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Pride & Prejudice, Volume I, chapter 13

Mr. Collins, I presume

It is now Monday, the day after Elizabeth and Jane have returned, and we are told it is November 18th. (In case you've been curious about time's passage . . . well, here you have it. The novel started before Michaelmas (September 29th) and now it's mid-November.)

Mr Bennet reads the first of the letters we see within the text. I am of the opinion that Pride & Prejudice was never written as an epistolary novel, but was Austen's first attempt at a straight narrative in her longer fiction even when it was (in its early drafts) still First Impressions. Perhaps I am incorrect, but I can assure you that if it was ever epistolary, Austen did a superlative job of wiping away her footprints when she switched it over, since it lacks any of the lengthy monologues found in Sense & Sensibility that seemed very much like letters moved into direct speech (such as Colonel Brandon's backstory).

Mr Collins's letter is ridiculous. As Mr Bennet later notes, it's written with a combination of servility and self-importance that tends to indicate that its author must be a fairly silly man. And Mr Bennet delights in the ridiculous, so it stands to reason that he's looking forward to meeting Mr Collins. You'll note that Mr Bennet is quite unperturbed about Collins's pending visit. In fact, he got Collins's letter about a month ago, then didn't answer it for a good two weeks (a fortnight being 14 days, or two weeks). He didn't alert his wife of the need to make a guest room ready or cook a good meal until the day that Mr Collins was due to arrive – this is an example of Mr Bennet being less than diligent about his duties, by the way, as well as demonstrating how unimportant he deems Mr Collins's visit, but I suspect it is also an example of Mr Bennet avoiding listening to his wife go on and on about the visit for weeks prior to its actual occurrence. (One can understand his desire to avoid that, having seen Mrs Bennet in action in prior chapters.)

Mrs Bennet may not be smart, but she certainly is quick to catch Mr Collins's meaning when he says in his correspondence that he is ready to make every possible amends to the Bennet daughters. None of the other Bennets seem to have sussed out what Mr Collins is hinting at here. Have you?

In the novel, Mr Collins is described as tall and heavy. Although Tom Hollander is short and thin, he was absolutely brilliant as Mr Collins in the 2005 movie, as was David Bamber in the 1995 BBC/PBS series. Sadly, I cannot find either one's arrival available online, but here is Tom Hollander commending the excellence of the potatoes – it cuts off before Mrs Bennet can assure him that they have a cook:

Tomorrow: Chapter Fourteen
Back to Chapter Twelve

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( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 13th, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC)
I think it was Mr. Collins who convinced me that Jane Austen was brilliant, when I first read P&P at age 12.
Jan. 13th, 2011 07:06 pm (UTC)
She does write some of the best comical characters ever.
Jan. 13th, 2011 07:54 pm (UTC)
"he was a loathsome creature, yet i cannot look away... "
Jan. 13th, 2011 08:00 pm (UTC)
That's right - Mr Collins is just like a car crash.
Jan. 13th, 2011 08:18 pm (UTC)
I definitely enjoy Mr. Collins as portrayed by Tom Hollander (I don't remember the other very well -- I've only seen it once).
Jan. 13th, 2011 10:19 pm (UTC)
David Bamber is still more obsequious than Tom Hollander. I happen to have a thing for Tom Hollander, though - I loved him in the POTC movies, in Possession, and in anything else I've seen him in. His presence in a movie is enough to make me at least consider seeing it.
Jan. 13th, 2011 08:36 pm (UTC)
Tom Hollander was indeed brilliant in that role. So oogy and oily. *shudders*
Jan. 13th, 2011 10:20 pm (UTC)
The scene at Netherfield Park, when he interrupts Darcy and Matthew MacFadyen almost hits him in the nose with his elbow while turning, was something he and MacFadyen came up with themselves - and I think it's one of the funniest bits in the movie, really. (Up there with Brenda Blethyn turning the opposite way of everyone else at the end when Bingley comes in.)
Jan. 13th, 2011 09:13 pm (UTC)
Oh he's a silly silly man...and what a fabulous character. This whole table scene is hilarious!
Jan. 13th, 2011 10:21 pm (UTC)
He is indeed a silly man - and we get much more of his conversation tomorrow. Plus I'll be talking about Fordyce's Sermons.
Jan. 13th, 2011 11:09 pm (UTC)
Oh Mr.Collins! David Bamber was brilliant as Collins, but i aways felt he looked a little old for the part, however I loved his general appearance, his greasy hair and his black tighted slightly bowed legs reminded me of a frog. Tom Hollander looks like he made a good collins too.

'Why could not he keep quarrelling with you, as his father did before him?' Lol. She does catch on quite early though... I think her match making sense tingled!

I like in the '95 verion how Lydia sniggers when mr.bennet reads the letter at the part '...since I've had the misfortune to lose him' And oh how I love that bit they put in on the ball night (getting a bit ahead of myself) when Lydia's running about upstairs half dressed and bumps into him, he he!
Jan. 14th, 2011 01:15 am (UTC)
I always thought David Bamber was too old as well, but he's so hilarious that I readily forgave him. (Did you see The King's Speech? He's got a cameo in it in a scene with Geoffrey Rush.)

You are indeed getting ahead with your Lydia/Collins interactions, but they are SO funny that I completely understand why you love those scenes!!
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 14th, 2011 01:15 am (UTC)
Well-skimmed, my friend. His letter is just so very smarmy!
Jan. 14th, 2011 03:49 am (UTC)
I do believe I get what Mr. Collins is getting at with his "I want to marry admire your daughters" comments.
Jan. 14th, 2011 04:01 am (UTC)
I think it's funny that Mrs Bennet seems to be the only Bennet who gets that, since she's not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.
Jan. 14th, 2011 04:34 am (UTC)
This particular kind of information is right up her alley, though :)
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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