Mr Darcy to the Rescue
When the irritating Mr. Collins proposes marriage, Elizabeth Bennet is prepared to refuse him, but then she learns that her father is ill. If Mr. Bennet dies, Collins will inherit Longbourn and her family will have nowhere to go. Elizabeth accepts the proposal, telling herself she can be content as long as her family is secure. If only she weren’t dreading the approaching wedding day… Ever since leaving Hertfordshire, Mr. Darcy has been trying to forget his inconvenient attraction to Elizabeth. News of her betrothal forces him to realize how devastating it would be to lose her. He arrives at Longbourn intending to prevent the marriage, but discovers Elizabeth’s real opinion about his character. Then Darcy recognizes his true dilemma… How can he rescue her when she doesn’t want him to?
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Victoria Kincaid about Mr Collins
Mr. Collins is annoying. Certainly he is one of the least-loved Pride and Prejudice characters. So, why did I write a P&P variation in which Elizabeth becomes engaged to him? I recently became intrigued by Collins when I realized is that there aren’t a lot of P&P variations which redeem him. You can find variations in which Mr. and Mrs. Bennet mend their ways or Caroline Bingley finds true love or Kitty and Mary become less foolish—even stories where Lady Catherine and/or Wickham see the light. But there aren’t many where Collins really becomes a better person (disclaimer: Mr. Darcy to the Rescue doesn’t redeem Collins either—he’s just as foolish and funny as in P&P). I began to wonder why that is. Why is it harder to redeem him than it is to redeem Wickham or Caroline or Lady C?
Here’s my theory: it’s because he’s stupid (Jane Austen actually says so). It’s hard to imagine redeeming stupidity. You can picture someone who is wicked (like Wickham) or haughty (like Lady C) seeing the error of their ways and turning over a new leaf. But it’s hard to imagine Collins having the self-awareness to see that he is making mistakes and taking steps to change his behavior. He’s simply too dense.
And, in P&P Austen sees the capacity to change one’s behavior as an essential part of a good character. One of the reasons that Darcy and Elizabeth are the protagonists (and that we are so drawn to them) is that they both recognize their own errors in understanding and demonstrate the capacity to change. Many of the secondary characters lack this understanding and this capacity. When Lydia, for example, is confronted with the consequences of her bad decisions, she refuses to even acknowledge them as such—let alone do anything to correct the damage she has caused.
So, by not redeeming Collins, Jane Austen variation writers have taught me something about character: it’s easier to redeem wickedness than stupidity. Who knew?
Read an excerpt from chapter 1
“…And now nothing remains for me but to assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affection!”
It must be admitted that Elizabeth Bennet’s attention had drifted a little as her cousin, Mr. Collins, had enumerated at great length his reasons for choosing to marry and why he had very rationally selected Elizabeth for this “honor.”
Now as Elizabeth focused on his words, she had to stifle a laugh at the idea that his affection for her was violent or deep or anything more than nonexistent. In fact, he had not even managed to produce any “animated language.” Instead, he had merely assured her that his language was animated. It was a bit like having someone declare it was raining when you stood in bright sunshine.
Oh, merciful heavens, he was still talking! “To fortune I am perfectly indifferent, and you may assure yourself that no ungenerous reproach shall ever pass my lips when we are married.” As he drew breath for another long-winded speech, Elizabeth knew she must say something—and quickly!
“You are too hasty, sir! You forget that I have not yet made an answer—”
Mr. Collins waved his hand airily. “We may dispense with these formalities. We both know how you shall respond.”
“We do?” Elizabeth expected smoke to be streaming from her ears by now.
“Yes, I have spoken with your most excellent father, and he assured me how felicitous he found this event.” He graced her with a smile, which presumably was intended to be charming, but oozed insincerity.
“He did?” Elizabeth found these words hard to credit.
“Indeed. I assured him that our union is already a foregone conclusion since we are united of one mind and one heart.”
“We are?” Elizabeth could not stay silent any longer. “Pray, sir, when did that happen?”
Mr. Collins merely looked bemused. “I…do not believe I can supply you with the exact date.…”
Elizabeth shrugged. “I keep a journal. I shall have to go back to see if I recorded it.” She tapped her lip with her finger. “I hope it did not escape my notice.”
Her erstwhile suitor blinked rapidly, fiddling with his cuffs. “Your father did caution me that you should speak with him first before making any decision regarding my most generous offer.” He shrugged. “I do not see the necessity since we both know that another offer of marriage may never be made to you… Miss Elizabeth?”
Mr. Collins had been so caught up in the sound of his own voice that it took him a few moments to realize that Elizabeth was halfway across the drawing room floor. He hastened to catch up with her. “Where are you going, my most precious love blossom?”
The sound of this ridiculous pet name almost stopped Elizabeth altogether, but she had a more urgent mission. “I must speak with my father,” she muttered.
“To assure myself his wits are in order.”
“Hmm?” Mr. Collins’s tone was quizzical. “I assure you he was of quite sound mind this morning when I spoke to him.”
About the author
Victoria has a Ph.D. in English literature and has taught composition to unwilling college students. Today she teaches business writing to willing office professionals and tries to give voice to the demanding cast of characters in her head. She lives in Virginia with her husband, two children who love to read, and an overly affectionate cat. A lifelong Jane Austen fan, Victoria confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice.
About the author