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  1. #1
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    Was Jane Austen poisoned by arsenic - and if so, was she murdered?

    Very interesting piece, especially for Jane Austen devotees, and they are legion. (I'm not one, but probably only because I've not read much Jane Austen; give me the Brontė sisters any day!) While it's always important to approach information of this nature with a degree of skepticism (Poe, for example, is said to have died after being bitten by a rabid dog - well....maybe), things like this do provide a gateway to the past, and that in itself is important too.

    Jane Austen 'died from arsenic poisoning' (Guardian)
    Crime writer Lindsay Ashford bases claim on reading
    of author's letters and claims murder cannot be ruled out

    Almost 200 years after she died, Jane Austen's early death at the age of just 41 has been attributed to many things, from cancer to Addison's disease. Now sleuthing from a crime novelist has uncovered a new possibility: arsenic poisoning.

    Author Lindsay Ashford moved to Austen's village of Chawton three years ago, and began writing her new crime novel in the library of the novelist's brother Edward's former home, Chawton House. She soon became engrossed in old volumes of Austen's letters, and one morning spotted a sentence Austen wrote just a few months before she died: "I am considerably better now and am recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough, black and white and every wrong colour."

    Having researched modern forensic techniques and poisons for her crime novels, Ashford immediately realised the symptoms could be ascribed to arsenic poisoning, which can cause "raindrop" pigmentation, where patches of skin go brown or black, and other areas go white.
    ---
    "I don't think murder is out of the question," she said. "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 analysed for the presence of arsenic."

    Professor Janet Todd, editor for the Cambridge edition of Jane Austen, said that murder was implausible. "I doubt very much she would have been poisoned intentionally. I think it's very unlikely. But the possibility she had arsenic for rheumatism, say, is quite likely," she said.
    ---
    the rest at Guardian link above

  2. #2
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    Interesting. My DD will have a field day with this.

    For the record I get the Bronte chicks and this woman mixed up. I seriously need to pick up a book.

    Poe? Rabid dog? Here in Philly?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Filly View Post
    Interesting. My DD will have a field day with this.

    For the record I get the Bronte chicks and this woman mixed up. I seriously need to pick up a book.

    Poe? Rabid dog? Here in Philly?
    Poe died after being found delirious in the streets of Baltimore. Much conjecture about what caused his death.

  4. #4
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    I'm with you on the Bronte Sisters, never read Jane.

    How is 41 considered an early death given the time period? Everything else, I don't know, could have been for medication, could have been for hallucination, could be vitiglio, but it sounds more like the authoress is just using a few descriptive words for what she going through to me.

    Unless I have included a link, it is my opinion and only my opinion that I am expressing.

  5. #5
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    The same allegations were made about Napoleon. I agree with the Professor.
    For some reason I never could get into Jane Austin, compared to the Brontes it seems like "Chick Lit"
    England's dancing days are done...

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Filly View Post
    Interesting. My DD will have a field day with this.

    For the record I get the Bronte chicks and this woman mixed up. I seriously need to pick up a book.

    Poe? Rabid dog? Here in Philly?
    This link says free online reading of these few books:

    http://www.bronte.netfury.co.uk/

    and here is another with a better list:

    http://www.listal.com/list/works-bronte-sisters

    Here is some info on Poe:

    http://www.poemuseum.org/life.php

    Unless I have included a link, it is my opinion and only my opinion that I am expressing.

  7. #7
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    And speaking of the Brontės, Daily Mail had an article about them a couple of days ago - playing up a tabloid angle in the headline, of course! An interesting read, though. Jane "Chick Lit" Austen (I love that!) will have to share space with them.

    Insanity, beatings and a brother's forbidden passion. As a lost book
    by Charlotte Bronte is auctioned, the truth about literature's oddest family

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by wfgodot View Post
    And speaking of the Brontės, Daily Mail had an article about them a couple of days ago - playing up a tabloid angle in the headline, of course! An interesting read, though. Jane "Chick Lit" Austen (I love that!) will have to share space with them.

    Insanity, beatings and a brother's forbidden passion. As a lost book
    by Charlotte Bronte is auctioned, the truth about literature's oddest family
    I love it! Wonder what makes someone's eyesight good enough for this!

    http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/...x286_popup.jpg

    Unless I have included a link, it is my opinion and only my opinion that I am expressing.

  9. #9
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    Arsenic was also in facial and wig powders... it was all over the darn place.


    Although Austen has some merit, I agree with liking the Bronte's better. Austen always suffocated me with those English manners! It brought out my inner hippie-- throw off the conventions and run barefoot (blowsy)!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quiche View Post
    Arsenic was also in facial and wig powders... it was all over the darn place.


    Although Austen has some merit, I agree with liking the Bronte's better. Austen always suffocated me with those English manners! It brought out my inner hippie-- throw off the conventions and run barefoot (blowsy)!
    Given the Austen revival of the past 20 years, I'm more than a little surprised to find so many posters expressing a preference for the Brontes. (I assume everyone means Charlotte and Emily, since Anne's work is more similar to Austen's.)

    Charlotte and Emily Bronte are Romantics. Anne Bronte and Jane Austen are Realists (which isn't to say there isn't plenty of romance (small "r") in Austen's books).

    But as for what is chick lit: what could be more "chick lit" than the dark and brooding Heathcliff stomping across the moor? Or Jane Eyre wandering through the snow in shock after discovering Rochester's secret?

    Personally, I preferred the Brontes as a teen; nowadays, I'm less impressed with brooding and wandering, so I prefer Austen. (A couple of great film adaptations of Emma helped.)

    ETA: None of them can touch George Eliot, one of the greatest writers and thinkers of the English language. IMO, of course.


  11. #11
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    Me too, George Eliot rules.

    I do love Northanger Abbey though, surprisingly for a book written that long ago its laugh out loud funny in parts.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cappuccino View Post
    Me too, George Eliot rules.

    I do love Northanger Abbey though, surprisingly for a book written that long ago its laugh out loud funny in parts.
    I haven't read it, Capp, so thanks for the recommendation. Actually, I think a lot of Austen is quite funny.



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