People, did you know that there is a gross universal oversight right in the middle of Pride and Prejudice?
In Chapter 13 (it’s a sign!), Mr. Collins comes to town. Sing it with me: he eyes Jane, nearly causes a permanent rift between Lizzy and one or both parents, leaves with the ever-practical Charlotte Lucas in tow, and removes himself to a life of enthusiastic gardening in the shadow of Rosings Park. The End. But I’m here to tell you that, in this series of events, Mr. Collins completely misses the potential love of his life.
Miss Mary Bennet.
It’s not made clear in the novel why Mary and Mr. Collins never hit it off, but it seems to me this is a major error in somebody’s judgment. How is this not a match made in awkward heaven? Two extraordinarily earnest people, each with a strong guiding principle (Morality for one, Lady Catherine for the other) and a complete unawareness of their own ridiculousness? They belong together. Think of the long, serious conversations! Think of the hilariously didactic children! Think of the copy of Fordyce’s sermons in Mary’s bedside table!
The trouble here must lie with Mr. Collins, as we know that Mary appreciates Mr. Collins’s original self-inviting letter to the Bennets, and rumor has it (unconfirmed by a helter-skelter scanning of the relevant chapters; help, sharp-eyed readers?) that further thoughts about Collins’s mate potential do cross her mind at some later point in the novel. It’s true that Mary might have something to say about Rosings and the importance of simple lifestyle, but one beatdown by Lady Catherine, and the accompanying coronary on Collins’s part, ought to nip that in the bud. Are we surprised that it’s Collins who’s wandering blind, here? Frankly, nothing surprises us at this point. But you’d think that the young lady with the book of proverbs burning a hole in her pinafore might be a bit of a turn-on, no?
I don’t get it: is he looking for a different girl with whom to share his love of leisurely theological inquiry? Is he one of those guys who refuses to, as Rob Gordon says during that one part of High Fidelity, punch his weight? Does he not enjoy a nice evening of questionably-tuned music? Or does Charlotte simply get to him first, the lucky lady? Whatever the case, a re-considering of the Bennet family and the joys of middle sisters might have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship.