Miss Lydia Bennet! What can we say about the youngest of the Bennet beauties? The first thing we notice is that she is determined to have fun. She dances every dance and she is so absorbed by her games that she can sometimes forget everything else – even the officers. She describes how she and some of her friends dress up Chamberlayne – perhaps a servant of her uncle’s? – in women’s clothing (yes, there is cross-dressing in Austen). She chases the redcoats, which some find in bad taste but does show energy.
The second thing is that she refuses to listen to others. She never listens to her sister Mary, and when her cousin Mr. Collins starts reading aloud from Fordyce’s Sermons, she interrupts him before he has finished three pages. Her parents and her sisters upbraid her for her rudeness, but in reality Lydia has spared them a very dull evening. We can understand Lydia’s policy of not listening, with parents and aunts and four older sisters, always ready to tell her what to do.
Although last in a family of five girls, she refuses to remain in the background and elbows her way to the front. Encouraged by her mother, at fifteen she is already “out” in society, a decision that Elizabeth agrees with Lady Catherine is ill-advised (although not even her ladyship could have stopped Lydia). But still Lydia is the youngest, and being the youngest meant that in many respects she was the least in her family.