Posted by Ken on April 02, 1998 at 12:54:57:
In response to Wickham's move north, written by Woodhouse on April 02, 1998 at 08:12:50
] And while we are on the topic, what exactly prompted the change in Wickham's regiment? There was one, was there not? Or did his old regiment merely get relocated north?
] As I recall, Wickham was allowed to reinter/return to the army after fleeing to London, but he was also given a change of regiment to a unit farther north. I assume this was a less desirable assignment. True? I cannot recall the book addressing this.
Wickham transferred from the Militia to the Regulars, completely different establishments. Here's what Rothenberg has to say about the Militia:. . . the Militia, a territorial levy of landowners and peasants who turned out each year for a few days of perfunctory exercises. Militia service had long since ceased to be universal, but it had survived for home defence. The force was commanded by the Lord-Lieutenants of the counties; officers were drawn from the country gentlemen. Each year Parliament fixed a quota for each county and men were chosen by ballot. Those who were drawn could pay for a substitute, a practice which in turn forced the government gradually to increase its own rate for regular enlistment. Various acts, the Army reserve Acts, passed between 1802 and 1811, encouraged militiamen to volunteer for general service and produced a fair number of enlistments, 9,000 in 1805, 28,492 in 1809, and 11,453 in 1811. The militia, Lord Fitzwilliam complained, had become a training establishment for the line 'a recruiting or. . . a crimping fund for the supply of the regular army.' (The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon, Gunther Rothenberg, p. 178)(The bolding is mine, just to excite various P&P readers (-: ) It is difficult to square this passage with JA's description: the militia are quartered on the town for a number of months, then go off to Brighton for still more months of training, to cite one problem. She may have not been familiar with actual militia practice, or she may just have glossed over the details, needing a "lesser" army unit to stick Wickham in so that she could transfer him to more difficult service later. At any rate, being AWOL from the sort of service described here would be somewhat difficult! I don't know how that was handled in regular, full-time units, but officers certainly could be absent from their units for extended periods of time, particularly if they were the colonels of the regiment! Still, as Wickham did not have permission nor tell anyone of his plans, he should have been in hot water. Probably he was, and JA simply doesn't tell us about the gory details.
] In speaking with Mrs. Bennet about the future, Lydia rather blithely comments that it could be "two or three years" before she sees her family (forgive me here, I speak from a memory already in old-age decline) which implies to me that they are almost being sent into exile, but poor Lydia does not get the point. At least that has always been my interpretation. I always thought he was AWOL and somehow escaped a worse punishment.
I don't know if exile was the design; rather, it would simply be the inevitable consequence of any separation. Travel wasn't especially easy or cheap in those days.
Oh yes--it isn't necessarily the case that a northern regiment would have been a punishment. There were various Guards units in Scotland, for example. I don't think we need read too much into the location. It is the case that Wickham would have had to work harder in a regular regiment than a militia one.
- Getting rid of Wickham Marie B 14:21:31 4/02/98 (4)
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