The Clergyman’s Wife + The Question is Mr. Collins Really THAT Bad?

The Clergyman’s Wife by Molly Greeley

I saw this audiobook and ebook on MeetLibby and decided to give it a read as I heard a lot of positive things about it.

However, I did not finish it as I could not get very far through it. I was about 18% of the way through the audiobook and did not get much farther in the ebook, before I finally called it quits. I tried, but this work just couldn’t capture my attention.

It wasn’t badly written, but the story just couldn’t capture my attention. The story takes place after the end of Pride and Prejudice, with Charlotte Lucas-Collins dissatisfied with her life with Mr. Collins. She has nothing to do, no one to talk to, and finds herself drifting. She then strikes up a conversation with Mr. Travis, farmer and recently turned gardener (thanks to Lady Catherine), later this turning into a friendship. After the time they spend together, Charlotte finds herself falling for Mr. Travis. This is not at all what Charlotte planned for her life? What should she do?

Hmm…?

As I mentioned before, I tried but could not connect to this woke. One of my biggest issues reading this was Charlotte saying she had nothing to do. She’s a regency woman who’s a minister’s wife. I’m sure she would have plenty to do, in her own home and in the parish. I mean she’s not working hard like a servant, but she still had duties and responsibilities; it wasn’t as if she was so wealthy as to have people do everything for her.

Secondly, Greeley make Mr. Collins incredibly insufferable. But I found issue with this as I wonder, is he really? I have been thinking about this for a while, ever since my book club read Pride and Prejudice back in March. Is Mr. Collins really as bad as Elizabeth thinks?

Reading Pride and Prejudice we never see a true uncritical view of Mr. Collins as most of our opinions of him come from Elizabeth Bennet and her family, all of which are not the most reliable as they are all very judgmental people (except Jane); additionally they already do not care for him as he represents a loss of their home and life.

Secondly, none of the circumstances in which we as a reader interact with Mr. Collins puts him in a positive light, as the situations are not ones where he is most comfortable in. First, we know that Mr. Collin’s father and Mr. Bennet had a falling out years ago, so much that there has been zero contact and Mr. Bennet was surprised at Mr. Collins reaching out to him ( which Mr. Collins only did after his father died). Mr. Collins comes to the Bennet home and we have no idea what Mr. Collins has been told about his Bennet relations from his father nor what his father might have warned him about how they would react to him. We also don’t know if he has any other family or has ever grown up learning how to talk to family members besides what he may have observed from friends/classmates. Part of the reason why he is so awkward could be because of all this tension he grew up believing was between the family, him trying not to upset his relations, not knowing how to interact with people related to him, and him possibly going on about things they aren’t interested in as he’s afraid certain subjects might come up that will turn this visit into a terrible one.

Then we have him staying at a home where he is to inherit everything when Mr. Bennet dies. That would not only put you in an awkward position but also mean that every person in the house is bound to be bitter and a tad hostile toward you.

Thirdly, we see him embarrass Elizabeth at the ball going up to Mr. Darcy without being introduced, but to be fair we don’t know what his discussions with Lady Catherine have been like. Maybe from what they have discussed he earnestly does believe that Mr. Darcy would know who he is. He also might have been really nervous when going to a ball where he knows no one and the people he does know don’t really like him that he clings to the only person familiar.

In fact, I do find it interesting that Elizabeth is horrified with Mr. Collins’ behavior, yet Mr. Darcy doesn’t even mention it in his letter.

“The situation of your mother’s family, though objectionable, was nothing in comparison of that total want of propriety so frequently, so almost uniformly betrayed by herself, by your three younger sisters, and occasionally even by your father.”

Mr. Darcy’s Letter from Pride and Prejudice

And the last time we see Mr. Collins he is showing off to Elizabeth, the girl who rejected him, all that could have been hers. Even though this behavior is rude; let’s be honest, I don’t know a single person in this world who would not try to show off to someone who rejected them.

I also think that while his letter to the Bennets regarding Lydia running away with Wickham was quite the letter, but to be fair I do think him being untactful stems from him not knowing what to say in this situation and Mr. Collins presuming his time with the Bennets meant they were much closer than the Bennets thought they were. His letter doesn’t read to me as a cruel unfeeling man, but one that is not graced at emotional norms. We see where he tries to make the Bennets feel better, that maybe their parenting isn’t completely at fault for Lydia’s ruinous behavior, but perhaps it was a predestined occurrence that would have happened even if they were perfect parents. This isn’t what anyone would want to hear, but that is the exact type of thing people always say with tragedies when they aren’t sure what can be done to help. I would see this a lot when I used to work with grieving kids-people who have never experienced grief and want to do something to help will always say terrible things, not meaning to and not knowing it is the last thing the person wants to hear. I think that Mr. Collins knows he should say something to comfort his family- but that type of thing always happens to OTHER people, not people YOU know- and he asked Lady Catherine for advice (and she was zero help), and wrote a letter that was not soothing at all.

The other thing that bothers me about these adaptations with the Collinses, is we never see Mr. Collins at home relaxed. For instance, we see the real Mr. Darcy, once he is at Pemberley and all pretense has faded away. I would like an adaptation that shows Mr. Collins in a normal home situation, where he would be more comfortable and not trying to please everyone or show off his accomplishments.

So while Mr. Collins may have his annoying moments, is silly, socially unaware, untactful, a people pleaser, and presumes relationships are closer than they really are; he does have a good heart and he strikes me as someone who would be a good husband and treat his wife well. I would like to see an adaptation where he isn’t being compared to Mr. Bingley or Mr. Darcy; but where we have someone write his story.

For more Pride and Prejudice, go to Pride and Prejudice Audiobook Narrated by Kate Kellgren

For more Pride and Prejudice adaptations, go to An Affectionate Heart

For more on Mr. Collins, go to Charlotte’s Story

For more Jane Austen adaptions, go to Jane Austen Children’s Stories: Emma