Christmas Meeting of the JASA Perth Chapter

November 15, 2011 at 9:42 AM (Jane Austen in the News, Perth Chapter Meeting Details)

The time for the Christmas meeting of the Perth Chapter of the Jane Austen Society of Australia is fast approaching! We are scheduled to meet on Saturday 10th December at 2:30pm, the usual place.

I have been going through my copies of the Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine and in the process of doing so, I came across the following article, which I think might help to put you all in an Austen-y Christmas Mood for the meeting, so if you have the magazine do check out the article ‘An Austen Christmas’ by Sheryl Craig in the November/December 2009 edition.

And in the same issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World is a Christmas mystery by Carrie Bebris and starring everyone’s favourite Austen couple, The Darcys – ‘A Midwinter Night’s Dream: A Mr & Mrs Darcy Mystery’.

For those interested in joining the Perth Janeites for their Christmas meeting, please contact our Meeting Coordinator, Helen for further details at


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News from the UK’s ‘Guardian’ about Jane Austen’s death

November 15, 2011 at 9:01 AM (Jane Austen in the News)

A friend has just sent me a link to the article (copied below) from the UK’s The Guardian newspaper website. What do you think?


Jane Austen ‘died from arsenic poisoning’

Crime writer Lindsay Ashford bases claim on reading of author’s letters and claims murder cannot be ruled out



Almost 200 years after she died, Jane Austen‘s early death at the age of just 41 has been attributed to many things, from cancer to Addison’s disease. Now sleuthing from a crime novelist has uncovered a new possibility: arsenic poisoning.

Author Lindsay Ashford moved to Austen’s village of Chawton three years ago, and began writing her new crime novel in the library of the novelist’s brother Edward’s former home, Chawton House. She soon became engrossed in old volumes of Austen’s letters, and one morning spotted a sentence Austen wrote just a few months before she died: “I am considerably better now and am recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough, black and white and every wrong colour.”

Having researched modern forensic techniques and poisons for her crime novels, Ashford immediately realised the symptoms could be ascribed to arsenic poisoning, which can cause “raindrop” pigmentation, where patches of skin go brown or black, and other areas go white.

Shortly afterwards she met the former president of the Jane Austen Society of North America, who told her that the lock of Austen’s hair on display at a nearby museum had been tested for arsenic by the now deceased American couple who bought it an auction in 1948, coming up positive.

Ashford says that chronic arsenic poisoning gives all the symptoms Austen wrote about in her letters, unlike other possibilities which have been put forward for her death, from Addison’s disease, to the cancer Hodgkin’s disease and the auto-immune disease lupus. Arsenic was also widely available at the time, 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.

“After all my research I think it’s highly likely she was given a medicine containing arsenic. When you look at her list of symptoms and compare them to the list of arsenic symptoms, there is an amazing correlation,” Ashford told the Guardian. “I’m quite surprised no one has thought of it before, but I don’t think people realise quite how often arsenic was used as a medicine. [But] as a crime writer I’ve done a lot of research into arsenic, and I think it was just a bit of serendipity, that someone like me came to look at her letters with a very different eye to the eye most people cast on Jane Austen. It’s just luck I have this knowledge, which most Austen academics wouldn’t.”

Although Ashford thinks that, based on her symptoms and on the fact arsenic was so widespread, it is “highly likely” that Austen was suffering from arsenic poisoning after being prescribed it by a doctor for another disease, she explores the possibility that the novelist was murdered with arsenic 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.”

Professor Janet Todd, editor for the Cambridge edition of Jane Austen, said that murder was implausible. “I doubt very much she would have been poisoned intentionally. I think it’s very unlikely. But the possibility she had arsenic for rheumatism, say, is quite likely,” she said. “It’s certainly odd that she died quite so young. [But] in the absence of digging her up and finding out, which would not be appreciated, nobody knows what she died of.”

Although Ashford would be keen to see Austen’s bones disinterred for modern forensic analysis, she accepts this is unlikely to happen. “I can quite understand that people would be outraged by the idea,” she said.

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November 1, 2011 at 12:57 PM (Jane Austen Related Travel)

I am currently going through my Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine collection to scan articles I thought might be of interest to my Fellow Janeites.

I came to the November 2003 edition and discovered an article that made me yearn, I mean really yearn, for England. Specifically, for Bath.

If, like me, you find yourself a little miffed to be in Perth, or anywhere other than England, then you may like to get hold of this edition and read the article ‘November and December in Bath’ to help transport you to the cobbled streets of wonderful Bath.

Right now, yes, my body and some part of my brain is typing this bloggy post to you all, but the rest of me is in Bath walking the gravel path near the Royal Crescent with Captain Wentworth. Oops, nope, now I am Catherine Morland and I am being dragged around Bath by Isabella Thorpe who has decided to stalk the young men she spotted from the North Passage near the Roman Baths. Should I risk interferring with the story by giving her a bop on the head with my parasol, (because, naturally, I am properly “armed for Bath”), and letting her know what an awful creature she is? No, best not. Ooh, it’s the Sally Lunn Tea Shop. I think it’s time to stop for a yummy chicken and cheese Bath bun washed down with a luxury hot chocolate!

Okay. I think I have just imagined myself into a state of discontent. I have opened my eyes and I am quite obviously in Perth, Western Australia.


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A new book to look out for, or not

November 1, 2011 at 8:48 AM (Jane Austen Books)

I just received a tweet from Chawton House and author Lindsay Ashford has just published a book titled The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen. It is available from Amazon, The Book Depository and I am sure that Dymocks can order it in for you if they don’t have any in stock.

I have no idea what it is like, I just wanted to bring it to your attention. If anyone has the time or inclination to read it and would like to share their views with their Fellow Janeites via this blog, then please do email me your thoughts for posting. (My email address is

The book’s vital stats, courtesey of, are:

  • Paperback:320 pages
  • Publisher:HONNO WELSH WOMEN’S PRESS (20 Oct 2011)
  • LanguageEnglish
  • ISBN-10:1906784264
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906784263

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