Mr. Collins ~ Alive and Well! ~ in Charleston, South Carolina!

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.  

David Bamber - P&P 1995

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. 

Ingres – Portrait-Dupaty c1805

 “The Proper English Gentleman” – Regency Period


The Proper English Gentleman - 21st century style

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. 

Brock's Mr. Collins - Mollands

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. 

Malcolm Rennie - P&P 1980

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!

Tom Hollander - P&P 2005

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…! 

Nitin Ganatra - Bride & Prejudice

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?

Guy Henry - Lost in Austen

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!]

Melville Cooper - 1940 P&P

And there are others – is your favorite Lockwood West from the 1952 adaptation, or Julian Curry from 1967, or any of the other versions?

Lockwood West - 1952 P&P

Julian Curry - 1967 P&P

Let’s hear your thoughts on Mr. Collins!

Brock - P&P - RofP

Copyright @2011 Deb Barnum of Jane Austen in Vermont.

8 thoughts on “Mr. Collins ~ Alive and Well! ~ in Charleston, South Carolina!

  1. My favorite Mr. Collins would be David Bamber in the 1995 BBC production. My creepiest Mr. Collins was Guy Henry in Lost in Austen. Tom Hollander was great but Bamber had owned the role, IMHO. Doesn’t he make Mr. Darcy look that much better? Ah, but with the 21st epitome of The English Gentleman shown in Colin Firth, what could distract from his greatness!


    • I agree Karen, David Bamber made the role his own! But I have always liked the 1980 version of Collins by Malcolm Rennie – he makes him out to be a bumbling pompuous fellow rather than Bamber’s swarmey, skin-crawling, creepy caricature [though not nearly as creepy as Guy Henry in LIA!]. Even the music in that adatpation has this comical tone to it whenever Collins is on screen. Vince Lannie liked the role best in the 1940 Garson / Olivier by Melville Cooper… each to his own Mr. Collins I say! – wonder who Austen would have liked the best?

      Thanks for stopping by Karen, as always!


  2. I second the vote for David Bamber, who is hands down the best at showcasing Mr. Collins’ smarminess. Was it in a letter to Cassandra that Jane Austen asserted that absolutely nothing on earth could be worse than being in a marriage without affection? I think the story of Mr. Collins and Charlotte is her most effective (and horrifying) illustration of that belief!


    • Hi Angela – see my response to Karen and her vote [and yours!] for Bamber – That letter you refer to is very telling isn’t it? – much has been written on what Austen really thought about her Charlotte marrying her Mr. Collins because of that letter – and her own reasons for reconsidering her own marriage to Bigg-Wither – but she was also presenting a very realistic view of the world for women in her time – and how different is Charlotte marrying Collins than Wickham marrying for money?? – it has always interested me that Elizabeth is so accepting of Wickham’s plans to marry Miss King, but is so unaccepting of Charlotte’s choice for a settled life.. now there is a topic for a lively discussion!

      See you Sunday – and thanks for visiting and commenting!


  3. Deb, totally pea green that you are in SC and enjoying yourself with talks of Mr. Collins! My opinion — he is a dweeb — and one of Austen’s finest characters that we love to dislike. I think that Charlotte did quite well for herself and managed him without him knowing it. I find it quite funny that all of the sequels and continuations like to kill him off. One wonders out loud if he will be a victim in P. D. James new P&P sequel, Death Comes to Pemberley? I think he is top fav to be bumped off! What do you think?


    • And I am pea green you shall be visiting the southern California JASNA group and The Huntington! Cannot wait for your posts on all…

      As for who is killed off in Death Comes to Pemberley – my lips are sealed… there are certainly several characters that come to mind as possible victims, Collins as you say on top of the list! – we shall have to wait – no fair telling…

      Thanks for stopping by Laurel Ann – looking forward to your California tales…


  4. I am a confirmed Janeite, but new to this blog. What fun! Laurel Ann, an excellent observation–Charlotte manages her husband “without him knowing it”–that makes me like her a bit more. I believe that Lady Catherine bestows her gifts on Mr Collins precisely because he *is* so smarmy, She expects everyone to bow to her great wisdom and benevolence–who does that in better form that Mr Collins? Thank you everyone!


    • Welcome Katherine Louise! – I agree that Lady C bestows her gifts on Collins because she knows he will do her bidding, and bowing to her the whole time! – I liked Vince Lannie’s calling them a ‘regency coalition’!

      Thanks for stopping by!


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