Tags: Arsenic, Jane Austen

Author Jane Austen Died From Arsenic Poisoning

11/15/2011 06:19 PM ET

Jane Austen Arsenic - A British crime novelist says author Jane Austen probably died at the age of 41 from arsenic poisoning.

Author Lindsay Ashford told the Guardian that the author, who penned such classics as Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, that she probably ingested poison contained in medicine, which was quite common during the period.

Austen died in 1817 of unknown causes. Speculation has ranged from Addison’s disease to Hodgkin’s lymphoma to typhus.

“When you look at her list of symptoms and compare them to the list of arsenic symptoms, there is an amazing correlation,” Ashford said. “I’m quite surprised no one has thought of it before, but I don’t think people realize quite how often arsenic was used as a medicine.”

Ashford said she moved to Austen’s village of Chawton three years ago.

She said she became engrossed in letters by Jane and noted that in one, written a few months before her death, the author wrote, “I am considerably better now and am recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough, black and white and every wrong colour.”

Lindsay said that description is consistent with symptoms ascribed to arsenic posioning.

She told the newspaper that a former president of the Jane Austen Society of North America told her that arsenic was detected in a lock of the author’s hair that once belonged to an American couple.

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