giovedì 16 marzo 2017

Jane Austen's poor sight and death due to arsenic poisoning ?


Of events her life was singularly barren: few changes and no great crisis ever broke the smooth current of its course. […] I have therefore scarcely any materials for a detailed life of my aunt; but I have a distinct recollection of her person and character; and perhaps many may take an interest in a delineation […] of that prolific mind whence sprung the Dashwoods and Bennets, the Bertrams and Woodhouses, the Thorpes and Musgroves, who have been admitted as familiar guests to the firesides of so many families, and are known there as individually and intimately as if they were living neighbours.1


Di eventi la sua vita fu singolarmente sterile: pochi cambiamenti e nessuna grande crisi mai rotto il suo placido scorrere [...] Ho quindi ben poco materiale per descrivere nel dettaglio la vita di mia zia; ma ho un ricordo distinto della sua persona e del suo carattere; e forse molti possono essere interessati ad una descrizione [...] di colei dalla cui mente prolifica nacquero i  Dashwood e i Bennet, i Bertrams ed i Woodhouses, i Thorpe ed i Musgroves, che sono stati invitati quali ospiti familiari ai focolari di tante famiglie, e sono conosciuti lì ad uno ad uno ed intimamente come se fossero vicini ancora in vita.1



Il prossimo 18 luglio saranno trascorsi duecento anni esatti dalla dipartita di Jane Austen, la cara Jane Austen che occupa un posto speciale in ognuno dei nostri cuori, così ancora vicina al nostro modo di pensare, di concepire il mondo e le relazioni interpersonali, capace, in notevole anticipo rispetto al suo tempo, di dipingere con le parole un mondo storico, etico e sociale attraverso le trame ed i personaggi dei suoi romanzi che a tutta prima potrebbero sembrare semplici romanzi d'amore.

Da allora le cause della sua morte non sono mai apparse del tutto chiare ... sappiamo per certo che con gli inizi del 1816 la salute della povera Jane cominciò a peggiorare gradatamente anche se i segni del suo deterioramento vennero dapprincipio ignorati: nonostante il progredire della sua malattia ( ella scriveva di soffrire di reumatismi ed infine di alterazioni biliari, mentre i biografi ci hanno sempre additato il Morbo di Addison, come motivo del suo decesso, recentemente il linfoma di Hodgkin, entrambi al tempo non conosciuti e perciò non curabili ), inappagata da come le era riuscita la stesura della fine de The Elliots ( Persuasion ), ne riscrisse gli ultimi capitoli, finendoli nell'agosto del 1816. 
Con il principio dell'anno 1817 iniziò un nuovo romanzo dapprima intitolato The Brothers (che assunse il titolo di Sanditon quando venne pubblicato nel 1925), e ne completò i dodici capitoli prima di posare definitivamente la propria penna il 18 marzo 1817.


Anne Hathaway nei panni di Jane Austen nel film Becoming Jane diretto nel 2007 da Julian Jerrold



Da tempo ella trascorreva le sue giornate scrivendo coricata sul divano, conscia dell'aggravarsi definitivo del suo stato di salute e dell'approssimarsi della fine della sua seppur breve esistenza.

Dalla metà di aprile le difficoltà ed il dolore procuratole dal solo deambulare la costrinsero irrimediabilmente a letto. Nel mese di maggio la sorella Cassandra ed il fratello Henry la condussero a Winchester alla disperata ricerca di cure appropriate, ma Jane stava ormai soffrendo dolori strazianti ed era pronta ad accogliere la morte che sopraggiunse proprio a Winchester, dopo due mesi di laceranti sofferenze.

Oggi studi recentissimi ( risalenti a pochissimi giorni fa) sembrano gettare una nuova luce sulle cause della sua morte: Sandra Tuppen, curatrice della British Library che espone tre paia di occhiali che Jane aveva acquistati da sé e che indossava durante gli ultimi anni della sua vita, conservati dai suoi discendenti e donati al museo londinese nel 1999, 
dimostrano che la sua vista si era notevolmente abbassata durante gli ultimissimi tempi, cosa che fu motivo di una notevole frustrazione di cui ella non fece segreto nei suoi scritti personali.

Alla soglia dei 40 anni la povera Jane si trovò ad essere quasi del tutto cieca - i tests hanno dimostrato che mentre le lenti del primo paio erano graduate ad 1,75 diottrie da ciascun occhio, quelle del terzo paio, montate su osso di tartaruga, erano con lenti convesse da 4,75 e 5,0 diottrie, appropriate ad una vista del tutto dimezzata - il che significa che ella avrebbe trovato molto difficile vedere abbastanza bene per leggere o scrivere con l'approssimarsi del momento della sua morte, con ogni probabilità di conseguenza al formarsi della cataratta, sicuramente causata dall'intossicazione indotta dai metalli pesanti che sovente erano ingredienti dei preparati farmacologici del tempo; questo fattore, coniugato all'inusuale esantema che comparve sul suo volto e che ci è fatto notare dalla scrittrice di gialli Lindsay Ashford, ci farebbe sospettare che il metallo pesante in questione sarebbe l'arsenico, presente nei medicamenti del tempo che 'curavano' i reumatismi.


A questo punto si compone un quadro ben differente sulla scomparsa precoce dell'amata scrittrice, la quale sarebbe deceduta, pensate, per avvelenamento da arsenico, anche se in modo del tutto accidentale !

Ben consapevole del fatto che al tempo la medicina avesse da compiere ancora molti passi avanti, che fosse in grado di procurare persino intossicazioni ed avvelenamenti tali da condurre alla morte sinceramente mi lascia sconcertata ...


Jane Austen ci è stata portata via: quanto inesauribile talento perì con lei, quanto grandemente ella avrebbe ancora potuto contribuire all'intrattenimento dei suoi lettori, se solo la sua vita fosse stata prolungata, chissà; ma ciò che è certo è che la miniera in cui lungamente ella aveva lavorato non si era ancora esaurita, e che ella era ancora diligentemente impegnata nell'attingervi nuovi spunti.2



Lieta che mi abbiate seguita fino a qui, spero con vivo interesse giacché il patrimonio che Jane Austen ci ha lasciato in eredità appartiene a tutti noi, 
vi auguro ogni bene e vi abbraccio caramente, 
affezionati e stimati lettori ed amici

a presto 💕










FONTI BIBLIOGRAFICHE:

Caroline Austen, Mia zia Jane Austen. Ricordi, titolo originale dell'opera My Aunt Jane Austen. A Memoir by Caroline Austen, 1867, traduzione di Giuseppe Ierolli; 

Jane Austen, Lettere a cura di Giuseppe Ierolli, Utelibri, Bergamo, 2013;(http://www.jausten.it/jalettere.pdf)

J.E. Austen Leigh, A Memoir of Jane Austen LONDON, RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON, 1871;

Giuseppe Ierolli, Jane Austen si racconta, Utelibri, Bergamo, 2012;

Kim Wilson, At HOME with JANE AUSTEN, FRANCES LINCOLN LIMITED PUBLISHERS, United Kingdom, October 2014;

Daily Mail Online

BBC NEWS




CITAZIONI:

1 - J.E. Austen Leigh, A Memoir of Jane Austen LONDON, RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON, 1871, CHAPTER 1, pag. 2;

2 - Ididem, CHAPTER XIII, pag. 192.








Of events her life was singularly barren: few changes and no great crisis ever broke the smooth current of its course. […] I have therefore scarcely any materials for a detailed life of my aunt; but I have a distinct recollection of her person and character; and perhaps many may take an interest in a delineation […] of that prolific mind whence sprung the Dashwoods and Bennets, the Bertrams and Woodhouses, the Thorpes and Musgroves, who have been admitted as familiar guests to the firesides of so many families, and are known there as individually and intimately as if they were living neighbours.1


On next July 18th they'll be past two hundred years since the departure of Jane Austen, the beloved Jane Austen that holds a special place in each heart of ours, yet so close to our way of thinking, of understanding the world and interpersonal relationships, capable, considerably ahead of her time, to paint with words a historical, ethical and social world through the plots and characters of her novels which at first might seem simple romantic novels.

Since then the causes of her death have never appeared entirely clear ... we know for sure that with the begin of the year 1816 the health of the poor Jane began to deteriorate gradually even if the signs of this deterioration were ignored at first: despite the progressing of her illness (she wrote to suffer from rheumatism and finally of biliary abnormalities, while the biographers have always indicated us the Addison's disease as the reason of her death, recently the Hodgkin lymphoma, at that time both not known and therefore not curable) unsatisfied by how she had managed the drafting of the end of The Elliots (Persuasion), she rewrote the final chapters, ending them in August of 1816.

With the beginning of the year 1817 she began a new novel at first called The Brothers (who assumed the title of Sanditon when it was published in 1925), and completed its twelve chapters before she finally put down her pen, on March 18th, 1817.


- picture 2 - Anne Hathaway playing Jane Austen in Becoming Jane direct in 2007 by Julian Jerrold




From that moment she spent her days writing lying on the couch, knowing that the aggravation of her state of health was definitive and that the end of her albeit short existence was approaching.
Since mid-April both difficulties and pain due simply to ambulation forced her hopelessly in bed. In May her sister Cassandra and her brother Henry took her in Winchester desperately seeking appropriate cares, but Jane was now suffering excruciating pains and was ready to welcome the death that came precisely there in Winchester, after two months of devastating suffering.

Today, recent studies (dating back a few days ago) seem to throw a new light on the causes of her death: Sandra Tuppen, curator of the British Library that exposes three pairs of spectacles that Jane purchased for herself and wore during the last years of her life, preserved by her descendants and donated to the London museum in 1999, show that her vision became significantly poor during the last few years, that was a source of considerable frustration for her which she made no secret in her personal writings of.

At the age of 40 poor Jane was to be almost completely blind - the tests have shown that while the lenses of the first pair of eyeglasses were graded to 1.75 diopters for each eye, those of the third pair, mounted on a turtle bone, were convex and graded for miopia 4.75 and 5.0 diopters, appropriate to a totally halved view - which means that she would have found it very difficult to see well enough to read or write with the approach of the moment of her death, with every probability  as a consequence to the formation of cataracts, definitely caused by intoxication induced by heavy metals that were often ingredients of the pharmaceutical preparations of the time; this factor, conjugate with the unusual rash that appeared on her face, as the mystery writer Lindsay Ashford makes us notice, would make us suspect that the heavy metal in question would be arsenic, present in the medicines of the time that 'cured' the rheumatism.




- picture 3 -  Jane Austen's spectacles on display at the British Library 



At this point we do compose a very different picture on the sudden death of our beloved writer, who would die, think, from arsenic poisoning, although completely accidental !

Well aware of the fact that at the time the medicine had yet to make much progress, that it were able to procure even intoxications and poisoning that could lead to death frankly leaves me baffled ...



Jane Austen was taken from us: how much unexhausted talent perished with her, how largely she might yet have contributed to the entertainment of her readers, if her life had been prolonged, cannot be known; but it is certain that the mine at which she had so long laboured was not worked out, and that she was still diligently employed in collecting fresh materials from it.2



I feel so pleased if you have followed me reading so far, I hope with keen interest because the inheritance that Jane Austen has left us belongs to each of us,
I wish you all the best and I embrace you so dearly, 
affectionate and esteemed friends of mine,


see you soon 💕









BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES:

Caroline Austen, Mia zia Jane Austen. Ricordi, titolo originale dell'opera My Aunt Jane Austen. A Memoir by Caroline Austen, 1867, traduzione di Giuseppe Ierolli; 

Jane Austen, Lettere a cura di Giuseppe Ierolli, Utelibri, Bergamo, 2013; (http://www.jausten.it/jalettere.pdf)

J.E. Austen Leigh, A Memoir of Jane Austen LONDON, RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON, 1871;

Giuseppe Ierolli, Jane Austen si racconta, Utelibri, Bergamo, 2012;

Kim Wilson, At HOME with JANE AUSTEN, FRANCES LINCOLN LIMITED PUBLISHERS, United Kingdom, October 2014;

Daily Mail Online

BBC NEWS




QUOTATIONS:

1 - J.E. Austen Leigh, A Memoir of Jane Austen LONDON, RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON, 1871, CHAPTER 1, p. 2;

2 - Ididem, CHAPTER XIII, p. 192.







LINKING WITH:








29 commenti:

  1. Good Morning Lovely One!
    So enjoyed this informational and tender synopsis of dear Jane Austin. I am wondering if she had macular degeneration. Seems as though she was far to young to have suffered with such poor health and a frail constitution. One of my favorite ladies of all time!
    Blessings to you my dear,
    XOXO
    Jemma

    RispondiElimina
    Risposte
    1. @ Jemma
      my Dearest, to have you here really makes my day !

      Before than these last studies we could suppose even the macular degeneration, but both the convex lens used by people affected by cataracts and the rush which appeared on Jane Austen face are the undoubtable sign of arsenic poisoning, that it is quite easy to believe if we think that it was an ingredient of the medicine for rheumatism, and we know that our loved writer suffered of this desease.

      Wishing you a most wonderful end of your week,
      I'm sending blessings of joy to you ಌ•❤•ಌ

      Elimina
  2. My goodness, Dany, I knew that she died young, but I never knew the cause, or the theories surrounding it. As always, I learn something new each time I visit you here. Thank you for that, sweet friend.
    Sending you hugs from across the ocean.
    xo.

    RispondiElimina
    Risposte
    1. @ Lisa
      wondrous friend of mine, thank you for gracing my blog today with your precious presence !

      Your words of interest and appreciation fill my heart with joy, I'm sincerely grateful to you for this !

      Thinking of you with utmost thankfulness
      and much, so much love and esteem ❥

      Elimina
  3. Such talent and what a sad ending to her life. Medicine back then was so different than today.

    Have a fabulous day, my friend. ♥♥♥

    RispondiElimina
    Risposte
    1. @ Sandee
      to be honest also today's medicines have side effects, but not so deleterious, the medicine of the Regency era was really arrear, just think at what progress it has made in 200 years !

      Sending hugs and more hugs to you
      with heartfelt gratitude,
      dearest friend ༺♡❀♡༻

      Elimina
  4. Such a wonderful post, dear Daniela! We should never take our health and senses (sight, hearing, speech, etc.) for granted. Have a wonder filled day and weekend, my cherished friend.

    RispondiElimina
    Risposte
    1. @ Linda
      cherished friend, you're so right !!!

      Sending much love to you, to welcome you here always bless my day, I thank you from the bottom of my heart ♥∗✿*✿∗♥

      Elimina
  5. As ever, you have enlightened my day with another fascinating read, sweet Dany, thank you. So sad that this wonderful writer should die so young and in such sad circumstances. Have the most splendid of weekends, lovely lady.

    RispondiElimina
    Risposte
    1. @ Kim
      to welcome you here always fills my heart to overflowing, you're such an adorable, cherished friend to me, your so lovely words never fail to put me in good spirits, actually, you make my day !

      May your weekend too be blessed with joy and contentment
      sending much love across the many miles ♡❤♡

      Elimina
  6. Jane è veramente entrata nei nostri cuori. I suoi romanzi sono meravigliosi. Non mi stancherò mai di rileggerli. Chissà quale atroce sofferenza ha passato nei suoi ultimi momenti di vita
    Bacioni Alessandra

    RispondiElimina
    Risposte
    1. @ Alessandra
      ciò che rende i suoi romanzi davvero unici, come tu esattamente scrivi, è che sono 'senza tempo', sono stati scritti quasi due secoli fa ed ancora rimangono tra i più letti, in assoluto !

      E come te sono convinta abbia sofferto una lenta e dolorosissima agonia, povera Jane !

      Ti invio un abbraccio dal profondo del cuore,
      mia carissima, dolce amica dal cuore romantico,
      e che la tua domenica ti sorrida di letizia ⊰✽*✽⊱

      Elimina
  7. I am so thankful for the advances in medicine these days, I guess they had to experiment like they still do today to find cures and what works on people.... I had to have a cataract replaced already, it is unusual at my age, but I had a fast growing kind, I am so thankful that I can now see again, it is very aggravating to have to deal with everything going foggy, thankfully my other eye was still in decent working order :)
    Thanks again for a very enlightening post.
    Wishing you the best weekend!!

    RispondiElimina
    Risposte
    1. @ Conniecrafter
      how strange for you to suffer already of this desease, you're still so very young, but I'm so glad to read that you've recovered your sight, Derarest One !

      Wishing you too a joyous Sunday,
      filled with the most lovely things you could ever wish *•♥♥•*

      Elimina
  8. Dear Dany, I was so delighted to visit you today and find you'd written about Jane Austen, one of my favorites! And, as always, I learned a few things. I did not know about the possibility of arsenic poisoning nor about the cataracts. Poor Jane.

    RispondiElimina
    Risposte
    1. @ Jean
      yes, poor Jane !
      Cataracts was one of the signs of this poisoning due to the medicines she took for 'cure' her pain procured to rheumatism ... for sure the last months of her life were terrible !

      Sending hugs from across the ocean
      to wish you a most lovely Sunday, cherished friend,
      thanks most sincerely for gracing my blog today,
      you're always so heartily welcome ಌ❀ಌ

      Elimina
  9. Adoro la Austen cara Daniela e apprendere dell'avvelenamento da arsenico è...terribile!
    Che bello però, finalmente ho tempo di rileggerti.
    Ti auguro un buon fine settimana, un abbraccio
    Susanna

    RispondiElimina
    Risposte
    1. @ Susanna
      felicissima di riaverti tra noi, mia cara, è sempre una tale gioia accoglierti e leggere le tue dolcissime parole !

      Ti auguro una domenica spensierata,
      e ti abbraccio, forte forte ♡ஐ♡

      Elimina
  10. Oh, how sad, my Dear Dany, that Jane Austin may have died due to the very medicine she was taking to relieve her pain! Such a tragic loss to one of our beloved writers of all time. Thank you for another interesting post and personally, I want to thank you for your dear condolences for our precious pup, Peanut. Sending hugs xx Karen

    RispondiElimina
    Risposte
    1. @ Karen
      I'm sincerely glad to read that I've managed to make me feel by your side in such a moment ... our puppies with their unconditionate love are always delight and make our lives much more happier, but when they leave us, it's such a pain .. you have to know that I've always lived surrounded by puppies, I had my firs dos when I was child, but at the age of three months he left me, he became ill with distemper just after having vaccinated him ... you have to know that I am an only child and wanted a brother so much, and when he became part of our family, well, for me he was the brother I wished so !
      To see him ill and to feel the loneliness after his death left me so so sad, and that sadness is the same that I feel every time a fur baby of ours becomes a little angel ... always the same !

      Thanking you for gracing my blog today, Dearie,
      you're truly a ray of sun,
      I'm sending blessings on your Spring,
      with sincere gratitude ❥

      Elimina
  11. Dany, what a tragic life, poor Jane. Yet she shared such wondrous lives with us in her books. She is one of my favorite authors. Thank you for sharing so much about her life. xo

    RispondiElimina
  12. This story just breaks my heart, she is one of my all-time heroes.
    Amalia
    xo

    RispondiElimina
  13. How tragic, Dany! Not only because of the senselessness of it, but what a horribly, painful way to die. I think I will read her work with much greater affection. Bless you, dear one.

    RispondiElimina
  14. sempre piacevole scorrere le righe che riguardano la vita d una delle mie scrittrici preferite...
    mi sono persa il film becoming jane purtroppo dovrò rimediare..
    buon lunedi carissima dany
    daniela

    RispondiElimina
  15. A fascinating insight into the life Jane Austen, sadly cut short in her prime. I don't believe that I have seen the film you mention so will have to try and find a copy somewhere, I'm sure that I would enjoy it.
    Maggie

    RispondiElimina
  16. Oh,my! How sad! Pain is a horrible thing. When I reread Austen, I will read with "new" eyes. Happy Monday!

    RispondiElimina
  17. Of course I love Jane Austen, as we all do. Just as you say. And of course I knew she died very young. But how terribly sad it is to think that it was from medications she was prescribed. What an interesting story.

    RispondiElimina
  18. So sad to read about Jane Austin's young passing and her vision problems before she died. The world was deprived of more books that she could have written if she lived longer.
    You fin d the most interesting information, Dany! It is always a joy to visit your blog'

    RispondiElimina
  19. Buongiorno cara DAniela, in questa splendida giornata di pioggia (tanto attesa in questo inverno mite e secco) leggo di Jane Austen e del suo triste destino. Tornare al tuo blog è un piacere per gli occhi e per l'anima. A presto.
    Anna Maria

    RispondiElimina

I WHOLEHEARTEDLY THANK YOU FOR YOUR THOUGHTS AND WORDS, SO PRECIOUS TO ME.