When Jane Austen felt unwell her first recourse would have been to consult an apothecary. Today we tend to think of apothecaries as a relic of the middle ages, a cross between a magician and an alchemist, peddling dubious potions that were likely to do more harm than good. In fact they were the precursors of today’s dispensing chemists, spending up to 7 years training. In the early stages of her illness Jane had been treated by William Curtis, a qualified Apothecary in Alton. His story offers a fascinating insight into the role played by members of this ancient profession within their local communities. It is possible that William himself may have been the model for the character of Mr Perry, the apothecary in Emma, who was said to be ‘an intelligent, gentlemanlike man’.