Critical Reception

Author:John Bishop

Critical Reception Finance & Development, December 2017, Vol. 54, No. 4

John Bishop

The new Jane Austen banknote is not universally embraced

In some ways, the selection of Jane Austen for the United Kingdom’s new £10 banknote seemed a safe choice. The British author of novels such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility remains one of the country’s most beloved figures, with a global community of devotees. Though she died more than two centuries ago, her novels grappled with issues that resonate today. 

“Jane Austen was a fantastic and well-respected author and people love reading her books, but there is much more depth to her,” Victoria Cleland, chief cashier of the Bank of England, told F&D. “She was very interested in women and society, power and leadership…She was probing some quite difficult social issues at the time.” 

The new note was unveiled at Austen’s resting place, Winchester Cathedral, on July 18, 2017, the 200th anniversary of her death. In featuring her likeness on a banknote, the Bank of England gave Austen the validation that it had previously bestowed upon her fellow literary giants Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare.

Yet not everyone was thrilled. The release of a new banknote is always a delicate exercise, but the stakes are raised when a figure as beloved as Austen is involved. So it was perhaps predictable that amid the national enthusiasm over the note’s release, some of its most vocal critics were those who knew Austen’s work the best.  

Expert OpinionF&D asked some of the world’s leading Austen scholars to choose a new quotation for the Austen £10. Here’s what they suggested.

“Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure.” –Emma

Selected by Claudia Johnson, professor at Princeton University, author of Jane Austen: Women, Politics and the Novel

“Men have had every advantage in telling their own story…the pen has been in their hands.” –Persuasion

Selected by Helena Kelly, author of Jane Austen, the Secret Radical

“It is well to have as many holds upon happiness as possible.” –Northanger Abbey

Selected by Janet Todd, critic, novelist, and former president of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge

“A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.” –Mansfield Park

Selected by Claire Harman, author of Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World

Out of contextAusten scholars raised a number of concerns, ranging from the portrait of Austen on the bill (too demure for...

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