Sunday, September 14, 2014

When Mr. Collins Wooed Me

Dear Friend,

Today I'm sharing part of a letter I sent to my friend Jennifer in Hungary when I was 20 years old. The original letter is ten pages long. I have substituted names of real people for names of characters from Jane Austen novels. The cassette tape referred to at the start is not the same one I wrote about in my last post. This means there was a second tape, but sadly, it's missing.

View from my old bedroom window at my parents' farm.

July 8, 1996
Dear Jeni,

A couple weeks ago I started to make a cassette tape for you in return for the one you sent me, but I couldn't get past the intro. I kept rewinding and started over.

Thank you so much for that tape. It completely kept my attention from beginning to end.

 Actually, the moment I discovered the tape in our mailbox is a good place to start my story: I was pulling out our driveway, on my way to meet up with our [college age] church group for a whitewater rafting trip to Gatlinburg. We rented a van so we could all stick together.

Everyone chatted and played games on the way down, except Mr. Collins. He brought his CD player with headphones and a stack of books -- topics ranging from Claude Monet to the Roman Empire. 

We stayed at a very nice hotel. Upon arrival, we checked in and everyone met downstairs in the lobby. There were lots of round tables, couches, a fireplace and a glass wall with a view of a pool. The atmosphere was light and jovial except, in one corner, Mr. Collins had begun a very solemn Bible study.

Please don't misinterpret me: You know I love the Bible. It's just that for the rest of the trip, if Mr. Collins wasn't preaching to us, he was having a Bible study. I sensed it was a bit showy.

It rained most of the time we were there, but that didn't spoil our fun. We all bought plastic rain ponchos with little bears on them and splashed about like a flock of ducks. Not Mr. Collins. He wore a parka and carried a large umbrella. He walked with slow deliberate steps and perfect posture.

I tried to be nice, but I felt annoyed.

The rapids were not at all wild, though still a lot of fun. (Mr. Collins was NOT on my raft!) They went something like this: bumpy, bumpy, bumpy, smooooth (paddle-paddle), bumpy, bumpy, bumpy, smooooth (paddle-paddle), etc. That was the pattern with a few minor variations. We got to know our rafting instructor pretty well. His name was Robert Martin, he grew up on Abbey-Mill Road, not far from where Harriet Smith lives. Harriet was melancholy for the rest of the evening after rafting. It was as if she had found the love of her life and lost him all in the same day . . .

 . . . On the way home, Mr. Collins turned around and handed me a paper entitled "What Does It Mean to Be a Writer?" I sensed it was meant to impress me, but it did just the opposite. For him, the writing process begins as he "takes up his quill." I can't quote the rest exactly, but part of it went something like, "In the middle of the night I am awakened by a longing to pour out my soul to another who can speak my own sweet language." By the time I reached the conclusion, I felt certain he is in love with himself and the way he writes. He had been very eager for me to read his composition. I got the feeling he had jumped to the assumption that I love to write for the same reason as he. This could not be any further from the truth. I am not a good writer yet. Though, with maturity and much practice, I hope to become one someday. I believe writing is good only when it communicates real meaning in a clear way -- just as a Christian should be a person you can look at and see Christ. With good writing, the reader is not  distracted by fancy words, I don't want to write in such a way that my meaning can only be discerned by a select few.

So next, he started saying something about "kindred spirits." Then  he paused and looked straight at me.

"Do you know where I got that from?" he asked.

I nodded.

"I watched the entire thing over Easter vacation," he said.

"Do you know what my favorite part was?"

I was afraid to ask.

"It was the very end where Anne and Gilbert came together on the bridge."

"Oh yes, " I said dryly, "the resolution."

"She finally came to her senses!" he said, then swiftly turned his back to me and began talking to someone else.

So that was my trip to Gatlinburg. My tummy is rumbling now. I believe I'll stop and make some lunch. When I return, I'll have a new subject for you!

* * * * *

Also, you might enjoy How NOT to Propose, which is another Mr. Collins-themed post.

I will say -- it's been interesting for me to re-read my old letters and consider how some of my perceptions have changed in the last 20 years. I was a bit more haughty and self-assured then, I believe. 

Now that I am a wife and mother, I kind of feel sorry for Mr. Collins. He probably had a back story, though I'll never know it since I wouldn't let him near me. You can't always judge a man's character by the way he wooes a woman. We all take our turn being ridiculous. That's part of being human.

"There's nowt so queer as folk." :-)

Thanks for reading! 

Peace & Joy,



  1. Nicely done, Adriana. I could just picture the guy picking up a copy of Fordyce to read to the group aloud.

    1. Thank you, Tim. The funny thing is, I wasn't at all familiar with P&P at that time. I recognized him as Mr. C after I read it last year. Austen's characters are timeless.

  2. Love this post, Adriana! He does seem just like a Mr. Collins type. Did you ever read L.M. Montgomery's journals? Her first fiance (whom she later broke up with) seemed just like that, too.

    I also like your wise words: "Though, with maturity and much practice, I hope to become one someday. I believe writing is good only when it communicates real meaning in a clear way -- just as a Christian should be a person you can look at and see Christ. With good writing, the reader is not distracted by fancy words, I don't want to write in such a way that my meaning can only be discerned by a select few." I agree with you, and it reminds me of the outing I had on Friday: I helped a friend shop for a (step)mother-of-the-bride outfit. The very first one she tried on was perfect; it made you look admiringly at HER, not at her dress. All the others were the opposite; they called attention to themselves, not to the beauty of the wearer.

    Do you have any other posts up your sleeve in which you compare events in your past to Jane Austen? 'Cause I'm sure looking forward to reading them!

    1. Jeannie, You would make the perfect shopping companion. Yes, that is exactly what I mean. Love that example.

      Austen posts? I don't have anything in mind at the moment, but I pulled that letter right off the top of the box last night when I was putting the cassette tap back. So I'm sure there are more stories in there. My daughter said, "Mom, that is a lot of letters!" I also need to finish reading Austen. I've only read three: S&S, P&P, and Emma.

      I also haven't yet read LM Montgomery's journals, but I know I would love them. We talked about this once before but I forgot to put them on my TBR list. Doing that now!


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