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Mr William Collins is an ordained clergyman in the Church of England, and becomes the priest of the Hunsford parish.

I realize that neither Miss Elizabeth Bennet nor her father particularly revere Mr Collins.

But I wonder if there is a reason why nobody refers to Mr William Collins as the Reverend Mr Collins, not even he himself (who otherwise never passes an opportunity to underline his self-importance)?

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  • ""Not even he himself"? It would be quite unusual to use a title in referring to himself. In what context would he do that? "Say, Collins—" "Reverend Mister Collins to you, Buddy." Like that?
    – user14111
    Apr 11 '20 at 1:29
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The answer would appear to be, because we never see correspondence addressed to him.

Mr Collins was a Rector, and while I cannot vouch for its currency at time of Austen’s writing, Debretts.com* gives several forms of address, for ranks of clergy including Rector and Vicar, dependent on the usage:

Salutation:

Dear Mr Denman, Dear Father Denman (for beneficed clergy Dear Rector or Dear Vicar)

Envelope:

The Reverend John Denman (not Reverend Denman or The Reverend Denman )

Verbal:

Mr Denman or Father Denman

Jane Austen was well versed in such societal minutiae, so I would be surprised is these forms of address were not also proper at the time she was writing.

*Debrett’s are the publishers of the default reference works on UK peerage and forms of address. Per their website:

Debrett’s has a 250-year publishing heritage, the first edition of John Debrett’s New Peerage was published in 1769, and it has remained in print ever since, with the 150th edition published in 2019 to coincide with Debrett’s turning a quarter of a millennium.

Our popular etiquette guides are consistently revised and updated, including Debrett’s Handbook, an indispensable reference book on all matters of correct form and British etiquette

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  • 1
    Also, it's not specifically Mr C who is addressed in this way; Mr Edward Ferrars (S&S), Mr Henry Tilney and Mr James Morland (Northanger Abbey), Mr Bertram and Mr Norris (Mansfield Park), Mr Elton (Emma) and Mr Charles Hayter and Mr Wentworth (Persuasion), like Mr Collins are not referred to as Rev Mr.
    – Fabjaja
    Apr 9 '20 at 14:09
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It is not clear to me that this usage needs explanation. That is, using "Mr X" to refer to a rector in early 19th century England was not unusual, and was not disrespectful. In Anthony Trollope's 1858 novel Doctor Thorne the character Caleb Oriel is first mentioned in

Then there were the Bakers, and the Batesons, and the Jacksons, who all lived near and returned home at night; there was the Reverend Caleb Oriel, the High-Church rector, with his beautiful sister, Patience Oriel; there was Mr Yates Umbleby, the attorney and agent; and there was Dr Thorne, and the doctor's modest, quiet-looking little niece, Miss Mary.

This is the only use of the word "Reverend" in the book. Thereafter he is "Rev Caleb Oriel", "Mr Caleb Oriel" and "Caleb Oriel" once each, and plain "Caleb" 8 times. But he is "Mr Oriel" 88 times, in quoted speech addressed to him, as in

"Ah, a bore!" said Miss Gushing, in an enthusiastic tone of depreciation. "How insensate they must be! To me it gives a new charm to life. It quiets one for the day; makes one so much fitter for one's daily trials and daily troubles. Does it not, Mr Oriel?"

and speech not addressed to him, as in

"It that so odd?" said Mary. "You love Mr Oriel, though you have been intimate with him hardly more than two years. Is it so odd that I should love your brother, whom I have known almost all my life?"

and most often, by the narrator, as in

Now Mr Oriel was a modest man, and, when thus addressed as to his future wife, found it difficult to make any reply.

Austen's and Trollope's characters are social equals: the sons and daughters of gentlemen. They must have spoken pretty much the same language and followed the same social usages, even though they are separated by almost fifty years. Austen and Trollope are, in effect, anthropologists describing the same tribe. Neither reports extensive use of the epithet "Reverend".

So an answer to the question "Why is Mr William Collins never referred to as the Rev Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice?" the answer is "why do you think he should be"?

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In a book review written by Dinah Birch, a professor at the University of Liverpool, she examines the role of Mr Collins as a clergyman in Jane Austen's writing. Birch says that "one of the strongest points of Pride and Prejudice is its understanding that Jane Austen's Christianity ... is also an imaginative force in her writing", because Austen is "deeply interested in the role of the church", in her society. She writes about the lack of religious dedication she sees in some clergyman through her character Mr Collins who is "by no means an aspirant to sainthood. (From Wiki).

So that is because of the author's attitude to her character.

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