Here’s evolution for you: Jane Austen may be set to replace Charles Darwin on the British £10 note.
That’s according to the retiring governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King, who has said that the author of “Pride and Prejudice” is “quietly waiting in the wings” to take her place on British currency.
Since 1970, when historical figures began appearing on British banknotes, the Guardian reports,
“there have been only two women: [Elizabeth] Fry and Florence Nightingale. The others have all been men, from William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens to composer Sir Edward Elgar and scientist Michael Faraday.”
The Austen comment is thought to be an attempt to placate those who objected to the removal of Fry, a prison reformer, and replacing her with Winston Churchill. Almost 30,000 people have signed a petition urging the bank not to remove one of the few women it has included in its program.
“An all-male line-up on our banknotes sends out the damaging message that no woman has done anything important enough to appear,” the petition reads. “This is patently untrue.”
Austen, whose books sold well but got little respect from the literary establishment when they were published in the early 1800s, has been one of England’s most lasting cultural figures. Her clever, romantic novels -- “Sense and Sensibility,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma,” “Northanger Abbey,” Mansfield Park” and “Persuasion” -- have remained part of syllabuses and popular culture, providing fodder for endless recycling on film, television and in other books.
If Austen is to take her place on British currency, the exact date is yet to be determined. The swap with Darwin on the £10 note would take place sometime after Fry is replaced on the £5 note by Churchill, which is scheduled for 2015.
The Guardian notes that Austen would be a timely selection, as the 200th anniversary of her death falls in 2017.