Those Little Delicate Compliments

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an icky compliment is worse than no compliment at all. Exhibit A: Mr Collins, from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. As he tells Mr Bennet, “…you may imagine that I am happy on every occasion to offer those little delicate compliments which are always acceptable to ladies.”

In this case, suggesting to Lady Catherine de Bourgh that her insipid daughter (who has no conversation, no skills, no hobbies, and whose only recorded ability is playing the card game Casino) would be the “brightest ornament” of the royal court if she’d ever gone to London, and would be doing any duke a favour by accepting his hand and the highest available rank outside the actual royal family.

A drawing of two well-dressed ladies sitting in an open four-wheeled carriage by a high fence backed with tall trees. In the foreground, a black-clad Mr Collins speaks, with his wife daintily dressed beside him. In the background, a small coachman stands in front of the horses, his stance uncomfortable.
Mr Collins blethers on while the young coachman becomes more and more desperate for a pee.
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