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.

Better Late than Never – Part II: Fashion in Jane Austen’s World

Please see Kelly’s post below this for Part I – we have both been swamped these past two weeks and FINALLY getting to our respective posts on Hope Greenberg’s fabulous talk on fashion at our June 7th  JASNA-Vermont gathering …  with the beautiful backdrop of the Chapel at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a capacity crowd …

First I append a guest post from our own Janeite Marcia: 

Fashionable Sunday in Montpelier

 Hope Greenberg’s presentation on Sunday June 7, 2009 provided much, much more than I imagined.  Who knew fashion was so complex? 

 For me, the most fascinating part was learning about how Austen used references to clothing and fashion to develop her characters.  While reading Sense and Sensibility, it was clear that Lucy Steele’s manners were lacking, her behavior even tacky.  Hope used the scene where Lucy inquires of Marianne regarding her clothing, and even her clothing allowance, to illustrate how Lucy is revealed as crass and ill-mannered. 

As Hope Greenberg described, in addition to Lucy’s inquires of Marianne, from Wickham’s (Pride and Prejudice) only needing regimentals, to Mrs. Allen (Northanger Abbey) talking of little but clothing, we are treated to exquisite development of many of the Austen characters by these brief, but powerful, references to wardrobe, clothing, and fashion.  We all accept that Lucy is uncultured, Wickham is without depth of character, and Mrs. Allen is a mere silly airhead.  These are the perfect, subtle, understated Jane Austen descriptions which leave the reader with no doubt of the author’s meaning, while wondering where the impression came from.  

While there are few enough references in the Austen novels regarding fashion and clothing, each of those mentioned by Hope Greenberg is amazingly revealing and powerful.  Thanks to Hope, those of us who attended on Sunday will be more aware of such references and techniques as we reread Austen and will certainly be able to better appreciate the genius of Jane Austen. 

It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Thank you to JASNA-Vermont!


fashion plate walking dress

Thank you Marcia for your thoughts!   We were most fortunate to have Hope spend a few hours with us – as a Humanities Computing Specialist at the University of Vermont, Hope has combined her love of history and 19th-century material and literary culture with her love of historic clothing and English Country Dance – she offered us a visual feast [with a new Macintosh program that presented all the fashion illustrations in the mode of flipping the pages of a book!] taking us through the process of dressing a lady of fashion from her linen shifts, corsets, petticoats, dresses, pelisses /spencers, to her shawls, hats and muffs, reticules, and other accessories; and dressing the man of fashion with his shirts, breaches / trousers, weskits, cravats, jackets and the glorious greatcoat – all this shown in the various fabrics and textiles of the time, with Hope’s actual dresses, fashion illustrations, and photographs from the trove of 18th and 19th century clothing in the UVM Fleming Museum.  Hope ended her talk with a quick run through the various changes in fashion over the short period from the late 1780s to the 1820s – the French influence; the military influence; the return to the classical Egyptian and Grecian styles; the waist going up; the waist going down; the petticoat as an undergarment to the petticoat as part of the main dress; Beau Brummel’s affect on male fashion; the central role of the fashion magazines – all this in a short 2-hour whirlwind of muslin, linen and silk!  [alas!  we did go over a bit!]

And as Marcia mentions above – I too learned much from Hope’s references to Austen’s use of clothing details [or lack thereof] to delineate character – Willoughby’s shooting jacket; Nancy Steele’s obsession with her appearance; the lack of description of Bingley and Darcy, yet the emphasis on Wickham’s “regimentals”; Mrs. Bennet’s ridiculous concerns with wedding clothes and carriages; Lydia’s silliness about her bonnet; Mrs. Elton in Emma [no more need be said!]; Mrs. Allen in Northanger Abbey – and only Henry Tilney [dear Henry!] being “forgiven” for his extensive clothing musings!

So we heartily thank Hope for sharing her expertise with us – we are all alot wiser about Regency fashion and more attuned to Austen’s brilliant commentary.


Ditto Kelly’s thanks for a gracious afternoon in Montreal, a la Donwell Abbey and strawberry picking; hearing a fascinating preview of Jan Fergus’s upcoming AGM talk on “Tensions between Brothers and Sisters in Austen’s Novels”; and sharing a delicious tea with other JASNA-Montreal members [my daughter joined me for this trek to Montreal – and she loved all the Austen chatter – it is my daughter after all who got me re-reading Austen when she was studying Emma in college nearly 20 years ago – she called me up to say she seemed to be the only one in the class who thought Emma was FUNNY – I knew then and there we had raised her right!]  Anyway, I digress – a huge thank you to Elaine Bander for a wonderful afternoon!


And a little counterpoint to my blogging partner and cohort in JASNA-Vermont – who ever said that Knightley was a “namby-pamby”??  – I always viewed him as a very strong character – so we need to have a lively discussion about this!  And of course lots to discuss about Mr. Collins – I agree that the 1995 makes him out to be SUCH a dolt [and the Lost in Austen character is just too CREEPY!] – the Elizabeth Garvie P&P rendition is much truer to the book [the music alone captures his essence] – but think we need to go back to the novel to see what Austen really says about him – and she makes no bones about making him out to be quite ridiculous.  Kelly, we should have a session JUST on Mr. Collins – I think we could get a rousing discussion going! [there is also a book just on him by the way, titled “Mr. Collins Considered” – a great place to start, as well as the Irene Collins [no relation!] book on Austen and the clergy…]

mr collins brock illus

[illustration from]

Posted by Deb