The two little girls proved to be as unlike in character and looks as they were in name. Morning callers always spent a great deal of time exclaiming upon the dissimilarity and tirelessly canvassing the highly original opinion that 'to look at them one would hardly suppose them to be sisters, much less twins.'
The chance which had thrust young Dido so early upon the attention of her father, affected her early education, and if to her quick mind she had added the habit of application, she might have become one of those extraordinary female prodigies who learn Greek and Latin alongside the fingering of the pianoforte and the stitching of samplers. For she was often to be found reading in the library with her brothers. The praise of her beloved father was a great encouragement; but, as her mother frequently observed, it was not to be expected that a girl should have any aptitude for prolonged study. And so, while the boys were kept to their books whether they would or no, Dido was at liberty to absent herself whenever she felt over-taxed. Then she would happily take herself back to the drawing room where her mother and sister were busy with scales and needlework.
After eleven years this blissful existence came to an abrupt and painful end, with the death of Mrs Kent. The entire household was plunged into a chaos of grief from which it was forcibly rescued by the arrival of Mr Kent's formidable mother. Grandmama Kent did not approve of girls studying in libraries and she was almost as shocked by what Dido did know as what she did not. Grandmama, by her own account, 'took the girls in hand' – rather as if they had been a restless carriage team – and began to prepare them for marriage.
The gentle good natured Eliza was rather plain and inclined to be shy in company, but Dido was high-spirited and universally acknowledged to be a 'fine girl' (some even said 'pretty'). Grandmama Kent had high hopes of her forming a very creditable alliance – until the results of her father's early indulgence appeared in a regrettable tendency to, 'have opinions'. Dido could, 'argue with any man in existence. And gentlemen,' warned Grandmama Kent darkly, 'do not like to be contradicted.'
Perhaps Grandmama Kent was correct. Perhaps no man can continue to love and esteem a woman who disputes with him on every conceivable point. Perhaps that is why, in 1805, at the age of five and thirty, Dido finds herself still unmarried: dependent upon her brothers for maintenance and a hopeless spinster in the eyes of all her family…