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Pride & Prejudice: Chapter 19

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This commentary was prepared by Karmayogi of The Mother’s Service Society (India). See karmayogi.net or MSS Research. The Comments column is intended for brief insightful remarks on the text. For longer comments or questions use the Talk page of this article or create a new article and add a link in the comments section of this page or under the appropriate heading on P&P project mainpage.



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The next day opened a new scene at Longbourn. Mr. Collins made his declaration in form. Having resolved to do it without loss of time, as his leave of absence extended only to the following Saturday, and having no feelings of diffidence to make it distressing to himself even at the moment, he set about it in a very orderly manner, with all the observances which he supposed a regular part of the business. On finding Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth, and one of the younger girls together, soon after breakfast, he addressed the mother in these words: "May I hope, madam, for your interest with your fair daughter Elizabeth, when I solicit for the honour of a private audience with her in the course of this morning?"

1
  • Educated stupidity is entirely formal. Even a marriage proposal is so
  • The executioner can imagine his conferring his blessings on the executed
  • Mr. Collins readjusts his proposal to the availability of leave of absence.
  • Small considerations overriding essentials, the essentials suffer.
  • For him, the FORM of declaration is important.
  • He gets a wife who has no FORM.
  • Diffidence arises out of a fuller appreciation of the work.
  • He has no intelligence to know the work at all.
  • To proceed in an orderly meaner, one needs all the energy.
  • Procedure enjoys all the energy when the work needs none.
  • To him, the proposal is not as important as Lady Catherine’s opinion.
  • He marries a lady who has the capacity to be deferential to Lady Catherine.
  • The ball and his role there equipped Collins with energy of confidence.
  • Elizabeth’s violent refusal draws energy from his confidence.
  • Loss of time is not what he can suffer.
  • He did achieve without loss of time.
  • Wickham spoke to Elizabeth. Darcy proposed to her. Neither took the parental permission. Nor did Collins take Sir Lucas’ permission.
  • Here he goes by absolute form.
  • Mere form can scotch any content, if it is there.

Before Elizabeth had time for anything but a blush of surprise, Mrs. Bennet instantly answered, "Oh dear! Yes -- certainly. I am sure Lizzy will be very happy -- I am sure she can have no objection. Come, Kitty, I want you up stairs." And gathering her work together, she was hastening away, when Elizabeth called out --

5
  • Even the intended proposal of a fatuous Collins brings a blush of surprise to her feminine personality.
  • Mrs. Bennet acts as if he is proposing to her.
  • A proposal is what man makes to woman, not what a mother orders, Love is not made to order.
  • A foolish parent could exert that pressure on a child, but life offers the result forces permit, not what the parent orders. In the subtle plane this proposal is a rehearsal of the later proposal by Darcy.
  • In those days children would not disobey a direct order from parents. Mrs. Bennet can compel her to listen, not make her accept. The mother thus exhausts her role in Elizabeth’s life so that her own due will sail to her

"Dear ma'am, do not go. I beg you will not go. Mr. Collins must excuse me. He can have nothing to say to me that anybody need not hear. I am going away myself."

9

"No, no, nonsense, Lizzy. I desire you will stay where you are." And upon Elizabeth's seeming really, with vexed and embarrassed looks, about to escape, she added, "Lizzy, I insist upon your staying and hearing Mr. Collins."

14
  • Excessive, unformed, uncontrollable energy scarcely accomplishes.
  • The atmosphere is not one of a romantic proposal. It looks like tethering an animal for punishment.
  • Maternal authority is a reality. Had she exercised it rightly on Lydia, rather if that insistence was on self-discipline, the tragedy could have been averted.
  • What the society achieves by manners, Mrs. Bennet wants to accomplish by energy, as she married by her own stupid appearance, not by a studious behaviour.
  • She feels the shame of Collins proposing to her. Such an act of shame repeats from Darcy, as an act has the dynamic necessity to repeat. But one such proposal or several are not capable of compelling her to marry. She only expends a little of the excess goodness she has.

Elizabeth would not oppose such an injunction -- and a moment's consideration making her also sensible that it would be wisest to get it over as soon and as quietly as possible, she sat down again, and tried to conceal, by incessant employment, the feelings which were divided between distress and diversion. Mrs. Bennet and Kitty walked off, and as soon as they were gone Mr. Collins began.

17

"Believe me, my dear Miss Elizabeth, that your modesty, so far from doing you any disservice, rather adds to your other perfections. You would have been less amiable in my eyes had there not been this little unwillingness; but allow me to assure you, that I have your respected mother's permission for this address. You can hardly doubt the purport of my discourse, however your natural delicacy may lead you to dissemble; my attentions have been too marked to be mistaken. Almost as soon as I entered the house, I singled you out as the companion of my future life. But before I am run away with by my feelings on this subject, perhaps it will be advisable for me to state my reasons for marrying -- and, moreover, for coming into Hertfordshire with the design of selecting a wife, as I certainly did."

19
  • Life’s accomplishments move from a minimum to a maximum. Such ranges are always there. Beyond the maximum lies the perfect case. Below the minimum lies the case that cannot enter the range.
  • It is a fact that even disservice can add to one’s perfections.
  • Modesty is expressive as an emotion. It is incapable of a self-explanatory discourse without becoming uncouth immodesty.
  • Collins condescends to propose to Elizabeth as Lady Catherine does to him.
  • He lied that he singled her out on entering the house.
  • He delivers a long prepared speech where an emotional utterance is appropriate. It is easy for us to see how high he held himself and how it never entered his imaginations that he was an abomination to all here except Mrs.Bennet. In his proposal he dwells ‘modestly’ on his high station, her vast prospects. It never occurred to him he could be refused or rejected and that it was an insult to her that he proposed. One endowment of the lowest equates him to the highest. He knew nothing as the other man’s point of view. Hence his cascading eloquence.
  • He was indelicate to refer to her father’s death. His delicacy is insulting in mentioning her portion. Only an uncultured idiot will speak about it and then apologise for mentioning it. Darcy and Collins were similar
  • Had he proposed to Mrs. Bennet, she would have risen to the occasion of his angular eloquence.
  • Marked attentions are unseemly and indelicate.
  • Every failure has its ration of falsehood. His claim to have chosen her on entering the house is false.
  • Falsehood justifies.
  • Mr. Collins cannot run away with his feelings.
  • In him, sensations are developed, not feelings.

19 collins proposes Pride and Prejudice

The idea of Mr. Collins, with all his solemn composure, being run away with by his feelings, made Elizabeth so near laughing that she could not use the short pause he allowed in any attempt to stop him farther, and he continued --

24

"My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example of matrimony in his parish; secondly, that I am convinced it will add very greatly to my happiness; and thirdly -- which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier, that it is the particular advice and recommendation of the very noble lady whom I have the honour of calling patroness. Twice has she condescended to give me her opinion (unasked too!) On this subject; and it was but the very Saturday night before I left Hunsford -- between our pools at quadrille, while Mrs. Jenkinson was arranging Miss de Bourgh's footstool -- that she said, 'Mr. Collins, you must marry. A clergyman like you must marry. -- Chuse properly, chuse a gentlewoman for my sake; and for your own, let her be an active, useful sort of person, not brought up high, but able to make a small income go a good way. This is my advice. Find such a woman as soon as you can, bring her to Hunsford, and I will visit her.' Allow me, by the way, to observe, my fair cousin, that I do not reckon the notice and kindness of Lady Catherine de Bourgh as among the least of the advantages in my power to offer. You will find her manners beyond anything I can describe; and your wit and vivacity, I think, must be acceptable to her, especially when tempered with the silence and respect which her rank will inevitably excite. Thus much for my general intention in favour of matrimony; it remains to be told why my views were directed to Longbourn instead of my own neighbourhood, where, I assure you, there are many amiable young women. But the fact is, that being, as I am, to inherit this estate after the death of your honoured father (who, however, may live many years longer), I could not satisfy myself without resolving to chuse a wife from among his daughters, that the loss to them might be as little as possible, when the melancholy event takes place -- which, however, as I have already said, may not be for several years. This has been my motive, my fair cousin, and I flatter myself it will not sink me in your esteem. And now nothing remains for me but to assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affection. To fortune I am perfectly indifferent, and shall make no demand of that nature on your father, since I am well aware that it could not be complied with; and that one thousand pounds in the four per cents., which will not be yours till after your mother's decease, is all that you may ever be entitled to. On that head, therefore, I shall be uniformly silent; and you may assure youself that no ungenerous reproach shall ever pass my lips when we are married."

25
  • If he reasons, it is unreasonable reasoning.
  • It is interesting to see how she reflects his advance.
  • In his fervour for the proposal, even Lady Catherine is shelved to a lower rank.
  • What in him makes him act so?
  • Mr. Collins is playing the most positive role of a negative force in her life, which has become the comic scene of proposal.
  • It is now evident that Darcy brought to her notice the very same aspects of life in her personality which her family made possible.
  • The social evolution which her marriage spearheaded being the very spirit of the Times, Times that rewarded sincerity which is still attracted to chasing falsehood as captivating softness, is constantly expressing in her liveliness.
  • His proposal is a stroke of Jane Austen’s literary genius that has witnessed the self-confidence of nascent prosperity enlivened by the ill-acquired education finding itself least appreciated by the vanishing waves of contentless aristocratic culture.
  • Whatever Mr. Collins lacked or possessed, there is no question of his lacking the energy of initiative of a rebellious pioneer.
  • He did find a woman of Lady Catherine’s description in Charlotte.
  • Mr. Collins has a logical outline to his proposal which he meticulously follows. It is the logic of emerging knowledge out of social ignorance.
  • From the above point of view, this proposal becomes the most powerful scene in the novel.
  • Knowledge of social value that emerges out of the darkness of social forces evaluates itself in terms of material worth.
  • The conscience of that social consciousness can only be appreciated by the wisdom of organised darkness which is Charlotte’s common sense.
  • The extraordinary likeness of Lady Catherine’s idea of reasonableness, Darcy’s irrepressible passion and Collins’ delicate amends is the central power of the story that transforms itself.
  • He even explained what would be his implicit restraint.

It was absolutely necessary to interrupt him now.

39
  • As he has finished the ‘positive’ aspects of his delivery, it will be dangerous to let him proceed with the ‘negative’ side of it. It is absolutely necessary to stop him here.

"You are too hasty, sir," she cried. "You forget that I have made no answer. Let me do it without farther loss of time. Accept my thanks for the compliment you are paying me. I am very sensible of the honour of your proposals, but it is impossible for me to do otherwise than decline them."

40
  • Formality of conversation requires expression of thanks to such an insult as a proposal from a buffoon.
  • The capacity to look at any event as one that favours himself is that of stupidity that evaluates it as wisdom.

"I am not now to learn," replied Mr. Collins, with a formal wave of the hand, "that it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept, when he first applies for their favour; and that sometimes the refusal is repeated a second or even a third time. I am therefore by no means discouraged by what you have just said, and shall hope to lead you to the altar ere long."

45
  • Collins takes a flat virulent denial as encouragement. It requires a great faith in his own worth. That faith must be one of physically concrete reality to him

19 elizabeth angry Pride and Prejudice

"Upon my word, sir," cried Elizabeth, "your hope is rather an extraordinary one after my declaration. I do assure you that I am not one of those young ladies (if such young ladies there are) who are so daring as to risk their happiness on the chance of being asked a second time. I am perfectly serious in my refusal. You could not make me happy, and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the world who would make you so. Nay, were your friend Lady Catherine to know me, I am persuaded she would find me in every respect ill qualified for the situation."

47

"Were it certain that Lady Catherine would think so," said Mr. Collins very gravely -- "but I cannot imagine that her ladyship would at all disapprove of you. And you may be certain that when I have the honour of seeing her again, I shall speak in the highest terms of your modesty, economy, and other amiable qualifications."

52

"Indeed, Mr. Collins, all praise of me will be unnecessary. You must give me leave to judge for myself, and pay me the compliment of believing what I say. I wish you very happy and very rich, and by refusing your hand, do all in my power to prevent your being otherwise. In making me the offer, you must have satisfied the delicacy of your feelings with regard to my family, and may take possession of Longbourn estate whenever it falls, without any self-reproach. This matter may be considered, therefore, as finally settled." And rising as she thus spoke, she would have quitted the room, had not Mr. Collins thus addressed her --

54
  • There is no stopping a physical person from talking, as long as you are in his presence.

"When I do myself the honour of speaking to you next on this subject, I shall hope to receive a more favourable answer than you have now given me; though I am far from accusing you of cruelty at present, because I know it to be the established custom of your sex to reject a man on the first application, and perhaps you have even now said as much to encourage my suit as would be consistent with the true delicacy of the female character."

60
  • He talks further from his understanding, overlooking what is in his presence.

"Really, Mr. Collins," cried Elizabeth with some warmth, "you puzzle me exceedingly. If what I have hitherto said can appear to you in the form of encouragement, I know not how to express my refusal in such a way as may convince you of its being one."

61
  • He is a puzzle to her, as he is drawing from a deeper truth of hers.
  • Because there was truth in him, it repeated in Darcy and his aunt.

"You must give me leave to flatter myself, my dear cousin, that your refusal of my addresses is merely words of course. My reasons for believing it are briefly these: -- It does not appear to me that my hand is unworthy your acceptance, or that the establishment I can offer would be any other than highly desirable. My situation in life, my connections with the family of De Bourgh, and my relationship to your own, are circumstances highly in my favour; and you should take it into farther consideration that, in spite of your manifold attractions, it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you. Your portion is unhappily so small, that it will in all likelihood undo the effects of your loveliness and amiable qualifications. As I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall chuse to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females."

63
  • Stupidity confirms its rightness more in the face of more valuable facts and arguments.
  • As with Darcy, Collins points to her poverty.

"I do assure you, sir, that I have no pretension whatever to that kind of elegance which consists in tormenting a respectable man. I would rather be paid the compliment of being believed sincere. I thank you again and again for the honour you have done me in your proposals, but to accept them is absolutely impossible. My feelings in every respect forbid it. Can I speak plainer? Do not consider me now as an elegant female, intending to plague you, but as a rational creature, speaking the truth from her heart."

68

"You are uniformly charming!" Cried he, with an air of awkward gallantry; "and I am persuaded that, when sanctioned by the express authority of both your excellent parents, my proposals will not fail of being acceptable."

74
  • Falsehood can be soft and captivating, even when one indulges in frivolous gallantry, but will become awkward if the external forms are borrowed.

To such perseverance in wilful self-deception Elizabeth would make no reply, and immediately and in silence withdrew; determined, if he persisted in considering her repeated refusals as flattering encouragement, to apply to her father, whose negative might be uttered in such a manner as must be decisive, and whose behaviour at least could not be mistaken for the affectation and coquetry of an elegant female.

75
  • The wilful self-deception she finds in him she too is guilty of.

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