It’s finally happened: Jane Austen has replaced Charles Darwin on the £10 note – making her the only woman to feature on our currency at the moment (other than, y’know, Queen Elizabeth II).
Released to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the legendary author’s death, the design for the new note (which, like the new £5 note, has been crafted from plastic) features an image of Austen drawn by her sister Cassandra.
And, alongside the portrait, the new note has been emblazoned with the words: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment but reading!”
All well and good, save for the fact that there’s more to this quotation than meets the eye.
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As any stalwart Austen fan will tell you, the words can be ascribed to Caroline Bingley, a character who appears in Pride and Prejudice.
Unfortunately, though, she isn’t exactly a literary heroine: unlike Elizabeth Bennett, Elinor Dashwood, and Emma Woodhouse, Miss Bingley is thoroughly unscrupulous and deceitful.
What’s more, she doesn’t even like books. In fact, Miss Bingley only pretends to be a dedicated bookworm because she’s nursing a pretty hefty crush on Mr Darcy - a man who famously spends his time scowling at bookshelves and reading, reading, reading.
“How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way,” Miss Bingley tells him, tired of pretending to be amused by a novel she’s picked up.
Then, while attempting to stifle a yawn, she adds: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading. How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book!”
Of course, her ploy doesn’t work: Mr Darcy’s heart is well and truly won by the fiery and courageous Miss Bennett (a woman who actually does enjoy reading). And, after overcoming their prejudices, Darcy and Bennett go on to live happily ever after.
Yet it is Bingley, not Bennett, who has been immortalised on Austen’s £10 note – which seems, for many of the author’s fans, to be a massive error on the Bank of England’s behalf.
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It remains to be seen whether or not the note’s design will be altered to include one of Austen’s more inspiring lines.
Perhaps Bennett’s empowering line – “My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me” – might be better suited? Or this little gem from Sense and Sensibility, which reads: “It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.”
In the meantime, Bank of England Governor Mr Carney has said: “Jane Austen certainly merits a place in the select group of historical figures to appear on our bank notes.
“Her novels have an enduring and universal appeal, and she is recognised as one of the greatest writers in English literature.
“As Austen joins Adam Smith, Boulton and Watt, and Churchill, our notes will celebrate a diverse range of individuals who have contributed in a wide range of fields.”
Images: Rex Features