Was Jane Austen Murdered?

Jane Austen, author of classic books including Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Sense and Sensibility, died in 1817 at the age of just 41.  Since then there has been much speculation about the cause of death with suggestions including Addison’s Disease, Hodgkin’s Lymphona and Bovine Tuberculosis.

The latest theory from crime novelist Lindsay Ashford is that the author died of arsenic poisoning, very possibly deliberately administered.  Ashford’s research suggests that the pigmentation of Austen’s skin referred to in her letters could be ascribed to arsenic poisoning.  Tests on a lock of Austen’s hair, purchased by American fans, seem to support this hypothesis.

Of course there could be an innocent reason – arsenic was prescribed as a medicine for rheumatism in the 19th Century, which would explain the signs displayed.  However, Lindsay Ashford believes there could be more to it than that and her new novel The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen explores further.  Surely one for the conspiracy theorists out there?

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