Jane Austen 1st female writer to be featured on British currency
Two hundred years to the day after Jane Austen died, a new £10 note featuring an image of one of England's most revered authors has been unveiled — right where she was buried.
At the unveiling Tuesday of the new "tenner" at Winchester Cathedral in southern England, Bank of England governor Mark Carney said the new note celebrates the "universal appeal" of Austen's work.
Austen, whose novels include Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Sense and Sensibility, is considered one of the most perceptive chroniclers of English country life and mores in the Georgian era. Combining wit, romance and social commentary, her books have been adapted countless times for television and film.
The new note is due to go into circulation on Sept. 14. Apart from Queen Elizabeth II, whose portrait is on all U.K. currency, Austen is only the third woman to feature on a modern-day British bank note, after medical innovator Florence Nightingale and social reformer Elizabeth Fry. She was chosen after a campaign for more female representation.
As well as a portrait of Austen commissioned by her nephew in 1870, the note features a quote from Pride and Prejudice: "I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!"
The quote seems innocent enough out of context, but stalwart fans were quick to point out that it's actually said by the deeply unlikable Caroline Bingley, who does not like reading.
"Austen is always misunderstood," said Austen reader Imogen Blake on Twitter.
To critics, Carney replied that the quote was quintessential Austen: It could be read straight or enjoyed ironically.
"It works on many levels," he said.
A tenner, as it's commonly known in Britain, doesn't go that far anymore. It's worth about $13 and it could yield an Austen novel or maybe two, a couple of pints of beer (at best), and at a stretch a trip to the cinema to see one of those Austen adaptations.
Other writers who have been featured on English banknotes include William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens.
— With files from Jill Lawless, CBC Books