Jane AustenI was reading an interesting New Yorker article that was reviewing a new book on the history of autism.

In the article, they spoke about how much has changed even in recent years about our understanding of autism.

There was also a short section on famous artists, musicians and authors we now believe may have been autistic. The list provided included Beethoven and Mozart, Isaac Newton, Emily Dickensen, Virginia Woolf, and, one of my all-time favorites, Jane Austen.

I’m not sure how much I believe in posthumous diagnosis on conditions they hadn’t even known existed at the time. We do understand that Jane Austen had an older brother, George Austen, who was believed to have been either mentally or physically disabled, and he was cared for by the family. One researcher claims that the classic, Pride & Prejudice, has many characters who are autistic – including the haughty romantic lead Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Although any diagnosis of people who lived centuries ago should be taken with a grain of salt, I suppose I’m most surprised by the inclusion of Austen on that list included in the New Yorker article. That’s because  Austen’s strength as an author was her acute observation of society and social interactions between all the different levels of her contemporary society. I suppose her feat would be even more impressive if she were able to do achieve such accuracy despite a condition that created difficulties for her in reading the subtle clues of societal interactions and emotions.

An interesting parlor game, at best. Still, it’s nice to see one of my favorite authors still making headlines…