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|Probably eleven or twelve years
Written by Rae
(10/18/2008 5:16 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Missed Trafalger and the 15 year bit, penned by Martina
Most men whose careers look like Wentworth's started at about twelve or even younger. Getting started was about getting a captain to take you on as a 'Boy 1st Class or Volunteer' on his ship. As you went on you would be rated as 'midhshipman' and then take the exam for lieutenant. Surprisingly perhaps this was how the officer class were principally recruited, by individal captains. In theory, captains were then responsible for the education of their 'young gentlemen' - hence Wentworth, who clearly took this seriously, being only two perticular about the schoolmaster, ie he made sure the boys applied themselves (and probably also made them write decent letters home!). There was a Naval Academy, at Portsmouth, which was in fact where both the Austen brothers started their careers, but it was a minority who entered the service through this central route. Here is an old L&T post of mine with a bit more on naval careers.
So Wentworth had probably already spent half his life in the Navy before meeting Anne. If the Crofts and the Wentworths had some kind of prior connection, and it would not necessarily have to be too close, it is possible that it was on Croft's ship that Wentworth started out, and then Admiral and Mrs Croft became better acquainted. However all that is speculation stemming from that enigmatic exchange I quoted above about how they had heard of each other before meeting!
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