Murray State University

Poster Title

The Woodhouse's Use of an Apothecary: The Ambiguous Mr. Perry

Institution

Murray State University

Abstract

When reading Jane Austen’s Emma (1815), scholars have tended to quickly fall in love with Mr. Woodhouse, and rightfully so: he is elderly, unrealistic, comedic, and endearing. Why, though, is his diagnosis so important? Numerous scholars have diagnosed Mr. Woodhouse: Nicola Cummins believed his condition to be dyslexia, and Ted Bader believed he is not suffering any illness; he is simply an aging man, more aware of his body and health than most. Mr. Woodhouse’s diagnosis was not my concern, however. His worry, no matter where it is rooted, required him to see an apothecary, Mr. Perry, despite the Woodhouse’s wealth. The Woodhouse’s financial situation was made clear very early in the novel. Their house sat on a large garden; Mr. Woodhouse was able to provide his daughters with a governess—a luxury some of Austen’s other characters were unable to afford. The Woodhouses also hire coachmen and own carriages, also a luxury at the time. If this was the case, if the Woodhouses are so fortunate to be more than financially stable, there was no reason for Mr. Woodhouse to continually call upon Mr. Perry, a man scholars often confuse with a physician, a mere apothecary. Mr. Woodhouse, the ever-habitual old man was comfortable with Mr. Perry, a medical practitioner who indulged his hypochondria, and who also allowed Austen to participate in a social debate believing that apothecaries were credible medical professionals.

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The Woodhouse's Use of an Apothecary: The Ambiguous Mr. Perry

When reading Jane Austen’s Emma (1815), scholars have tended to quickly fall in love with Mr. Woodhouse, and rightfully so: he is elderly, unrealistic, comedic, and endearing. Why, though, is his diagnosis so important? Numerous scholars have diagnosed Mr. Woodhouse: Nicola Cummins believed his condition to be dyslexia, and Ted Bader believed he is not suffering any illness; he is simply an aging man, more aware of his body and health than most. Mr. Woodhouse’s diagnosis was not my concern, however. His worry, no matter where it is rooted, required him to see an apothecary, Mr. Perry, despite the Woodhouse’s wealth. The Woodhouse’s financial situation was made clear very early in the novel. Their house sat on a large garden; Mr. Woodhouse was able to provide his daughters with a governess—a luxury some of Austen’s other characters were unable to afford. The Woodhouses also hire coachmen and own carriages, also a luxury at the time. If this was the case, if the Woodhouses are so fortunate to be more than financially stable, there was no reason for Mr. Woodhouse to continually call upon Mr. Perry, a man scholars often confuse with a physician, a mere apothecary. Mr. Woodhouse, the ever-habitual old man was comfortable with Mr. Perry, a medical practitioner who indulged his hypochondria, and who also allowed Austen to participate in a social debate believing that apothecaries were credible medical professionals.