Friday, March 1, 1813
Too much time has passed since I had the pleasure to hear from you last. Is your family in good health? What shocking news have you to relate? Please, favour me with another of your tales of jilted lovers and cuckolds. I must be entertained. It is very taxing to have to be confined to one’s own lodgings all the time with no one but Aunt Margaret for company. The horrid snow has kept us inside for the better part of six weeks. The solitary situation of our little cottage discourages any visitors and forces us to endure a life of complete social reclusion. As a result, my Aunt has grown very fidgety and ill-tempered. Last night she caught me reading Mr Byron’s verse. Apparently, it was very unbecoming of me to sully my spirit with musings of such a vulgar mind. How she provokes me with her nonsense! For a moment Jane, I was not the mistress of myself and I felt in danger of losing my self-possession. Another trial for my poor nerves.
Naturally, Aunt took away the book and offered several ill-disguised comments about the imprudent ways of young ladies of four-and-twenty. She finished the lecture by remarking that I have always been an impressionable child and will certainly come to a bad end. She then informed me that we will be going to the Vicarage in the evening to share a pleasant supper with Mr. and Mrs. Albert Collins and their youngest daughter. Jane, you know how I hate to be hard on any of our sex, but by some stroke of personal misfortune, Mr. Collins became eternally bound to the silliest woman in the country. She possesses little beauty, even less wit and hardly any manners.
As for Fanny Collins (the elder Miss Collins went to London for the season to be observed by every eligible gentleman with at least three thousand a year), she has recently returned from a boarding school with all the usual accomplishments. In her mother’s words she draws beautifully, sings like an angel and plays like a true proficient. My dear, the lady seems perfection itself. I would never have suspected young Fanny of withholding such artistic talents. Indeed, I would dare to suggest that nobody, having known Fanny as a young girl, would ever have supposed her to become the object of such universal praise. I am led to assume that she only displays this wide array of talents when the company is equally excellent of being able to properly appreciate them. I spent half an hour with the dear girl and I confess of not being particularly overpowered by her conversation.
When I had already resigned myself to spend the evening sedately contemplating the eccentric floral pattern on Miss Collins’s sleeves, the dinner was interrupted by the arrival of a young gentleman by the name of Mr. Edgeworth. I knew him to be the nephew of Lady Collins and was predisposed to believe he would posses as much personal charm as his aunt and cousin. Unfortunately, he proved himself to be entirely agreeable in person and in spirit. This is all very vexing for I had decided to dislike him and now I am prevented. Nor is he lacking in judgment or good sense for his manners are generally thought pleasing while his countenance expresses openness and good humour. I am compelled to admit that the change of dinner companions did produce a very desirable effect on my spirits. This being so, I shall not loose hope of one day meeting lady Collins’s disagreeable relations.
After assiduous inquiries (Aunt Margaret kept steering the conversation towards religion) , I learned that he gains his bread as a tutor at a boarding school for young gentlemen and has great expectations of being made the Chief Teacher soon. Lady Collins finds him a very suitable match for her daughter and I have reason to believe that Mr. Collins looks upon the match with a favourable eye as well. Poor Mr. Edgworth, it would seem he has no say in the matter. I simply cannot imagine him married to Fanny. At dinner I must have betrayed some feelings of fondness for him, because during tea, Lady Collins took special pains to persuade me that ever since the young Miss Collins and Mr. Edgeworth had been infants, there has existed a great attachment between them. However, I think that Mr. Edgworth senses there is some mischief afoot and I observed with pleasure that despite Lady Collins’ indefatigable efforts to bring the young people together, he did his best to appear unattached. The woman has not yet mastered the art of subtlety.
I had to moderate my inquisitive spirit in order to calmly enquire after his plans for the term of his stay here. He appears to have a large acquaintance in Dullchester and intends to avail himself of the advantages that this shall bring. In any case, he seems very anxious to spend as little time at the Vicarage as possible without appearing utterly devoid of civility. In turn, I remarked that I felt the lack of society keenly, especially since everybody had gone to London for the season. He then put himself at my disposal and solicited the pleasure of my company for the next day. I found myself unable to refuse his generous offer. A very bold move on my part, I am sure. Aunt Margaret would have certainly disapproved if she had suspected what sentiments prompted me to give such a speedy consent. You know it is not in my nature to doubt the intentions of an amiable young man, especially when he should pay me the compliment of preferring my company to that of others.
The rest of the evening was spent in contemplation of a passage from the Bible which our host was gracious enough to bestow on our tired spirits. Fortunately, I have managed to overcome my natural repulsion for religious readings and appeared only slightly out of spirits. I do pity Mr. Collins for Nature did not bless him with a charismatic personality.
This is all the news I have the leisure to communicate to you at present and I hope you will not find my letter too dull. You must not expect anything better from a creature capable of such moral depravity.