywhere. You love everything beautiful – beauty of person, beauty of scenery, beauty in art. You would have made a good artist. If you were to turn your attention to art, you would produce excellent drawings. Art attracts you much, but Nature more. You are not afraid of sights and sounds that would appal others. If there is a thunderstorm, you like to be out in it; or if there were to be an earthquake, you would like to be in the midst of its horrors. You like the tremendous.
“‘You have very great literary powers and capabilities. You ought to be a writer – your talents are so great in that direction. You have great descriptive powers, and in works of descriptive character you would excel; your adjectives might have a tendency to become redundant, for you describe everything powerfully. You have great benevolence: it dominates all your character. You love animals, and cannot bear to be without pets. If you had a horse, you would make a friend of it.
“‘If you were religious, you would be so in order to be good. Some people are religious for fear of hell or for desire of heaven, some because they have a feeling of reverence or adoration for God or their Saviour. These motives do not weigh with you. All you ask is, “Can I make myself better or useful by means of religion?”
“‘You have a fair appetite, but the organ of destructiveness is hardly large enough.
“‘You are greedy of knowledge on all subjects. No matter what sort of knowledge comes to hand – you are not particular – you want to know everything. You make no reservations; you are fond of learning. Your powers of observation are very great. You have the faculty of “taking in” a subject very rapidly and correctly. Suppose you were witnessing a demonstration in chemistry, for instance, or any similar experiment, you would not need to see it done or have it explained twice; you would grasp it and understand it all at once. Perhaps you might not have the skill or dexterity to do it yourself, but you would thoroughly well comprehend it mentally. You have great powers of analysis.
“‘You are a critic. Whatever esteem you may have for your friends, or whatever love, you are never blind to their faults. You are keenly sensible of anything that is weak, ludicrous, or bad in others, even in those you most love. Thus you are slow to give your friendship; but when once it is given, it is not easily shaken. You are of a constant nature. If you had a husband, you would be slow to make him such; but when once your love was won, it would be given wholly. But the difficulty would be for you to find a mate.
“‘Naturally you are generous and free with your money. If ever economical, it is owing to circumstances, not to taste. You are orderly. But your order does not manifest itself in the usual way – as with regard to tidiness of dress and rooms; it shows itself in the arrangement of ideas.
“‘You are no arithmetician. The simplest calculation of figures presents insuperable difficulties to you. You write, read, and understand foreign languages better than you can speak them. Your pen – even in your own tongue – serves you better than speech. You will write a book better than you will speak on the platform.
“‘It is not enough for you to be, you always want to be doing as well.
“‘You have the patriotic sentiment. You are proud of your country and of your race. You are a child of love. You can’t get on without love, and you have had it lavished on you. As a child, you must have had a kiss every fifteen minutes.
“‘Justice has great weight with you. You resent in justice keenly, not for yourself individually, but for the aggregate. People may talk against you, and you care very little how unjust they are, but let them touch your friends, and you are roused at once. You always defend your friends, and are apt to value them too highly and to idealise them very much. There is nobody else like your friends – nobody to compare with them, in your opinion. You have combativeness, and are fond of argument. You have hope, and anticipate largely. You look on the bright side of things. You are cautious, too. If you are packing up to go away from home, you will take with you three times what you need, saying to yourself, “I may have to stay away longer than I think.” You have wit. You don’t try to be witty, but you can’t help being so. You are fond of ornament. This is owing to your love of beauty and of art.’”
With the exception of two or three minor points, this diagnosis of her character
and liabilities struck us both as a marvel of accuracy. And it was based solely
upon what he could gather of her on a visit during which he was himself the sole
speaker. He did not know even her name. But the effort exhausted him, for he
failed as egregiously with me as he had succeeded with her; from which we
inferred that his judgments were, at least, as much psychical as physical and
(62:1) She had written to consult me respecting this youth’s attentions, which were evidently paid under the impression that she was unmarried. – E.M.