Update! – two items of interest regarding Mr. Collins:
Here is the picture of Vince Lannie and his wife Joanne at his talk [my camera is finally speaking to my computer!]
[Vince and Joanne Lannie – notice Vince’s shirt – a great find at the Fort Worth AGM! – and this might be the only such shirt in existence!]
– and two, I alert you to visit the Austen Authors site to read Diana Birchall’s latest, this time on Mr. Collins, as he writes to Lady Catherine after his proposal to Elizabeth, a proposal he still thinks is to be accepted…
“Mr. Collins and His Successful Love,” by Diana Birchall.
Jane Austen in Vermont has been spending some time in South Carolina! – so what a treat to visit the South Carolina JASNA Region last week and hear Vince Lannie (husband of Regional Coordinator Joanne Lannie) give a rousing talk on of all people, Mr. Collins! In his “The Two Mr. Collins: ‘Underbred’ Social Misfit or Opportunistic Regency Clergyman?” Lannie presents a Mr. Collins who in his words “never stands a chance” – he is ridiculed in print by all the characters and Austen herself, and certainly in all the films.
Lannie begins his talk defining Austen’s take on “the Proper English Gentleman” – Mr. Bingley the perfect personification, Mr. Darcy a close second – handsome, wealthy enough to not have to work, and approved by all [and I guess why Mr. Darcy is second-best – it takes a while to realize that he is after all the epitome of the English Gentleman, is he not?] – but Mr. Collins? – he is presented to us as outside the realm of the Gentleman before we even meet him! His letter to Mr. Bennet suggests his best efforts to bridge the gap, to mend the family feud – but he is rendered ridiculous by his creator and in the reaction to him by her Bennet family characters.
“The Proper English Gentleman” – Regency Period
Collins is initially described in lowly terms – unattractive, deficient in intelligence and social status, one who only rises in this overly socially-conscious world due to the “fortunate chance” of Lady Catherine as patroness. The facts of this chance act are never revealed in the text – why indeed does Lady Catherine choose to bestow her gifts on Collins?? Lannie calls Lady C a “Sugar Mamma”! – she and Collins forming a “Regency coalition,” a partnership that attempts to wield power and control over all the family and the neighborhood.
There is much analysis of Charlotte Lucas and her role as a “marital prostitute” as some have called her, with her very clear practical views on marriage where woman acquiesces vs. the hope for independent choice based on love. Elizabeth’s rejection is such a shock for Collins; it is so against the tradition of little choice in marriage for the woman, he is quite stupified. Lannie emphasizes that the “discordant dialogue” between Elizabeth and Charlotte on marriage and romantic love is one of the major themes of the novel.
In the end Lannie places Collins with other opportunistic men of the age who need to align themselves with patrons and helpmates who will raise them to the gentleman status that they are in reality far below. The irony perhaps is that while Mr. Collins is not Jane Austen’s version of the perfect Regency Gentleman, Mr. Collins certainly thinks he is!
I offer only a quick skim of Mr. Lannie’s talk – I cannot give it all away, as all in the audience thought it was such a great defense of Mr. Collins that it is more than worthy of a breakout session slot for the Pride and Prejudice AGM meeting in Minneapolis in 2013! Certainly Lannie’s fear that a roomful of Janeites might be compelled to throw tomatoes (Joanne supplied plastic ones to toss in the event!] or engage in “hissing” behaviors as he staunchly defended Mr. Collins against his fellow characters and his own creator did indeed not come to pass! – on the contrary, we all behaved exceedingly well as proper Jane Austen fans should, and heartily encouraged him to send it in to JASNA…!
But I can ask, as we did get into some discussion about Mr. Collins [Should he perhaps have ended up with Mary and solved the entail dilemma for the Bennets? – Could he and Charlotte be truly happy together? Etc…] –
- What are your thoughts on Mr. Collins?
- If you think on all the films you will agree that Mr. Collins is made to be quite ridiculous in all of them! – who is your favorite of the lot?
So, all in all a delightful day meeting a whole new group of Janeite friends, in the lovely setting of the Charleston Library Society. Up next from this visit: The Charleston Library Society’s copy of Emma.
[p.s. my pictures of the event will have to wait until my camera and my computer can agree to talk to each other… in the meantime enjoy the various above shots of the Proper English Gentleman and the various players of Mr. Collins!]
And there are others – is your favorite Lockwood West from the 1952 adaptation, or Julian Curry from 1967, or any of the other versions?