July 25, 2013

Jane Austen’s face to appear on £10 note


“A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of, but I’ll take £10 if you’ve got it.” – Jane Austen, Northander Lorry

As usual, Jane Austen is everywhere. Her characters appear on stamps and in lakes—and her face will shortly grace the new £10 note, replacing Charles Darwin. The Bank of England announced their decision yesterday, following what Chancellor George Osborne called “an understandable row over [the] lack of women” celebrated on British currency.

After the bank selected Winston Churchill to replace social reformer Elizabeth Fry on the £5 note, people began protesting the dominance of men on their pocket change. With Jane Austen on the tenner, representation will remain at 25%.

Beyond the bankers behaving decently—in Lady Susan, Austen wrote, “When a man has once got his name in a banking-house he rolls in money”—their choice is satisfying in a literary sense.

The marriage plot that dominates all of Austen’s novels might woo masses of romantic readers, but it could also be called the money plot. Austen always left her heroines happily married to monied men they loved. In Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie Bennet wonders whether there is any “difference, in matrimonial affairs, between the mercenary and the prudent motive,” and though she marries “for love,” she still marries money. Today, Darcy would be earning about $600,000 a year.

In Mansfield Park, Austen declared, “A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of,” and she once wrote to her sister Cassandra, “I am sorry to tell you that I am getting very extravagant, and spending all my money.” Were she writing today, I suspect Jane Austen would encourage her female readers to delay marriage for the sake of increasing their incomes—and with her face on the £10 note, such advice might be called self-promotional.

The Austen franchise is doing very well indeed, and this latest victory would undoubtedly make Jane happy—maybe she would celebrate and go buy stuff.



Abigail Grace Murdy is a former Melville House intern.