Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Guest Post by Miss Laurie: Comparing Mr. Collins

200 Years of Pride and Prejudice at Elegance of Fashion

Just as Mr. Darcy is a symbol of the ultimate hero, to most Jane Austen fans Mr. Collins is a mascot of buffoonery. There is an instant image that come to our minds when his name is mentioned and if you're like me you probably can't say his name without immediately following it with an "Ugh!" of disgust.
What is it that makes Mr. William Collins such a universally detested character? Who is he really? Where does he come from and what does he really look like?  These were the questions I asked myself as I considered writing this post, and let me tell you, I thought I knew Mr. Collins but re-reading and studying up on this man brought interesting tidbits to light!

What the book says:
"Mr. Collins was punctual to his time, and was received with great politeness by the whole family. Mr. Bennet indeed said little; but the ladies were ready enough to talk, and Mr. Collins seemed neither in need of encouragement, nor inclined to be silent himself. He was a tall, heavy-looking young man of five-and-twenty. His air was grave and stately, and his manners were very formal. He had not been long seated before he complimented Mrs. Bennet on having so fine a family of daughters; said he had heard much of their beauty, but that in this instance fame had fallen short of the truth; and added, that he did not doubt her seeing them all in due time well disposed of in marriage. This gallantry was not much to the taste of some of his hearers; but Mrs. Bennet, who quarrelled with no compliments, answered most readily -- ..." - Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 13

Interesting Tidbits: The fact that Mr. Collins is not "...inclined to be silent..." makes us giggle, we perfectly understand what that means. Some details about his appearance are mentioned. He is "tall", "heavy-looking" and a "young man of five-and twenty". Wait! What??? I can readily accept that "odious" Mr. Collins is tall and fat, but young and only twenty-five years old?!?!  Yes, this is what Jane Austen says! That makes Mr. Collins only two years older than Jane Bennet, four years older than Elizabeth and three years younger than Mr. Darcy! This also means that he was born before Mr. & Mrs. Bennet married so that he was already in being before they wed and tried to produce an heir of their own. It also amuses me here that Mr. Collins is described as "grave and stately" with "very formal" manners. It sounds like he's very sanctimoniously pious, acting like he thinks a vicar should.

"Lady Catherine de Bourgh's attention to his wishes, and consideration for his comfort, appeared very remarkable. Mr. Bennet could not have chosen better. Mr. Collins was eloquent in her praise. The subject elevated him to more than usual solemnity of manner, and with a most important aspect he protested that "he had never in his life witnessed such behaviour in a person of rank -- such affability and condescension, as he had himself experienced from Lady Catherine. She had been graciously pleased to approve of both the discourses which he had already had the honour of preaching before her. She had also asked him twice to dine at Rosings, and had sent for him only the Saturday before, to make up her pool of quadrille in the evening. Lady Catherine was reckoned proud by many people he knew, but he had never seen anything but affability in her. She had always spoken to him as she would to any other gentleman; she made not the smallest objection to his joining in the society of the neighbourhood, nor to his leaving his parish occasionally for a week or two, to visit his relations. She had even condescended to advise him to marry as soon as he could, provided he chose with discretion; and had once paid him a visit in his humble parsonage; where she had perfectly approved all the alterations he had been making, and had even vouchsafed to suggest some herself, -- some shelves in the closets up stairs." - Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 14

Interesting Tidbits: We all know how highly Mr. Collins speaks of Lady Catherine de Bourgh but it's very interesting to note that he has not been living at Hunsford very long. His letter written to Mr. Bennet in October recounts that Mr. Collins "...received ordination at Easter..." (Chapter 13), which also helps to give us the idea that he is right out of college when he goes to Hunsford. Add to this the fact that he had only "...had the honour of preaching before her..." twice and we can see that he is not a very experienced clergyman. But in his short time at Hunsford he has been called upon to do her Ladyship's bidding in dining twice at Rosings, being asked to make up a fourth at cards, suggesting that he put "shelves in the closets" and telling him to marry as soon as he can. In the interesting quiz book So You Think You Know Jane Austen? it hints that perhaps Lady Catherine encouraged him to seek a wife among his Bennet cousins so that he would not begin to make overtures to her daughter Miss Anne de Bourgh, who Mr. Collins highly compliments in Chapter 14 and mentions "But she is perfectly amiable, and often condescends to drive by my humble abode in her little phaeton and ponies."

 "Mr. Collins was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society; the greatest part of his life having been spent under the guidance of an illiterate and miserly father; and though he belonged to one of the universities, he had merely kept the necessary terms, without forming at it any useful acquaintance. The subjection in which his father had brought him up had given him originally great humility of manner; but it was now a good deal counteracted by the self-conceit of a weak head, living in retirement, and the consequential feelings of early and unexpected prosperity. A fortunate chance had recommended him to Lady Catherine de Bourgh when the living of Hunsford was vacant; and the respect which he felt for her high rank, and his veneration for her as his patroness, mingling with a very good opinion of himself, of his authority as a clergyman, and his rights as a rector, made him altogether a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance and humility." - Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 15

Interesting Tidbits: "Mr. Collins was not a sensible man...", meaning he has a lot of head knowledge but little wisdom in how to use what he's learned. His father was rather a penny-pinching Ebenezer Scrooge but seemed to wish his son to better himself by attending university (probably Oxford since he doesn't seem to know Mr. Darcy or Mr. Wickham who both attended Cambridge). His new position as rector of Hunsford has him overly fawning (that's what "obsequiousness" means) before Lady Catherine while at the same time giving him "a very good opinion of himself". Later when he hears that Lady Catherine is Mr. Darcy's aunt he even goes so far as to think that his role as a clergyman, and her Ladyship's clergyman particularly, frees him from the rules of society and he "condescends" to introduce himself to that gentleman of noble birth!

Mr. Collins In Film:

This black and white nod at Pride and Prejudice may not be terribly accurate to the book but it is still monstrous good fun! This Mr. Collins is considerably older (as is the rest of the cast) but his pompous voice, almost twinkling facial expressions and examinations of Longbourn's furnishings are quite hilarious to watch!

Hilariously awkward music seems to accompany this Mr. Collins wherever he goes. He is quite tall, stout around the middle, has grave and formal manners and his voice is so pompous that one can perfectly imagine being bored to tears by one of his sermons! Although he seems over thirty, instead of twenty-five, he perfectly fits Jane Austen's description and is my favorite Mr. Collins!

He captures the pompous Mr. Collins of the book with his simpering vows of love to Elizabeth and his rambles about his patroness Lady Catherine. He does add a slimy feel to the character which sometimes just makes my skin crawl but most of his lines come straight from the book and he’s rather hilarious. He is much older than in the book but does have wonderful "shelves in the closet"!

He makes the character rather dry and serious and sometimes you start to feel sorry for him. But even though he’s too short he does have some hilariously awkward moments that are great. One neat thing about the character is that he is younger looking and his looks suit his role as clergyman very well. Not my favorite but an interesting interpretation of this character.

Guy Henry in Lost In Austen (2008)
This spin-off of Pride and Prejudice isn't mentioned very often among Janeites as many dislike how mercilessly it twists the well loved story. I find it amusing, although I can't bring myself to watch it very often (I've seen it maybe three times). Guy Henry actually adds a shrewdness to Mr. Collins (along with some unpleasant habits) but the thing that is most humorous is that they introduce Mr. William Zeal-of-the-Lord Collins' brothers - Probity, Elysium, Canaan and Cymbal "Tinkler" Collins - as potential spouses for the younger Bennet girls. This is definitely a stretch, since Mr. Collins was an only child and his parents in the book don't seem to have been overly pious, but it does add a few delightfully funny scenes!    

Recasting Mr. Collins:
If a new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice were made today we could hope that Mr. Collins would be cast more like the character in the book, especially with regards to his youthful twenty-five years. My personal choice right now would be Rafe Spall (son of Dickens actor Timothy Spall) who is 6 feet tall, almost thirty-years-old and from the one or two roles I've seen him in could perfectly capture the odious character. 

Odious Mr. Collins! How we love to detest him! He's such a mixture of oddities and expressions that just make your skin crawl! And yet...and yet somehow Pride and Prejudice wouldn't be quite the same without him. He's such a surprising concept for a character that we can't help reading about him and saying: "Jane Austen really was a genius!" 

What do you love to hate about Mr. Collins?

Which film version of Mr. Collins is your favorite and who would you cast in the role for a new film?

Any favorite Mr. Collins quotes?

Thank you Miss Lizzy for inviting me to guest post during this wonderful bicentenary celebration! 


Old-Fashioned Charm Miss Laurie is a 20-something modern day girl striving to live every day for the Lord Jesus Christ. Her blog Old-Fashioned Charm is dedicated to sharing her love of Jane Austen, period costume dramas, classic literature and everything old-fashioned. She also runs Austen Efforts: The Jane Austen Adaptation Pages and contributes to The Assembly Rooms. Outside of blogging Miss Laurie is a healthcare provider for elderly Alzheimer's and Dementia patients who loves reading, watching movies, writing, name etymology, cooking delicious meals, snuggling with her kitties and spending time with her close-knit family.


  1. Delightful post, Miss Laurie! I do enjoy Mr. Collins, actually, rather than utterly detest him...he can be quite laughable. I can never seperate Tom Hollander in the 2005 from Oscar Hamley in Wives and Daughters, so he doesn't work well for me. But the 1995 David Bamber is perfect, IMHO -- although not perfect to the book. What a character he is! He has the Mr. Collins simper down to an art. ;)

    And Miss Elizabeth, in case you noticed here I AM commenting...I'm not on my Surface, but on a computer. :) Which is why this is working!

    1. I've also noticed that on my tablet (which is powered by Andriod), it's pretty difficult to comment but it's do-able. From what I've looked up, I believe the Surface has a Windows operating system?

  2. The Mr. Collins waves, hah-everyone loves that then.

    I have only seen the creepy Mr. Collins and the midget Mr. Collins, but the midget Mr. Collins was in the "Pretending Pride and Prejudice," so in my estimation he does not count.

  3. Omgomg Rafe Spall as Mr. Collins is a brilliant bit of fancasting that would never have occurred to me! I did love Tom Hollander in the 2005 version - because I love everything Tom Hollander does - but it would have been great to have had Spall instead, to fit with the rest of the properly-aged cast.

    I liked Guy Henry as a deliberately re-characterized Mr. Collins in LiA. Actually, that's how I feel about most of that miniseries. He definitely wasn't the Collins of the book, but he did a good job with what they gave him.

  4. I love this post! Well done! I doubt I could pick a favorite quote, but I find his character completely revolting and hilarious at the same time! I have only seen P&P 2005 and 1995, but I like David Bamber the best. :) great blog post! And does IMHO mean in my humble opinion?" Because I've seen it several times.

  5. Ok, I do love to hate Mr. Collins....but I also love to love him *shocker*! I named my last fish after him because he was a bit of a pompous peacock. The fish, I mean. But I love to love him because I feel that he and Charlotte Lucas had the best marriage in the book ( if you don't count the last bit where Elizabeth and Jane get hitched). Mr. Collins saved poor Charlotte Lucas. What was she facing? She walked into it with eyes wide open, and I feel like they both got exactly what they expected/wanted out of their relationship. He didn't beat her, or abuse her, nor she him. Because I can assure you, had I married him, he'd be buried in his precious garden.

  6. I really enjoyed reading your review of Mr. Collins!

    My favorite disgusting nastiest Mr. Collins on cinema is definitely David Bamber!

    This quote from the book really makes me, as you say, "love to detest" his attitude and character:

    "No arguments shall be wanting on my part, that can alleviate so severe a misfortune; or that may comfort you, under a circumstance that must be of all others most afflicting to a parent's mind...Let me advise you then, my dear Sir, to console yourself as much as possible, to throw off your unworthy child from your affection for ever, and leave her to reap the fruits of her own heinous offence." --to Mr. Bennet, in reference to Lydia.

    Quite an odious man he is indeed, and only at five and twenty! My word!

  7. Do the Mr. Collins wave. XD David Bamber is my favorite film version of Mr. Collins. He's just so hilarious, I start laughing whenever he is on screen.

  8. I actually put together a cast for a P&P remake(http://www.imdb.com/list/IL9I3hhzLOw/) and I was thinking Burn Gorman or Leander Deeny for Mr. Collins. I've seen next to nothing of Deeny's acting so I don't know whether he could pull it off, but I think Gorman certainly could even if he is a bit old.


Thank you for visiting Elegance of Fashion. If you wish to leave a comment, please do. I ask that you refrain from bad language and are polite and constructive. If you are posing under "Anonymous", if you could leave a name, that would be great! I reserve the right to delete any comments that I deem family unfriendly.

Thank you very much and please come again.