"Pride & Prejudice": Mr. Darcy's "considerable patronage in the church"

In the last paragraph of Chapter 32, Charlotte Collins (formerly Lucas) is evaluating Col. Fitzwilliam and Mr. Darcy as prospective husbands for her longtime friend Elizabeth Bennet. She thinks the colonel

…was beyond comparison the pleasantest man; he certainly admired her, and his situation in life was most eligible; but, to counterbalance these advantages, Mr. Darcy had considerable patronage in the church, and his cousin could have none at all.

I don’t understand that last part. Is she hoping Elizabeth will marry Darcy so that, after Lady Catherine de Bourgh dies, Mr. Collins might continue to be the vicar and the Collinses may stay on in the parsonage, due to Elizabeth’s advocacy for them? Or is it an oblique reference back to Wickham’s supposed desire to become a clergyman, and Darcy’s alleged blocking of it? Or does it mean something else?

Yes, I think she is considering her husband’s (and her) future. That’s always how I’ve taken it; Charlotte is nothing if not practical and she always looks at the necessities of life first.

Yup. Well, it may be overstating things to say that Charlotte is pulling for Darcy over Col. Fitzwilliam, but she sees the two men as being equally desirable matches for her friend because of Mr. Darcy’s influence in the Church. This is some of Austen’s dry humor – although Charlotte thinks that in nearly every way Col. Fitzwilliam would be a better husband for Elizabeth, she can’t help but recognize that it would be to her own advantage for Elizabeth to marry Mr. Darcy.

In fairness to Charlotte, if her husband couldn’t stay in his position as vicar there, he might well be unable to find a similarly comfortable posting elsewhere. The man is pretty annoying. Without the money and more importantly the house that comes with being a vicar, Charlotte would be left in a difficult situation…until Mr. Bennett died and Mr. Collins inherited his property. Although Charlotte knows this is going to happen eventually, she would apparently rather not be put in the position of having to hope that her best friend’s father will kick the bucket soon.

I think it also says something about Charlotte. She knows the Elizabeth does not like Mr. Darcy. But she assumes that Elizabeth will marry him if he asks her simply because of his wealth and position.

From earlier:
*"Charlotte could not help cautioning her, in a whisper, not to be a simpleton, and allow her fancy for Wickham to make her appear unpleasant in the eyes of a man of **ten times *his consequence. "

I always figured that Charlotte was not only hoping just to keep the present vicarage, but perhaps elevation to a higher post. if her best friend’s husband just drops a word, he might move up in the church heirarchy.


Seeing as how Charlotte herself married a man simply because of his comfortable position this shouldn’t be a surprise. I wouldn’t judge Charlotte too harshly for this though, as she seems less of a gold-digger and more a practical woman who recognizes that she and her friend are in for a very bad life if they do not manage to marry comfortably.

The paragraph above the one referenced is referring to Charlotte “for in her opinion it admitted not of a doubt, that all her friend’s dislike would vanish, if she could suppose him to be in her power.”

Charlotte doesn’t think Elizabeth really dislikes Darcy, Charlotte thinks that Elizabeth’s pride was hurt and if her pride was stroked, she’d like Darcy perfectly well - which turns out to be a large factor in her turning out to like Darcy. For even before he has helped Lydia or redeemed himself for the interference between Jane and Bingley

“It was gratitude. – Gratitude, not merely for having once loved her, but for loving her still well enough to forgive all the petulance and acrimony of her manner in rejecting him, and all the unjust accusations accompanying her rejection.”

But yes, Darcy has several livings to bestow, Fitzwilliam has none. It would be better for Charlotte if her friend married Darcy - and since both men are amiable, and Charlotte isn’t romantic, either would be an excellent match.

Thanks, everyone. Even Mr. Bennet later (Chapter 60) makes a similar observation, when he writes to Mr. Collins:

*…Elizabeth will soon be the wife of Mr. Darcy. Console Lady Catherine [Collins’s patroness, and Darcy’s aunt] as well as you can. But, if I were you, I would stand by the nephew. He has more to give…