Jane Austen gets her own banknote in England — with an ironic twist
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a Jane Austen banknote.
It may be a far cry from Mr. Bingley’s five thousand a year, but Jane Austen’s finally getting her economic due.
On Tuesday, the 200th anniversary of her death, the Bank of England unveiled a 10-pound note featuring the author. It will be released into circulation in the U.K. on Sept. 14. Austen is the first female author to grace the British pound, but she is the third writer, behind Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin, to feature on the 10-pound note.
“Our banknotes serve as repositories of the country’s collective memory, promoting awareness of the United Kingdom’s glorious history and highlighting the contributions of its greatest citizens,” said Mark Carney, the Bank of England’s governor, during an unveiling ceremony at Austen’s final resting place, Winchester Cathedral, according to The Guardian. “Austen’s novels have a universal appeal and speak as powerfully today as they did when they were first published.”
The note features a portrait of the author, an image of Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, and illustrations of Austen’s writing table and her brother Edward Austen’s home, Godmersham Park.
The note also features a quote from Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” This may seem like a perfect fit for the author, but Austen devotees may raise their eyebrows at the quotation, considering it is said by Caroline Bingley, who has no actual interest in reading whatsoever, in an effort to court Mr. Darcy. Austen, known for her satirical wit, would likely appreciate the irony of the quote selection.
It also seems fitting for Austen to be the first female author to appear on British money, as she was exceedingly concerned with money (and her family’s own lack of it at times). She wrote often of women undone by their finances and the romantic prospect of economically sound matches. (“A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of,” says Mary Crawford in Austen’s Mansfield Park — and she’s not the only Austen character to make such an observation.)
Her appearance on the note has not been met without controversy, however. The portrait of Austen on the note is from an 1870 painting commissioned by Jane’s nephew, James Edward Austen, based on a drawing by Austen’s sister Cassandra. Paula Bryne, an Austen biographer, was irked when the banknote was announced in 2013. “It makes me quite angry, as it’s been prettied up for the Victorian era, when Jane Austen was very much a woman of Georgian character,” Byrne told the BBC. “The costume is wrong and the image creates a myth Austen was a demure spinster and not a deep-thinking author.”
Pride and Prejudice