Was Jane Austen Murdered?

According to one author, someone may have poisoned her with arsenic.

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English author Jane Austen, circa 1790

While there can be no doubt that author Jane Austen is dead, there is room for debate as to the cause of her demise at the age of 41.

While natural causes such as cancer and Addison’s disease (Don’t know it? Watch more House.) have been bandied about as the cause of death, now, 200 years later, a crime writer is suggesting that the acclaimed author of Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion was murdered.

According to a story in the Guardian, author Lindsay Ashford has uncovered evidence in Austen’s own letters that suggests the author may have suffered from arsenic poisoning. The clue stems from a line written in a letter from Austen dated a few months before her death: “I am considerably better now and am recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough, black and white and every wrong colour.” Being a crime writer and no doubt a fan of CSI, Ashford recognized that the symptoms of turning “black and white” could be ascribed to arsenic poisoning, which can cause “raindrop” pigmentation, where patches of skin go brown or black, and other areas go white.

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Ashford’s theory was supported when, according to the article, she discovered that a lock of Austen’s hair had tested positive for arsenic by a now-deceased American couple who had bought the memento mori at auction in 1948. Ashford concedes that it’s possible that Austen was simply given medicine that had arsenic as an ingredient, as the poison was an unfortunate if common addition to pharmaceuticals at the time. However, she told the Guardian, “Having delved into her family background, there was a lot going on that has never been revealed and there could have been a motive for murder. In the early 19th century a lot of people were getting away with murder with arsenic as a weapon, because it wasn’t until the Marsh test was developed in 1836 that human remains could be analyzed for the presence of arsenic.” If the author was murdered, the question then becomes, whodunnit?

NewsFeed votes for Mr. Darcy. He always seemed sketchy.

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