Easter musings from Mr Collins

Jane Austen’s House volunteer Nicola Scarlett was thinking about Mr Collins and his sermons over the Easter weekend; she shares her thoughts:

Because we’ve just celebrated Easter, I’m thinking about Pride & Prejudice again. Mr Collins writes to Mr Bennet that, ‘having been ordained at Easter, I have been so fortunate as to be distinguished by the patronage of the Right Honourable Lady Catherine de Bourgh…’, becoming installed as the rector of Lady Catherine’s parish of Hunsford in Kent. One does wonder what Lady Catherine saw in him and what his appointment says of Lady Catherine’s character. Presumably, the ‘delicate little compliments’ he was fond of giving so accorded with that lady’s sense of ‘self-importance’ they blinded her to his true nature.

When Elizabeth stays with the Collinses later in the book, it also coincides with Easter when Mr Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam pay their aunt a visit; travelling for the Easter holidays seems as popular then as it still is now – well most years, anyway. However, Elizabeth sees neither for a week, until Easter-day, when she and the Collinses were ‘…asked on leaving church to come there for the evening’; ‘there’, of course, being Rosings.

This is the closest we come to Mr Collins in the pulpit. He must have presided over the Easter sermon. Wouldn’t it have been a treat to hear what kind of a sermon Mr Collins would have given, his prayers, his choice of hymns? What a pity Jane Austen leaves us in the dark over this.  Although coming from a richly religious background, with a father and two brothers who were clergymen, Austen never depicts her clergymen’s Sunday services.

Yet, we all know that Mr Collins’s sermons would have been long and boring! Maybe Mansfield Park’s Mary Crawford had heard one. That may account for her comment ‘How can two sermons a week, even supposing them worth hearing…govern the conduct and fashion the manners…?’

Perhaps it’s just as well Mr Collins’s didn’t!

-By Nicola Scarlett