Chapters 13–17 Summary
At breakfast the next morning, Mr. Bennet instructs his wife to ensure a good dinner for the evening because they are expecting company. Mrs. Bennet’s initial excitement is quickly abated when she learns that their surprise guest is Mr. Collins, a clergyman and the distant relation who will inherit Longbourn when Mr. Bennet dies. Mrs. Bennet states that she has no use for the “odious” man and urges her husband again to “do something or other” about the entailment. Jane and Elizabeth try to explain the legally binding nature of the entailment to their mother, but their efforts are in vain.
Mr. Bennet then reads a letter from Mr. Collins, which states that he wishes to make peace with the family and make “every possible amends” for the harm his inheritance will inflict upon the Bennet daughters. The older sisters and Mr. Bennet analyze the phrasing and tone of Mr. Collins’s letter and determine that he holds a sense of self-importance and may not be altogether sensible. Since the author of the letter is not in the militia, the youngest two daughters find no interest in its contents.
Mr. Collins arrives on time and has a very formal and stilted manner. He compliments the beauty of the daughters, and Mrs. Bennet replies that this is to their benefit since they will one day find themselves “destitute.” Mr. Collins repeats his intentions to “admire” her daughters and then proceeds to praise the household furnishings; this mortifies Mrs. Bennet as she believes him to be viewing his own future property.
At dinner, Mr. Collins speaks incessantly of the magnificence of his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. His parsonage, Hunsford, is located near Rosings Park, Lady Catherine’s grand estate. Though he admits that some find her “proud,” Mr. Collins insists that she speaks to him as she would to any other gentleman and proudly shares that she has even visited him in his parsonage. When Mrs. Bennet inquires about her family, Mr. Collins shares that she is a widow with one daughter, Miss Anne de Bourgh, who remains too sickly to be formally “presented” among the ladies at court. Mr. Collins then describes some of the little compliments he offers to please Lady Catherine, particularly on the beauty and charms of her daughter. As dinner continues, Mr. Bennet realizes that he has prejudged this cousin correctly, finding him utterly “absurd.” After dinner, the family asks Mr. Collins to read aloud, and the youngest girls are horrified to learn that he never reads from novels and intends to read them sermons instead. Only a few pages in, Lydia interrupts with news regarding Colonel Forster. Mr. Collins is greatly offended by the interruption and comments that though young ladies often find sermons boring, they were “solely written for their benefit.”
Over the course of the visit, Mr. Collins proves himself to be a foolish and pompous individual. Given his humble beginnings, he is very fortunate to be settled at Hunsford with Lady Catherine as his patroness; however, this unexpected prosperity has given him an undeservedly high opinion of himself and in his abilities as a clergyman. It is revealed that he plans to resolve the issue of the entailment by choosing one of the Bennet daughters for his wife, thus ensuring that Longbourn stays within the Bennet family. He finds Jane Bennet’s face the most lovely and decides almost immediately that she will make him a fine wife. When he reveals his intentions to Mrs. Bennet, however, she hints that Jane is likely to be engaged soon, and Mr. Collins quickly changes his choice to Elizabeth, second to Jane in both age and beauty.
Thrilled by the possibility of having two daughters married so soon, Mrs. Bennet forgets all about her previous scorn for Mr. Collins, and he immediately finds himself in her good graces. When the daughters decide to go to town, Mr. Bennet insists that Mr. Collins accompany them—mostly to give himself a break from...
(The entire section is 1,193 words.)