Lydia Wickham (née Bennet) is the youngest child of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. She is married to George Wickham and has four sisters, Jane Bingley, Elizabeth Darcy, Mary Bennet, and Catherine Bennet. She is sister-in-law to Charles Bingley and Fitzwilliam Darcy. She is a distant cousin of William Collins, a clergyman. Lydia was born in June and is 15 at the start of the novel.
Lydia is her mother's favorite child and Mrs. Bennet adores and spoils her. Mr. Bennet did not take it upon himself to properly raise her, so she was allowed into society far earlier than what would be deemed appropriate—as usually the younger sisters don't have their come-out before the elder are married.
Arrival of Mr. Bingley
Mr. Bingley's arrival in Hertfordshire does not excite Lydia as it does for other female members of her family; her excitement lying more toward officers than gentlemen. She became acquainted with Mr. Wickham while he stayed in Hertfordshire, but didn't show any particular interest in him.
She somehow managed to browbeat Mr. Bingley into hosting a private ball at Netherfield Park and was ecstatic that it would include officers.
Travels and elopement
Mrs. Bennet allows Lydia to travel to Brighton with Colonel and Mrs. Forster, much to Elizabeth's disapproval and dismay. While there, she flirts and meets many officers and young ladies. Mr. Wickham and Lydia begin more of an acquaintance, and plan to elope later to Gretna Green in Scotland, where girls under the age of 21 could go to marry.
It is obvious to the rest of her family that Wickham never intends to marry her, but she is always under the impression that he does intend to do so. Her family members track them down. Mr. Darcy pays Mr. Wickham to marry her, although Lydia does not know the particulars. In doing so, Mr. Darcy saves all the Bennet sisters from social ruin.
- "Well, mamma, what do you think of my husband? Is not he a charming man? I am sure my sisters all envy me. I only hope they may have half my good luck. They must all go to Brighton. That is the place to get husbands. What a pity it is, mamma, that we did not all go."
- —Lydia to Mrs. Bennet, with her sisters within hearing
Lydia returned home as insufferable as before. She gloated incessantly about her status as a married woman, and even told her eldest sister that she was more important due to her marriage. She wished to visit her friends in town, including Lady Lucas and Mrs. Phillips, to gloat about her marriage. In such behavior she is like her mother, who only ever obsesses about marrying her daughters off to well-to-do gentlemen or officers,
Lydia and Wickham were happy to learn of Elizabeth's marriage to Mr. Darcy. Knowing that if Lydia wrote them for money it would be better received, Wickham probably asked her to write to Elizabeth. They asked for £300 to £400 a year, but Elizabeth was sure to write back saying they should expect nothing of the kind. Mr. Darcy had already settled an unknown sum (probably as much as a year's income for him) on Wickham to convince him to marry Lydia. Wickham had also demanded a sum of £100 a year from his wife's father.
They were never uncomfortable, but they lived out their days going from cheap house to cheap house. Wickham's affection faded to indifference, and Lydia's did as well, although she still reveled in the status that came with being a married woman.
Lydia is described as a strong, healthy, well-grown female, with a fine complexion and a good-humored countenance. She also claims to be the tallest of the five sisters, though she is the youngest.
- "MY DEAR HARRIET, You will laugh when you know where I am gone, and I cannot help laughing myself at your surprise tomorrow morning, as soon as I am missed. I am going to Gretna Green, and if you cannot guess with who, I shall think you a simpleton, for there is but one man in the world I love, and he is an angel. I should never be happy without him, so think it no harm to be off. You need not send them word at Longbourn of my going, if you do not like it, for it will make the surprise the greater, when I write to them and sign my name Lydia Wickham. What a good joke it will be! I can hardly write for laughing."
- —Lydia in a letter to Harriet Forster
Lydia is bold, brash, reckless, and spoiled. She is also silly, flirtatious and girlish past propriety, as Darcy points out to her sister. She runs off with Wickham while not caring about the possible repercussions; social ruin of the entire family and destitution. Her mother over-indulged her from infancy, as she was Mrs. Bennet's favorite child, and her father neglected her. Mr. Bennet never taught her to restrain herself as he should have, having retreated by then into his books, leaving his wife to the management of their daughters.
Even Elizabeth, her own second-oldest sister, views her as "vain, ignorant, idle, and absolutely uncontrolled", as well as a 'determined flirt', which made her, and even her family, an object of ridicule at times. In fact, Elizabeth believes that because of her multitude of flaws, all Lydia has to recommend herself are her youth, her health, and her good humor.
Jane Austen, the author of the novel, also wrote that Lydia has "high animal spirits, and a sort of natural self-consequence" which has been strengthened into self-assurance. It has been speculated that this is Jane Austen's way of pointing out the characteristics of some of the naive debutantes in her era, and satirizing them.
- Lydia - close friends and family
- Miss Lydia/Miss Lydia Bennet - everyone else, when one or more of her sisters is present
- Miss Bennet - everyone else, but only if none of her elder sisters are present
- Mrs. Wickham/Mrs. George Wickham - everyone else, following her marriage to Mr. Wickham
- Mr. and Mrs. Bennet
- Edward Gardiner & Mrs. Gardiner (maternal uncle and aunt)
- Mrs. Phillips & Mr. Phillips (aunt and uncle)