Sunday 23 July 2017

Jane Austen banknote unveiled – with strange choice of quotation

Bank of England launches new £10 note featuring a line about reading – said by a character who doesn’t care for books

he new £10 note featuring Jane Austen has been unveiled on the 200th anniversary of the author’s death, complete with a quote about reading – said by one of her characters who has no interest in books.

Austen becomes the first female writer (following in the footsteps of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens) to feature on a banknote.

The note, launched by the Bank of England at Austen’s resting place, Winchester Cathedral, includes an image of the writer and one of her most beloved characters, Elizabeth Bennet.

There are also illustrations of her writing table and her brother Edward Austen Knight’s home, Godmersham Park in Kent, thought to be a source of inspiration.

But it is the quote that will raise eyebrows among Austen enthusiasts. At first glance the line from Pride and Prejudice – “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” – seems a good choice.

However, the words were spoken by one of Austen’s most deceitful characters, Caroline Bingley, who has no interest in books. She is sidling up to Mr Darcy, whom she would like as a husband. He is reading a book, so she sits next to him and pretends to read alongside him.

Speaking at Winchester Cathedral, the Bank of England’s governor, Mark Carney, explained why Austen was chosen – and the technical aspects of the notes.


He said: “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.

“Austen’s novels have a universal appeal and speak as powerfully today as they did when they were first published.”

Turning to practical matters, he said: “The new £10 will be printed on polymer, making it safer, stronger and cleaner. The note will also include a new tactile feature on the £10 to help the visually impaired, ensuring the nation’s money is as inclusive as possible.”

It joins the Churchill £5 in the first family of polymer UK banknotes; a £20 note featuring JMW Turner will follow in 2020.

The £10 note has security features that the Bank says make it very difficult to counterfeit. It is expected to last at least two-and-a-half times longer than paper £10 notes – about five years in total.

The new tactile feature is a series of raised dots in the top left-hand corner, developed in conjunction with the RNIB, the charity that supports people with sight loss. This is in addition to the elements already incorporated in UK banknotes for visually impaired people: the tiered sizing, bold numerals, raised print and differing colour palettes.

Austen fans will have to wait until later this year before they can begin to use the notes. They will be issued on 14 September and the public will begin to see them in the following days and weeks.

The Bank hopes featuring Austen will help it counter accusations of sexism for not featuring more women on notes. The author follows Florence Nightingale and Elizabeth Fry in featuring on notes.

Tuesday’s banknote launch is one of a series of events taking place to mark the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death, including the unveiling of a statue in Basingstoke, near her birthplace.

Austen, who wrote keenly about money, might have been interested in research from Aviva claiming that the £10 pound note has a relative purchasing power of only 13p compared with what it could buy in 1817.

(Source: The Guardian)

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