by Ben Steele
If arsenic had a golden age, it was probably the Victorian era in England and the United States. It was in bloody everything, from wallpaper, to clothing dye, to cosmetics. If arsenic had a golden age in terms of literature, it was probably the mid-1900s, though by then its career as an actual murder weapon was being regulated out of relevance. Still, writers like Agatha Christie made arsenic one of the most well-known and sordid tools in popular crime fiction.
There is an absolute ton of juicy content to get into here. For a start, it really was as common as you hear, according to Sandra Hempel, an author and expert on the subject. She states, “Through much of the nineteenth century, a third of all criminal cases of poisoning involved arsenic. One reason for its popularity was simply its availability. All you had to do was go into a chemist’s shop and say that you needed to kill rats.” Continue reading “Literature’s Torrid Love Affair with Arsenic”