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Henry Woodhouse is a character in Jane Austen's Emma. He is the father of two daughters, Isabella Woodhouse Knightley and Emma Woodhouse.


Early life and Marriage[]

Woodhouse was raised as the heir to a fine estate, Hartfield in the large village of Highbury. The Woodhouses were revered as the people to look to, and Henry was very friendly and amiable to all of his neighbors. He married and had two daughters. His wife tragically died when his daughters were still quite young, and Emma especially did not remember her. This pushed the need for a governess earlier than usual, and Henry brought Miss Taylor into his girls' lives.[1]

Life as a Widower[]

Miss Taylor stayed with them for sixteen years until she married Mr. Weston, a wealthy gentleman of the area.[1] He entertained many people from Highbury, including Mrs. Bates and her unmarried daughter, Miss Bates, as well as the village apothecary, Mr. Perry. Woodhouse often asked Perry for advice about health and nutrition. He would then use this new knowledge to lecture members of the community about such topics, and would go as far as to discuss the ills of consuming any wedding-cake.[2]

Character traits[]

He is always concerned for his own health and comfort, and to the extent that it does not interfere with his own, the health and comfort of his friends. He is wary of crime, as seen after Harriet's run in with potential thieves and the stealing of local poultry. He is a valetudinarian[1] (i.e., similar to a hypochondriac but more likely to be genuinely ill). He assumes a great many things are hazardous to one's health, and is generally a difficult person to handle because he is always fussing about the trifling things which bother him and which he assumes must bother everyone else just the same, to the point of trying to convince his visitors to deny foods he considers too rich. He frequently consults Mr. Perry on matters concerning his health. Mr. Woodhouse also has difficulty recognizing that other people may have feelings different to himself. He laments that "poor Isabella" and especially "poor Miss Taylor" have married and been taken away from him, because since he is unhappy about their being gone, he assumes they must be miserable as well; moreover, he dislikes change in general, and marriage is a form of change. In order to avoid having to wait to marry until Mr Woodhouse died, Emma and Mr Knightley appealed to him by vowing to remain at Hartfield.

Besides that, he is an indulgent and affectionate father to his daughters and loves their company. He values his close friends and enjoys hosting them.

Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Emma, Volume I, Chapter I
  2. Volume I, Chapter 2