Who are the members of The Benevolent Society (known as the WDL to its friends)?

Members of the WDL are ladies and gentlemen of information. All their statements seem correct. Each has read the Romance of the Forest, appreciates the felicity of a female correspondent when one wants news, and certainly knows how to make a sandwich (they would not claim it themselves, but their friends say it so).

Mrs. Bates (left), and Miss Bates, card-carrying members since 1795, are worthy examples of the members of the WDL, working tirelessly to defend the honour and good name of Dear Mr. Woodhouse.

Who is Dear Mr. Woodhouse?

A valetudinarian all his life, Mr. Woodhouse is the leading citizen of Highbury, first in consequence, and owner of that town's largest estate, Hartfield. A widower, he lives with his youngest daughter Emma, who is but twenty-one years of age and has been mistress of the house since her older sister, Poor Isabella, married Mr. John Knightley of nearby Donwell Abbey and removed to London to produce mewling infants who import disease whenever they enter the house.

What is Dear Mr. Woodhouse's Christian name?


What, exactly, is gruel?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, gruel is a liquid food of oatmeal etc. boiled in milk or water chiefly for invalids. According to Mr. Woodhouse, it is wholesome for every constitution and it is a wonder it isn't taken by everybody! Here is Serle's secret gruel recipe.

Which people are essential to the daily comfort of Dear Mr. Woodhouse?

Hartfield cook, who knows the only right way to bake an apple, boil an egg and prepare pork. Essential to avoiding any ill effects to Dear Mr. Woodhouse's already delicate constitution.
Trusted coachman (no "mere common coachman" he), James is the only man with whom Dear Mr. Woodhouse will consent to drive, especially when great distances such as the half mile from Hartfield to Randalls are to be traversed. No matter what the inconvenience, James never complains!s
Dear Emma
Although he cannot meet her in conversation, rational or playful, Dear Mr. Woodhouse relies on his daughter to tuck his blanket about his knees, soothe his nerves, and run his home. He firmly believes she has no odd humours, bears everything well, and never thinks of herself if she can do good to others.
Mr. Perry
Highbury's esteemed apothecary. Bringer of welcome news to invalids, much quoted by local valetudinarians and infinitely superior to the London apothecary, Mr. Wingfield (who mistakenly believes that Southend is preferable to Cromer).
Mr. George Knightley
The regular visits of this good neighbour do much to cheer Dear Mr. Woodhouse. For instance, to persuade Mr. Woodhouse away from the comforts of hearth and home to attend a strawberry-picking party at Donwell Abbey, Mr. Knightley is at pains to arrange matters so that no lurking horrors (such as dining out of doors) will alarm Mr. Woodhouse. Had he but known, however, what was plotting against him in the breast of Mr. Knightley, it is to be believed that Mr. Woodhouse would care little for the state of his neighbour's lungs, which are much imperiled by the exposure to damp afforded by Knightley's habit of walking abroad in the evening dews!


How long did Mr. Woodhouse live?

According to James Edward Austen-Leigh (Memoir, 1870) Jane Austen "would, if asked, tell us many little particulars about the subsequent career of some of her people. In this traditionary way we learned that...Mr. Woodhouse survived his daughter's marriage, and kept her and Mr. Knightley from settling at Donwell, about two years..."

Which actors have portrayed Dear Mr. Woodhouse?

The following three amiable gentleman have tackled the role:

Emma One

First televised in 1972 by the BBC. Starring Donald Eccles .

Emma Two

Released in American theatres in the summer of 1996 by Miramax. Starring Denys Hawthorne.

Emma Three

First televised by Meridian Television in Britain in November of 1996, and by A&E Television in the U.S. in February of 1997. Starring Bernard Hepton.


Drawings of the characters on this page: Warren Chappell

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