Jane Austen elbows her way into the world of male-dominated British banknotes

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Jane joins the club.
Jane joins the club.
Image: Bank of England


Legendary novelist Jane Austen will join the ranks of eminent Britons emblazoned on a banknote issued by the Bank of England. Austen’s image will appear on a new £10 note, which is expected to be issued by 2017. Elements of the bill that will be of interest to Austenites include:

  • The quote – “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” from Pride and Prejudice (Miss Bingley, Chapter XI).
  • Portrait of Jane Austen. Commissioned by James Edward Austen Leigh (Jane Austen’s nephew) in 1870, adapted from an original sketch of Jane Austen drawn by her sister, Cassandra Austen.
  • An illustration of Pride and Prejudice‘s Miss Elizabeth Bennet undertaking, “The examination of all the letters which Jane had written to her”– from a drawing by Isabel Bishop (1902-1988).
  • The image of Godmersham Park. Godmersham was home of Edward Austen Knight, Jane Austen’s brother. Jane Austen visited the house often and it is believed that it was the inspiration for a number of her novels.
  • Jane Austen’s writing table—the central design in the background is inspired by the 12-sided writing table, and writing quills, used by Jane Austen at Chawton Cottage.​

Austen of course isn’t the only woman to grace a Bank of England banknote. There’s, of course, Queen Elizabeth II. Oh, and there’s also Elizabeth Fry, a social reformer active in aiding women prisoners in the early 19th century. But the vast majority of the faces that figure on Bank of England currency are old, scowling men.

That’s not to say there’s no diversity. Some are pudgy scowlersOthers have wigs. Still others, bushy eyebrows. But even so, seems that the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street is making a push to better reflect the breadth of Britons when it comes to the historical figures it deems worthy of bestowal upon a bill. “In order to ensure that our notes represent the full diversity of British people, the Bank has decided to review the approach to, and criteria for, selecting characters to appear on banknotes,” the bank said in announcement on Austen.