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People in Emily's Life


Miss Brownell

Miss Brownell is Emily's first school teacher. Emily makes a bad impression on the first day, and Miss Brownell hates her from the first. She ridicules the poor child when given any chance at all, and pounces on some forbidden poetry that Emily has written as a cat would pounce on a mouse. She takes delight in setting Emily down, for she is prim and proper and Emily never learned how to be so. Luckily, she moves away before permanent damage is done, but Emily is forced to endure her for a couple of years first. Ilse, however, is never rebuked in class; Miss Brownell is said to be "setting her cap" for Dr. Burnley, Ilse's widower father.

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Dr. Allan Burnley

Father of Ilse and husband of Beatrice. He is gruff in general, but caring and sympathetic when treating a patient. He neglected Ilse for many years, perhaps transferring some of the blame of her mother's disappearance onto her, but when the truth about Beatrice's death was revealed, he began to spoil his only daughter. He was for some time the object of Miss Brownell's affection, and there were rumours that he and Laura Murray would "make a match of it" after his wife's death, but he has never remarried.

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Ilse Burnley

Emily's best friend and Dr. Burnley's daughter. Her father has never taken care of her very well--even after the truth about her mother's death came out, he let her do whatever she wanted--and she is well aware of that fact. In her early-to-mid 20's, about to marry Teddy, she sighs to Emily that it will be nice to be taken care of for once. She has a fierce temper, inherited from her father, but generally does not stay mad long. Although mischeivious and daring, she becomes a well-known elocultionist, reciting at concerts all over the world. Mr. Carpenter sees this talent in its early form and uses it to make her come to school, whereby she gets the early education she needs to continue to Shrewsbury High School with her classmates and friends. A handsome woman, she breaks the hearts of men from every social class and almost marries Teddy before settling down with Perry, her one true love.

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Mr. Carpenter

Mr. Carpenter is Emily's second school teacher and her primary mentor in writing. He encourages her talent and, because he knows that she can do so well and wants her to succeed, he tends to grade her written compositions more harshly than those of his other students. He comes up with a clever way to force Ilse to come to school: Every Friday, he holds "exercises" of various sorts, including public speaking and elocution, and tells Ilse that she cannot participate in them if she does not attend school the rest of the week. He is Emily's friend to the last and dies quietly. His last words are advice that he had given Emily long ago: "Beware of italics." His death leaves a large hole in Emily's heart and marks her passage into a new phase of life. Of course, not everyone can be all good; Mr. Carpenter's fault is a drinking habit which got him expelled form seminary. However, in his school teaching days, he restrains himself and only gets drunk on the weekends.

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Aunt Ruth Dutton

Aunt Ruth is a short, dumpy woman--so Emily describes her. Even more strict than Aunt Elizabeth, she distrusts Emily and will not praise her niece often. Everything that Emily does must have some deep, sly motive to it. She also believes that Emily is in danger of going into consumption and therefore becomes even more strict. Feeling herself and her kin to be a large step above Stovepipe Town and the Tansy Patch, she forbids Teddy and Perry to come to the house to visit. Ilse is sometimes tolerated, since she is a distant relation, and Andrew Murray comes every Friday. She never allows Emily to forget that having an extra person in the house is a great burden. However, for all of her faults, she is very loyal to the clan; when scandal causes the community to shun Emily, Aunt Ruth defends her and gets her reputation back on track.

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Jock Kelly

Old Kelley is a peddler whose rounds take him by New Moon regularly. He speaks with a thick Irish brogue, delivering much advice and teasing to Emily on the subject of marriage. He serves as transportation when Emily needs to go to Great-Aunt Nancy's and gives her small presents, from candy to a kitten.

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Aileen Kent

Aileen Kent was much neglected and sometimes abused by her husband. She held off telling him that she was pregnant (carrying Teddy) for some time. One day, her dress caught fire and her face was burned terribly. She recovered but her face was permanently scarred. Something in her mind was scarred as well, for she developed a jealous streak that bordered on the insane. Fearing that her husband loved his dog more than he loved her, she poisoned the creature. He went to Montreal and she worried that he would never be able to love her now that she was scarred. He died in Montreal, but left a letter for her in a book that was shipped back with his things. Aileen could never bear to read the books again, and the letter went undiscovered until Emily borrowed the volume from her twenty-some years later. In the meantime, Aileen coveted her son, Teddy, to the extent that animals he loved (notably the kittens Smoke and Buttercup) disappeared and a rose plant that he was especially proud of got knocked off the windowsill and sent to its death before producing more than one bloom. She was also convinced that Emily was trying to steal Teddy from her. Emily replied to this accusation with a statement about that nature of love that caused Aileen to lighten up a little, but she still hated anything that Teddy loved because it took his attention away from her. She died quietly, requesting only that Emily set a certain matter right with Teddy.

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Frederick "Teddy" Kent

Teddy... Teddy... What can one say about Teddy? His mother smothered him with her jealousy when he was growing up, and yet he took it in stride. He learned not to show her when he loved something and to keep his pictures in the barn where she wouldn't see them. He was an artist even when Emily met him, around age 11 or 12. He went to school regularly, and Sunday School, and later to Shrewsbury High School with Emily, Ilse, and Perry. It is evident almost from the first that he "likes" Emily, and later that he is falling in love with her. However, their letters to each other after he begins traveling the world painting somehow grow coldly polite, and a gulf opens between them for some time. After misunderstanding Emily's lack of response to a certain letter, Teddy resolves to forget her and proposes to Ilse. At the last minute, she leaves him--standing at the altar, no less--and after some consideration he comes back to Emily, as we always knew he would.

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Perry Miller

Perry comes onto the scene as the new hired hand at New Moon. He is unmannered, uncouth, straightforward, and (perhaps worst in some eyes) from Stovepipe Town. Elizabeth makes him eat in the kitchen and he sleeps in the loft above it. He attends school regularly, but must take work to pay for high school because his Aunt Tom (who raised him) will not pay for his schooling unless Emily agrees to marry him. He is still quite "hung up" on Emily even after several refusals, but eventually winds up marrying Ilse. By which time he has become a lawyer and is rising in the world so rapidly that even Elizabeth might acknowledge that he was worth something. (Might.) He and Ilse are well-suited to each other, both being something of tricksters, the "wild" half of their small group of close friends.

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Mad Mr. Morrison

Mr. Morrison married the girl of his dreams, a sweet young thing named Annie. Not long after, she died, but he refused to believe that she was anything worse than missing. He prowls the area around Blair Water looking for his lost bride, his black dog in tow. He will not beg for himself, but he will ask for food for his dog. He is usually harmless, but sometimes can turn quite violent, catching girls he thinks are Annie and not letting them go until someone comes to rescue them. He never hurts them badly, but some of the girls' minds are never quite the same. The malevolent red birthmark that covers one of his hands terrifies Emily.

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Cousin Andrew Murray

Andrew is a fine, upstanding young man who works at a bank in Shrewsbury. As a Murray, Emily's cousin seems (to her family) to be the perfect match. However, Andrew is so upright as to be dull, and Emily turns him down when he proposes marriage to her. To tell the truth, Andrew almost seems relieved, and is married to someone else within six months. The clan's hopes are high again when Emily breaks her engagement to Dean--by which time Andrew's wife has died--but of course nothing comes of it.

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Aunt Elizabeth Murray

The daughter of Archibald Murray, she actually cared a great deal for her young half-sister Juliet (Emily's mother) and was hurt when the girl eloped with Douglas Starr. As Emily comes to know her, she is a hard woman who rules New Moon as a queen might rule a kingdom. She seems unjust and unemotional. She is annoyed at the interloper in her life, but to be fair sometimes Emily does, as a child will, imagine that Elizabeth is being unfair when she is not. By the end of the trilogy, Elizabeth has lost most of her bitter unfairness and become more or less a mother-figure (possibly a grandmother-figure) to Emily, still criticizing her neice but at the same time lending both oblique and overt support.

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Cousin Jimmy Murray

Jimmy is not, in fact, Emily's cousin; he is her mother's cousin. When he was a child, Elizabeth pushed him into a well in a fit of anger. Some sort of brain damage resulted, and ever since Elizabeth has felt it her duty to care for him. He does most of the farmwork around New Moon, but had he not fallen into the well, he might have been famous for his poetry. He composes it in his head and recites it as the mood strikes--usually when boiling potatoes to fatten the pigs with in the fall. He is known around Blair Water as "Simple Jimmy Murray", but occasionally in his half-wit mysticism he shows a wisdom greater than that of his unimpaired cousin Elizabeth--to which she admits grudgingly.

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Aunt Laura Murray

Aunt Laura is the balance to Aunt Elizabeth. Hopelessly Victorian, she sympathizes with Emily and comforts her--even if she doesn't always understand, she is willing to give a hug or a cooky as needed. She does not usually stand up to Elizabeth directly, but is willing to conspire to lessen sentences bestowed on errant children. She loves Emily immediately and welcomes her to New Moon with open arms. Blair Water gossip once had it that she and Dr. Burnley would marry, but she is still single.

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Dean Priest

Referred to as "Jarback" by too many people for Emily's comfort, Dean was a bitter and cynical man before he met Emily. He was thirty-six and she twelve when he saved her life, and a friendship began immediately. Dean, however, was not entirely satisfied with friendship. From the first it is clear that he is the third side of the sad love triangle that plays out over the years. Over time, Emily realises what he is feeling for her and, after a winter recovering from a wound to her foot and ankle, she accepts his proposal of marriage. Dean buys the Disappointed House and they fix it up--but one day all the hopes and dreams that he had thought were coming true are crushed again as Emily tells him that she cannot marry him, that she loves Teddy. She proceeds to explain that she has reached across the miles to Teddy and saved his life; the final nail is driven into the coffin of Dean's would-have-been marriage. He goes away and writes her very little until he hears of her engagement to Teddy, whereupon he sends her the deed of the house that was to have been theirs. I've always felt sorry for poor Dean, even though I've also always felt that Teddy and Emily were meant for each other.

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Great-Aunt Nancy Priest

Great Aunt Nancy is a contrary old woman who lives at Wyther Grange with the supposed witch Caroline. She takes a fiendish delight in dirty gossip and in scaring people--she has been known to put people in the pink room, where the swallows nesting in the chimney behind the bed sound very ghostly, expressly to scare them. She is said to keep living just to spite the Priest clan and encourages Emily to hide her brains and show her pretty ankles. As she is a lady of some means, her whole family--Elizabeth included--constantly tried to get into her good favour. In spite of the attempt Elizabeth makes at procuring for Emily a part of the inheritance, however, she leaves her grandniece only a pair of earrings, a door-knocker, a picture, and the ever-important gazing ball. (She did, however, pay for Emily's last year of high school.) Her words on dying: "I'm tired of living. I think I'll stop."

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And last but by no means least...

Emily Byrd Starr

Properly Emily Starr Kent, as I am writing this from the perspective of someone looking back. She is an imaginative child who does not at first take well to being cooped up with stark, cold Elizabeth at night. She feels that Elizabeth does not want her when she first comes to New Moon, and is keenly sensitive to that fact. Her mother, Juliet Murray Starr, died when she was about four or an unknown disease that left her ill for only three days before death. Her father, Douglas Starr, was soon diagnosed with consumption and had to quit working to live in the country; when he died, Emily knew for the first time what lonesomeness meant. She moved to New Moon to live with Elizabeth, Laura, and Jimmy. She had been homeschooled and (contrary to what I've heard from the TV show) was eager to give public school a try. Although teased on the first day or so, she was soon getting along with most of her classmates. She wrote constantly, both in letter form (to her father until Elizabeth discovered these letters, then in a diary) and in poetry. (Later, she also started in on prose.) Her two major romances both began at a young age; she noticed Teddy the first time she saw him in Sunday School, and Dean fell for her the moment he rescued her from the cliffs. Both developed as friendships throughout her grade school and high school years. In high school (which she was grudgingly allowed to attend) she began to earn money from her writing, thereby lessening her Aunts' disapproval of the activity. Once out of high school, she had a series of "love affairs", during which process she became engaged to Dean (and then broke the engagement). FINALLY, just when her aunts and we readers were beginning to think she would never get married, Teddy returns and (again, finally; the boy took long enough) sweeps her off her feet and to the altar. We see Emily in all moods--angry, happy, hating, loving, disappointed, thrilled, and everything in between. She tends to be a gentle person who is posessed of the ability to laugh at herself once in a while and likes the traditions of New Moon much more than she would have admitted at eleven when she came to stay there. Hers is not a rags to riches story, but rather a story of coming up in the world of writing and in her relatives' eyes--and along the way having a couple of brushes with the supernatural (two visions, a drawing done in her sleep, a call, some premonitions, and of course her "flash" in which she feels she peeks past a curtain that separates this world from a world of indescribeable beauty) and falling in love. And some argue that she was a first-wave feminist. :)

Oh, what the heck...
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