Jane Austen died due to arsenic poisoning, one of Britains leading crime novelists has claimed.
Novelist Lindsay Ashford came to this staggering conclusion after coming across one of Austens last letters in which she had described her months of illness.
[I] am considerably better now and recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough, black and white and every wrong colour, Austen wrote in the letter.
After reading the letter, Ashford immediately thought that what Austen had described sounded very much like symptoms of arsenic, which causes skin spotting if taken in small doses over a long time.
Initially, Ashford disregarded the idea as it was too preposterous to be true but a few months later, a chance conversation with an ardent Austen fan from New York at the local library changed all that, the Daily Mail reported.
The girl asked the author if she had seen the lock of hair on display at the cottage where Austen lived and told her about the American couple she knew who had donated it.
Harry and Alberta Burke were collectors of Austen memorabilia and had bought it at auction at Sothebys in 1948.
The girl told the author that Harry had always been curious about what killed Jane and he had the hair tested for arsenic, the results of which came out positive.
This fortified the authors belief that Austen was a victim of arsenic poisoning.
The arsenic in Austens hair indicated that she had ingested the poison in the months before her death.
Many theories about her death have been proposed but none of them matches her description of her face in the letter.
However, chronic arsenic poisoning which is caused by small amounts being ingested over weeks or months produces all the symptoms about which Austen had mentioned in the letter.
Austen died at an early age of 41 in 1817.