162–chapter 6 – Persuasion

Heather

Mother, knitter, spinner, writer, wife, weaver, host...not necessarily in that order...

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2 Responses

  1. Xallanthia says:

    I first sent this in an email to Heather, and was requested to post it here. As there are a few spoilers for the end of the book, I’ll put them towards the end and mark them first.

    I’m a little bit of a Napoleonic Wars navy buff, mostly stemming from my deep love of naval historical fiction, namely Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels (the first, Master and Commander, was a movie a few years back) and C. S. Foreseter’s Hortaio Hornblower books. I’ve done some research on my own outside of just the books, too, though both of them (especially O’Brian) explain very well the ways of naval etiquette and promotion, etc.

    Firstly, at one point you seemed confused, mentioning Nelson, as to how he would be addressed with his titles. The answer is that the correct address is “Admiral Lord Nelson,” or later, “Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson,” though of course one would simply call him “Admiral” to his face, as was true of all Admirals from a new-made Rear-Admiral of the Blue up to the Admiral of the Fleet. Speaking of him to others, it’s also OK to omit the “Admiral” part and say simply Lord Nelson, even though if he did not have a title calling him “Mr. Nelson” would not be OK.

    Secondly, there is a lot of difference between being a Master and Commander, which Captain Benwick is, and a Post Captain, which Captain Wentworth is (and Captain Harville), even though both are called “Captain” by courtesy (only a Post Captain is actually a captain). Benwick speaks of being made commander into the Grappler, which was probably a sloop, whereas Wentworth speaks of being posted to the Laconia, a frigate (the lowest level of post-ship). The difference is quite material in two ways. First, in income, both in prize-money and in pay (and, when on shore, half-pay), a post captain makes more money per month and commands a larger share of prize money. Secondly and more importantly, there is the matter of promotion. Once made post (promoted to Post Captain), a captain is put on the seniority list; as the people above him die or leave the service, he moves up the list, until he is promoted to Rear-Admiral of the Blue, the lowest level of admiral. So a commander is a commander forever, until he is promoted by interest or merit; a captain will be an admiral someday if only he can live long enough.

    Thirdly, just as a point of general interest, since the whole book seems to center around who is the right rank for such-and-so, the Navy was one of the few true meritocracies at the time. In the army a man purchased a commission; this required money. In the Navy you could use friends and influence to get a boy taken aboard as Midshipman (the lowest officer), which plenty did, but a captain could also raise a commoner (Ordinary or Able Seaman) to Midshipman if the commoner demonstrated strong abilities. Once Midshipman, the man would have to pass for Lieutenant, which was slightly difficult; not only did you need to know mathematics, navigation, ship handling, etc, you also needed to “pass for a gentleman,” especially as time wore on (it was much easier to “pass for a gentleman” in 1790 than it was in 1815). Once Lieutenant, activity and intelligence would generally, during wartime, see a man made post if he did not die first, and so you get post captains and admirals who began their lives as nobody, and yet are received everywhere and not treated any different than those who came up through the landed gentry or nobility (in the latter case, second or third sons, usually). Plenty did improve themselves, but there were also many who I’m sure had manners that would make Sir Walter disdain them. Nelson was actually one such, although there is also some family interest in the case… he was taken aboard his uncle’s ship as an Ordinary Seaman, and made Midshipman after a brief span of time. His promotion after that depended on his own merits, but it’s Nelson, he’s demonstrated in history that he has them.

    Book Spoilers After This Point
    Because of the difference in rank between Wentworth and Benwick, while Louisa Musgrove’s marriage has a chance to end higher than her sister’s, if her husband should distinguish himself (and with the end of the war, the chances of that are moderate), it isn’t much of a better match than Charles Hayter for Henrietta, if it can be called better at all, whereas Captain Wentworth is much more of a catch, even before taking into account his having earned much more prize money.

    Incidentally, this also relates to part of the difference in everyone’s thinking of Anne and Wentworth’s engagement. Wentworth was a commander when first he paid his addresses; if he had already been made post at the time of their first coming together, I do not think there would have been as much difficulty. He addresses this at the end when he asks what would have happened had he written to her when he was promoted. Honestly, I think this is what her father should have told him in the first place, rather than placidly agreeing to the match–that they could marry once he was made post if they still wished to do so. A penniless commander is not a good match for the daughter of a nobleman; he is just as likely to get himself killed as to attain money and promotion.

  2. DebbieN says:

    Hi Heather, hope you’re feeling better 🙂

    You have the pronunciation right for Ciaran – like Kieran with a hard K.