Fans of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice will be happy to know that rumors circulating that Jane Austen is currently being considered to grace English banknotes in the form of £10 bills may in fact actually be true. I wasn’t properly acquainted with her work until I’d seen Sense and Sensibility which, admittedly, was due to the fact that Alan Rickman took part in the film, but there are a myriad of Austen fans out there who are very happy with this news. I’ve often thought it would be lovely to see somebody like F. Scott Fitzgerald on the face of one of our American notes and if England can put authors on their banknotes, why can’t we?
Sir Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, has said that yes, Jane Austen banknotes may soon be circulating around the country when he let slip to the Treasure select committee that she is “quietly waiting in the wings.”
Historical figures may not be present on American banknotes, although I can think of quite a few that would be fun to see on them, but they’ve been around in England since 1970. Michael Faraday, William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens have all been on them, but only two women – Elizabeth Fry and Florence Nightingale – have been featured in this manner.
There are a number of women who are upset by the fact that Elizabeth Fry was surreptitiously dropped from English banknotes and Caroline Criado-Perez said of King’s words about Jane Austen that, “He is still talking in conditionals and I am afraid that is just not good enough. It is not good enough in terms of the demands of the campaign and it is also not good enough according to the Equality Act which, as we have been saying all along, is about needing to know that the decision-making process is fair and equitable.”
There have been 29,000 people that have so far signed petitions to keep women on English banknotes and Jane Austen would surely fit the category of somebody who has had an enduring legacy in the history of her country.
Oxford University Professor of English Kathryn Sutherland said, “I think the media has given her an incredible cultural legacy since the 90s. Prior to that she had been resigned to 6 p.m. slots on Sunday evening educational programming.”
University College London’s John Mullan said, “It is not the question of whether she is a woman or not, but she seems to me the greatest English writer apart from Shakespeare. Nobody has put money to better uses in their novels than her. There are plenty of novelists who think that money is important and make you aware of that when you are reading, but she makes her characters aware of it, which is a rather more brilliant thing.”
The decision about whether Jane Austen makes the cut for £10 notes will be made this summer, and tourists visiting England may soon see her face when they are at the cash machine.