So, all these Austen sequels/modernizations/alternate versions that are flying off the shelves: it seems to me they’re all going for the wrong genre. Romance is dead! Chick lit is…well, it’s absurdly popular, but let’s just say there’s a bit of formula involved. And I think we all know how many more vampire knockoffs we need. No, they’re missing the obvious next step: the medical drama (Sick House, starring Jenna Elfman! Thursdays at 9 on CBS!).
After all, Jane herself is the center of a long and dramatic conflict (if by “conflict” you mean “academic slap-fight”) over her own cause of death: her own letters describe the symptoms of her final illness, but, understandably (time travel having not yet been invented), no modern diagnosis. Since 1964, Sir Zachary Cope’s proposal of Addison’s disease has been widely accepted, along with various other possibilities such as lymphoma, suggested in 1997 by Austen biographer Claire Tomalin. However, this week Addison’s expert Katherine White posits that Jane died not of Addison’s, but of invective tuberculosis acquired by drinking unpasteurized milk (Favorite headline so far: “Cows killed Jane Austen”). Cue furied and ultimately inconclusive medical discussion!
So, what really killed Jane Austen? The experts say…
Katherine White: Tuberculosis!
Zachary Cope: Addison’s disease!
Claire Tomalin: Lymphoma!
White: Hey, man, my analysis of Jane’s anecdotal symptoms make more sense than your analysis of Jane’s anecdotal symptoms!
Cope: Um, I don’t hear any coughing coming from those letters. Or have you not seen Bright Star?
White: Well, I don’t know where you get off suggesting mental confusion in one of the greatest and most perceptive writers of our time. You know mental confusion comes with Addison’s disease, right?
Cope: No fair! Consumption gets all the famous people!
White: Okay, everybody knows you get prettier when you have consumption.
Tomalin: Hey guys! Lymphoma!
White: Brighter eyes, rosier cheeks.
Cope: Did you hear something?
White: It’s not our fault everybody wants to die beautiful. What did you say?
Cope: I thought I heard the faint whisper of a third argument.
White: What? No. Maybe it’s your mental confusion.
Cope: Shut up.
White: I’m just saying, it was the milk.
Cope: Jane Austen was not killed by milk.
White: She could have been. They didn’t pasteurize anything.
Tomalin: Mad cow!
Cope: Well, if it was the milk, it could have been anything. Undercooked pork! E. coli! Killer mushrooms! Bad sushi! You don’t know!
Cope: She should have smelled it first.
White: Now you’re just making things up.
White: I’m taking my symptom list and my fame in the press and going home.
Cope: I hope you don’t drink any unpasteurized milk and accidentally die of tuberculosis.
White: Well, if I do, I’ll only become more beautiful…AND MORE POWERFUL.
Cope: Yeah, in bed. I mean, because…you’ll be wasting away, so.
White: You know what? You can have your Addison’s diagnosis and your nonsensical interpretation of the symptoms. I’m going to go talk to my agent about the talk-show circuit.
Cope: Do it, then!
White: I will!
Tomalin: Walking pneumonia! The boogie-woogie flu!
Tomalin: Final verdict: It was Mr. Wickham. Guess I win!Addison's disease, Claire Tomalin, consumption, death, Jane Austen, Jane Austen death, Katherine White, lymphoma, Mr. Wickham, Sir Zachary Cope, tuberculosis on Friday, December 4, 2009 · 5 Comments »