A Jane Austen Prequel
This is a taster for Alice McVeigh’s new series of Jane Austenesque books, the first (Susan, a Jane Austen Prequel) will shortly be released.
For those never to have read Emma – reckoned by many scholars the finest novel ever written – Mr Perry is the local doctor, a minor character, who never speaks at all.
However, here Austen just hints that he has a sense of humour he does not often display with Emma Woodhouse’s nervous and hypochondriacal father:
The compliments of his neighbours were over; [Mr Woodhouse] was no longer teased by being wished joy of so sorrowful an event; and the wedding-cake, which had been a great distress to him, was all eat up. His own stomach could bear nothing rich, and he could never believe other people to be different from himself. What was unwholesome to him he regarded as unfit for anybody; and he had, therefore, earnestly tried to dissuade them from having any wedding-cake at all, and when that proved vain, as earnestly tried to prevent any body’s eating it. He had been at the pains of consulting Mr. Perry, the apothecary, on the subject.
Mr. Perry was an intelligent, gentlemanlike man, whose frequent visits were one of the comforts of Mr. Woodhouse’s life; and upon being applied to, he could not but acknowledge (though it seemed rather against the bias of inclination) that wedding-cake might certainly disagree with many—perhaps with most people, unless taken moderately. With such an opinion, in confirmation of his own, Mr. Woodhouse hoped to influence every visitor of the newly married pair; but still the cake was eaten; and there was no rest for his benevolent nerves till it was all gone.
There was a strange rumour in Highbury of all the little Perrys being seen with a slice of Mrs. Weston’s wedding-cake in their hands: but Mr. Woodhouse would never believe it.
(How I love the quiet impudence of that last paragraph!)
At any rate, this passage inspired the idea of the good apothecary as diarist.