Home Medical Jane Austen could have succumbed to Arsenic poisoning

Jane Austen could have succumbed to Arsenic poisoning


The Pride and Prejudice author, Jane Austen’s mysterious death at the age of 41 has been pondered over the years. What could have gone wrong? All we know is that she complained about her lack of vision being overbearing and frustrating in the form of letters. A new theory suggests that she could have been victim of arsenic poisoning.

Relying on description of the unusual pigmentation observed on her face, crime novelist Lindsay Ashford speculated that she may have suffered from Arsenic poisoning in 2013. Arsenic was frequently found in water, medicines and wallpapers in Austen’s time. It is suggested that she may have ingested arsenic through her medication for rheumatism. The spectacles reveal that she had convex lenses meaning she suffered from long-sightedness (Hypermetropia). She may have suffered from cataract, which can be due to arsenic poisoning. A few tests were performed at The British Library in reference to the pair of glasses handed to her by her descendants. The results show that her eyesight grew poorer with increasing age. Near the end, she was almost totally blind.

Austen’s family had passed on her glasses to the British Library in 1999 and it has taken over 20 years for any real study to be performed on them. Library’s lead curator, Sandra Tuppen published a blog in reference to her findings. On testing all the pairs of glasses she observed variations in strength of the three thereby providing insight to the arsenic poisoning theory albeit accidentally.

The real concern is that Jane Austen led a very quiet and unperturbed life that it is rather difficult to deduce anything for certain. People haven’t been able to find any answer to her mysterious death in 200 years. Researchers aren’t even sure whether Austen even bought the glasses. They say it is possible that she may have bought the wrong glasses due to wrongful testing.