Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice

Mr. Collins was eloquent in her praise. The subject elevated him to more than usual solemnity of manner, and with a most important aspect he protested that he had never in his life witnessed such behaviour in a person of rank – such affability and condescension, as he had himself experienced from Lady Catherine. She had been graciously pleased to approve of both of the discourses which he had already had the honour of preaching before her.

– Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 14. Over dinner at the Bennets’ home, Mr. Collins spends much of his time describing the woman who helped him establish his career in the clergy, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The fawning obsequiousness and servility he displays towards his patroness, coupled with his pretentious manners and obsessive formality, help make Mr. Collins one of English literature’s unforgettable comic characters. Here Austen is satirizing the behavior of the noble class through Collins’s absurd admiration for Lady Catherine and her treatment of him. She is also being ironic – for nobody in their right mind admires being condescended to.