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|Lydia & Wickham (Long)
Written by Robbin
(6/7/2007 1:21 a.m.)
"Not the slightest. I can remember no symptom of affection on either side; and had anything of the kind been perceptible, you must be aware that ours is not a family, on which it could be thrown away. When first he entered the corps, she was ready enough to admire him; but so we all were. Every girl in or near Meryton was out of her senses about him for the first two months; but he never distinguished her by any particular attention; and consequently, after a moderate period of extravagant and wild admiration, her fancy for him gave way, and others of the regiment, who treated her with more distinction, again became her favourites." (Chapter 47)
Is Lizzy right and there were no clues at all? I thought it would be a hoot to look for clues to Lydia’s attachment to Wickham before the elopement. Lydia and Kitty spy Wickham walking the streets of Meryton in Chapter 15 along with a returning favorite, Mr. Denny. Lydia and Kitty are “determined, if possible to find out” who he is and do so by contriving to “accidentally” meet them at the same spot on the pavement. I will add that Lizzy and the other girl’s attention was also caught by Wickham’s gentlemanlike appearance. Lydia and Kitty both would follow their Aunt’s Phillips example of watching Wickham walk up and down the street except that he abandons walking after meeting Mr. Collins, the Bennet sisters and their aunt. According to Lydia and Kitty the only available officers on view afterwards are “stupid, disagreeable fellows” compared to Wickham. Lizzy makes a similar comparison in Chapter 18, that Wickham was superior to the generally very creditable gentlemanlike officers of the regiment.
Mr. Wickham did not play at whist, and with ready delight was he received at the other table between Elizabeth and Lydia. At first there seemed danger of Lydia's engrossing him entirely, for she was a most determined talker… (Chapter 16)
In Chapter 16 when the gentleman join the ladies Wickham takes a seat between Lizzy and Lydia who both delight in the event but Lydia, being a most determined talker nearly engrosses him entirely until she is drawn away by the charm of her lottery tickets. At the Netherfield ball Lydia “eagerly” inquires after Wickham’s absence which shows that he is a favorite of hers by Chapter 18 but it does not yet seem he is “the” favorite. In Chapter 21, “After breakfast the girls walked to Meryton, to inquire if Mr. Wickham were returned” which seems to show Wickham is a favorite of all the Bennet girls. For Lizzy his defection to Miss King and Aunt Gardiner’s warning inspires her to realize she had “never been much in love” with Wickham but it is not the same for Lydia and Kitty. In Chapter 26 Lizzy writes to Aunt Gardiner that “Lydia and Kitty take his defection much more to heart than I do.” It is notable that Lydia and Kitty are still linked together in their admiration of Wickham by Lizzy. It is difficult to separate their mutual admiration because Kitty is so much Lydia’s minion she could have just as much regard for Wickham as Lydia or she could just be following along out of habit as Lizzy believes she would in Chapter 41, “In this danger Kitty is also comprehended. She will follow wherever Lydia leads.”
"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?" (Chapter 39)
In Chapter 39, the last leg of the journey home from Hunsford, it seems to me that Lydia shows a new partiality for Wickham. I thought it significant that Lydia describes the news of Wickham’s freedom as “excellent” and “capital.” She calls Wickham “dear” and Miss King “a fool” for going away if she liked him. What struck me most as a sign of intimacy between them is that Lydia vouchsafes to speak for Wickham’s sentiments about Miss King. Lydia for all her faults of stupidity and frivolousness has not been known as a liar. As Gandalf (Return of the King adaptation) might say—she is an honest fool. So I take it that Wickham has been talking to Lydia on such a topic. He would naturally turn to other ladies once Miss King is beyond his reach and he has no scruples against relating ugly sentiments about folks behind their backs especially after they have removed from the country. Lydia is pretty and good humored and easily manipulated and Lizzy is far away in Kent. I can readily see that he would tell Lydia he did not care three straws about Miss King because such an account of his feelings to Lydia would excuse him in her eyes and unlike Lizzy in Chapter 41 she would accept his renewed attentions with pleasure. Lydia’s vanity would be gratified.
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. (Chapter 39)
Lydia wants to marry before she is “almost” an old maid and it is a game to her also; one it would be fun to complete before her sisters. Marrying first is a bit of a prize to her because it is the only goal she has in life and it is a sort of reward because it will raise her consequence which must be an attractive idea to the youngest of five daughters. Her attitude makes her incredibly vulnerable especially when her standards for a husband seem to be no more than a red coat, handsome appearance and credible attentiveness. I have two theories on how her attitude affects her relationship with Wickham. The first is that Lydia tells Wickham her eagerness to marry and this combined with her excessive flirting and silliness must tell him, as Lizzy later thinks in Chapter 46, “she had no difficulty in believing that neither her virtue nor her understanding would preserve her from falling an easy prey.” The second, perhaps Lydia is determined to secure herself a husband as soon as possible; upon arriving home Lydia was urgent with the rest of the girls but Lizzy to walk to Meryton and see how everybody went which Lizzy takes to be an employment in pursuit of officers.
"I am sure I shall break mine," said Lydia.
In Chapter 41 Kitty and Lydia are both miserable at the thought of the regiment quitting Meryton and Mr. Bennet’s refusal to pursue the officers to Brighton. After Mrs. Bennet describes how her heart nearly broke when Colonel Millar’s regiment went away Lydia responds the she will break hers. Is Lydia speaking of breaking her heart over Wickham? I am not sure. JA emphasizes the word “mine” in Lydia’s speech and “me” in Kitty’s addition that Aunt Phillips thinks sea bathing would do her a great deal of good. It seems the main purpose of the conservation is to illustrate their shameless lamentations and Lydia and Kitty’s selfishness. They both only think of themselves, what they will miss by being left behind. With that said Lydia’s comment that her heart will break may mean she believes she has a chance of securing a husband. If Wickham has been attentive to her since Miss King was taken to the safety of Liverpool and before Lizzy returned from Kent. Lydia may feel tolerably encouraged by his easy manner of creating intimacy just as Lizzy was for a time.
In Lydia's imagination, a visit to Brighton comprised every possibility of earthly happiness. She saw, with the creative eye of fancy, the streets of that gay bathing place covered with officers. She saw herself the object of attention to tens and to scores of them at present unknown. She saw all the glories of the camp -- its tents stretched forth in beauteous uniformity of lines, crowded with the young and the gay, and dazzling with scarlet; and, to complete the view, she saw herself seated beneath a tent, tenderly flirting with at least six officers at once. (Chapter 41)
The above daydreaming from Chapter 41 shows Lydia desires the admiration and flirting of as many officers as she can get. It seems that even though Wickham may be a favorite and she is eager to marry she still has no specific plans at the moment above enjoying herself. However, her affections are realized at some point before the elopement because in Chapter 42 her letters to Kitty are full of underlined words meant to be kept secret:
When Lydia went away, she promised to write very often and very minutely to her mother and Kitty; but her letters were always long expected, and always very short. Those to her mother contained little else than that they were just returned from the library, where such and such officers had attended them, and where she had seen such beautiful ornaments as made her quite wild; that she had a new gown, or a new parasol, which she would have described more fully, but was obliged to leave off in a violent hurry, as Mrs. Forster called her, and they were going to the camp; and from her correspondence with her sister, there was still less to be learnt -- for her letters to Kitty, though rather longer, were much too full of lines under the words to be made public. (Chapter 42)
Kitty’s prior knowledge of Lydia’s affection and relationship with Wickham is revealed in both of Jane’s letters to Lizzy in Chapter 46. In the first letter, “To Kitty, however, it does not seem so wholly unexpected.” and in the second, “Poor Kitty has anger for having concealed their attachment.” Jane says “concealed their attachment” so I wonder if Lydia was explicit about her flirtations with Wickham in her letters. It seems such a typical scenario for Wickham. Like, Georgiana, Lydia is at a watering place in the care of questionable guardians and is a naïve fifteen years old; although his object with each of them is different the seduction is very much alike. Wickham obviously misleads Lydia in his intentions to marry because in her letter to Mrs. Forster Lydia writes that they are going to Gretna Green. Where his hope for some sort of liaison at a watering place turned into a faux elopement I do not know but I am positive Wickham took advantage of a very stupid young girl. Of course Wickham’s villainy does not excuse Lydia her faults of propriety or her lapse in moral judgment--eloping in the first place. ;D
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