Pride & Prejudice, Volume I, chapter 19
Mr Collins proposes to Elizabeth
I seriously considered reproducing the entire chapter within this post, because it is 100% solid comedic gold. Instead, I will sum up, and link you to the appropriate page at Mollands.net where you can (and, I hope, will) read Mr Collins's proposal in full.
It is Wednesday, the day after the Netherfield ball. Knowing that he's got to get home by Saturday, Mr Collins decides to make his move. He
Mr Collins: May I, in the most pompous way possible, seek a private audience with Miss Elizabeth?
Mrs Bennet: Of course you may! Kitty and I were just . . . off! To do . . . anything!
Elizabeth: Mom! There's no need for privacy - I'm sure that Mr Collins can't have anything to say that cannot be said in front of the family. Come to think of it, I'm going to get up and go elsewhere myself.
Mrs Bennet: Sit and stay. That's an order.
Elizabeth: [Loud eyeroll.]
Mr Collins: Your desire not to be alone with me adds to your many perfections. Obviously, you know why we're here. "Almost as soon as I entered the house I singled you out as the companion of my future life. But before I am run away with by my feelings on this subject, perhaps it will be advisable for me to state my reasons for marrying -- and moreover for coming into Hertfordshire with the design of selecting a wife, as I certainly did."
Elizabeth: [Is torn between two options: crazed laughter or *headdesk* - opts for stifled laughter, giving herself a had pinch to make sure she does not actually burst out laughing in his face.]
Mr Collins: I have several reasons for marrying. I feel a list coming on:
1. I'm a clergyman, and clergymen should set a good example by marrying.
2. I am convinced it will add to my happiness. (I do not, actually, care if it adds to yours.)
3. Now that I think of it, this should be first. But Lady Catherine told me I should get married.
Those are the reasons for why I'm getting married. And now, why I decided to come to Longbourne to find a wife:
1. I am going to inherit Longbourne
2. I figured if I had to get married anyway, why not do you all a kindness and make sure your entire family still has a place to live once your father died, since otherwise you will all be out in the street?
Mr Collins: "And now nothing remains for me but to assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affection." P.S. - I hear your dowry isn't all that large, so I will belabor that issue and its full extent or lack thereof now, but I promise that once we're married I won't say another word about it. Probably. Maybe.
Elizabeth: Whoa - talk about putting the cart before the horse. You forget I haven't answered you. So let me just say NO. Thanks, but no thanks.
Mr Collins: [waves her off] Piffle. I know how you young ladies are. You say no when you mean yes.
Elizabeth: NO MEANS NO! " am perfectly serious in my refusal. -- You could not make me happy, and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the world who would make you so, -- Nay, were your friend Lady Catherine to know me, I am persuaded she would find me in every respect ill qualified for the situation."
Kelly: Please take not of this wonderful bit of foreshadowing. Because Elizabeth will, of course, meet Lady Catherine.
Mr Collins: If it were certain that Lady Catherine wouldn't like you, I wouldn't have asked.
Elizabeth: "You must give me leave to judge for myself, and pay me the compliment of believing what I say. I wish you very happy and very rich, and by refusing your hand, do all in my power to prevent your being otherwise." When you inherit Longbourne, please take it knowing that you did your best to help my sisters and myself. And now, I'm out of here.
Mr Collins: Next time I talk to you about this, I hope to get a better answer. Your saying no doesn't bother me. "I know it to be the established custom of your sex to reject a man on the first application, and perhaps you have even now said as much to encourage my suit as would be consistent with the true delicacy of the female character."
Elizabeth: Dude, if you think I'm encouraging you, you are delusional.
Mr Collins: "You must give me leave to flatter myself, my dear cousin, that your refusal of my addresses is merely words of course." I feel another list coming on:
1. I am not an unworthy marriage candidate.
2. My house at Hunsford is highly desireable.
3. My job is good, my connections are good.
4. This would help your family.
5. There's no guarantee anyone else will ever want to marry you. After all, you're not that well-off.
"As I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall chuse to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females."
Elizabeth: O_o I would never be so "elegant" as to torment a respectable man such as yourself. NO MEANS NO! Thanks, but there's no way in hell I will ever marry you. "My feelings in every respect forbid it" (a phrase which here means something like "I find you totally skeevy and nonsensical"). Do not think of me as some elegant female trying to flirt with you, but as a rational being for whom NO MEANS NO!
Mr Collins: Why, you are just so charming! I'm sure that once your parents have knocked sense into you, you'll say yes!
To such perseverance in wilful self-deception, Elizabeth would make no reply, and immediately and in silence withdrew; determined, that if he persisted in considering her repeated refusals as flattering encouragement, to apply to her father, whose negative might be uttered in such a manner as must be decisive, and whose behaviour at least could not be mistaken for the affectation and coquetry of an elegant female.
Mr Collins has struck out