How Did Jane Austen Die?

Author, Jane Austen died at the age of 41 in 1817. For years, her cause of death has remained a mystery. A 2009 article on CNN suggested Addison’s Disease affected her writing and eventually killed her. But now, almost 10 years later, a new revelation, courtesy of The British Library, reveals that that may not have been the case. 

The British Library was working with optometrist Simon Barnard to examine three pairs of Austen’s glasses. They discovered that her vision had deteriorated towards the end of her life. Dr. Sandra Tuppen, a curator of manuscript archives at The British Library wrote in a blog post that, “If Austen did develop cataracts,” as the glasses indicate, one likely cause is “accidental poisoning from a heavy metal such as arsenic.” Arsenic wasn’t uncommon in everyday substances in Austen’s time. It could be found in the water, medication, and even wallpaper. Tuppen said that an unintentional death by arsenic poisoning was “quite common”. 

Jane Austen’s Glasses and Writing Desk 

Image courtesy of The British Library Board

Tuppen went on to say, “We knew that she had trouble with her eyes, because on several occasions she refers to weak eyes.” We may never know for certain what caused Austen’s death. There are many theories out there. Austen lived a quiet and private life, so we many never know the truth. 


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