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|The Admiral afloat and ashore.
Written by Rachel G
(10/23/2011 7:45 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Some amplification ..., penned by gianni
The question that my over-long post was trying to answer was: What are the Admiral's (AC's)qualities which make his wife so notably happy in their marriage? I was trying to work with direct evidence in the text, hence the bias towards his 'soft' personality traits.
I'm sure you are right that AC must have possessed a sharp, perceptive awareness to be successful in his career, but I think his intelligence has to be inferred indirectly. Sophy would not have been so happy with a stupid man, but I did not find much direct evidence for his sharp intelligence in the text. If I have overlooked anything which suggests it I'd be happy for you to point it out.
Life at sea must have required abilities which we do not see clearly when he is ashore. If AC's navigation was no better than his driving, he would have gone to the bottom long since, and you cannot command a warship by committee and consensus, but I am not convinced that 'soft' personality traits are necessarily incompatible with naval excellence and success. Consider Captain Benwick. He is "rather too piano" for AC, who says of him:
"An excellent, good-hearted fellow, I assure you; a very active, zealous officer, too, which is more than you would think for, perhaps, for that soft sort of manner does not do him justice."(18)
I have an idea that Admiral Croft may have somewhat resembled Captain Jack Aubrey, a principal protagonist in Patrick O'Brian's long series of novels depicting life in the Navy during the Napoleonic wars. Aubrey is a highly successful Navy captain, both in the matter of combat and captures and in his sailing and navigational skills. He is exacting in matters of sailing and gunnery. Ashore he is naive and ineffectual, and lacks financial and political nous. Like AC, Aubrey has a warm, open personality, trusting and considerate of others. He runs a happy ship, convinced that this makes his crew a more effective fighting force than harsh methods would do.
O'Brian was reputedly a great admirer of Austen, so it is possible that Admiral Croft formed part of his template for the character of Jack Aubrey. O'Brian was writing fiction, but his work was very highly praised by Naval historians, so I think it is a valid secondary source on such matters.
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