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Was Jane Austen Poisoned?

Thought we might talk about something a little light-hearted today: Hey, did you know Jane Austen might’ve been poisoned?

Well, at least a new theory surrounding her death says that’s a possibility. For years, Austen experts haven’t been able to pinpoint a cause of her death—some say cancer or Addison’s Disease.

But crime writer Lindsay Ashford has another idea, after reading through some of Austen’s old letters. One particular sentence in a letter stood out:

“I am considerably better now and am recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough, black and white and every wrong colour.”

Because of crime research Ashford has done for her crime novels, she says those symptoms were consistent with arsenic poisoning. But, keep in mind, that doesn’t necessarily mean murder.

Back in Jane Austen’s day, arsenic was a form of medicine. Yeah, seriously. Got an upset stomach? Put that Pepto-Bismol down. Instead, take this arsenic—you know, a freaking poison THAT WILL KILL YOU! And you thought your doctor sucked.

Ashford says: “After all my research I think it’s highly likely she was given a medicine containing arsenic. When you look at her list of symptoms and compare them to the list of arsenic symptoms, there is an amazing correlation.”

All that aside, Ashford is writing a novel based on the idea that Austen was murdered.

So, the moral of the story, if you woke up with an upset stomach this morning, SKIP THE ARSENIC!

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12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Should I skip the arsenic even if I am wearing my old lace? The book sounds like it could be a good read.

    Like

    January 24, 2012
  2. Great theory! How terrible that people could be medicated with what is now known to be a poison. The book sounds like it could be very intriguing especially if it contains true facts about Austen’s life.

    Like

    January 24, 2012
  3. That’s really interesting, I might have to check out her book as a total Austen lover!

    Like

    January 24, 2012
  4. Whenever I read something like this I always wonder what people will be horrified we used as a medicine in 100 years. Will they be asking “Penicillin? Really? What kind of idiots were these people?”

    Like

    January 24, 2012
    • I know! I wonder that myself. Ibuprofen…what were they thinking?

      Like

      January 25, 2012
      • I’m allergic to both Ibuprofen and Penicillin, so I guess I’m safe? (Or the fact that I’m allergic to them is a sign that they’re BAD. Ut oh.)

        This is really interesting though. Can’t believe arsenic was used as medicine.

        Like

        January 25, 2012
    • Margaret #

      Penicillin and Ibuprofen are pretty bad…I keep thinking about future humanity looking back and thinking “Chemotherapy and radiation? What were they thinking!?!” And we all know these can kill us!

      Like

      January 29, 2012
  5. Back then, they thought bleeding was a good way of getting out the bad stuff. Poor Jane.

    Like

    January 24, 2012
  6. skipping..skipping…

    Like

    February 1, 2012
  7. Badger #

    Arsenic eating was also considered a way to improve a lady’s beauty at the time. It increased skin pallor and caused glittering, dilated eyes – both of which were considered highly desirable. The habit was known to be dangerous (although the understanding of just HOW dangerous was incomplete) but of course, one does what one must to look one’s best.

    Like

    August 7, 2013

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