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An Enduring Romance with Jane Austen
Jane Austen 2017 UK £2 Brilliant Uncirculated Coin
In 1811 a 35-year-old Hampshire spinster saw her first novel published anonymously. Her tale of two sisters, crossed in love, sold several hundred copies but its author's name remained hidden. The novel was Sense and Sensibility, 'by a Lady,' and the writer was Jane Austen.
Although she remained largely unknown during her lifetime, readers began a love affair with her fiction that has endured for 200 years, making her one of the most famous and adored authors in the world.
An inkwell and a quill at Jane Austen's writing desk.
A Revolutionary Romantic
Though sometimes classed as simple romances, in many ways Austen's novels were revolutionary in their treatment of subjects such as love, marriage and money. Unlike earlier authors, she created imperfect heroines whose mistakes and dilemmas readers could share. She was a pioneer in telling her stories from their point of view, in line with their uncertain feelings and sometimes mistaken beliefs.
A pioneer of modern fiction, Austen's men and women are intellectual equals.
That a woman might speak her mind, reject a marriage proposal or choose a husband and marry for love, was largely a new concept in an era when women were dependent on men for financial security and had few rights.
A Lady's Weapons
While the Napoleonic wars raged in Europe, Austen's heroines found their conflicts closer to home. Their weapons were those of 'a lady', their wisdom and wit deployed in an entertaining war of words.
For each of her six major novels, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey, Austen chose the familiar world of the drawing rooms of Southern England. The spirited verbal fencing between characters such as Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, in Pride and Prejudice, were considered rather shocking by some of Austen's contemporaries but it set the standard for a new and modern kind of romance showing the pairing of two equals.
"There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart." Emma
"A silhouette of Jane is central to the design. She is such a fundamental part of literary history that felt it appropriate to have her at the heart of the design, maintaining an air of simplicity and the grace she deserves.
I thought it fitting to place a frame around her silhouette — I imagined it in one of the houses featured in Jane Austen's books, on the wall of a corridor as guests pass by, perhaps in Pride and Prejudice or on the wall in the home of Emma."
The Design and the Designer
Dominique Evans studied Graphic Design at the University of Brighton. For 12 years she has brought her talents to her role as a graphic designer at The Royal Mint. Her first design was for a bullion coin commemorating the Gold Standard. This is her first circulating coin design.
The Triumph of Wit
Austen used her sharp wit and humorous social commentary to highlight snobbery, greed and pretension wherever she saw it. Her readers love to laugh at characters such as the haughty Lady Catherine De Bourgh, who values rank above all else, and foolish Mrs Bennet, determined to marry her daughters to wealthy bachelors.
Austen is also unflinching about the position of women in Regency society, often unable to inherit money or own property. In Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte Lucas chooses to marry the pompous Mr Collins to save herself from spinsterhood and poverty, while in Emma Jane Fairfax is apparently doomed by her lack of money and social connections to become a lonely governess.
An Enduring Love Affair
In the twenty-first century Austen's life and works have grown into a global phenomenom with translations into
Jane Austen's house in Chawton, England.
different languages, alongside almost 100 film and television adaptions of her novels, taking her to new heights of fame. The Jane Austen Society has branches across the world and the Jane Austen Society of North America alone has more than 75 regional groups. Modern day 'Janeites' can even dress up in period costume and attend the annual Jane Austen festival in Bath, Somerset. Her house in the village of Chawton, Hampshire is now a museum while the Hampshire Cultural Trust safeguards her legacy with events and exhibitions inspired by her life in the county.
Jane Austen's tales of Regency-era romance continue to charm readers across the world as they follow her characters on their journey to find Love. Austen allows her heroines to follow their hearts and triumph, even if they have to face hardships, as well as facing their own follies, before they are granted happiness. This is perhaps one of the reasons vvhy, 200 years after her death, Jane Austen remains one of the best-Loved authors in the world.