It was announced by the Bank of England that Jane Austen will feature on the new £10 note, avoiding a long-term absence of women represented on banknotes.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” – the famous line now sure to ring in the ears of us Brits ( single, wealthy and looking for love or otherwise ) as we check the contents of our wallets.
But what’s so ‘noteworthy’ about the famous novelist?
1. She showed ambition.
Jane Austen wrote the first draft of Elinor and Marianne ( later retitled Sense and Sensibility ) in 1795 when she was about 19 years old. While she had written a great deal of short fiction in her teens, Elinor and Marianne was her first full-length novel.
Austen broke the traditional mold of feminine conformity, and aspiring to more than the ‘ladylike’ life, went on to have six novels published under a pen name. As a woman, she was determined to be successful in what was essentially a man’s world.
2. She was enterprising.
In 1811, Thomas Egerton of the Military Library publishing house in London accepted her Sense and Sensibility manuscript for publication, in three volumes. Austen paid for the book to be published and paid the publisher a commission on sales.
This set her back more than a third of her annual household income of £460, about £30,000 in today’s money. She made a profit of £140 on the first edition, which sold all 750 printed copies by July 1813. Business was booming!
3. She was a trailblazer.
It’s been said that Austen was a 20th century woman born 150 years ahead of her time. She has been described as a prototype modern individual living in an age when female social conformity was demanded, original thinking frowned upon and creativity discouraged among women.
Did you know, the earliest recorded use of the word ‘baseball’ in an English novel is in Northanger Abbey written in 1798 — 1799? She was also the first writer to use the phrase ‘dinner party’, which appears in Chapter 41 of Mansfield Park.
4. She was a role model.
Austen’s biggest fan was her older sister and best friend, Cassandra. They did everything together and when they were apart always wrote long letters to each other. Cassandra nursed her sister in her sickness and was heartbroken by her death.
It was Cassandra who kept Jane’s memory alive, in fact, by sharing stories with her young nieces and nephews about their wonderful aunt Jane and her adventures. Inspired by what they heard, a few of Jane’s nieces went on to write sequels to her books and her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh published A Memoir of Jane Austen in 1870.
5. She believed in herself.
Despite being largely ignored by the literary world during her lifetime, Jane Austen is considered to be one of the world’s greatest female novelists. Charlotte Bronte wasn’t a fan of her work and expressed so in a letter to George Henry Lewes, saying that Pride and Prejudice was a disappointment.
I, for one, am glad that faced with criticism she didn’t put down the pen and ditch the dream.