They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills;—and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal, nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place where nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in her admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!
These lines open Chapter 43 and provide Elizabeth’s introduction to Darcy’s grand estate at Pemberley. Her visit to Darcy’s home, which occupies a central place in the narrative, operates as a catalyst for her growing attraction toward its owner. In her conversations with the housekeeper, Mrs. Reynolds, Elizabeth hears testimonials of Darcy’s wonderful generosity and his kindness as a master; when she encounters Darcy himself, while walking through Pemberley’s grounds, he seems altogether changed and his previous arrogance has diminished remarkably. This initial description of the building and grounds at Pemberley serves as a symbol of Darcy’s character. The “stream of some natural importance . . . swelled into greater” reminds the reader of his pride, but the fact that it lacks “any artificial appearance” indicates his basic honesty, as does the fact that the stream is neither “formal, nor falsely adorned.” Elizabeth’s delight, and her sudden epiphany about the pleasure that being mistress of Pemberley must hold, prefigure her later joy in Darcy’s continued devotion.