Pining for the West

Jane Austen – her death | December 1, 2009

I had thought that it was fairly definite that Jane Austen had died of Addisons disease but this article in today’s Guardian has come up with another theory.

Whatever the cause, I just think that we were really lucky that she didn’t get married as she would probably have died much younger than she did. The mortality rate for women in childbirth or its aftermath must have been enormous.

It’s quite a long time since I read Jane Austen’s letters, but I seem to remember that at one point three of her friends died in childbirth in the same week. Enough to put anyone off.



  1. Interesting. Look at poor Charlotte Bronte too. Were there more diseases though or were constitutions less robust? Corsets, bad diet, not much exercise. As for childbirth – they musr have been TERRIFIED, it was a life or death situation, – yet women HAD to marry. I wonder if the milk yield from the cattle was sterilised in those days?

    Comment by echostains — December 2, 2009 @ 12:51 am

    • Their milk would have come straight from a local farm in those days. Milk wasn’t pasteurised until much later and you can easily get T.B. if you drink raw milk now, so it must have been really common then. Their immune systems must have been pretty low. Giving birth was bad enough in the late 20th c. If I had had a gun I would have shot myself! No painkillers whatsoever and over 36 hours in labour. Should have screamed my head off then I might have got some attention.

      Comment by piningforthewest — December 2, 2009 @ 5:24 pm

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