Here, leading the way through every walk and cross walk, and scarcely allowing them an interval to utter the praises he asked for, every view was pointed out with a minuteness which left beauty entirely behind. He could number the fields in every direction, and could tell how many trees there were in the most distant clump. But of all the views which his garden, or which the country or kingdom could boast, none were to be compared with the prospect of Rosings, afforded by an opening in the trees that bordered the park nearly opposite the front of his house. It was a handsome modern building, well situated on rising ground.
In this scene, Elizabeth visits Mr. Collins’s home shortly after he marries her friend Charlotte Lucas, and he takes the ladies for a walk around the garden he maintains in his typical, methodical way. Mr. Collins describes many facts and details about every plant in his garden including the number of trees he owns, but according to the narrator, he fails to mention their natural beauty, suggesting Mr. Collins is more concerned with counting his roses than smelling them. The narrator explains that in Mr. Collins’s estimation, the best and most significant aspect of his garden is its view of Rosings, the home of his most-esteemed patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Her newly built home is “well situated on rising ground,” suggesting it is of much greater importance than the Collinses’ home.
“It must be very agreeable for her to be settled within so easy a distance of her own family and friends.”
“An easy distance, do you call it? It is nearly fifty miles.”
“And what is fifty miles of good road? Little more than half a day’s journey. Yes, I call it a very easy distance.”
“I should never have considered the distance as one of the advantages of the match,” cried Elizabeth. “I should never have said Mrs. Collins was settled near her family.”
“It is a proof of your own attachment to Hertfordshire. Anything beyond the very neighbourhood of Longbourn, I suppose, would appear far.”
In this discussion between Darcy and Elizabeth, Austen juxtaposes how each of the characters views the difficulty of traveling fifty miles to visit a family member. Much of the conflict between characters in Pride and Prejudice centers on society’s expectations regarding class differences, including the difference in perspective between well-traveled Darcy and sheltered Elizabeth. This exchange occurs shortly before Darcy confesses to Elizabeth that he loves her despite struggling to extinguish his feelings because of “his sense of her inferiority.” Darcy’s comment about what distance must “appear far” to Elizabeth reveals both his own bias, because he assumes her to be more well-traveled than she is, as well as his interest in gauging her sense of comfort at being distant from Longbourn. Elizabeth subsequently points out his bias by remarking that the nature of “far” or “near” has all to do with whether people can afford to travel beyond their own neighborhoods.