bathimpact advent calendar, december 16th 1775: Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

The 16th of December marks classic author Jane Austen’s birthday! Famous for the works including Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility amongst many others, Jane Austen is one of the most celebrated writers of British history and her writing continues to be enjoyed worldwide.

University of Texas
A painting of Jane Austen

Jane Austen lived from 1775 to 1817 in Hampshire as one of eight children. What is particularly special about her for us here at the university is that she lived in Bath at the beginning of the 19th century, during which Austen focused primarily upon the novel The Watsons and amended Susan. Unfortunately, Austen’s time in Bath also marked her least productive time as a writer, having left her previous home for the first time in her life, where she wrote her most successful of novels, including Pride and Prejudice which she described as her “own darling child”. Fancying herself as a bit of an Elizabeth Bennet, Austen connected to her characters on a unique level. As a revered author, Austen entertained her audiences as one of the few woman writers of her time and her work, along with the likes of the Brontë sisters, will be celebrated in the years to come. Her books prior to her death in 1817, however, were published anonymously due to the social scrutiny over a woman-writer in a male-dominated world at the time, a time when women were expected to marry themselves off to a respectable gentleman for financial stability. It was thus only after her death that her greatness became known.     

Nowadays Austen’s legacy lives on and she is set to replace Charles Darwin on the £10 bank note, to be printed in 2017 following the Bank of England’s high-profile campaign in April 2013 against the prospect of having no females, except the Queen, on UK banknotes. Bank notes are regularly redesigned and reprinted in order to prevent forgery. Chancellor George Osbourne showed his support in ‘Austenising’ his tweet at the time of the Bank’s decision to include the author on the bank note: “[Incoming Bank of England governor] Mark Carney’s choice of Jane Austen as face of £10 note is great. After understandable row over lack of women, shows sense and sensibility.”

Mr. Carney added that “Jane Austen certainly merits a place in the select group of historical figures to appear on our banknotes. Her novels have an enduring and universal appeal and she is recognised as one of the greatest writers in English literature,” Mr. Carney said.

The bank note will include a quote from Pride & Prejudice “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” as well as an image of Elizabeth Bennet, her favourite character in Pride and Prejudice, and an image of Godmersham Park in Kent, which served as inspiration of many of her novels as well as the place her brother Edward Austen Knight lived. The £10 note will also showcase a simple yet impressive background design of Austen’s writing table and her home in Hampshire, at Chasten Cottage.

Happy birthday, Jane Austen!

Photo credits: University of Texas

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