It now appears that Jane Austen, the 2nd most important literary figure in history, right behind Ol’ Will, had large amounts of arsenic in her system. There has always been something rather mysterious about her death. She was only 42 when she died, some say of breast cancer, others of Addison’s Disease. The last year or so of her life, she was increasingly weak, in pain, quite miserable. I think she had a tragic life, attached to a family who was neither cit nor gentry, but something in between.
To me, as a writer, they appeared to be controlling, petty, and so caught up in their own station in life that they denied Jane the success and adoration she deserved as a writer. She was not allowed to put her name on any of her novels. Her identity was not allowed to be made public until after her death in 1817. The family was “protective” of her privacy. I suspect they found the fact that she was a writer to be an embarrassment to them. Caught in the never never land between two classes, they would not even allow her to have the money generated by her work.
I must admit fascination with the Regency period. I’ve been doing some research into it, lately. I suspect I might end up writing at least an article on my recent discoveries about her life. I will also admit to visiting her grave.
Her death has caused much speculation.
“...Early in 1816, Jane Austen began to feel unwell. She ignored her illness at first and continued to work and to participate in the usual round of family activities. By the middle of that year, her decline was unmistakable to Austen and to her family, and Austen’s physical condition began a long, slow, and irregular deterioration culminating in her death the following year. The majority of Austen biographers rely on Dr. Vincent Cope’s tentative 1964 retrospective diagnosis and list her cause of death as Addison’s disease. However, her final illness has also been described as Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Recent work by Katherine White of Britain’s Addison’s Disease Self Help Group suggests that Austen probably died of bovine tuberculosis, a disease (now) commonly associated with drinking unpasteurized milk. One contributing factor or cause of her death, discovered by Linda Robinson Walker and described in the Winter 2010 issue of Persuasions on-line, might be Brill-Zinsser disease, a recurrent form of typhus, which she had as a child. Brill-Zinsser disease is to typhus as shingles is to chicken pox; when a victim of typhus endures stress, malnutrition or another infection, typhus can recur as Brill-Zinsser….”
Author, Lindsay Ashford has become obsessed with the life of Jane Austen, which is typical, trust me, I know all about it. Just ask Wyatt Earp. She has made a fascinating discovery. It rather fits in with something I discovered, just this week.
- Yes, Virginia, there was arsenic in wallpaper and paint from that era.
- Arsenic was used too maintain a pale complexion. Even Byron used it.
- People who were afraid of being poisoned by arsenic, would consume just a tad each day to build up a resistance to it.
- It was used in medicine.
- Arsenic was used in cosmetics. It was thought to be safe than lead.
- It was used in Patent medicine.
I suspect Jane Austen had lupus, which causes arthritic symptoms. It can also cause the complexion to darken. In an age where no lady would have a tan, it would explain why she began consuming arsenic, to lighten her complexion. It makes a heck of a lot of sense.
On the other hand, I would not be so quick to dismiss the idea of murder.
Note to Sally Vee: You know who the photo is for! For those of you not familiar with the world of Jane Austin, this one shot is considered “Jane Austen Porn!”