Deborah Yaffe

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At last: The Austen tenner

By Deborah Yaffe, Sep 14 2017 01:00PM

It’s official: Starting today, Brits will be able to buy their tea, their scones -- even their books -- with a fistful of Jane Austen £10 notes.


More than four years after announcing plans to put Austen on the currency, and two months after unveiling the first notes during a ceremony at Winchester Cathedral on the bicentenary of Austen’s death, the Bank of England is putting the Austen tenner into circulation.


Despite Janeite joy at this honor for our beloved author, it’s been a rocky road. First came the feminist campaign to put a woman on the currency, after the bank announced that Winston Churchill would replace prison reformer Elizabeth Fry on the £5 note. (Fry wasn’t the first woman on the currency, besides the queen: Florence Nightingale held that title, from 1975-94.)


Even as the bank swiftly decided to maintain a non-royal female presence on the currency by subbing Austen in for Charles Darwin on the tenner, Internet trolls harassed and threatened the leader of the feminist campaign.


Then Janeites pointed out that the Austen quote selected for the note – “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading,” from Pride and Prejudice – is spoken by the execrable Caroline Bingley, moments before she tosses aside the book she has picked up only to impress the eligible Mr. Darcy.


Others noted that the picture of Austen is a prettified version of a sketch that may not even look much like her. Still others pointed out that Austen never lived permanently at Godmersham House, the stately home pictured in the background, although she did visit her brother’s family there.


These people! They’re never satisfied!


Still, it’s a great day for Janeites: Our author takes her place among a select pantheon of artists, scientists, politicians, and social reformers deemed important enough to represent the British nation. What would this country clergyman’s daughter have thought of it all?



2 comments
Sep 14 2017 10:53PM by A. Marie

A great day indeed, despite all the bill's flaws. And I confess I was unexpectedly moved by the Twitter photo of the note on JA's writing table at the JAHM. If only we could have gotten more 10-pound notes into her hands during her lifetime...

Sep 15 2017 12:27AM by dyaffe

Oh, yes! She deserved all the opportunities that her great success could have brought her. Alas, life is not fair.

And thank you for calling my attention to that great Twitter photo! I'm posting the link here, for others who may not have seen it:

https://twitter.com/JaneAustenHouse/status/908360066448990208

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