Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jane Austen Poisoned?

You may or may not have seen the countless articles about a recent theory about how Jane Austen died. Here is a recent one.

Jane Austen 'died from arsenic poisoning'

Almost 200 years after she died, Jane Austen's early death at the age of just 41 has been attributed to many things, from cancer to Addison's disease. Now sleuthing from a crime novelist has uncovered a new possibility: arsenic poisoning.

Author Lindsay Ashford moved to Austen's village of Chawton three years ago, and began writing her new crime novel in the library of the novelist's brother Edward's former home, Chawton House. She soon became engrossed in old volumes of Austen's letters, and one morning spotted a sentence Austen wrote just a few months before she died: "I am considerably better now and am recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough, black and white and every wrong colour."


I'm not sure about the rest of you, but I highly doubt that if Jane Austen died of arsenic poisoning that it was foul play. She was a private person and not too many people knew that she was the author of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, etc: it wasn't like she was a very public person that everyone saw and heard about. It would seem unlikely that foul play would be possible. It's more likely that a doctor prescribed medicine to her that contained arsenic that lead to her early death. If (and only if) she died of arsenic poisoning, it's more likely that it was accidental than intentional. But this is just my opinion.

There have been so many theories on what Jane Austen died of (Addison's Disease, Hodgkin's Lymphoma, even T.B) that I don't think we'll ever find out what Jane exactly died of.

What do you all think of this new finding?

 God Bless,
 God Bless, Miss Elizabeth Bennet


  1. I agree with you and Ashford that arsenic in the medicine seems vastly more likely, but, technically, intentional poisoning wouldn't necessarily have to have had anything to do with her authorship. It could have been a personal grudge.

  2. HA HA! That just makes me laugh. Although it would make an interesting crime/mystery novel. Maybe set in present-day; digging up old secrets from the past, you know. There could be some other sort of discovery, too; a journal or some other writing.

    Anyways, I hadn't heard that theory before. How interesting. Really, though, her illness was rather long and drawn-out, beginning when she was 39. How could that be arsenic? o.O

  3. Mimic of Modes,
    That could be possible, but I'm still skeptical of the whole thing.

    I guess it came out a couple of weeks ago. You do make a good point there: two years does seem like a long time for arsenic to take its effect. I'm more likely to believe that she may have died of a form of Tuberculosis caught from drinking unpasteurized milk (which taking into account that she lived in the country and during the early 1800s, it doesn't seem unlikely). Though I might not rule out Addison's disease or Lymphoma. In short, I don't know, but I'm not too sure about her dying of arsenic poisoning.

  4. Milady, I am often frustrated with so many Jane Austen this and that's coming out - jumping on her name and popularity. This new thing, though, is a twist. Not another sequel, but actually tampering with and trying to sensationalize our good Jane's death. Now SHE is the drama. I can see doctor prescribed medicines with too much arsenic. Too bad we don't have enough primary sources with more info - but we do need to watch our suppositions. Foul play, indeed!

    Miss Kathy


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