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I was reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice when I came across this quote said by Mr Collins to Mrs. Bennett:

May I hope, Madam, for your interest with your fair daughter Elizabeth, when I solicit for the honour of a private audience with her in the course of this morning?

I am not sure what the meaning of ‘interest’ is here? Is it synonymous with ‘blessings’ in modern day English?

Although, if it were, would it not be very obvious that Mr. Collins was going to propose to Elizabeth later?

The rest of the quote I understand — I am just seeking clarification on this point.

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  • He does mean her to understand that he intends to propose! Commented Apr 1, 2023 at 10:09
  • Hello, Maria. Have you checked in any dictionaries for what seems an unusual sense of 'interest' Austen uses here? I don't think any non-paywalled dictionaries carry the sense, which is probably archaic. M-W carries the related sense for the verb << interest [verb] [transitive] ... (2): to induce or persuade [someone] to participate or engage [in an activity/venture/...] >> which choice of words seems an amusing coincidence here. Commented Apr 1, 2023 at 11:13

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Mr Collins has a certain grandiloquence, even for the language which appears in novels of Austen's time. It would seem that interest did have a relevant meaning:

6. Influence due to personal connection; power of influencing the action of others; personal influence with a person or body of persons.

1709 J. Strype Ann. Reformation ii. 50 Early interest was made with Elizabeth for the continuance of the old religion.

OED (probably paywalled)

Mr Collins is asking that Mrs Bennett bring her influence to bear on getting Elizabeth to accede to the meeting at least, and probably implies that she would also press her to say Yes to The Question he was to ask.

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  • Yes, Mr Collins is what (in British English, at least), is called a 'stuffed shirt' - all bombast and little personality, equally sucking up to the wealthy and high born and looking down on the less fortunate. Andrew Leach's explanation is accurate.
    – Tuffy
    Commented Apr 1, 2023 at 15:17

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