William Collins (from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice) is a man upon whom the face of undeserved fortune has smiled. Despite his notable shortcomings of mind and character, he has secured for himself a comfortable living as the rector of Hunsford parish, and a humane and sensible wife. He also looks forward to the day when he shall inherit a tidy estate in Hertfordshire. Until then, he basks in the rarified light of Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s patronage, a place where he can sample, albeit vicariously, the wealth and consequence he secretly yearns for.
Perhaps Mr. Collins should be satisfied, yet he cannot help hungering for a slightly higher style of living than his pocket currently supports. After all, a simple country parson cannot afford to put a fine cut of meat on his table every day … but his esteemed patroness can. When, over the strenuous objections of his wife Charlotte, Mr. Collins induces Lady Catherine to send a joint of mutton to the parsonage, little does he suspect the inauspicious outcome to which that tasty meal will lead.
Mr. Collins’s Last Supper is the tongue-in-cheek tale of how a pompous clergyman discovers too late why gluttony is considered one of the seven deadly sins. I’m pleased to make it available at an extremely reasonable price ($.99) at the Kindle Store and at B&N for Nook. Also will be available soon (June 2013) in audio!
The day began like any other. Mr. Collins rose at dawn – an admirable custom learnt in his spartan youth and retained as a point of personal pride. After an hour spent closeted in meditation, cultivating what he flattered himself were high thoughts and lofty principles, he breakfasted with his wife.
“What are your plans for the day, my dear?”Charlotteinquired of him as they ate. She asked the question every morning even though there was never much mystery or even variety in her husband’s answer.
“I have a full slate of important work to do, I assure you,” he replied. “I shall be in my book room for the whole of the morning, going over the discourse to be preached on Sunday. Every word of it is already firmly fixed here in my head,” he said pointing to that appendage. “It is the presentation that still wants refining. A great deal of practice is required to give one’s speech that unstudied air, you know, but that is what sets the really accomplished orators apart from the rest.”
“Yes, so you have informed me on more than one occasion.”
“Would you care to hear it later – my sermon, I mean?” Mr. Collins asked, reaching for another portion of ham. “It would be no bother at all.”
Charlotte considered the question a moment. “I think not, my dear. I would not wish to … how shall I explain? … to dilute the impact of your words by listening in on them before they are fully prepared. Let them overtake me unawares at the proper time and place – of a sudden and in church.”
“Of course. That is only right. Though you are my wife, I mustn’t show favoritism. All my parishioners have a rare treat in store for them this week, though I say it myself.”
“Yes. The message I speak of came to me in a bolt of inspiration,” he said in hallowed tones, raising his eyes heavenward. “It sprang into my mind, nearly fully formed, directly out of a chapter of Fordyce’s Sermons. I merely had to add such personal touches and illustrations from my own experience as naturally suggested themselves.”
“How convenient. Has Lady Catherine sanctioned your selection?”
“Your scruples do you credit, my dear,” he said, patting her hand, “but you should know by now that I never venture an opinion from the pulpit without her approval. She has already scrutinized the text point by point and given her kind approbation … provided I make the changes she advised.”
“Are there many to be made this week?”
“Only so many as are perfectly reasonable and as I have grown accustomed to expecting.”
“Her Ladyship is exceedingly attentive to detail.”
“Very true, my dear. Nothing is beneath her notice. She makes even the minutest concerns of her neighbors her business. Is that not the soul of charity itself?”
Charlotte was saved from the task of contriving an answer to this question by a timely distraction. The bell at the door sounded – the back door used by servants and tradesmen.
Mr. Collins exhibited more than usual interest in the ordinary occurrence, going so far as to suspend his meal and his conversation in order to incline his ear in the direction of the noise. The patter of feet and a muted exchange of words could be heard. Mary, the household’s young maid-of-all-work, then appeared with a large, irregularly shaped parcel wrapped in brown paper…
The story serves as a prequel of sorts to The Darcys of Pemberley, since news of Mr. Collins’s untimely demise opens that book. So if you’re a linear, chronological sort of person, read it after Pride and Prejudice and before The Darcys of Pemberley. Or read it anytime if you just want more of the gruesome details of Mr. Collins’s death. And just so you know, I’m kidding about the gruesome part.