Jane Austen and money

Yesterday, the Bank of England  announced that beginning in 2017, it will issue 10 pound notes featuring the image of Jane Austen.  In addition to her image, the bill will also include a drawing of Elizabeth Bennet, an image of Godmersham Park, an estate owned by Austen’s brother; a picture of her writing desk, and a quote from Miss Bingley of “Pride and Prejudice,” I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading.”

Most in the UK were in favor of  the idea.  It is widely held that although Austen is an underrated author, her work in tone and structure can be among the first to be called modern.

Besides the Queen, the only other woman who currently appears on English currency is Elizabeth Fry.  She was involved in prison reform.  When it was announced that Fry would be replaced by Winston Churchill in 2016, there were widespread protests.  Austen will replace Charles Darwin who has been on 10 pound notes since 2000.

The UK seems to be way ahead of the US when it comes to both women and writers on our currency.  Susan B. Anthony, Helen Keller, and Sacagawea appear on coins, but only political figures on our notes.  According to an article in “Time,” several authors have been suggested for possible inclusion on American money.  All of them have had something “wise” to say on the topic of money.  Emerson, Fitzgerald, Wharton, Updike, and Melville are some possibilities.  I like the idea of Dorothy Parker on a bill.  Her comment seems to say it all:  “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”

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