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18 July 2017

Lost in Austen: why does the new £10 note quote one of her characters instead?

The quotation used - about a love of reading - is spoken by a character who only pretends to like books. So why choose it?

By India Bourke

The Bank of England has done something wonderful – wonderfully terrible. Their new ten-pound note, featuring the novelist Jane Austen, includes a quote about reading from a character who only pretends to like books:

The quotation comes from Miss Caroline Bingley: the rich, “accomplished”, and snobbish sister of Mr Bingley – and one of Pride and Prejudice’s most conceited creations.

In one scene early in the book, she interrupts Mr Darcy’s own reading with this attempt at flattery. She then tries to win him over by agreeing with whatever he says.

Most intriguing of all, as far as the Bank’s decision is concerned, is Caroline’s snobbishness towards trade. The Bingley family themselves are new money, the narration informs us. Yet this doesn’t stop her from using the Bennett family’s lack of connections as a reason to undermine the match between Mr Bingley and Jane.

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But could this insecurity towards class and money in fact be a source of Caroline’s dislikable, needy behaviour? And in making a character we love to loathe, is Austen playing with the reader’s own predjudice?

Perhaps in this misnomer of a quote, the Bank has stumbled upon an apt tribute to Austen’s often twisty work.

If that doesn’t convince you, here are some alternative Austen quotations which might fit better:


(Persuasion)


(Love and Friendship)


(Mansfield Park)


(Pride and Prejudice)

(Mansfield Park)
 

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