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|"Meet Mr. Collins", The Letter, with critical commentar
Written by nan duval
(4/19/2010 8:41 p.m.)
Having chosen to focus on letters, I've really been looking forward to this. If the success of a letter is determined by the level of insight it gives into the writer's personality, this is a winner.
"Dear Sir,--The disagreement subsisting between yourself and my late honored father always gave me much uneasiness, and since I have had the misfortune to lose him, I have frequently wished to heal the breach; but for some time I was kept back by my own doubts, fearing lest it might seem disrespectful to his memory for me to be on good terms with anyone, with whom it had always pleased him to be at variance."
So he knows that his dad didn't get along with Mr. Bennet, thought it was unfortunate, but couldn't man up & rebel & try to become friends while his father was alive, and, in fact, isn't even sure if he can survive his dead dad's displeasure from beyond the grave.
"My mind, however, is now made up on the subject, for having received ordination at Easter, I have been so fortunate as to be distinguished by the patronage of the Right Honorable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, widow of Sir Lewis de Bourgh, whose bounty and benificence has preferred me to the valuable rectory of this parish, where it shall be my earnest endeavour to demean myself with grateful respect towards her Ladyship, and be ever ready to perform those rites and ceremonies which are instituted by the Church of England."
This is one of my favorite sentences. Mr. Collins' ordination to the priesthood has filled him with fervent wishes to serve the will of --God?--no! of the person who owns the living, &, in whatever time is left over from toadying up to her, to go through the motions of liturgy.
"As a clergyman, moreover, I feel it my duty to promote and establish the blessing of peace in all families within the reach of my influence;"
Oh, ok, blessed are the peacemakers, maybe he has some rudimentary spiritual sense.
"and on these grounds I flatter myself that my present overtures of goodwill are highly commendable,"
& the ghost of my father will not follow me around howling.
"and that the circumstance of my being next in the entail of Longbourn estate will be kindly overlooked on your side, and not lead you to reject the offered olive-branch. I cannot be otherwise than concerned at being the means of injuring your amiable daughters, and beg leave to apologise for it, as well as to assure you of my readiness to make them every possible amends--but of this hereafter."
In the hereafter? Will he give them each an extra hundred pounds a year till the hereafter?
"...Lady Catherine is far from objecting to my occasional absence on a Sunday, provided that some other clergyman is engaged to do the duty of the day."
I can stay as long as you want me.
The responses of the Bennet family to the letter are interesting. Mr Bennet anticipates amusement at the visitor's quirks, Mrs. Bennet hopes that her daughters' lives will improve. Jane shockingly, doesn't understand what he can mean in trying to make atonement but is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Elizabeth is amused by his obsequiousness to Lady Catherine & perfunctory attitude toward his ministerial duties. I love Mary's critique of his stylistic performance: "In point of composition," said Mary, " his letter does not seem defective. The idea of of the olive branch perhaps is not wholly new, yet I think it is well expressed." She doesn't go for the meat of the ideas (what little there is of that)& approaches it like a third grade teacher grading an essay, but even Mary can recognize a hackneyed metaphor when she sees it.
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