Arsenic & Young Jane

A Jane Austen scholar believes it highly likely that Jane Austen died of arsenic poisoning. Although she won’t rule out the possibility that Austen was murdered, Lindsay Ashford believes Austen is most likely to have been prescribed medecine in which arsenic was an ingredient. The Guardian reports that tests on a lock of Austen’s hair currently owned by private collectors has found an unusually high level of arsenic.

Jane Austen was only 41 when she died, and the cause of her death has been the cause of some speculation among Austen scholars. Arsenic - the byproduct of purification techniques for copper, lead and gold — was a plentiful by-product of Britain’s booming mining industries. In Austen’s day, it was “handed out in the form of Fowler’s Solution as a treatment for everything from rheumatism - something Austen complained of in her letters - to syphilis,” according to the Guardian piece. Here’s more on the medical uses of arsenic in Victorian England.

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