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. From Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
The reality of life for the officers was most certainly quite different to that of Lydia's imagination. Like Wickham, many of the officers lived well beyond their means and were in debt. The entertainments were very tempting, including gentleman's clubs where fortunes could be lost at the gambling tables. Ragget's was typical of this type of establishment and in Lydia Bennet's Story George Wickham is a frequent visitor. The officers seldom rose before midday and then spent their time drinking, dining, attending the theatre, races and balls. Their horses were of great interest to them in the same way that cars are fascinating today. There were numerous opportunities to strike up liasons with the local girls-I can quite see why Jane Austen sent her most wayward character off to Brighton! What were Mr and Mrs Bennet thinking? I think the answer is that they weren't thinking at all-dreadful parents, the pair of them! Lizzy Bennet tried to warn her father but he did not really pay any attention. Even taking into account her knowledge of Wickham's character, Elizabeth is clearly wiser than both of her parents, don't you think?