Most of us have read and re-read books written by Jane Austin (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) whether it be for a book report, or they’re part of our personal collection, such as, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Northanger Abbey, or Sense and Sensibility.

I am among the millions who have enjoyed her novels of “sensibility” and have just found  a Discovery News article outlining the premise by British crime writer Lindsey Ashford who contends Austen died of arsenic poisoning,

Back in October, I wrote an article titled Historic figures who showed autistic tendencies and Jane Austin topped the list of those who fell into the spectrum of Asperger’s, a mild form of autism. It’s disquieting to learn on top of Asperger’s that this revered novelist may have been poisoned whether intentionally or not.

According to Ashford, a crucial clue was brought to light when, after weeks of illness, Austin had written a few months before her death,  ”I am considerably better now and recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough, black and white and every wrong colour.” Arsenic poisoning causes dark brown or black skin spotting when taken in small dozes over a long period of time. Other areas can lose all pigment and turn white.

The thing is, medications often contained arsenic and were widely prescribed during that era for a wide spectrum of complaints for anything from rheumatism to syphilis.

Ashford’s theory is reinforced by the fact that a lock of Austen’s hair purchased at a 1948 auction tested positive for arsenic, confirming that she had ingested the poison during the months before her death.

The scenario that she was deliberately poisoned is explored in Ashford’s novel, “The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen”, which focuses on Austen’s family and contains a great deal of circumstantial evidence.

Perhaps one day the mystery of her death will be solved.

Click on Discovery News to read the entire online article.

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