Books

Austenian irony

I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading.

The new £10 note, shown for the first time today, displays a drawing of Jane Austen by her sister on the cover and has this accompanying text from Pride and Prejudice. Social media has condemned the words and the Bank of England for their cloth-eared choice. The phrase is spoken by the supercilious Caroline Bingley when Elizabeth Bennet is suffering the condescensions of the women at Netherfield, as Jane lies ill in bed with a cold. Miss Bingley exclaims the words after being ‘quite exhausted by her attempt to be amused with her own book’ in a failed attempt to draw Darcy away from his. The line therefore purports to be in praise of reading but is from the lips of a deceitful character with no love of books as she pretends to read. Austen is skewering a snob with characteristic irony. Miss Bingley knows the price of a book but not its value. But irony is capable of cutting is many ways; is this sly irony on Mark Carney’s part, an unhealthy emphasis on crass materialism at a time of late stage capitalism?

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