In Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice, what was Mrs Reynolds' opinion of Mr Darcy and how did her words affect Elizabeth Bennett?
In Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennett's visit to Pemberley, the estate of Mr. Darcy, acts as a turning point in the novel, and in Elizabeth's opinion of Darcy. Before the visit, Elizabeth had considered Darcy cold and arrogant, and had been charmed by the pleasing manners of Mr. Wickham. As Elizabeth tours the estate, she encounters Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper, who reveals much information about Mr. Darcy and his sister previously unknown to Elizabeth.
Far from perceiving him as arrogant and selfish, Mrs. Reynolds praises Darcy, saying:
"I have never had a cross word from him in my life, and I have known him ever since he was four years old.''
This was praise, of all others most extraordinary, most opposite to her [Elisabeth's] ideas. That he was not a good tempered man had been her firmest opinion. Her keenest attention was awakened; ...
"[Mrs. Reynolds continues] ...If I was to go through the world, I could not meet with a better [master]. But I have always observed that they who are good-natured when children are good-natured when they grow up; and he was always the sweetest-tempered, most generous-hearted, boy in the world.''
Mrs. Reynolds then adds:
"He is the best landlord, and the best master,'' said she, "that ever lived. Not like the wild young men now-a-days, who think of nothing but themselves. There is not one of his tenants or servants but what will give him a good name. Some people call him proud; but I am sure I never saw any thing of it. To my fancy, it is only because he does not rattle away like other young men.''
As Mrs. Reynolds escorts Elizabeth and the Gardiners on a tour of the house, she continues to offer evidence of Darcy's good nature. Georgiana's sitting rooms show Darcy to be an affectionate brother. At this point, Elizabeth's sentiments towards Darcy start to change, and she begins to realize that she has misjudged him:
There was certainly at this moment, in Elizabeth's mind, a more gentle sensation towards the original than she had ever felt in the height of their acquaintance. The commendation bestowed on him by Mrs. Reynolds was of no trifling nature. What praise is more valuable than the praise of an intelligent servant? ...