x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Senseless sensibilities

Putting Jane Austen on an English banknote is causing pride and prejudice

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a British bank note that previously featured one famous woman must be in want of replacement with another.

Persuasion by literary fans and feminist campaigners explained why the Bank of England decided to depict romantic novelist Jane Austen on the new £10 note, to be introduced in 2017.

Pride and prejudice had both featured in the debate about women on bank notes. The £10 note featured Florence Nightingale for 20 years but she was replaced by Charles Dickens and then Charles Darwin.

Unfortunately, the discussion over the merits of putting women other than the Queen on British banknotes quickly devolved into a squabble that involved little sense because of offended sensibilities.

One of those who successfully lobbied for Austen was Caroline Criado-Perez, whose Twitter account was bombarded with vile and graphic threats of rape. Three men have been arrested.

This week, Ms Criado-Perez deleted her Twitter account entirely after she lost faith in the police to be her protector.

This was a scenario Austen might have foreseen when she wrote in Persuasion: "We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days."