I’m still working on the proposal for the next book so I’m really not yet ready to murder my hero. He’s still charming and blithe and hiding his problems instead of giving me or my heroine grief. But while I was researching, I came across this charming tidbit about Regency wallpaper—the greens are poisonous.
The most relevant article is here: Janeaustensworld.com
Essentially, around 1812 a vivid new emerald green paint was developed using a chemical composition containing arsenic. Arsenic was used for many things at the time, including a treatment for syphilis. Unfortunately, the treatment could lead to headaches, confusion and drowsiness. If continued the usual arsenic poisoning symptoms would ensue, such as convulsions, diarrhea, vomiting, blood in the urine, cramping muscles, hair loss, stomach pain, and eventually coma and death.
Arsenic treatments were seldom continued long enough to kill, but arsenic in the wallpaper, combined with the damp climate of England, created a kind of mold that people inhaled daily, for years. They did notice that people who grew sickly in winter when it was dampest seemed to revive when moved to a sunny, dry climate. But no one thought to examine the wallpaper—even after the arsenic theory was developed—until the Victorian era. Even then, it was widely disregarded and the chemicals used to develop the pigment were continued in use to kill barnacles on ships and as insecticide. Now, c’mon—paint your walls and kill insects? Ouch. (a more scientific explanation)
Paris green was a similar oil pigment formulation used by Impressionists as late as the early 20th century. Cézanne developed severe diabetes, which is a symptom of chronic arsenic poisoning. Monet’s blindness and Van Gogh's neurological disorders could also be related to their use of Paris Green, as well as lead pigments, mercury-based vermillion, and solvents such as turpentine. (In other words, he painted himself crazy.)
So maybe instead of murdering my hero with wallpaper, I could just develop a sickly sister or mother, then cure her with sunshine! Or maybe I need to research diabetes in the Regency era… Of course, they also used that green in fabrics—kill someone with a favorite shawl?
And here we thought we were the ones who developed pollution! Who knew environmental hazards could kill our ancestors? How can we possibly solve environmental contamination when even the natural elements conspire against us? Anyone else know some great ways to murder people naturally? (Oh, and there’s always lead-based paint…)
Isn’t it fun to be a writer?