Readers of "Mansfield Park" would remember the play
"Lovers Vows", which appears to have been eminently unsuitable. Now,
the JASM library has a copy of this play.
Mr Woodhouse is perhaps the first likeable
hypochondriac in fiction.
Winston Churchill and one of his "back-room
boffins", Dr Reg Jones, once had a joke that no-one would open the
windows at Randalls. They sought to keep the discussion as light-hearted
as possible, as the subject was the use of reflective strips of aluminium
to confuse German radar during the bombing of Hamburg.
Ever speculated on what killed Mrs
Tilney in Northanger Abbey? One theory is that she
suffered from an untreated, bleeding stomach ulcer, brought on by
eating too many pineapples. Posted below is another theory.
WHAT KILLED MRS TILNEY?
Those of us who participated in the 1998 study groups enjoyed
the opportunity to revisit Northanger Abbey and again follow
Catherine Moreland's growth from the young girl seeking
"romance", as depicted in Mrs Radcliffe's novels, to the young
woman who finds fulfilment and real life romance in the love
of Henry Tilney.
The passages which describe Catherine's realization of her
folly in believing the General capable of killing his wife are
particularly poignant. Henry's prosaic description of his
mother's death, and his reaction to Catherine's "romantic"
fantasies bring her back to earth with a thump. She fears
that she has lost Henry's regard and submits herself to a
good deal of soul searching from which, to her credit, she
emerges a much wiser young woman.
But ... remember Henry's description of Mrs Tilney's illness?
"My mother's illness", he continued, "the seizure which ended
in her death was sudden. The malady itself, one from which
she had often suffered, a bilious fever - its cause therefore
constitutional." (Vol. II, Ch IX). To the reader of classic
detective fiction this describes the effects of ... ARSENIC!!
Arsenic had been used by the cunning domestic poisoner for
centuries. It was popular because, as a virtually tasteless
white powder, a component of many household products, it was
readily available and relatively easy to administer. The
crime was difficult to detect as the symptoms mimicked those
of a number of natural illnesses. Even if suspected, the
Marsh Test for the detection of arsenic in body samples was
not developed until 1836.
Mrs Tilney's symptoms were consistent with the administration
of a number of small doses, to establish the existence of a
"constitutional" illness, followed by a larger, fatal, dose.
After a sufficiently large dose of arsenic, death may occur
after a few hours or take up to five days. Henry told
Catherine: "On the fifth day she died." (My emphasis)
So, perhaps Catherine was right after all and the question should be -
"Who killed Mrs Tilney?" (I vote for the General).
(Reprinted, with permission, from JASM's Newsletter number 21
of November, 1998.)