Jane Austen’s untimely end at the age of 41 has long been a cause for speculation among historians.
Austen, the author of classics including Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, may have died of arsenic poisoning, according to a crime writer who has reviewed the last letters of the British novelist.
The crucial clue lies in a line written by Austen a few months before her mysterious death in 1817.
Describing weeks of illness she had recently experienced, Austen wrote: “I am considerably better now and recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough, black and white and every wrong colour.”
According to Lindsay Ashford, a British crime writer, the description matches the symptoms of arsenic poisoning, “which causes skin spotting if taken in small doses over a long time.”
The crime writer strengthened her theory when she learned that a lock of Austen’s hair bought at an auction in 1948 by a now deceased American couple, had tested positive for arsenic.
“The arsenic in Jane’s hair meant that she had ingested the poison in the months before her death,” Ashford said.
Copyright 2011 The Moderate Voice