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Was Jane Austen Murdered?


Interesting piece from the Guardian’s Alison Flood today about the death of Jane Austen (which, for those of you playing along at home, occurred nearly two centuries ago), which has long been supposed and guessed at and chalked up to various ailments and conditions, now including arsenic poisoning. Apparently a lock of Austen’s hair was tested for arsenic, and came up positive (oh, science. What can’t you do?), but since arsenic was easily available and plentiful in the 19th century, and often used to treat rheumatism (from which Austen had suffered), it was assumed to have been accidental, if it happened.

But author Lindsay Ashford also floats the theory of murder in her new novel The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen.

“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.”

Free to be fanciful and speculative thanks to its “fiction” label, Ashford’s book is sure to engross and delight Jane Austen fans or mystery devotees alike.

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Beth Carswell

About Beth Carswell

I've been reading, selling, researching, loving and writing about books with AbeBooks since 2000.

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