What if Jane Austen was a medical writer?

Thought experiment series: famous writers of history

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a pharmaceutical client in possession of a generous budget, must be in want of a Med Comms agency.

And if your agency is trying to woo said client, a team of skilled, sharp medical writers is essential.

Which is why in our latest edition of ‘Famous writers of history’, we’re seeking inspiration from an author famed for her astute observations and unrivalled storytelling. An author whose timeless novels have spawned countless TV and film adaptations (and THAT diving-into-a-pond scene outside Lyme Park). Enter stage left, Jane Austen.

Jane Austen is admired by scholars for her innovative writing style that shaped the course of literary history. She was one of the first known authors to use free indirect speech, a style of third-person narration where the character speaks through the voice of the narrator.

An example of this is the famous opening line of Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

In this single sentence, Austen was able to perfectly skewer the motivations, beliefs and character of the overbearing Mrs Bennet. Proof that brevity really is the soul of wit.

With this chameleon-like ability to adapt her tone of voice, Ms Austen would be an absolute pro at writing blogs and social posts for healthcare advertising clients. Once she’s sussed out how to log onto Twitter.

Austen’s famous novels are set during Regency era Britain, a time when individuals were ruled by strict social etiquette and decorum. Committing a faux pas like slouching or slurping your soup would earn you stern looks of disapproval from Lady Prudence Codswallop of Snettleford. Such impropriety could not be borne!

Needless to say, we bet our Jane would feel right at home with the pharmaceutical codes of practice that set the standards within our industry. She wouldn’t let the Code confine her creativity, delivering her message delicately yet decisively.

Austen knew what made people tick; it’s one of the many reasons why her work is still enjoyed to this day. At a time when care for the mentally ill was virtually non-existent (unless you count being thrown into an asylum as ‘care’), her observations about the impact of physical illness on the mind were light-years ahead. In Mansfield Park, she wrote of Tom Bertram’s illness: “…There was not only the debility of recent illness to assist: there was also, as she now learnt, nerves much affected, spirits much depressed to calm and raise, and her own imagination added that there must be a mind to be properly guided.”

Jane Austen herself suffered with ill health, and sadly died at age 41 of what is now thought to be either Addison’s disease, an adrenal disorder, or Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Coming from an era where leeches were the cure for all ailments (or at least 87% of them), Jane would marvel at the medical advances of our modern times. Something to think about next time you grumble about that big MSL slide deck!


Jane Austen. What is free indirect discourse? 2020. Available at: [Last accessed: February 2022]

History Collection. The 10 Dos and Don’ts of Etiquette to Become a Lady in Regency England. 2018. Available at: [Last accessed: February 2022]

The Independent. Disease, dependence and death: The dark reality behind Jane Austen’s pearlescent prose. Available at: [Last accessed: February 2022]