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In Charlotte Lucas’s situation, would you marry Mr. Collins?

I Love Jane Austen

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May 26, 2009, 5:54am Top

Message #38 in the topic “Quiz - Which Pride and Prejudice Character Are You?” started me wondering how many people would, in Charlotte Lucas’s place, have accepted Mr. Collins’s proposal, and how many would have refused it.

Yes or no, anybody?

May 26, 2009, 10:21am Top

I think so, if I were in her situation. Charlotte presents the situation very sensibly: a woman of a certain age and situation, being unable to support herself through work or inheritance, had only marriage to keep her from being a burden on her parents. Even though I am a romantic, I think if I grew up the way Charlotte did I'd be a realist, too.

In the end, Jane gives Charlotte peace of mind, with a nice home to call her own, a husband who stays out of the way most of the time, and dinner at a wealthy estate a few times a week. Of course, she must put up with a couple of obnoxious characters in her life for it, but it seems that the benefits make life very satisfactory for Charlotte.

I think if you're a calm, introverted sort of person, Charlotte's life would be very appealing.

May 28, 2009, 9:27pm Top

#2 -- My thoughts exactly.

May 28, 2009, 11:54pm Top

Hmmm, yes, all of you are probably right. I find him rather creepy, so my first reaction is "no," but she certainly makes it work for her without seeming to compromise her integrity. So on second thought, maybe yes.

May 29, 2009, 3:13am Top

Nope. Not me. I'm calm and introspective, but Charlotte's life doesn't appeal to me one bit.

Happiness for Charlotte is having her own cottage and chickens. Happiness for me is staying as far away from idiots as possible. Marrying Mr Collins is a very reasonable decision for Charlotte to make as it brings her closer to what she wants, but for me, it could only bring misery.

Edited: May 29, 2009, 8:38am Top

It is quite difficult to know.

I can imagine what might be being a single woman in a world were marriage was the only thing for a woman but I cannot fully grab it with my 21st century mind. Marriage is full of little details and, well other things, that can become difficult to endure. I suppose much of it is related to education and upbringing.

In the circumstance of a woman of a certain age and also being introspective and calm Ann Elliot refused to marry someone she didn't love, though maybe with some external assistance. Anyway, I think I would have remained single as Jane Austen herself. And also, Mr. Collins is disgusting.

Edited to correct typo

Jun 2, 2009, 2:25pm Top

Interesting question! I think it also has something to do with strength of character: I think you really needed to be 'firmly rooted' (if you can say so in English) to choose not to marry and consequently burden your family with keeping you - as it was then. I can more easily see Jane Austen do that then Charlotte, who is as said above, a more introverted and calme person. I think she can make her peace with the situation and find happiness in tranquillity, but many others wouldn't be able to accept being married to Mr Collins and prefer to face the family...

Jun 22, 2009, 2:47pm Top

Yes, Charlotte's life does have a certain amount of appeal. . . . However, having thought about this for a bit from time to time, I have decided that I could not have married Mr. Collins, even in that time and place.

I base this conclusion partly on the fact that about 35 years ago, I declined a proposal from a rather wealthy young man who I knew, had I married him, I would have ruled, and I refused to live with someone who I could not consider an equal.

Just too opinionated, I guess. :-)

Jun 27, 2009, 11:09pm Top

Like everyone else it seems, I can see why Charlotte's decision can be seen as practical, but I do not think it is one that I would ever be able to make. I would much rather live a life of uncertain financial circumstances than spend my time hiding from a man I found intolerable yet was forced to share my life with.

Aug 9, 2009, 6:16pm Top

I think we are used to looking our romantic situation from a 21st century stand point. All of us would like to think that we are waiting for our prince charming, however in Jane's day it wasn't practical to forego marry for such an ideal. Marriage was more or less looked at as business deal, not love. In Charlotte's case she was simply securing her future. True, I would love to say if I were in her shoes there is no way I could enter marriage to such an appalling dismal man, but all romantic endeavors aside I can sympathize with her decision. The fact that she seems content with the match provides me with a better feeling on the matter.

Aug 26, 2009, 6:25am Top

It is one thing to marry a man you are not wildly in love with for practical reasons. It is quite another thing to marry a man you cannot like or even respect. . . therefore I hope I would have rejected Mr. Collins, were I Charlotte, but I guess I don't really know.

Sep 20, 2009, 7:23pm Top

No. However, this may be nothing more than a failure of imagination on my part - really putting myself in the period. Difficult, as leb62 points out, not to bring contemporary assumptions and perceptions to bear on the question... If she were neutral to Collins that would be one thing, but he is pretty odious and absurd.

Nov 3, 2009, 4:49am Top

I think for me it hinges on whether Mr Collins' faults are all to do with his character or include some to do with his - shall we say - "person". If he is merely ("merely"!) a social-climbing, sycophantic, smug and tactless idiot, then I think I'd do the deal to get my security and trust to being able to control him, as Charlotte clearly does. If he was also smelly, sweaty and otherwise disgusting, then no.

Nov 3, 2009, 12:29pm Top

Say what you will about Mr. Collins, I think he must have been reasonably clean. He was a clergyman, after all, not a laborer, and he danced attendance on Lady (blank--my mind's rotting), who would not have tolerated filth in her drawing room.

Nov 3, 2009, 12:31pm Top

Very true. I just have this little caveat at the back of my mind!

Nov 3, 2009, 3:10pm Top

He could have had stinky breath though. He seems like someone who'd have halitosis. Apparently Clark Gable had bad breath and Vivian Leigh hated kissing him. If it can happen to Rhett Butler, it can happen to Mr. Collins.

Nov 3, 2009, 3:27pm Top

>16 Nickelini: lol, Nickelini. But I don't think Charlotte wasted too much time kissing him.

Nov 3, 2009, 3:34pm Top

I'm sure you're right!

Mar 22, 2010, 1:09pm Top

As myself, in this day and age, I couldn't marry Mr Collins; I think I'm more like Lizzie than Charlotte.

But she went into it with her eyes open, knowing she was marrying an extremely silly man (whom she tactfully avoided seeing too much of, in their daily married lives), but she would be well taken care of, financially, and that they would eventually inherit a nice property. In fact, she probably went up in the world, slightly (it's been a while since I read P&P, sorry). And however pompous and silly and oblivious Mr C was (mind you, that description applies to a lot of modern day men), he wasn't a bad man, like Willoughby. Plus, she was the eldest of a reasonably long line of Lucases, and her marriage would have made things easier for her following siblings. It's possible that in that day and age, I could have been persuaded into marrying Mr C, however the thought makes my modern day self shudder.

Mar 23, 2010, 3:34am Top

No, I don't believe I could have married Mr Collins, not even if spinsterhood (and all all the humiliations it entailed back in the 1800's) were the result.

His total lack of tact and social graces I could have tolerated, but having to listen to a constant stream of platitudes dispelled as if they were pearls of the greatest wisdom would surely have lead me to poison him.

But it's true that Charlotte, as a woman of that age, would have been far more adept in the skill of quietly managing and manipulating such a husband.

Mar 24, 2010, 5:10pm Top


I'm sure you've struck upon the solution - marry him, then poison him - especially if he has halitosis. I suppose widowhood could be dreadful too (cf. Sense and Sensibility)

Edited: Mar 25, 2010, 11:20am Top

I'm not sure about the poisoning option. It would all depend on Mr Collins's personal wealth, and how he had made his will. I get the strong impression, though, that his only asset was the living which Lady Catherine had so graciously bestowed upon him - and the income from that would, of course, die with him. (For an example of a clergy widow and daughter living in poverty, see Mrs Bates and Miss Bates in 'Emma'.)

So, I fear that poor, rash Charlotte's best option would be to endure the halitosis, and to keep Mr Collins alive for as long as possible.

(Ooops! I completely forgotten about the Longbourn inheritance. So the best strategy would be to hang on until Mr Bennet died, and then poison him.)

Mar 30, 2010, 8:02am Top

Charlotte didn't ask for much and her decision to marry Mr Collins (she did actively pursue him) is based on purely pragmatic principles. If you look at the fathers in the case, you can see how Charlotte could put up with a silly husband; her own father is a rather silly man as well.

Could I have done it? Oh, what a hard question that is! Like most others I would say "No" as my immediate response; at this point in time I much prefer my single state. But in Charlotte's position ...? I am something of a pragmatist, so the necessity of grabbing an advantageous establishment with the promise of future security in the entailment on the Bennett estate does tip the balance weighed against the silliness of the husband. Halitosis, not a problem if you can contrive to spend as little time as possible in his company. Although the bit in Mr Collins's letter to Mr Bennett about the expectation of a "young, olive branch" does make me recoil. Then again sex, especially for women at the time, wasn't viewed the same way it is now. It was one of those things you did in marriage, like any other duty. On balance, I think maybe I would have at least seriously considered the idea.

Mar 30, 2010, 7:23pm Top

Their lives were so different from ours. I can't picture myself, as I am today, accepting Mr. Collins as my husband; had I been raised as a 19th C woman my reasoning and fears may have made his offer less objectionable.

I think in Charlotte's case her decision carries her through the daily challenges faced in such a marriage. She chose Mr. Collins not the other way around. (A little feminine manipulation?)

Mar 31, 2010, 6:56am Top

Did Charlotte choose Mr Collins?

Elizabeth rejected Mr Collins - and in her usual forthright way ('You could not make me happy'). Mrs Bennet was obviously too dim to administer any womanly consolation to the rejected suitor, nor can I see him getting much consolation from Mr Bennet. (JA never - I think 'never' is right - portrays private conversations between two or more men, but it's interesting to try to imagine a post-proposal dialogue between Mr Collins and Mr Bennet!)

So I see Mr Collins stamping off and trying to salvage his masculine pride by getting Charlotte to accept him.

Mar 31, 2010, 12:52pm Top

It's been a while since I read it, but Charlotte did encourage him (a lady in her day couldn't outright 'choose' a man); she must have known that Mrs Bennet was angling for him to propose to Elizabeth, and that her friend would be highly unlikely to accept him. She did engage him in conversations, so that he would be likely to turn to her, which he duly did.

Elizabeth was so horrified? disappointed? with Charlotte's decision to accept Mr Collins that she turned to helping Jane with her Bingley problem.

Apr 1, 2010, 4:32am Top

It's rather off-topic (my excuse is that P&P is a grand marriage merry-go-round, anyway), but I think that one of the pleasantest touches is Caroline Bingley's behaviour throughout. It's clear that she fancies her brother's friend Darcy absolutely rotten, but instead of being clever about it, she can't resist making bitchy comments about Elizabeth, whom she perceives as a rival - thus helping to propel Darcy towards Elizabeth. So very human!

Apr 1, 2010, 5:54am Top

If I were Charlotte, I might very well marry Collins. A young woman choosing not to marry in that age was like a young woman of today choosing to forgo a free college education --- feasible, but most likely very unwise. Of course Collins is exasperating, but she simply does not have to spend very much time with him. And there's no real indication of Collins being a "bad" person, only irritating.

Apr 5, 2010, 12:01pm Top

You can also be sure that Charlotte arranges things with Collins so that she does not ever have to "do it" with him.

Apr 5, 2010, 12:07pm Top

But don't forget, as Diane in #23 pointed out, Charlotte's in an interesting condition, as they'd say later in the century.

Apr 5, 2010, 8:19pm Top

Or so it seems.....

Apr 7, 2010, 5:59pm Top

I was going to say that I would hazard a guess that only one child was born to that alliance. Then I thought again. This might be true given that the first born was either a boy and/or survived. With the entail existing on the Bennett house which will devolve upon the Collinses upon Mr Bennett's death, there can be no doubt that Mr Collins would be the sort of man anxious to sire an heir to ensure that the property passes down through his line, if at all possible. Poor Charlotte! However, I daresay she would be stoic enough to do her duty.

Apr 8, 2010, 6:34am Top

> 32 True. And like our own Royals, the cautious Mr Collins would presumably want 'an heir and a spare'.

Apr 12, 2010, 9:36pm Top

Sorry about the delayed response.

Choose might be a little strong but the intent was there, I think. Mr. Collins was jilted when she "fortuitously" invited him to dinner. She took her chances with the move and achieved marriage.

I don't think it was all innocence and surprise on Charlotte's part.

Apr 12, 2010, 10:04pm Top

That is the understatement of the century.
And what perfect irony. Collins lives in a fantasy world where he thinks he is an expert flatterer who gets ahead in the world because he is so skilled at it, but he's actually a complete bungler, And see how easily Charlotte snares him, invisibly but with devastating skill.

Apr 13, 2010, 5:38pm Top

I just wrote the following in a thread in another Austen group, and decided to post it here as well:

"Ruth Perry claims that we don't hear this frankness about sex--in the case of Mr. Collins, sexual disgust from Charlotte Collins in P&P because in Austen's novel she is a character who doesn't think it -- nor Austen. I'd say not so. It's just not allowed for women to write that directly."

I just reread Perry's 2000 Persuasions article to which I am pretty sure you are alluding, Ellen. While Perry has done some wonderful feminist-tinged analysis of Austen's writing, particularly in that article about interrupted friendships in Emma, in my opinion Perry erred in a couple of ways in that article.

First I claim she is offbase when she writes, regarding Scott's Millenium Hall, and Wollstonecraft's Maria, or the Wrongs of Women that "there is no reason to believe that JA knew either of these books, although they certainly were in circulation in her lifetime." What Perry did not anticipate in 2000, was that Jocelyn Harris would take a close look at Millenium Hall and then make a brilliant case in her 2008 A Revolution Beyond Expression that JA DID allude to Millenium Hall. And, as I have commented in the past, when I looked at Millenium Hall myself after reading Harris's book, I found that JA's allusions to Millenium Hall are even more extensive than Harris outlines in her book.

As for Maria, or the Wrongs of Women, I also am certain that JA had it on her radar screen as she wrote her novels, both for my sense of the resonance of that novel to what I see in the shadow stories of Austen's novels, and also because several scholars including Harris have shown that JA alluded extensively to Wollstonecraft's Vindication as well, so it is no great stretch to suggest that JA would have read WSC's novel, too.

That first point colors my comments on the second point. I believe you are correct that Perry is saying that Charlotte can feel comfortable in her marriage to Collins (and that JA can feel comfortable with Charlotte feeling comfortable) because, Perry argues, Charlotte (and, by implication, JA, too) is a throwback to an earlier era when sexual disgust was simply not in the equation for a married woman. And I agree strongly with you that JA DID feel strong revulsion, and righteous anger, at the thought of any woman having sex with a man who disgusted her.

Where you and I part ways, though---but in a friendly way---is that my interpretation of the shadow story of P&P shows that even the character of Charlotte is consistent with JA's strong feelings on the subject of sexual disgust--to wit, I assert that the following bit of dialog spoken by Mr. Bennet to Lizzy and Jane is ambiguous, and deliberately so on JA's part, and that it admits to TWO alternative interpretations:

"....his expectation of a young olive-branch."

The obvious interpretation is that Charlotte is pregnant. But n my alternative or shadow-story reading of that phrase, Charlotte is not pregnant, and has NEVER had to have sex with Mr. Collins, and never will.

Apr 24, 2010, 11:23am Top

I would marry Mr Collins. It is better to wed someone who actually wants you then be forced to endure eternal singledom, and the humiliation of seeing all your friends in white dresses (which they probably don't deserve to wear!) on f/b.

Edited: May 11, 2010, 9:50am Top

I got to thinking about the question and I am afraid I got a bit carried away. My opinion of Charlotte has risen greatly over the years.

Charlotte Lucas is an underrated heroine. Certainly, she doesn’t hold a candle to Elizabeth in sheer fire and brimstone or to Jane Bennet, Marianne Dashwood or Emma Woodhouse in beauty. She’s plain like Elinor Dashwood and older like Anne Elliot. As best I can tell from literature, most marriages were more nearly like Charlotte’s than Elizabeth’s. Love and compatibility were not considered essential to a good marriage. In this time period, a woman’s job was to marry (see Lady Bertram’s advice to Fanny) The life of a single or widowed woman was not pretty. Just take a relook at Anne Eliot’s friend Mrs. Smith in “Persuasion” or Miss Bates and Jane Fairfax in “Emma”. For that matter, Fanny Price at Mansfield Park. Theirs was a life of dependency and often deprivation. What job choices were there? None. There were no careers for a educated woman except governess or marriage. Mrs. Smith made money by selling items to wealthy friends of her nurse. Charlotte was a tough cookie. Maybe Elizabeth was the fool to turn down Mr. Collins. Dittos for Fanny Price & Mr. Crawford or Anne Elliot & Mr. Elliot.

Travel was difficult and dangerous especially for women. The roads were awful. In 1813, a lone woman would an easy prey for robbery, kidnapping, rape and murder. It was a time of lawlessness and war. There was espionage, sabotage and the country swarmed with foreign agents and traitorous domestic ones. Invasion was expected at any moment. Like Fanny Price, Charlotte had no funds or possessions to call her own. Without a suitable marriage, her life would be bleak indeed. Life expectancy was between 35 to 45. The main cause of mortality in women was childbirth. I forgot how high but it was very high. Life for even gentlewomen was rough.

That Tina Turner song comes to mind: “What has love got to do with it? It is just a second hand emotion.” Today, everyone gets married for love. Right? After looking at the divorce statistics, I think not. The average marriage breaks apart before ten or so years if that long. There couldn’t be much love to start with if the supply runs out so quickly. I also think that men and women who think so little of the welfare of their children aren’t the kind of people worth knowing. I think today there is an expectation that marriage will be fulfilling but men and women bring such meager qualities to the institution that the marriage is bound to fail. From a man’s point of view, only very foolish men even consider marriage today. They each expect the other partner to fulfill their needs while giving little of themselves to the other. Charlotte had no illusions; no false expectations.

There were some Austen love matches: Jane Austen seemed to think that the heart should play a part in a marriage but the accountants and lawyers should check out the contract first. A few Austen examples come to mind: Maria Rushworth nee Bertram & Crawford, Eliza Brandon & Willoughby, Marianne Dashwood & Willoughby and Lydia Bennet & Wickham, Mr. Weston and the first Mrs. Weston nee Churchill did it all for love. We all know how badly these “love matches” turned out. Nevertheless, we can’t forget Catherine Morland who would have married Henry Tilney if he was the village garbage collector and do we doubt she would have been a happy garbage collector’s wife? Then there was Jane Fairfax and F.C. Weston Churchill; Edward Ferrars & Elinor Dashwood; Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley; Anne Elliot & Capt. Wentworth. It can be assumed that Miss Charlotte Heywood and Sidney Parker would have made a match in Sanditon. Yes, yes, yes, they did it for love but the accountant looked over the books first. Jane Austen was prudence herself.

We tend to sneer at arranged marriages and marriages for economic or political reasons. We sneer at Charlotte’s choice. Yet, in most of the world today, such marriages are the norm and love has nothing to do with it. Women have little or no choice in the matter. Most (my guesstimate is at least 50%) women are controlled by their fathers, uncles, brothers and finally their husbands. Today’s world is closer to 1813 Regency England than to 21th Century Europe or America. I think Charlotte looked at the facts of her case with clear eyes and came to a rational decision. From the evidence presented in the book, she did not repine.

Let’s also look at Charlotte’s power. Mrs. Charlotte Collins controlled two major levers of power:
Happiness in the dining room.
Happiness in the bedroom.
These are not insignificant. Any wife can make her husband’s life a living hell…until he washes his hands of the situation and leaves. Mr. Collins would jump through any hoop Charlotte demanded, suggested or even whispered. He would be a smart man to pay attention to her whispers. There is nothing in the book which suggested that he was inattentive to his welfare. He would pay attention.

There seems to be a tendency to project back onto the past the values and motivations of today; to make victims of women who did not consider themselves victims. Rough lives? You bet. From female authors I have read (I am chagrined to admit that most of my library books were written by women from 1600-1940) that is not how they portrayed themselves so I reject this point of view. I think the ladies would be offended to thought be of in that way.

May 7, 2010, 4:05am Top

It's impossible to be sure, of course, since the Charlotte/Collins relationship is only a small part of P&P, but, surely, Charlotte must have had other choices?

We can assume (can't we?) that she was tolerably good looking, and that, in terms of her dowry, she wasn't absolutely penniless? And, surely, she must have met some intelligent, personable young blokes (tradespeople, farmers?) among her acquaintances in Meryton? That is, people from the same social class as her father, who, we are told , made his fortune in trade.

So, surely, there's no reason to believe that marrying the abominable Mr Collins was her only alternative to being an old maid.

Bearing in mind that P&P is a book about love and marrying for love, doesn't JA invite us to conclude that Charlotte made the wrong choice? Isn't there even the implication that she was a bit of a social climber (like her father!) and that she rather fancied, in due course, becoming mistress of Longbourn?

May 8, 2010, 11:27am Top

Just saw the title of this thread and had to check it out. Wonderful posts all through. Not sure what I have to add except my own opinion, which is that I think the "old maid" choice would have been much better than having to put up with Mr. Collins - although I do think Charlotte made the best of that situation once she was in it, by limiting her contact with her husband.

May 8, 2010, 5:45pm Top

I feel I need to comment on >38 JosephPoisso:, some of which I agree with but other parts not. First, it is not correct that there were two women for every man. This would be an astounding ratio in any normal population, even allowing for the effects of the Napoleonic wars which were proceeding at this time. Throughout the 19th century there was a slight gender imbalance with more women, but it was only a few percentage points: in the 1811 census there were 4,873,605 males and 5,290,651 females in England and Wales (these figures include children). Most women did marry, or form unofficial liaisons: how else did the population grow from 10m-odd in 1811 to 20m in 1861? So most women of whatever social class could expect to marry. However, there is no doubt that individual women who did not have money or beauty to offer could risk not marrying and becoming reliant on their relations - as in due course Jane Austen herself was.

Second, childbirth was very dangerous still at that time. We can remember that JA's own sister-in-law died soon after the last of her many children being born. But the life expectancy figure of 35-45 is seriously misleading because it includes the very high death rate of children aged under 5; once someone got to adult years their life expectancy was much better than 35-45, especially in the better-off classes (despite JA's own early death...). Women's life expectancy, despite the ravages of childbirth, was longer than men's by the mid- century.
I agree that arranged marriages which have a strong economic element are still very prevalent in many parts of the world, and amongst certain communities even in Europe and America; and even where marriages are not arranged as such, it seems to me that most marriages tends to be within equivalent social classes, with quite a bit of attention paid to income etc. How many women today in Europe and America with high incomes of their own actually marry men with significantly lower-status jobs and much lower income?

As for the charcetr of of Charlotte I think JA did present her as making a rational decsion and dtermining that the consequences of an idiotic husband were easier to bear than poverty. In due course she could look forward to being mistress of Longbourn.

I don't think that Charlotte has as many levers of power as suggested - she can absent herself from Collins for much of the day, and no doubt do much to avoid the physical side of marriage. But she would not be able to make life 'in the dining room' difficult; he could easily afford servants who would do all necessary domestic work. And he himself may be quite happy for Charlotte and himself to lead largely separate lives except when they are summoned to Rosings.

May 11, 2010, 9:46am Top

# 38 I apologize for not responding sooner but I have been flying about: put a roof on a house, cleared fence rows and went for a few job interviews; such a time of glorious “hopey” and “changey”, don’t you know. You nailed me fair and square and I fess up. Some writers choose the rapier of allusion, subtext, parse and nuance while I grab the battle ax of hyperbole, swinging, chopping, slicing and hacking away with a full throated roar leaving limbs, blood, bodies and gore in my wake. I have never been able to decide if this is a failure on my part or a talent. It does get me into trouble on occasion.

poor humor mode off serious conversation mode on Somewhere, I read from a credible source about the serious man shortage in Europe toward the end of the Napoleonic Wars. This was given anecdotal credence to my mind by the British Navy impressing sailors from American merchant vessels, a proximate cause of the second war with England. (Yes, yes, yes, add nuance here) The Brits were engaged in a worldwide conflict with Napoleon. Napoleon was no push over. So my thought is that why on earth would smart naval commanders create new enemies when they didn’t have to? They were running short of young men of military age 15-25. Otherwise, why stir up the nest of mosquitoes which was the American military vis-a-vis the massive British might. Why would they put themselves in a situation which would cause the diversion of resources from the main foe? Even the few warships and troops necessary to deal with the Americans would be missed from the main battle. Then there comes to mind that Persian (?) invasion army on its way to Greece which got routed by a swarm of mosquitoes. For you military history buffs and you know who you are; I am not. I just notice when there are military troops flitting hither and thither in Austen, et al novels. In all but Emma, the military plays a strong supporting role.

Oh, I deleted the offending lines from my original post. Isn’t it great this forum has an “edit” mode.

May 11, 2010, 11:11pm Top

>42 JosephPoisso:"So my thought is that why on earth would smart naval commanders create new enemies when they didn’t have to? They were running short of young men of military age 15-25. Otherwise, why stir up the nest of mosquitoes which was the American military vis-a-vis the massive British might. Why would they put themselves in a situation which would cause the diversion of resources from the main foe?"

Well, accepting as a first postulate that the military--and governments--would always do the smart thing (quite a camel for anyone semi-well read in history to swallow), then one has to consider the following:

the British impressed not men of the stamp of Miss Austen's country farmers and shepherds and gentry--they were EXPERIENCED SEAMEN. I'm sure you remember in Melville's "Billy Budd," that not just any seaman was taken by Captain Vere's impressment crew from "The Rights of Man"--just Billy:

"Lieutenant, you are going to take my best man from me, the jewel of 'em."

"Yes, I know," rejoined the other, immediately drawing back the tumbler preliminary to a replenishing; "Yes, I know. Sorry."

I also have to think that the English military may have felt that the new republic might still have reason to favor the French in the Napoleonic war--remembering France's considerable aid to the former colonies during the War of Independence--and that to reduce her naval efficiency by impressing her best merchantmen might have as many gains as potential losses in denying France supplies from across the Atlantic--a tactic the Germans tried to repeat in both World Was of this century. (That they miscalculated in this matter is another reason one has to take your first postulate with some degree of skepticism.)

Jun 24, 2010, 7:55am Top

As stupid as Mr Collins is Charlotte makes the right decision. She is getting on in years and not rich or pretty - at one point Elizabeth says that handsome men must have something to live on as well as the plain ones and that went double for women. Charlotte believes that marriage is the only honorable 'profession' for genteel women with no money. If she did not marry Collins she would probably not marry at all and might become a sort of 'Miss Bates' - dependent on the charity of her relatives or neighbors.

Aug 12, 2011, 11:56am Top

Very interesting discussion - I have enjoyed reading all the posts. What no-one seems to have considered is that perhaps Charlotte is really not the friend Elizabeth thought her. She nabs Mr C, though I'm sure it was "a truth universally acknowledged" that the proper thing was for him to have married one of the Bennett girls - Mary would probably have thought he was wonderful.

Elizabeth "felt persuaded that no real confidence could ever subsist between them again" - maybe it's not just that Charlotte married a man she must, if she'd ever been Elizabeth's friend, have despised. Maybe it's also that she secured her own future at the expense of all the Bennett girls.

Then again, who is it that tells Lady Catherine that Darcy and Elizabeth are engaged? Who is the one person, apart from the principals, who would be interested, and on the spot? She had ample opportunity to notice that Mr Darcy was in love with Elizabeth, and to decide that it was not likely Elizabeth would repulse for long a young, handsome and mega-wealthy suitor. Best to nip it in the bud, she may have thought. After all, it would not do the Collinses any good to have a relative of his provoke Lady Catherine's anger.

Charlotte is an example of the Unreliable Female Friend who is ubiquitous in Jane Austen's works.

Aug 12, 2011, 8:33pm Top

>45 mta:

Yes, Charlotte is, to paraphrase Little Buttercup, "seldom what she seems." One tends to take the minor characters more or less at face value--seldom analyzing their motives because they are minor characters. As mta shows us, for Austen there are no minor characters and seemingly superficial people often have unsuspected depths.

Aug 14, 2011, 9:24am Top

> 45, 46 : To be fair, your arguments do make sense, but it would be sad if Elizabeth so misjudged a lifelong friend. So I'm going to forget I read your posts, and continue naively on ...

Mar 11, 2014, 6:46pm Top

I'm coming into this conversation years late, but I finally got around to reading this one.  I know that I am not calm or collected enough to marry someone as dim and superficial as Mr Collins, and I do somewhat admire Charlotte for going through with it.  As someone else mentioned, she has a long line of siblings, and this marriage would improve their chances of "good alliances".

I also agree with mta that Charlotte could have been the person to let little facts about Darcy's admiration for Elizabeth slip, but I think she'd have done it knowing her friend's reaction to ANYONE daring to tell her what not to do.  If Elizabeth can't be reasonable about "the marriage state", she'd need a little help.  She did also save Elizabeth a dreadful relationship with Mr Collins.  Sure, everyone thinks Mary would have suited Mr Collins, but that would be too close for comfort for Elizabeth.

Mar 12, 2014, 8:38am Top

I thought people may like to read this, an essay in The New Yorker on Charlotte's choice.

On Charlotte Lucas's Choice.

Mar 23, 2014, 6:36pm Top

Thank you for sharing, Jargoneer.  Unless I'm mistaken, Elizabeth decided that she couldn't trust Charlotte, anymore, after she married Mr Collins.  I think that she'd come around and think better of Charlotte with more experience.  If the story were to continue, I think they'd be good friends, again.

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