Heyeroines in need of a slap
6. Catherine Charing (Cotillion)
It has all the ingredients of a classic tragedy in the tradition of King Lear. Matthew Penicuik, a visionary leader in the field of drainage, finds himself in his old age surrounded by five excellent great nephews, but beset with the problem of off-loading his step-grand-daughter (whose mother, let us never forget, was called, if not quite Dolores, the next worst thing, Desirée).
The first thing we see of "Kitty" is her physically throwing an old woman out of the room she has just entered. Her language is littered with cant and slang. She confesses to a love of extravagance, but no wish for any intellectual development. She considers one of her step-father's great nephews a humbug, another cruel and two others stupid. And that's just what we learn of her in Chapter 2.
So much for her attitude. Her behaviour is no better than one might expect. She runs away from home on a whim without clothing or maid-servant. She gets "stupid" Freddy drunk on punch and tricks him into a sham betrothal, and then uses rumours of an epidemic to prevent her bluff being called. She uses her devious feminine wiles to trick poor Lady Buckhaven into spending a fortune on her wardrobe, and imposes on Lady Legerwood by comandeering her town carriage for a self-indulgent tour of London.
It gets worse. Having established herself in London on such outrageously false pretences, "Kitty" not only steamrollers herself into Almacks, but also allies herself with the distinctly un-tonnish Miss Plymstock in her pursuit of poor bewildered Lord Dolphinton.
Such a career can only end in tragedy, and in this cases the tragedy is Freddy's, as he sacrifices his bachelor happiness (not that there's anything wrong with that) for the shackles of matrimony. If only the Honourable and Reverend Hugh Rattray had been in possession of a bit more spine, we might have had a much more satisfactory resolution, with "Kitty" settling down as a vicar's wife, acting as the housekeeper that she herself admits is the only role for which she is qualified.
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