Deborah Yaffe


By Deborah Yaffe, Nov 4 2013 02:00PM

Pity the poor Bank of England. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

Back in July, when the Bank announced plans to feature Jane Austen on the 10-pound note beginning in 2017, it must have seemed an uncontroversial choice, a safe way to satisfy the feminists campaigning to get a woman onto the currency.

Then came the Twitter kerfuffle – Neanderthals using social media to threaten the leader of that feminist campaign with rape and murder – and Janeite criticism of the Bank’s decision to adorn the new banknote with a quote from the odious Caroline Bingley.

And last week a UK radio show, roughly the British equivalent of NPR’s “Morning Edition,” stirred the pot again by broadcasting an argument over the portrait of Austen planned for the new note.

By Deborah Yaffe, Oct 31 2013 01:00PM

I’m not a knitter, but for years I’ve been intrigued by the “Jane Austen Knits” link that keeps popping up in my Google alert, one in a long line of products claiming a connection to the valuable Jane Austen Brand.

Apparently, this year’s edition of the single-issue magazine contains thirty-one patterns for knitted items of clothing somehow “inspired by the novels of Jane Austen and the Regency era within which she lived”; illustrations show beautiful shawls, spencers and gloves, plus a fetching little reticule and a waistcoat worthy of Mr. Knightley. (I’m skeptical that these items have much to do with the books, beyond resembling things that Austen’s characters might have worn, but never mind.)

The issue is also said to feature historical articles, including one on pincushions and thread-cases in Persuasion. Those are among the items that Nurse Rooke teaches Mrs. Smith to make, to keep her busy and supplement her meager income.

I can’t remember if we know whether Jane Austen herself was a knitter, though it seems quite possible; in his famous 1870 Memoir of Jane Austen, her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh tells us that “her needlework both plain and ornamental was excellent, and might almost have put a sewing machine to shame.”

If you’ve tried these patterns, do tell us whether they’re worthy of Jane Austen.

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