Jane in January – P&P Missing Scene – Elizabeth Hears from the New Mrs. Collins — 38 Comments

  1. Ah Lizzy. Just because you wouldn’t be happy with Mr. Collins, doesn’t mean that some one else can’t be. However hard that may be to fathom! And some people are absolutely fine with being Well Satisfied with their lot in life!

    • I suppose you’re right, Wendy. Perhaps it’s only we true romantics that require (or at least dream about) so much more! But, as we know, Charlotte never was romantic.

  2. I always think it interesting about Charlotte’s choice. Maybe I am missing something, but I never really felt Mr. Collins was that bad of a choice for a gal like Charlotte if not the best match for a lady of Lizzy’s spirits. The original story actually says his looks are good for one thing and he was educated as a gentleman. He might be silly and talks a great deal about nothing much and his understanding isn’t so sharp, but he I can think of a lot worse that a woman might have to put up with to get her own home and future settled. Honestly, the worst would be dealing with Lady C more than Mr. Collins in Charlotte’s situation.

    LOL! I guess I think more like Charlotte when it comes to a lady’s situation back in the day. Nice little segment, Shannon.

    • Thanks, Sophie.
      It’s easy for us (and Lizzy) to criticize Charlotte’s choice, but we must remember that her predicament was very real and her options limited. Luckily, she had Jane to defend her her actions to Lizzy, and you’ve done a good job of it here. 😉

      • Exactly, Shannon! The time period makes a huge difference in her choice. Back in the day, it honestly wouldn’t have really been a choice. In fact, Lizzy’s choice was the more shocking and ill thought of the two. Haha, yes, I never have thought poorly of prosaic Charlotte.

        Ah, yes, Sweet Jane who helped temper Lizzy’s quicker judgment calls.

  3. Makes you think, doesn’t it, Sophia Rose? Obviously Charlotte would prefer to be in her own establishment rather than at the mercy of her younger brother (and his wife) when he grows up. We know from Sense and Sensibility how that works out. I wonder what readers of the day thought of Lizzy. I would say Mr. Collins is a great prospect for Charlotte. Even if Lady Catherine doesn’t want him any more, he’ll eventually inherit Longbourn.

    Wendy — since being Well Satisfied in the case of Charlotte means being future mistress of Longbourn. I’d say that’s a sensible decision. In a small village like Meryton, what’s the chance of her ever meeting her true love in any case?

    Loved the letters, Shannon! Thought provoking.

    • I agree with you, Monica. You pointed out some very important facts: having to rely on a brother for your well being (which may or may not work out) and eventually Mr. Collins will inherit Longbourn and Charlotte will return to Meryton in a position of greater dignity than she would have otherwise had. Yes, the match was a good one for her….. it was just a loveless one and that’s the sad part.

    • Thanks, Monica.
      As for Charlotte ever being the mistress of Longbourn, though. It ain’t going to happen! I enjoyed permanently derailing that train in my 2 P&P sequels. But don’t feel too sad for her. All she ever asked for was “a comfortable home” and I arranged for her to live at Pemberley instead, which trumps Longbourn any day of the week. 😉

    • I forgot to mention that point to my list. I know I wouldn’t want to gamble that my future SIL would be amiable to an old spinster living off the husband. Good catch, Monica!

  4. Although the Regency era and other times of the past have been Romanticized, I am glad to be living Now. I, like Lizzy, could never “settle” for a loveless marriage and be “well satisfied” with my lot in life. When I read P&P and put myself into the story, I identify more with Lizzy. I would find it hard to accept Chatlotte’s decision to marry Mr. Collins as well (altough I can understand it). Back then the prospect of being a “spinster” and a “burden” to one’s family must have driven many women into marriages that were not of their choosing. At least through this letter from Charlotte, Lizzy can begin to feel more at ease for her friend. A very nice chapter, Shannon. Thank you for showing us what Chatlotte might have written in her first letter to Elizabeth.

    • You’re very welcome, Linda! I think Charlotte walked into her marriage with eyes wide open, no illusions. She made a pragmatic decision for legitimate reasons. And since she didn’t expect to find passion and grand romance in her marriage, she will not be disappointed!

  5. When I read Charlotte’s letter, I was reading between the lines, which made the letter all that was proper, and all that was amusing, at the same time. I would expect a friend of Elizabeth’s to know her way around a double entendre or two! Charlotte wanted a husband and she landed one, but as we later know, she had a lot to put up with, both from her husband and Lady Catherine. Still, it was her choice, and she managed to carve out a life for herself that afforded her small amusements and pleasures. I always fancied that the first letter was the hardest one, both to write, and to receive. Given the situation, one would expect some awkwardness and constraints, but on Charlotte’s part, they were small. On Elizabeth’s part, there was more, given that her best friend married a very silly, annoying little man. I just can’t imagine being as intelligent as Charlotte generally was, and closing to marry someone who was not as intelligent. Still, she made the best of it and never openly complained, although she did manage to easily manage her husband when Lady Catherine wasn’t involved. Other than that, she didn’t have to see him much!

    • Mari
      Spot on. As I was writing Charlotte’s letter, I was thinking as much about what not to say as what to say and how. The book tells us Elizabeth was curious how happy Charlotte would pronounce herself to be. When I read between the lines here, I notice that she doesn’t say anything about enjoying her husband’s company. She talks about the furniture and the parlor she has claimed for her own personal use. Charlotte’s intelligence makes it hard for us to understand how she could marry a man like Mr. Collins. But I think by her saying she’s “well satisfied” she’s really telling us that she’s sized up the situation and knows she’s going to be able to manage everything and everyone in it satisfactorily (because of her intelligence and practicality).

  6. Leave it to Charlotte to find her own happiness in the situation she chose. Elizabeth really thought that Charlotte would regret her decision. Elizabeth must remember how old Charlotte is. An old maid was not a pleasing situation or to be dependent on her brothers was not something she wanted for herself if she could avoid it. Good for Charlotte even if Mr. Collins is an imbecile. She knows how to manipulate him to make herself happy.

    • True, Patty. We think of Jane Austen as being all about the romance. But she had a very practical side too; she knew that “handsome young men (and women) must have something to live on as well as the plain.” She made sure all her heroines had some money AND married for love, not because that accurately reflected the way things were but because that was her ideal. It’s the luxury of writing fiction; we get to improve on reality.

  7. I do think that Charlotte could manage to arrange Mr. Collins’ time by encouraging him to work in his garden or to visit Lady C. daily as portrayed in the movie. And having a parlor of her own where she is sure not to be disturbed gave her a way of finding privacy. And then as one author stated Saturday nights were “their night for conjugal duties” and only three weeks out of four if she was fortunate. I can only be happy that we of a modern age have choices other than marrying to fulfill our lives. The choices were so limited then and Charlotte must have been panicking in her heart of hearts due to her age and the limits of choices in Meryton…and the lack of a dowry.

    Well written, Shannon, – a true balancing act for each letter, even if Elizabeth’s was only the first paragraph. All diplomacy.

    • Thanks, Sheila. That’s the benefit of letter writing over any form of instant communication. You can take the time to weigh every word. I think Charlotte did that (emphasizing only the positive aspects of her situation) and Lizzy would have also – hiding her personal distaste to be polite and supportive instead, out of respect for Charlotte and their longstanding friendship.

  8. Oooh – just found this – now I have to go back and read the rest of the month’s entries. I have always loved seeing Charlotte ensconced in her home, and presiding over it. I love that it suits her, but that one of the things that suits her most is the little room at the back of the house that has been set aside for her “particular use”. Choosing that room for herself was a stroke of genius, as I imagine that it keeps her out of the way and out of earshot of Mr. Collins much of the time, and allows her a sanctuary of her own. A place to be peaceful and reflect on all that is to her liking of her situation.

    • You should re-read P&P chapter 28, Julie – Elizabeth arrives at Hunsford and her witty, sometimes cutting, thoughts on the situations she finds there (as express by Jane Austen). Here are a couple of my favorite lines:

      When Mr Collins said any thing of which his wife might reasonably be ashamed, which certainly was not unseldom… in general Charlotte wisely did not hear.

      When Mr Collins could be forgotten, there was really a great air of comfort throughout, and by Charlotte’s evident enjoyment of it, Elizabeth supposed he must be often forgotten.

      • Oh, yes – I well recall that Charlotte went into her marriage with her eyes wide open and her coping strategies firmly in place. Choosing what to hear and what not to hear, and when to “forget Mr. Collins” would be a great boon to her. I think I WILL go back and read that chapter right now! 😀

        • Yay! I’ve read it dozens of times before, of course, but it still makes me laugh aloud when I hit one of those lines.

  9. Delightful Shannon! Charlotte saw an opportunity and seized it. She knew Lizzy would not be happy with her choice but she also knew that she would be a spinster and dependent on her brother and his future wife! That would have been intolerable. An unpaid companion and helper of their future children. Yes, Charlotte could well ‘manage’ Mr. Collins.

    • Yes, Carole, in the end Charlotte had to do what she thought best for her own future, not what Lizzy or anybody else preferred. She knew she would rather manage a home (and husband) of her own than to depend on her relations.

  10. Like Elizabeth, I couldn’t do it. Eewww! But we must give Charlotte credit for being just as satisfied in her married life as she decided she would be.

    • I do give her credit for not complaining about her lot in life, Becky, but I just couldn’t bear to leave her there. I used the power of the pen to rescue her. It was in fact my very first literary act when I began my first novel (“The Darcys of Pemberley”), to dispose of Mr. Collins and free Charlotte. I hope you won’t be too upset with me for it. Nobody else seems to mind. 😉 (See also “Mr. Collins’s Last Supper”)

  11. I can see how the situation would be awkward for them, especially knowing that Mr Collins proposed to Lizzy just days before Charlotte. But until I read P&P200 I never really realized how judgmental Lizzy was about it. Things look a lot different when you’re 20 vs 27, especially at that time.

    I think over the years our minds have morphed Mr Collins into someone much less attractive physically than was originally intended? Not a romantic match but it could be much worse.

    • I think our visions of Mr. Collins have been influenced a lot by the film versions we’ve seen, as to his physical unattractiveness at least. But there’s plenty in the book attesting to his defects of mind and character. In the book, we’re privy to Elizabeth’s thoughts – things she would never DREAM of saying to anyone’s face (except maybe Jane). Might be much the same for most of us; our private thoughts couldn’t bear close scrutiny.

  12. Lizzy would not have been satisfied with a marriage of convenience but Charlotte had little choice. She may not have been a romantic, but took the bull by the horns when given an offer of marriage. She knew she had limited choices and was a burden to her family. She did not want to rely on her brother. He may not have kept her in a good situation and his wife, when he married, could’ve resented her. She made the practical choice for herself and knew she could easily manipulate him, within reason, to her benefit. She has her own situation with which she is well-satisfied. Thank you for a wonderful missing scene. Love the letter from Charlotte. Well done.

  13. I have always been sympathetic to Charlotte. She was faced with impossible choices; chose one, and set her mind to find contentment in her position. At 27, to still be the daughter of the house, subject to her parents (and to their concern about her single state), to be looked at as an obstacle by her younger sister… it could not have been a comfortable place. Collins was an escape, one she decided she had the stomach to tolerate.

    Thank you for her letter; I hear her voice clearly.

  14. How diplomatic of Charlotte in describing Lady Catherine and her attentions to the residents of the Hunsford Parsonage. Charlotte is the perfect wife for Mr. Collins. The clueless man needs a diplomatic and intelligent wife. Poor Charlotte! Thanks Shannon for the wonderful post.

    • Thanks for your comment, Rosanna. It reminds me of this exchange in the book between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth:
      “Mr Collins appears very fortunate in his choice of a wife.”
      “Yes, indeed; his friends may well rejoice in his having met with one of the very few sensible women who would have accepted him, or have made him happy if they had. My friend has an excellent understanding – though I am not certain that I consider her marrying Mr Collins as the wisest thing she ever did. She seems perfectly happy, however, and in a prudential light, it is certainly a very good match for her.”

  15. It is not mentioned that I recall, but should the Bennet ladies be left to Mr Collin’s charity, I would think that it would be better to have Mrs Collins be a dear friend of one of them rather than a stranger. Mrs Bennet bewails the marriage, but really if Collins didn’t marry a Bennet daughter, who could be a better (for the Bennets) choice?

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