Description of Lydia Bennet

Lydia Bennet

Physical Appearance

"Lydia was a stout, well-grown girl of fifteen, with a fine complexion and good-humoured countenance; a favourite with her mother, whose affection had brought her into public at an early age. "

Character Description and Analysis

Lydia Bennet is the youngest of the five Bennet sisters. Her loud and outspoken character is the driving plot for what ultimately wins over the estimation of Mr. Darcy's character for Elizabeth Bennet. Specifically the extrication of Lydia from fallen debutante to Mrs. Wickham as a result of Mr. Darcy's interference (with the help of his pocketbook) helped raise his esteem in Elizabeth’s eyes... without this dramatic overture,  who knows how long the pair would have continued in misery thinking the other still found insurmountable fault in their character.

Lydia is described by Elizabeth (after reading Mr. Darcy's letter) as "...self-willed, careless... ignorant, idle, and vain..." And she is alluded to possess a "wild giddiness". Her inability to grasp the gravity of her fall can be attributed to this wild giddiness.  Or alternatively,  her flighty objectivity to absorb any discourse which did not include her as the sole focal point especially referenced to in the book as "...she seldom listened to any body for more than half a minute..." could also factor into her ineptitude to understand why Wickham did not want her for a wife. His desires were of a more intimate, animalistic nature. (See: Sex)  Which, in truth, fits in rather well with another character description of Lydia’s as she is described in the book as having "...high animal spirits..." They're perfectly suited if you ask me.  


Her "...natural self-consequence..." combined with "...the attentions of the officers..." and her parents' inability to encourage restraint in Lydia allowed for her self-estimation to be "...increased into assurance." There would never have been any hope of taming her spirit and should she have been an actual person living in our times I would bet money on her having her own reality TV show (Lydia at Large?)


Now, let's talk money. The novel is rife with mentions of money, how much things cost, incomes and the professions that go along with it. Money is kind of a big deal in Pride and Prejudice. Lydia is horribly irresponsible with her money. The final chapter of Pride and Prejudice has a letter from Mrs. Wickham to Elizabeth stating "I am sure Wickham would like a place at court very much; and I do not think we shall have quite money enough to live upon without some help. Any place would do of about three or four hundred a year; but, however, do not speak to Mr. Darcy about it, if you had rather not." Before we analyze the economics of this request, let's first observe what is being said. 


Firstly, the last sentence shows a considerable amount of restraint.  Restraint and Lydia? Yeah right. This is obviously a machination of Mr. Wickham. I would conjecture that the request for a place in court and an income was manipulated by Mr. Wickham in such a manner that Lydia was assured that her sister couldn't possibly refuse her... but don't ask Mr. Darcy! It is quite comical how afraid of Mr. Darcy he is. Understandable,  but still. 


Secondly, the notion that such a request is terribly inappropriate must not have entered into Lydia’s mind at all when she penned this request. Your sister just got marries? Quick! Apply to her for a station in society above your own and for more money in a year than you'd see in 10! Again, I can see Mr. Wickham's manipulation in this. But the clear fact remains that still Lydia has no comprehension of how society works.  She plays by her own rules


Finally, this isn't even a request! It's just a veiled statement that they would both enjoy a change in circumstances. The presumption of this letter could not have been more evident even if she signed it "hint hint".  


Now to the economics. We don't need to do too much analysis of the text to find that Mr. Wickham is irresponsible with his money (debts all over Meryton and Derby shire of which Mr. Darcy paid both), but even prior to their mention it is alluded to that Lydia also has a problem with managing her finances. 



Let's take the outing to Meryton for instance.  When Jane and Elizabeth make their way back home from London, it had been Lydia and Kitty's intention to treat their sisters to a cold lunch.  However, Lydia spotted a bonnet at the haberdashery that was the prettiest of the bonnets.. which wasn't saying much because her sisters would later abuse the thing as still being pretty rubbish.  Her urge to have the best (even when it wasn't of sound quality or make) on offer, persuaded her to spend her money on herself rather than on her sisters as she set out to do.  She would then offer to "treat" her sisters with only a slight comment on their having no money and leaving her elder sisters to foot the bill in the end.  The final illustration on this event in the story comes later, after returning home from this outing she brags to Mary that she had treated her sisters in grand fashion and had Mary gone along she would have treated her too.

I believe when given the opportunity and the funds, Lydia would manage to spend ALL of her money on frivolous baubles with the sole purpose of impressing those around her without giving any thought to the consequences.  Her desire to buy an ugly bonnet, simply because it was the best of the ugly bonnets, furthers my case that there is something within her that drives her need to have the best even if that best is the best of the worst.  She has neither the wealth nor the social standing to support this habit and thus her entreaty upon her sisters to finance her lifestyle.  

Similar to her inability to grasp how the rules of society operate, I feel she has a like approach to how the rules of economics work.  A treat for her sisters entails not purchasing the lunch, but simply coming up with the idea of a lunch.  Although she did no more than order a lunch and force her elder sisters to cover the tab, she would later boast that her and Kitty were responsible for the treat and would have generously treated Mary as well.  This behavior and lack of understanding of how things work is demonstration that Lydia operates by her own rules and thinks no further ahead than what is happening in the immediate present.

In the narrator's estimation, requests (or as I've discussed, assumptions of handouts) is something that would occur with frequency for the rest of their lives for ..."such an income as theirs, under the direction of two persons so extravagant in their wants, and heedless of the future, must be very insufficient to their support; and whenever they changed their quarters, either Jane or herself were sure of being applied to for some little assistance towards discharging their bills."

Lydia (in my arrogant opinion) takes great pleasure in being the center of attention both in her father's home and in general society.  Her unabashed style of flirting,  capricious nature, and unrestrained attitude in public settings spells immediate peril to her virtue for both the reader and eventually her quick minded sister, Elizabeth. Honestly, her character is a breath of fresh air in a world dictated by decorum and established, unwavering rules that govern society of the times.  She is irrepressibly cheerful in pursuit of her desires and proud of everything she is. No conformity with this gel.


Character Mentions

Lydia’s name is mentioned 170 times in the book. (not including any reference to "Ms/Miss Bennet") and Mrs. Wickham is mentioned 3 times.

Lydia is first mentioned in Chapter 1 and last mentioned in Chapter 61 (the first and last chapters). Mrs. Wickham is first mentioned in Chapter 16 and last mentioned in Chapter 61. 


Quotations

"I do not know how you will ever make him amends for his kindness; or me either, for that matter. At our time of life, it is not so pleasant, I can tell you, to be making new acquaintance every day; but for your sakes, we would do any thing. Lydia, my love, though you are the youngest, I dare say Mr. Bingley will dance with you at the next ball." 

"Oh," said Lydia, stoutly, "I am not afraid; for though I am the youngest, I'm the tallest."


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"Mamma," cried Lydia, "my aunt says that Colonel Forster and Captain Carter do not go so often to Miss Watson's as they did when they first came; she sees them now very often standing in Clarke's library."


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"If we make haste," said Lydia, as they walked along, "perhaps we may see something of Captain Carter before he goes."


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Lydia declared herself satisfied. "Oh yes—it would be much better to wait till Jane was well; and by that time, most likely, Captain Carter would be at Meryton again. And when you have given your ball," she added, "I shall insist on their giving one also. I shall tell Colonel Forster it will be quite a shame if he does not."


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By teatime, however, the dose had been enough, and Mr. Bennet was glad to take his guest into the drawing. room again, and when tea was over, glad to invite him to read aloud to the ladies. Mr. Collins readily assented, and a book was produced; but on beholding it (for every thing announced it to be from a circulating library) he started back, and, begging pardon, protested that he never read novels. Kitty stared at him, and Lydia exclaimed. Other books were produced, and after some deliberation he chose Fordyce's Sermons. Lydia gaped as he opened the volume ; and before he had, with very monotonous solemnity, read three pages, she interrupted him with, — 


"Do you know, mamma, that my uncle Philips talks of turning away Richard? and if he does, Colonel Forster will hire him. My aunt told me so herself on Saturday. I shall walk to Meryton to-morrow to hear more about it, and to ask when Mr. Denny comes back from town." 


Lydia was bid by her two eldest sisters to hold her tongue;
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Elizabeth preserved as steady a silence as either Mrs. Hurst or Miss Bingley; and even Lydia was too much fatigued to utter more than the occasional exclamation of "Lord, how tired I am!" accompanied by a violent yawn.

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While the family were in this confusion, Charlotte Lucas came to spend the day with them. She was met in the vestibule by Lydia, who, flying to her, cried in a half whisper, "I am glad you are come, for there is such fun here! What do you think has happened this morning? Mr. Collins has made an offer to Lizzy, and she will not have him."

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Sir William Lucas himself appeared, sent by his daughter to announce her engagement to the family. With many compliments to them, and much self-gratulation on the prospect of a connection between the houses, he unfolded the matter,—to an audience not merely wondering, but incredulous; for Mrs. Bennet, with more perseverance than politeness, protested he must be entirely mistaken; and Lydia, always unguarded and often uncivil, boisterously exclaimed, — 

"Good Lord! Sir William, how can you tell such a story? Do not you know that Mr. Collins wants to marry Lizzy?" 

Nothing less than the complaisance of a courtier could have borne without anger such treatment: but Sir William's good-breeding carried him through it all; and though he begged leave to be positive as to the truth of his information, he listened to all their impertinence with the most forbearing courtesy.

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"And we mean to treat you all," added Lydia; "but you must lend us the money, for we have just spent ours at the shop out there." Then showing her purchases,— 

"Look here, I have bought this bonnet. I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought I might as well buy it as not. I shall pull it to pieces as soon as I get home, andsee if I can make it up any better." 

And when her sisters abused it as ugly, she added, with perfect unconcern, "Oh, but there were two or three much uglier in the shop; and when I have bought some prettier-coloured satin to trim it with fresh, I think it will be very tolerable. Besides, it will not much signify what one wears this summer, after the ―――shire have left Meryton, and they are going in a fortnight." 

"Are they, indeed?" cried Elizabeth, with the greatest satisfaction. 

"They are going to be encamped near Brighton; and I do so want papa to take us all there for the summer! It would be such a delicious scheme, and I dare say would hardly cost any thing at all. Mamma would like to go, too, of all things! Only think what a miserable summer else we shall have!"

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"Now I have got some news for you," said Lydia, as they sat down to table. "What do you think? It is excellent news, capital news, and about a certain person that we all like." 

Jane and Elizabeth looked at each other, and the waiter was told that he need not stay. Lydia laughed, and said,— 

 "Ay, that is just like your formality and discretion. You thought the waiter must hot hear, as if he cared! I dare say he often hears worse things said than I am going to say. But he is an ugly fellow! I am glad he is gone. I never saw such a long chin in my life. Well, but now for my news: it is about dear Wickham; too good for the waiter, is not it? There is no danger of Wickham's marrying Mary King — there's for you! She is gone down to her uncle at Liverpool; gone to stay. Wickham is safe." 

"And Mary King is safe!" added Elizabeth; "safe from a connection imprudent as to fortune." 

" She is a great fool for going away, if she liked him."

"I am sure there is not on his. I will answer for it he never cared three straws about her. Who could about such a nasty little freckled thing?"

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"How nicely we are crammed in!" cried Lydia. "I am glad I bought my bonnet, if it is only for the fun of having another band-box! Well, now let us be quite comfortable and snug, and talk and laugh all the way home. And in the first place, let us hear what has happened to you all since you went away. Have you seen any pleasant men? Have you had any flirting? I was in great hopes that one of you would have got a husband before you came back. Jane will be quite an old maid soon, I declare. She is almost three-and-twenty! Lord! how ashamed I should be of not being married before three-and-twenty! My aunt Philips wants you so to get husbands, you can't think. She says Lizzy had better have taken Mr. Collins; but I do not think there would have been any fun in it. Lord! how I should like to be married before any of you! and then I would chaperon you about to all the balls. Dear me! we had such a good piece of fun the other day at Colonel Forster's! Kitty and me were to spend the day there, and Mrs. Forster promised to have a little dance in the evening; (by the by, Mrs. Forster and me are such friends!) and so she asked the two Harringtons to come: but Harriet was ill, and so Pen was forced to come by herself; and then, what do you think we did? We dressed up Chamberlayne in woman's clothes, on purpose to pass for a lady, — only think what fun! Not a soul knew of it, but Colonel and Mrs. Forster, and Kitty and me, except my aunt, for we were forced to borrow one of her gowns; and you cannot imagine how well he looked! When Denny, and Wickham, and Pratt, and two or three more of the men came in, they did not know him in the least. Lord! how I laughed! and so did Mrs. Forster. I thought I should have died. And that made the men suspect something, and then they soon found out what was the matter."


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"Oh, Mary," said she, "I wish you had gone with us, for we had such fun! as we went along Kitty and me drew up all the blinds, and pretended there was nobody in the coach; and I should have gone so all the way, if Kitty had not been sick; and when we got to the George, I do think we behaved very handsomely, for we treated the other three with the nicest cold luncheon in the world, and if you would have gone, we would have treated you too. And then when we came away it was such fun! I thought we never should have got into the coach. I was ready to die of laughter. And then we were so merry all the way home! we talked and laughed so loud, that any body might have heard us ten miles off!" 

To this, Mary very gravely replied, "Far be it from me, my dear sister, to depreciate such pleasures. They would doubtless be congenial with the generality of female minds. But I confess they would have no charms for me. I should infinitely prefer a book." 

But of this answer Lydia heard not a word. She seldom listened to any body for more than half a minute, and never attended to Mary at all.

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"La! You are so strange! But I must tell you how it went off. We were married, you know, at St. Clement's, because Wickham's lodgings were in that parish. And it was settled that we should all be there by eleven o'clock. My uncle and aunt and I were to go together; and the others were to meet us at the church. Well, Monday morning came, and I was in such a fuss! I was so afraid, you know, that something would happen to put it off, and then I should have gone quite distracted. And there was my aunt, all the time I was dressing, preaching and talking away just as if she was reading a sermon. However, I did not hear above one word in ten, for I was thinking, you may suppose, of my dear Wickham. I longed to know whether he would be married in his blue coat. 


"Well, and so we breakfasted at ten as usual: I thought it would never be over; for, by the by, you are to understand, that my uncle and aunt were horrid unpleasant all the time I was with them. If you'll believe me, I did not once put my foot out of doors, though I was there a fortnight. Not one party, or scheme, or any thing. To be sure, London was rather thin, but, however, the Little Theatre was open. Well, and so just as the carriage came to the door, my uncle was called away upon business to that horrid man Mr. Stone. And then, you know, when once they get together, there is no end of it. Well, I was so frightened I did not know what to do, for my uncle was to give me away; and if we were beyond the hour, we could not be married all day. But, luckily, he came back again in ten minutes' time, and then we all set out. However, I recollected afterwards, that if he had been prevented going, the wedding need not be put off, for Mr. Darcy might have done as well." 


"Mr. Darcy!" repeated Elizabeth, in utter amazement. 


"Oh yes! he was to come there with Wickham, you know. But gracious me! I quite forgot! I ought not to have said a word about it. I  promised them so faithfully! What will Wickham say? It was to be such a secret!"


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