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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. (1)

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).

Cheryl Calwell.
(Reprinted, with permission, from JASM's Newsletter number 21 of November, 1998.)

Blank Notebook Blank Footnotes .

(1). Refer to Dr Reginald V. Jones' "Most Secret War" (ppbk). UP

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