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Written by Claire 16
(9/2/2013 11:55 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Thanks a lot! nfm, penned by Anushka
It occurred to me that I should probably mention the gentlemen. From what I gather, they legally came 'into man's estate' at twenty-three, and generally didn't marry until then. This would account for the typical seven to eight year age difference in most couples during that time.
Sir Thomas, himself an advocate for early marriages, claims he would have every young man of fortune settle after that age as soon as possible.
The less well-off farmers and yeomanry seemed to have had a harder time of it. Emma Woodhouse maintains that thirty is "as early as most men can afford to marry, who are not born to an independence," and on this ground rejects Mr Martin as an eligible suitor for her friend. (However, those of us who have read Emma know that her judgement regarding matchmaking and fortune is rather skewed!)
Boys received a much longer education, attending school or learning from masters and curates at home, before perhaps joining one of the universities - often following the profession of their father.
In order to join the navy, they had to start out at a young age, sometimes even at eleven or twelve, in the lower ranks at naval college and work their way up. Later on, a commission or promotion could be bought if money was available, so they could train to become a Lieutenant or Captain straightaway.
There was a notion that becoming a soldier was less honourable, in that gentlemen could buy their way in or be accepted because of their connections, whereas sailors had to make their career through merit and talent.
Austen herself notes that naval officers might even be more distinguished for their domestic virtues than their profession; and they often had a positive portrayal in her novels, (for example Lieutenant William Price, Mr (Formerly Captain) Weston in Emma and several other gallant captains in Persuasion) This could be due to the fact that two of her own brothers were midshipmen.
Whereas when contemplating a whole campful of soldiers, her best-loved heroine was known to have exclaimed "Good Heaven! To us, have been overset already by one poor regiment of militia!" And the profligate villain Wickham comes to mind.
The church was the other most chosen profession for gentlemen at the time. However it was sometimes chosen when there was not much money in the family or if there was no other choice. In the former case, it could be difficult to get a position especially if you didn't inherit a living or a parish. It could take many years after you took orders before you could find a patron who would help you to become a rector of a village.
And then there were the men who inherited so much in money and landed property that they didn't even have to pursue a career but spent their days quite at leisure, letting out their land and farms to others.
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