A Character Study of Kitty Bennet, a Guest Post from Lelia Eye

(For those who think many Jane Austen fan fiction writers do not study the author’s work, I give you this post from Lelia Eye on combing Austen’s words in order to delineate characterization. It first appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on 19 November 2020. Enjoy!)

I would first like to apologize for the length of this post. I hemmed and hawed over how to handle a character study of Kitty Bennet before finally deciding to aim for comprehensive and include every mention of her in Pride and Prejudice in this blog post. This comes with a sort of caveat, though. There are some instances in which she is lumped in with a group of others, and I am not including those sorts of indirect references unless it seems necessary for character explanation. In addition, it’s always possible that I missed an instance where her name was not specifically given. But I can confidently say that I have collected most of the references to Kitty.

The name “Kitty” appears seventy-one times in Pride and Prejudice. Of course, you also have to look for “Catherine.” When you exclude the name “Lady Catherine,” you will find that the name “Catherine” occurs ten times in Pride and Prejudice. Interestingly, seven of those times is in conjunction with Lydia’s name (“Catherine and Lydia”), one instance occurs with Elizabeth’s name (“Elizabeth and Catherine”), and two instances occur in which the name is not used with a sister’s name. Of note, there are also seven occurrences of “Kitty and Lydia” to be found, which only further solidifies Kitty’s connection to Lydia. Oddly, there is no occurrence of “Miss Kitty” or “Miss Catherine” to be found, which makes it a bit difficult when one tries to determine what non-family members call her. I am inclined to think that new acquaintances call her “Miss Catherine,” but I would be interested in hearing your thoughts! I haven’t especially found a rhyme or reason for those ten mentions of “Catherine” – unless it’s just to emphasize that “Kitty” is a nickname.

I have long held an interest in Kitty due to the possibilities inherent in her character. My general impression of her has always been that she is a muted Lydia – but one for whom there is ultimately some hope. It has always seemed strange to me that she is older than Lydia, yet Lydia is the leader. Perhaps it can be attributed to Mrs. Bennet’s treatment of Lydia. Since Lydia is the baby of the family, that may be why Mrs. Bennet favors her. Kitty’s options for a sister to “buddy up” with include her two intelligent older sisters (who are already best buds), the moralizing Mary, or the headstrong but fun-seeking Lydia. I suppose she cannot be entirely blamed for wanting to have fun!

Her parents certainly do not think especially well of her:

  • “They have none of them much to recommend them,” replied [Mr. Bennet]; “they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters.” 
  • Mrs. Bennet deigned not to make any reply, but, unable to contain herself, began scolding one of her daughters.
    “Don’t keep coughing so, Kitty, for Heaven’s sake! Have a little compassion on my nerves. You tear them to pieces.”
    “Kitty has no discretion in her coughs,” said her father; “she times them ill.”
    “I do not cough for my own amusement,” replied Kitty fretfully. “When is your next ball to be, Lizzy?” 
  • “Now, Kitty, you may cough as much as you choose,” said Mr. Bennet; and, as he spoke, he left the room, fatigued with the raptures of his wife. 
  • [Mrs. Bennet speaking about Jane and disparaging her other daughters:] “I am sure,” she added, “if it was not for such good friends I do not know what would become of her, for she is very ill indeed, and suffers a vast deal, though with the greatest patience in the world, which is always the way with her, for she has, without exception, the sweetest temper I have ever met with. I often tell my other girls they are nothing to her. . . . “
  • But their father, though very laconic in his expressions of pleasure, was really glad to see [Jane and Elizabeth]; he had felt their importance in the family circle. The evening conversation, when they were all assembled, had lost much of its animation, and almost all its sense by the absence of Jane and Elizabeth.
  • [Mr. Bennet to Elizabeth:] “Do not make yourself uneasy, my love. Wherever you and Jane are known you must be respected and valued; and you will not appear to less advantage for having a couple of—or I may say, three—very silly sisters . . . .”
  • “We will be down as soon as we can,” said Jane; “but I dare say Kitty is forwarder than either of us, for she went up stairs half an hour ago.”
    “Oh! hang Kitty! what has she to do with it? Come be quick, be quick! Where is your sash, my dear?”
  • Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters. [Note: Kitty isn’t one of them.]

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Bingley’s sisters do not think well of Kitty either:

  • Miss Bennet’s pleasing manners grew on the goodwill of Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and though the mother was found to be intolerable, and the younger sisters not worth speaking to, a wish of being better acquainted with them was expressed towards the two eldest.
  • “I hope,” said [Mrs. Bingley to Mr. Darcy], as they were walking together in the shrubbery the next day, “you will give your mother-in-law a few hints, when this desirable event takes place, as to the advantage of holding her tongue; and if you can compass it, do cure the younger girls of running after officers. . . .”

Darcy naturally has his own protests about Kitty:

  • “ . . . The situation of your mother’s family, though objectionable, was nothing in comparison to that total want of propriety so frequently, so almost uniformly betrayed by herself, by your three younger sisters, and occasionally even by your father.”
  • The compliment to herself and her sister was not unfelt. It soothed, but it could not console her for the contempt which had thus been self-attracted by the rest of her family; and as she considered that Jane’s disappointment had in fact been the work of her nearest relations, and reflected how materially the credit of both must be hurt by such impropriety of conduct, she felt depressed beyond anything she had ever known before.

Even Elizabeth does not seem especially thrilled about hanging out with her younger sisters in the absence of Jane:

  • Absence had increased her desire of seeing Charlotte again, and weakened her disgust of Mr. Collins. There was novelty in the scheme, and as, with such a mother and such uncompanionable sisters, home could not be faultless, a little change was not unwelcome for its own sake.

However, it may be said that Elizabeth does seem to feel a bit for Kitty and Lydia:

  • “ . . . Kitty and Lydia take [Mr. Wickham’s] defection much more to heart than I do. They are young in the ways of the world, and not yet open to the mortifying conviction that handsome young men must have something to live on as well as the plain.”

As for Kitty’s preferences in a general sense, she seems to be more concerned with dancing than with the characters of her dance partners (and especially concerned with the notion of having a ball): 

  • Mary had heard herself mentioned to Miss Bingley as the most accomplished girl in the neighbourhood; and Catherine and Lydia had been fortunate enough never to be without partners, which was all that they had yet learnt to care for at a ball. 
  • [In this passage, Lydia is to step forward to speak, but it is after consultation with Kitty:] . . . Mrs. Bennet was satisfied, and soon afterwards ordered her carriage. Upon this signal, the youngest of her daughters put herself forward. The two girls had been whispering to each other during the whole visit, and the result of it was, that the youngest should tax Mr. Bingley with having promised on his first coming into the country to give a ball at Netherfield. 
  • The happiness anticipated by Catherine and Lydia depended less on any single event, or any particular person, for though they each, like Elizabeth, meant to dance half the evening with Mr. Wickham, he was by no means the only partner who could satisfy them, and a ball was, at any rate, a ball.
  • If there had not been a Netherfield ball to prepare for and talk of, the younger Miss Bennets would have been in a very pitiable state at this time, for from the day of the invitation, to the day of the ball, there was such a succession of rain as prevented their walking to Meryton once. No aunt, no officers, no news could be sought after—the very shoe-roses for Netherfield were got by proxy. Even Elizabeth might have found some trial of her patience in weather which totally suspended the improvement of her acquaintance with Mr. Wickham; and nothing less than a dance on Tuesday, could have made such a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday endurable to Kitty and Lydia.
  • Wickham, Lydia, were all forgotten. Jane was beyond competition her favourite child. At that moment, she cared for no other. Her younger sisters soon began to make interest with her for objects of happiness which she might in future be able to dispense.
    Mary petitioned for the use of the library at Netherfield; and Kitty begged very hard for a few balls there every winter.

Kitty is also highly concerned with obtaining gossip, particularly as pertains to the milia regiment (but not limited to it):

  • Catherine and Lydia had information for them of a different sort. Much had been done and much had been said in the regiment since the preceding Wednesday; several of the officers had dined lately with their uncle, a private had been flogged, and it had actually been hinted that Colonel Forster was going to be married. 
  • Charlotte hardly had time to answer, before they were joined by Kitty, who came to tell the same news; and no sooner had they entered the breakfast-room, where Mrs. Bennet was alone, than she likewise began on the subject, calling on Miss Lucas for her compassion, and entreating her to persuade her friend Lizzy to comply with the wishes of all her family. 
  • Kitty and Lydia were far from envying Miss Lucas, for Mr. Collins was only a clergyman; and it affected them in no other way than as a piece of news to spread at Meryton. 
  • The village of Longbourn was only one mile from Meryton; a most convenient distance for the young ladies, who were usually tempted thither three or four times a week, to pay their duty to their aunt and to a milliner’s shop just over the way. The two youngest of the family, Catherine and Lydia, were particularly frequent in these attentions; their minds were more vacant than their sisters’, and when nothing better offered, a walk to Meryton was necessary to amuse their morning hours and furnish conversation for the evening; and however bare of news the country in general might be, they always contrived to learn some from their aunt. At present, indeed, they were well supplied both with news and happiness by the recent arrival of a militia regiment in the neighbourhood; it was to remain the whole winter, and Meryton was the headquarters.
    Their visits to Mrs. Phillips were now productive of the most interesting intelligence. Every day added something to their knowledge of the officers’ names and connections. Their lodgings were not long a secret, and at length they began to know the officers themselves. Mr. Phillips visited them all, and this opened to his nieces a store of felicity unknown before. They could talk of nothing but officers; and Mr. Bingley’s large fortune, the mention of which gave animation to their mother, was worthless in their eyes when opposed to the regimentals of an ensign.
    After listening one morning to their effusions on this subject, Mr. Bennet coolly observed:
    “From all that I can collect by your manner of talking, you must be two of the silliest girls in the country. I have suspected it some time, but I am now convinced.”
    Catherine was disconcerted, and made no answer; but Lydia, with perfect indifference, continued to express her admiration of Captain Carter, and her hope of seeing him in the course of the day, as he was going the next morning to London.

What I find interesting with regard to Mr. Bennet’s comment above concerning Kitty and Lydia’s silliness is Mrs. Bennet’s subsequent defense of her children, as is seen below (note: I think her reference to their age is not truly unreasonable, nor is her astonishment that Mr. Bennet would disparage his own children):

  • “I am astonished, my dear,” said Mrs. Bennet, “that you should be so ready to think your own children silly. If I wished to think slightingly of anybody’s children, it should not be of my own, however.”
    “If my children are silly, I must hope to be always sensible of it.”
    “Yes—but as it happens, they are all of them very clever.”
    “This is the only point, I flatter myself, on which we do not agree. I had hoped that our sentiments coincided in every particular, but I must so far differ from you as to think our two youngest daughters uncommonly foolish.”
    “My dear Mr. Bennet, you must not expect such girls to have the sense of their father and mother. When they get to our age, I dare say they will not think about officers any more than we do. . . .”

Here is further evidence of Kitty’s redcoat obsession (with a strong emphasis on Mr. Wickham when he appears as a new acquaintance, which trumps even the other redcoats):

  • In Meryton they parted; the two youngest repaired to the lodgings of one of the officers’ wives, and Elizabeth continued her walk alone . . . . 
  • To Catherine and Lydia, neither the letter nor its writer were in any degree interesting. It was next to impossible that their cousin should come in a scarlet coat, and it was now some weeks since they had received pleasure from the society of a man in any other colour.
  • All were struck with the stranger’s air, all wondered who he could be; and Kitty and Lydia, determined if possible to find out, led the way across the street, under pretense of wanting something in an opposite shop, and fortunately had just gained the pavement when the two gentlemen, turning back, had reached the same spot. Mr. Denny addressed them directly, and entreated permission to introduce his friend, Mr. Wickham, who had returned with him the day before from town, and he was happy to say had accepted a commission in their corps. This was exactly as it should be; for the young man wanted only regimentals to make him completely charming.
  • She had been watching him the last hour, she said, as he walked up and down the street, and had Mr. Wickham appeared, Kitty and Lydia would certainly have continued the occupation, but unluckily no one passed windows now except a few of the officers, who, in comparison with the stranger, were become “stupid, disagreeable fellows.” 
  • After breakfast, the girls walked to Meryton to inquire if Mr. Wickham were returned, and to lament over his absence from the Netherfield ball. He joined them on their entering the town, and attended them to their aunt’s where his regret and vexation, and the concern of everybody, was well talked over. 
  • In the afternoon Lydia was urgent with the rest of the girls to walk to Meryton, and to see how everybody went on; but Elizabeth steadily opposed the scheme. It should not be said that the Miss Bennets could not be at home half a day before they were in pursuit of the officers.
  • [When the redcoats leave:] The elder Miss Bennets alone were still able to eat, drink, and sleep, and pursue the usual course of their employments. Very frequently were they reproached for this insensibility by Kitty and Lydia, whose own misery was extreme, and who could not comprehend such hard-heartedness in any of the family.
    “Good Heaven! what is to become of us? What are we to do?” would they often exclaim in the bitterness of woe. “How can you be smiling so, Lizzy?”
    Their affectionate mother shared all their grief; she remembered what she had herself endured on a similar occasion, five-and-twenty years ago.
    “I am sure,” said she, “I cried for two days together when Colonel Miller’s regiment went away. I thought I should have broken my heart.”
    “I am sure I shall break mine,” said Lydia.
    “If one could but go to Brighton!” observed Mrs. Bennet.
    “Oh, yes!—if one could but go to Brighton! But papa is so disagreeable.”
    “A little sea-bathing would set me up forever.”
    “And my aunt Phillips is sure it would do me a great deal of good,” added Kitty.
    Such were the kind of lamentations resounding perpetually through Longbourn House.
  • When Elizabeth had rejoiced over Wickham’s departure she found little other cause for satisfaction in the loss of the regiment. Their parties abroad were less varied than before, and at home she had a mother and sister whose constant repinings at the dullness of everything around them threw a real gloom over their domestic circle; and, though Kitty might in time regain her natural degree of sense, since the disturbers of her brain were removed, her other sister, from whose disposition greater evil might be apprehended, was likely to be hardened in all her folly and assurance by a situation of such double danger as a watering-place and a camp. 
  • Her tour to the Lakes was now the object of her happiest thoughts; it was her best consolation for all the uncomfortable hours which the discontentedness of her mother and Kitty made inevitable; and could she have included Jane in the scheme, every part of it would have been perfect.

I think part of what hurts Kitty’s development into an adult is the lack of expectations for just about anything, whether it is helping out with matters related to food (which Charlotte has to do) or trying to become involved in some “accomplishments” to preoccupy herself:

  • “Did Charlotte dine with you?”
    “No, she would go home. I fancy she was wanted about the mince-pies. For my part, Mr. Bingley, I always keep servants that can do their own work; my daughters are brought up very differently. . . .” 
  • The dinner too in its turn was highly admired; and he begged to know to which of his fair cousins the excellency of its cooking was owing. But he was set right there by Mrs. Bennet, who assured him with some asperity that they were very well able to keep a good cook, and that her daughters had nothing to do in the kitchen.
  • “Oh! then—some time or other we shall be happy to hear you. Our instrument is a capital one, probably superior to——You shall try it some day. Do your sisters play and sing?”
    “One of them does.”
  • “Why did not you all learn? You ought all to have learned. The Miss Webbs all play, and their father has not so good an income as yours. Do you draw?”
    “No, not at all.”
    “What, none of you?”
    “Not one.”
  • “Compared with some families, I believe we were; but such of us as wished to learn never wanted the means. We were always encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary. Those who chose to be idle, certainly might.”

Only Mr. Collins seems to really have anything good to say about Kitty, and even then, it is indirect:

  • He had not been long seated before he complimented Mrs. Bennet on having so fine a family of daughters; said he had heard much of their beauty, but that in this instance fame had fallen short of the truth; and added, that he did not doubt her seeing them all in due time disposed of in marriage.

Kitty certainly has no good feelings toward Mr. Collins (which is of course justified):

  • Mr. Collins readily assented, and a book was produced; but, on beholding it (for everything 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.
  • In pompous nothings on his side, and civil assents on that of his cousins, their time passed till they entered Meryton. The attention of the younger ones was then no longer to be gained by him. Their eyes were immediately wandering up in the street in quest of the officers, and nothing less than a very smart bonnet indeed, or a really new muslin in a shop window, could recall them.

Though Elizabeth is our heroine, it may have been better if Kitty and Lydia had been restricted from being “out” in spite of what Elizabeth thinks:

  • “All! What, all five out at once? Very odd! And you only the second. The younger ones out before the elder ones are married! Your younger sisters must be very young?”
    “Yes, my youngest is not sixteen. Perhaps she is full young to be much in company. But really, ma’am, I think it would be very hard upon younger sisters, that they should not have their share of society and amusement, because the elder may not have the means or inclination to marry early. The last-born has as good a right to the pleasures of youth at the first. And to be kept back on such a motive! I think it would not be very likely to promote sisterly affection or delicacy of mind.”

One thing that is to be said about Kitty is that she does not push things as far into the realm of “improper” as Lydia does:

  • Elizabeth passed quietly out of the room, Jane and Kitty followed, but Lydia stood her ground, determined to hear all she could; and Charlotte, detained first by the civility of Mr. Collins, whose inquiries after herself and all her family were very minute, and then by a little curiosity, satisfied herself with walking to the window and pretending not to hear. 
  • Elizabeth was sitting with her mother and sisters, reflecting on what she had heard, and doubting whether she was authorised to mention it, when 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.
    Elizabeth, feeling it incumbent on her to relieve him from so unpleasant a situation, now put herself forward to confirm his account, by mentioning her prior knowledge of it from Charlotte herself; and endeavoured to put a stop to the exclamations of her mother and sisters by the earnestness of her congratulations to Sir William, in which she was readily joined by Jane, and by making a variety of remarks on the happiness that might be expected from the match, the excellent character of Mr. Collins, and the convenient distance of Hunsford from London.

These are some of the best descriptions of Kitty (and Lydia), if a bit scathing:

  • Her father, contented with laughing at them, would never exert himself to restrain the wild giddiness of his youngest daughters; and her mother, with manners so far from right herself, was entirely insensible of the evil. Elizabeth had frequently united with Jane in an endeavour to check the imprudence of Catherine and Lydia; but while they were supported by their mother’s indulgence, what chance could there be of improvement? Catherine, weak-spirited, irritable, and completely under Lydia’s guidance, had been always affronted by their advice; and Lydia, self-willed and careless, would scarcely give them a hearing. They were ignorant, idle, and vain. While there was an officer in Meryton, they would flirt with him; and while Meryton was within a walk of Longbourn, they would be going there forever. 
  • [Elizabeth talking first about Lydia:] “ . . . Her character will be fixed, and she will, at sixteen, be the most determined flirt that ever made herself or her family ridiculous; a flirt, too, in the worst and meanest degree of flirtation; without any attraction beyond youth and a tolerable person; and, from the ignorance and emptiness of her mind, wholly unable to ward off any portion of that universal contempt which her rage for admiration will excite. In this danger Kitty also is comprehended. She will follow wherever Lydia leads. Vain, ignorant, idle, and absolutely uncontrolled! Oh! my dear father, can you suppose it possible that they will not be censured and despised wherever they are known, and that their sisters will not be often involved in the disgrace?

I think this is one of the silliest showings of Lydia and Kitty–acting as though they are going to be giving their sisters a huge treat, only to have to borrow money because they just spent it all shopping (and then later causing the carriage to be crammed because they purchased too much):

  • [A]s they drew near the appointed inn where Mr. Bennet’s carriage was to meet them, they quickly perceived, in token of the coachman’s punctuality, both Kitty and Lydia looking out of a dining-room upstairs. These two girls had been above an hour in the place, happily employed in visiting an opposite milliner, watching the sentinel on guard, and dressing a salad and cucumber.
    After welcoming their sisters, they triumphantly displayed a table set out with such cold meat as an inn larder usually affords, exclaiming, “Is not this nice? Is not this an agreeable surprise?”
    “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.”
  • As soon as all had ate, and the elder ones paid, the carriage was ordered; and after some contrivance, the whole party, with all their boxes, work-bags, and parcels, and the unwelcome addition of Kitty’s and Lydia’s purchases, were seated in it.

Of course, there are other silly things done by Lydia and Kitty, as described in the below instances by Lydia:

  • “ . . . 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 bye, 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.”
    With such kinds of histories of their parties and good jokes, did Lydia, assisted by Kitty’s hints and additions, endeavour to amuse her companions all the way to Longbourn.
  • “Oh! Mary,” said she, “I wish you had gone with us, for we had such fun! As we went along, Kitty and I drew up 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 anybody might have heard us ten miles off!”

Whenever Lydia has something that Kitty does not, it makes Kitty become rather childish:

  • The rapture of Lydia on this occasion, her adoration of Mrs. Forster, the delight of Mrs. Bennet, and the mortification of Kitty, are scarcely to be described. Wholly inattentive to her sister’s feelings, Lydia flew about the house in restless ecstasy, calling for everyone’s congratulations, and laughing and talking with more violence than ever; whilst the luckless Kitty continued in the parlour repined at her fate in terms as unreasonable as her accent was peevish.
    “I cannot see why Mrs. Forster should not ask me as well as Lydia,” said she, “Though I am not her particular friend. I have just as much right to be asked as she has, and more too, for I am two years older.”
    In vain did Elizabeth attempt to make her reasonable, and Jane to make her resigned.
  • Kitty was the only one who shed tears [when Lydia left for Brighton]; but she did weep from vexation and envy. Mrs. Bennet was diffuse in her good wishes for the felicity of her daughter, and impressive in her injunctions that she should not miss the opportunity of enjoying herself as much as possible—advice which there was every reason to believe would be well attended to; and in the clamorous happiness of Lydia herself in bidding farewell, the more gentle adieus of her sisters were uttered without being heard.

But Kitty does enjoy being part of Lydia’s “secrets,” even to her detriment:

  • “Since writing the above, dearest Lizzy, something has occurred of a most unexpected and serious nature; but I am afraid of alarming you—be assured that we are all well. What I have to say relates to poor Lydia. An express came at twelve last night, just as we were all gone to bed, from Colonel Forster, to inform us that she was gone off to Scotland with one of his officers; to own the truth, with Wickham! Imagine our surprise. To Kitty, however, it does not seem so wholly unexpected. I am very, very sorry. So imprudent a match on both sides! . . .”
  • “ . . . And as to my father, I never in my life saw him so affected. Poor Kitty has anger for having concealed their attachment; but as it was a matter of confidence, one cannot wonder. . . .”
  • ” . . . Kitty then owned, with a very natural triumph on knowing more than the rest of us, that in Lydia’s last letter she had prepared her for such a step. She had known, it seems, of their being in love with each other, many weeks.”
    “But not before they went to Brighton?”
    “No, I believe not.”
  • “Do you suppose them to be in London?”
    “Yes; where else can they be so well concealed?”
    “And Lydia used to want to go to London,” added Kitty.
    “She is happy then,” said her father drily; “and her residence there will probably be of some duration.”

Without Lydia around, Kitty seems less confident and a bit fearful, but she also seems to start to come out from under Lydia’s shadow a bit:

  • They lagged behind, while Elizabeth, Kitty, and Darcy were to entertain each other. Very little was said by either; Kitty was too much afraid of him to talk; Elizabeth was secretly forming a desperate resolution; and perhaps he might be doing the same.
    They walked towards the Lucases, because Kitty wished to call upon Maria; and as Elizabeth saw no occasion for making it a general concern, when Kitty left them she went boldly on with him alone.
  • “I advise Mr. Darcy, and Lizzy, and Kitty,” said Mrs. Bennet, “to walk to Oakham Mount this morning. It is a nice long walk, and Mr. Darcy has never seen the view.”
    “It may do very well for the others,” replied Mr. Bingley; “but I am sure it will be too much for Kitty. Won’t it, Kitty?” Kitty owned that she had rather stay at home. Darcy professed a great curiosity to see the view from the Mount, and Elizabeth silently consented.
  • 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 off 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.After the first fortnight or three weeks of her absence, health, good humour, and cheerfulness began to reappear at Longbourn. Everything wore a happier aspect. The families who had been in town for the winter came back again, and summer finery and summer engagements arose. Mrs. Bennet was restored to her usual querulous serenity; and, by the middle of June, Kitty was so much recovered as to be able to enter Meryton without tears; an event of such happy promise as to make Elizabeth hope that by the following Christmas she might be so tolerably reasonable as not to mention an officer above once a day, unless, by some cruel and malicious arrangement at the War Office, another regiment should be quartered in Meryton.
  • In the dining-room they were soon joined by Mary and Kitty, who had been too busily engaged in their separate apartments to make their appearance before. One came from her books, and the other from her toilette. The faces of both, however, were tolerably calm; and no change was visible in either, except that the loss of her favourite sister, or the anger which she had herself incurred in this business, had given more of fretfulness than usual to the accents of Kitty.
  • “Mary and Kitty have been very kind, and would have shared in every fatigue, I am sure; but I did not think it right for either of them. Kitty is slight and delicate; and Mary studies so much, that her hours of repose should not be broken in on. . . .”
  • “This is a parade,” he cried, “which does one good; it gives such an elegance to misfortune! Another day I will do the same; I will sit in my library, in my nightcap and powdering gown, and give as much trouble as I can; or, perhaps, I may defer it till Kitty runs away.”
    “I am not going to run away, papa,” said Kitty fretfully. “If I should ever go to Brighton, I would behave better than Lydia.”
    You go to Brighton. I would not trust you so near it as Eastbourne for fifty pounds! No, Kitty, I have at last learnt to be cautious, and you will feel the effects of it. No officer is ever to enter into my house again, nor even to pass through the village. Balls will be absolutely prohibited, unless you stand up with one of your sisters. And you are never to stir out of doors till you can prove that you have spent ten minutes of every day in a rational manner.”
    Kitty, who took all these threats in a serious light, began to cry.
    “Well, well,” said he, “do not make yourself unhappy. If you are a good girl for the next ten years, I will take you to a review at the end of them.”
  • [When Lydia and Wickham come as a married couple.] The family were assembled in the breakfast room to receive them. Smiles decked the face of Mrs. Bennet as the carriage drove up to the door; her husband looked impenetrably grave; her daughters, alarmed, anxious, uneasy.

Indeed, a Kitty without Lydia seems sort of innocent but more aware than she was previously:

  • “There is a gentleman with him, mamma,” said Kitty; “who can it be?”
    “Some acquaintance or other, my dear, I suppose; I am sure I do not know.”
    “La!” replied Kitty, “it looks just like that man that used to be with him before. Mr. what’s-his-name. That tall, proud man.”
  • Two obstacles of the five being thus removed, Mrs. Bennet sat looking and winking at Elizabeth and Catherine for a considerable time, without making any impression on them. Elizabeth would not observe her; and when at last Kitty did, she very innocently said, “What is the matter mamma? What do you keep winking at me for? What am I to do?”
    “Nothing child, nothing. I did not wink at you.” She then sat still five minutes longer; but unable to waste such a precious occasion, she suddenly got up, and saying to Kitty, “Come here, my love, I want to speak to you,” took her out of the room. Jane instantly gave a look at Elizabeth which spoke her distress at such premeditation, and her entreaty that she would not give in to it. In a few minutes, Mrs. Bennet half-opened the door and called out:
    “Lizzy, my dear, I want to speak with you.”
    Elizabeth was forced to go.
    “We may as well leave them by themselves you know;” said her mother, as soon as she was in the hall. “Kitty and I are going upstairs to sit in my dressing-room.”
    Elizabeth made no attempt to reason with her mother, but remained quietly in the hall, till she and Kitty were out of sight, then returned into the drawing-room.
  • It was an evening of no common delight to them all; the satisfaction of Miss Bennet’s mind gave a glow of such sweet animation to her face, as made her look handsomer than ever. Kitty simpered and smiled, and hoped her turn was coming soon.

Through the work of her family, Kitty is able to grow into a much better person:

  • Kitty, to her very material advantage, spent the chief of her time with her two elder sisters. In society so superior to what she had generally known, her improvement was great. She was not of so ungovernable a temper as Lydia; and, removed from the influence of Lydia’s example, she became, by proper attention and management, less irritable, less ignorant, and less insipid. From the further disadvantage of Lydia’s society she was of course carefully kept, and though Mrs. Wickham frequently invited her to come and stay with her, with the promise of balls and young men, her father would never consent to her going.

Here is a collection of the bits and pieces pertaining to Kitty that I do not think have much significance to them in comparison to the other bits – but I did want to include everything so we could make sure to view her character in a complete sense:

  • “We will go as far as Meryton with you,” said Catherine and Lydia. Elizabeth accepted their company, and the three young ladies set off together.
  • Before Elizabeth had time for anything but a blush of surprise, Mrs. Bennet answered instantly, “Oh dear!—yes—certainly. I am sure Lizzy will be very happy—I am sure she can have no objection. Come, Kitty, I want you upstairs.” And, gathering her work together, she was hastening away, when Elizabeth called out:
    “Dear madam, do not go. I beg you will not go. Mr. Collins must excuse me. He can have nothing to say to me that anybody need not hear. I am going away myself.”
    “No, no, nonsense, Lizzy. I desire you to stay where you are.” And upon Elizabeth’s seeming really, with vexed and embarrassed looks, about to escape, she added: “Lizzy, I insist upon your staying and hearing Mr. Collins.”
    Elizabeth would not oppose such an injunction—and a moment’s consideration making her also sensible that it would be wisest to get it over as soon and as quietly as possible, she sat down again and tried to conceal, by incessant employment the feelings which were divided between distress and diversion. Mrs. Bennet and Kitty walked off, and as soon as they were gone, Mr. Collins began.
  • Elizabeth took the letter from his writing-table, and they went upstairs together. Mary and Kitty were both with Mrs. Bennet: one communication would, therefore, do for all.
  • She then hastened away to her mother, who had purposely broken up the card party, and was sitting up stairs with Kitty.
  • [When Lady Catherine appears at Longbourn:] They were of course all intending to be surprised; but their astonishment was beyond their expectation; and on the part of Mrs. Bennet and Kitty, though she was perfectly unknown to them, even inferior to what Elizabeth felt.
  • “And that I suppose is one of your sisters.”
    “Yes, madam,” said Mrs. Bennet, delighted to speak to Lady Catherine. “She is my youngest girl but one. My youngest of all is lately married, and my eldest is somewhere about the grounds, walking with a young man who, I believe, will soon become a part of the family.”
  • In a few minutes he approached the table where she was sitting with Kitty; and, while pretending to admire her work said in a whisper, “Go to your father, he wants you in the library.”
  • He then recollected her embarrassment a few days before, on his reading Mr. Collins’s letter; and after laughing at her some time, allowed her at last to go—saying, as she quitted the room, “If any young men come for Mary or Kitty, send them in, for I am quite at leisure.”
  • “My mother is tolerably well, I trust; though her spirits are greatly shaken. She is upstairs and will have great satisfaction in seeing you all. She does not yet leave her dressing-room. Mary and Kitty, thank Heaven, are quite well.”
  • [Mrs. Bennet, excited:] “ . . . Lizzy, my dear, run down to your father, and ask him how much he will give her. Stay, stay, I will go myself. Ring the bell, Kitty, for Hill. I will put on my things in a moment. My dear, dear Lydia! How merry we shall be together when we meet!”
  • [Mrs. Bennet, excited:] “ . . . Kitty, run down and order the carriage. An airing would do me a great deal of good, I am sure. Girls, can I do anything for you in Meryton? Oh! Here comes Hill! My dear Hill, have you heard the good news? Miss Lydia is going to be married; and you shall all have a bowl of punch to make merry at her wedding.”

And there you have the various pieces of text pertaining to Kitty! I think these pieces seem to indicate that Kitty is an unsure and sensitive girl who just wants someone to hold on to. Though she appears to be an extrovert because of her association with Lydia, Lydia actually does a lot of the talking. It seems to me more as if Kitty is an introvert trying to copy an extrovert. She is not especially appreciated by her family, and though Lydia has fun with her, Lydia does not seem to particularly care about tending to Kitty’s feelings.

I think this makes Kitty a rather sympathetic character. She seems to be a typical teenager in some ways–self-doubting and uncertain about the world around her.

What are your general thoughts about Kitty? Do you like seeing her play a bigger role in Pride and Prejudice variations?

As a sort of side note, I would like to announce the recent publication of my Pride and Prejudice variation, A Sister’s Sacrifice. While Elizabeth and Darcy are the main characters, I do give Kitty a bigger role than Mary and Lydia.

I view Kitty as someone who has a lot of potential because she’s a wild card. To use Lydia in a story, you will have to go through quite a bit of work to make her anything other than what she is. But with Kitty, she can follow in Lydia’s footsteps or Elizabeth’s footsteps. Whose footsteps do you think I chose in A Sister’s Sacrifice? (Insert Cheshire grin here.)

I would love to hear your thoughts about Kitty!

About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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3 Responses to A Character Study of Kitty Bennet, a Guest Post from Lelia Eye

  1. Don Jacobson says:

    RJ…I fully agree with you about Kitty…or as she grew to in the Bennet Wardrobe, Lady Kate. As you know, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia play central roles (along with Mr. and Mrs. Bennet) in the execution of the Wardrobe’s plan. Kitty, though, grew more than either of her bracketing sisters for she neded to find her inner strength and resolve as well as her own identity as a unique person. Mary and Lydia (whatever you may think of them) were more well-sketched–if still caricatures–than Kitty. I have seen many #Austenesque authors paint Kitty in a more sympathetic life. Perhaps it is because she, of all the sisters, is the most relatable to modern readers…that teenager totally unsure of herself/himself who discovers a posse into which they integrate themselves.

    • leliaeye says:

      I think that is a really good point about Kitty being the most relatable to modern readers! I think a lot of modern readers think back on occasion to that time of being an uncertain teenager. A person’s friends at that age do have a very big effect on how a person turns out, and Kitty seems to be demonstrative of that.

  2. Don, in my Christmas at Pemberley, Kitty finds love with the vicar at Kympton. In the tale, she assists Colonel Fitzwilliam is capturing a man who tries to extort money from someone of the Royal house. What I like about her in that book is she “negotiates” with Colonel Fitzwilliam, to keep silent on the matter, not for herself, but for her betrothed. She asks that he receive accolades. Doing so, shows her maturity. She grows greatly in the tale.

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