Elements of Romantic Comedy: Manipulators

Readers love watching schemes unwind, especially when it comes to the manipulator. Payback lends appeal to the fictional world. This is why after a hard day at work, we cozy up with a favorite novel.

"The Decisive Move" Photo: Sam (Creative Commons Flickr)
“The Decisive Move” Photo: Sam (Creative Commons Flickr)

Jane Austen’s novels are filled with manipulators. Sometimes they succeed, but more often not. In Pride and Prejudice, Miss Caroline Bingley’s goal is obvious: a marriage alliance with Mr. Darcy of Pemberley.

Darcy By Any Other Name sets the stage perfectly for her. Mr. Darcy’s mind has been affected by his injury, so he is putty in her hands. Or so it would seem. In Chapter 20 we have Caroline nudging Collins-as-Darcy toward a plan of social improvement. Because every lady wants to marry a titled gentleman, right?

To oblige Miss Bingley Collins flipped through the papers: The Morning Post and Gazetteer. Baldwin’s Journal. The London Gazette. The County Herald.

Such stuff! He could make neither heads nor tails of any of the headlines. Military battles and court trials and gossip about the London social set. What use had he for these?

“The financial section,” she said helpfully, “was of particular interest to my late father.”

Collins continued to turn pages. Here were rows of numbers and symbols that to him meant nothing. He sighed heavily.

“You might also enjoy the political articles,” she suggested, “with all the doings of Parliament.”

“In session now, is it not?” Collins remarked. He had to say something.

Caroline Bingley hesitated. “Surely you are interested in Parliament, Mr. Darcy?”

Not if he could help it! Then again, as Darcy he would have to be interested. He turned another page.

Apparently Miss Bingley had more to say. “We, that is, your sister and I, have been hoping that you would one day sit in the House of Lords.”

Collins was thunderstruck. “The House of Lords? Me?” He had ambitions to become a bishop, certainly, or better yet an archdeacon. But a Member of Parliament?

“I daresay your uncle, the earl, could arrange it,” she added helpfully.

There was steel behind that smile of hers, and Collins felt himself cringe. Why, this Miss Bingley was made of the same stuff as Lady Catherine!

Just to annoy her, he took another puff on his cigar. “You are very kind,” he said. “At the present time, however, I prefer to remain a private gentleman.”

Anger snapped in Miss Bingley’s eyes, and her smile became forced. Had they been on more intimate terms, would she have contradicted him?

“I have all I can do to manage my own estate,” he explained.

“But you are capable of so much more, Mr. Darcy,” she cried. “Elevation to the peerage would add such distinction.”

What an ambitious creature Miss Bingley was! “Why not encourage your brother?” he said.

“Charles?” she scoffed. “He has neither the capacity nor the proper sponsorship, whereas you—”

Miss Bingley continued to talk. Women, Collins decided, were a nagging lot.

How’s that working for you, Caroline? Not so well, ha! Tomorrow we’ll have N for Nighttime.

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Laura Hile (1)

Excerpt is from Darcy By Any Other Name by Laura Hile, copyright 2016

2 thoughts on “Elements of Romantic Comedy: Manipulators

  1. Caroline, that man is a hopeless case. He is totally befuddled by your suggestions. Manipulate that man – I think that will end up with results unimaginable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good old Mr. Collins. “There’s no cure for stupid,” as my Southern friends would say. Part of the fun of this premise is seeing how an oafish, peevish man (Collins) on the inside changes an otherwise handsome man’s appearance (Darcy).

    As you suggest, Shelia, a foolish man like Collins can cause a world of trouble…


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