In case you missed it, Jane Austen has replaced Charles Darwin on the new Bank of England 10-pound note – a change met with both pride and prejudice.
But, as ever, pride came before a fall, when Austen fans nationwide noted that the quote printed underneath the great writer’s portrait, designed to celebrate her work, was a little on the nose.
It recites a phrase uttered by one of Austen’s most hated characters, Caroline Bingley, who sarcastically states: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment but reading!”
The character, who features in Austen’s most acclaimed novel Pride and Prejudice, is notorious across the literary world as the antithesis of everything Austen stood for as an academic and a woman.
Irate observers on Twitter were quick to criticise the odd choice. Paul Tavner wrote: “Should we ask a Jane Austen expert for a good quote? Nah, just ctrl+F for ‘reading’ in P&P”.
Literary Twitter was not best pleased with the slapdash sourcing:
nothing more annoying today than the Jane Austen quote on the bank note ffs can no one do anything right even a good intended thing
— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) July 18, 2017
Jane Austen would be amused that Caroline Bingley's self aggrandising quote about reading ended up on her £10 note. "Lol" she would've said.
— Philippa_Perry (@Philippa_Perry) July 18, 2017
Dear news:that J Austen"quote"about joy of reading on the new tenner is uttered by 1 of her most obnoxious characters-Ironically it's ironic
— Samira Ahmed (@SamiraAhmedUK) July 18, 2017
Caroline Bingley declares there's 'no enjoyment like reading' – and then immediately puts her book down. Austen is always misunderstood.
— Imogen Blake (@ImogenGBlake) July 18, 2017
Someone just jumped onto wiki quote and grabbed something. Tokenism exposed for what it obviously is. https://t.co/3TSxYibpQr
— Rupert Myers (@RupertMyers) July 18, 2017
You know what’s a great idea, using a Caroline Bingley quote to celebrate Jane Austen – said no one ever.
Some have argued that perhaps the choice was an homage to Austen’s dry wit and cutting observations of the human character.
Among those were Mark Carney, Chairman of the Bank of England, who quickly explained the anger away like a GCSE English Literature student whose Spark Notes got eaten by the dog.
When challenged Carney said:
It’s two things; it captures much of her spirit, that is the quote, you can read it straight, there is no enjoyment like reading, and we agree with that.
If you know her work, you can enjoy the irony of that, it draws out some of the aspects of her social satire. It works on many levels.
However, the argument fell on deaf ears for many who guessed the Bank of England researchers just hadn’t read any of her novels.
Along with Austen, who wrote the following in Northanger Abbey, they figured: “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”