“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” Jane Austen says in her novel Pride and Prejudice. This very line, along with her image will appear on a new 10 pound banknote by 2017. One wonders what Jane might’ve said if she knew that she were to become the next face of the “tenner”.
Dr. Paula Byrne, the academic, who wrote The Real Jane Austen, said the chosen image makes Austen look like “a pretty doll with big doe eyes” and called the bill “a 19th Century airbrushed makeover.” And she said many other things which make her sound like a very unhappy woman:
I can’t believe they have gone for such a saccharine picture. Jane Austen was a supreme social satirist, and some of her writing was quite dark, but they’ve chosen a picture that makes her look a really cosy, middle-class writer…
The costume is wrong and the image creates a myth Austen was a demure spinster and not a deep-thinking author. She was edgy for her time and the portrait by her sister Cassandra depicts an intelligent determined woman.
Personally, I disagree that on Cassandra’s sketch Jane looks all that intelligent or determined. To me, Jane on the sketch looks like scullery maid the way scullery maids look in low-budget British period dramas. But it’s my opinion.
Paula Byrne again, “Jane Austen is the funniest writer to walk this planet, and she’s been made to look dim-witted…”
So much emotion… Why? There is no need to rely on Bank of England for a more satisfying portrait. It’s your money. Improve upon it as soon as new bills come out. Get a pen. Basic colors will do. De-glamorize Jane to your heart’s desire, right on the money. Make her look funny! Borrow a few offending bills if you must. Not talented enough to do Jane justice? Involve friends and family. Turn it into a social occasion. How about wine-and-cheese-and–Jane-deglamorizing party? Does the image below looks like a “cozy, middle-class writer?” And I’m not even a great money-defacing talent!
And this is Caroline Criado-Perez, the activist, who runs an organization dedicated to increasing the presence of female experts in the media and a campaigner for a woman’s face to appear on British banknotes.
For about 12 hours following the announcement Ms. Criado-Perez received “about 50 abusive tweets an hour”, some containing threats of violence, death and/or rape. Too steep a prize to pay for activism, won’t you say? This piece of news is rather disturbing… Does Caroline’s ordeal have something to do with people’s outrage that Charles Darwin was “retired” as the face of the British “tenner”? Or is it the choice of the Jane Austen’s image to appear on banknote that upset them? Jane’s “all wrong costume”, perhaps? But then again, the surge of outrage is misdirected.
Hundreds of tweets are investigated for possible offences under the Malicious Communications Act. The Woman Who Got Jane Austen on British Money Wants to Change How Twitter Handles Abuse. Some 21 year old was put under arrest. It came to this. Ah, well… Life is but a nasty tweet.
Slideshow below features Women Writers On The Banknotes everywhere in the world where such currency is found.