First, the good news, which no doubt most of our Gentle Readers have heard by now: Jane Austen will be on the UK ten-pound note beginning in 2017!
We experienced a mix of emotions upon hearing the news, from delight at this recognition of our favorite author, to a giggle over the delicious irony of Jane Austen on money. (We mentioned that on Twitter and had W.H. Auden’s lines about Austen quoted back to us:
You could not shock her more than she shocks me;
Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass.
It makes me most uncomfortable to see
An English spinster of the middle-class
Describe the amorous effects of ‘brass’,
Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety
The economic basis of society.
Precisely.) However, in general delight predominated. Even some general snarkiness on the Internet–from complaints about the use of one of the portraits “inspired” by Cassandra’a watercolor, which we suspect was chosen because it is in the public domain, to the choice of the quote to appear on the bill, which is a quote from Caroline Bingley that sounds good out of context like that, but in reality, as so much of Austen does, means nearly the opposite of what it appears to mean. (We would have preferred “I write only for Fame and without any view to pecuniary Emolument.” But no one would know that was sarcastic, either, so maybe not.) We wear on a nearly daily basis a bracelet with a quotation from Pride and Prejudice, “Indulge your imagination in every possible flight.” It sounds terribly inspiring and profound; but of course it is from Elizabeth’s letter to Mrs. Gardiner to announce her engagement to Mr. Darcy, and she is being very silly and Lizzy-like, not at all profound. We like the bracelet the better for it having a completely out-of-context quotation. It makes us enjoy the whole thing so much more! So let’s all just smile over the quotation, and keep our little joke to ourselves; it seems so much more Jane Austenish to us. And of course there were complaints from the Great Unwashed (that is, the non-Janeites) that Herself shouldn’t have been chosen at all; to which we say, considering how much money Austen brings to the UK in tourist dollars and filmmaking budgets, we can think of few who deserve it more.
Sadly, while Janeiteville was celebrating, some more sinister things were going on. The woman who headed the campaign to have Jane Austen (and more women in general) pictured on British money, Caroline Criado-Perez, received rape threats via Twitter from idiots who are too witless to even make a proper Austen villain. Fortunately, a man has been arrested in connection with the threats, and Twitter is taking steps to make it easier to report such abuse.
We suspect the excitement will die down somewhat until the new bills are finally circulated in 2017. Overall, we think this is a good thing, for Jane Austen and for Janeiteville. JANE AUSTEN MONEY!!! Ten thousand a year! We shall go distracted!
2 thoughts on “The Amorous Effects of Brass”
I have read and loved Jane Austen’s works for over 50 years but your argument about the ring purchased by Ms Clarkson is specious. Ms Clarkson has done nothing wrong; if anyone has done anything wrong, let’s start with the British government and other former European Imperial powers which, for hundreds of years, looted the antiquities and heritage of other nations and, in the face of ongoing pleas and international negotiations, still refuse to return the most desirous objects (much older than a mere early-19th century ring) to their rightful owners. Move on from there to more recent and indeed, this current British government, which failed to introduce legislation creating a government position that requires all vendors to advise a “watchdog” of upcoming sales of this nature. Then, we can go to Sotheby’s who did not see fit to publicize the sale of these items. Or is there no one left anywhere in the British Isles who can read? Then we can add in the many British multi-billionaires who did not see fit to bid on the 2 lots so that they could donate them to the UK museum of their choice. Lets not forget the legions of Jane Austen fans — also apparently unable to read — who did not begin fundraising efforts so they could buy the ring and donate it.
No, the only person who bears absolutely NO responsibility for this debacle is Ms Clarkson herself and she is under no obligation to do anything. She has generously offered to re-sell it should a buyer step forward. If the case were to go to court, in the absence of legislation to the contrary, the highest court in the land would no doubt hold in her favour and allow the ring to be removed from the UK. Moreover, no doubt Jane Austen herself would concur with such a decision.
It is very sad that no one with available funds other than Ms Clarkson stepped forward to bid on the ring and ensure its presence in the UK for future generations. That is beside the point. I am disappointed that you have chosen to engage in such sophistry; you have not thought this through. Jane would be so disappointed in you.
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