A most interesting Life of Elsie Inglis,
written a short time ago by the Lady Frances Balfour, has had a wide
circulation which has proved the appreciation of the public.
This second Life appears at the request of
The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge that I should write a
short memoir of my sister, to be included in the "Pioneers of Progress"
Series which it is publishing. I undertake the duty with joy.
In accordance with the series in which it
appears, the Life is a short one, but it has been possible to
incorporate in it some fresh material. Not the least interesting is what
has been taken from the manuscript of a novel by Dr. Inglis, found
amongst her papers some time after her death. It is called The Story of
a Modern Woman. It was probably written between the years 1906 and 1914;
the outbreak of the war may have prevented its publication. The date
given in the first chapter of the story is 1904. Very evidently the book
expresses Elsie Inglis's views on life. Quotations have been made from
it, as it gives an insight into her own character and experiences.
The endeavour has been made to draw a
picture of her as she appeared to those who knew her best. She was
certainly a fine character, full of life and movement, ever growing and
developing, ever glorying in new adventure. There was no stagnation
about Elsie Inglis. Independent, strong, keen (if sometimes impatient),
and generous, from her childhood she was ever a great giver.
Alongside all the energy and force in her
character there were great depths of tenderness. "Nothing like sitting
on the floor for half an hour playing with little children to prepare
you for a strenuous bit of work," was one of her sayings.
Not to many women, perhaps, have other
women given such a wealth of love as they gave to
Elsie Inglis. In innumerable letters received after her death is
traceable the idea expressed by one woman: "In all your sorrow,
remember, I loved her too."
Those who worked with her point again and
again to a characteristic that distinguished her all her life—her
complete disregard of the opinion of others about herself personally,
while she pursued the course her conscience dictated, and yet she drew
to herself the affectionate regard of many who knew her for the first
time during the last three years of her life.
What her own countrymen thought of her will
be found in the pages of this book, but the touching testimony of a Serb
and a Russian may be given here. A Serb orderly expressed his devotion
in a way that Dr. Inglis used to recall with a smile: "Missis Doctor, I
love you better than my mother, and my wife, and my family. Missis
Doctor, I will never leave you."
And a soldier from Russia said of her: "She
was loved amongst us as a queen, and respected as a saint."
"In her Life you want the testimony of those
who saw her. Dr. Inglis's work before and during the war will find its
place in any enduring record; what you want to impress on the minds of
the succeeding generation is the quality of the woman of which that work
was the final expression."
Something of what that quality was appears,
it is hoped, in the pages of this memoir. I am grateful to men and women
of varied outlook, who knew her at different periods of her life, for
memories which have been drawn upon in this effort to picture Elsie
EVA SHAW McLAREN