Jane Austen to Replace Darwin on the Ten-Pound Note UPDATE


Here it is: 

My late, beloved cousin, friend, and mentor J. David Grey (Austen expert and co-founder of the Jane Austen Society) is doing a victory lap in heaven.

I’m so pleased I’m not even going to take a poke at Richard Dawkins, except to say the world needs more Jane Austens than Charles Darwins.

UPDATE: One of my cousins suggested America should do the same.

I’d nominate Washington Irving  (America’s first truly great man of letters, and a fine and entertaining writer) to replace borderline psychopath Andrew Jackson on the $20.

Irving wasn’t crazy (coughPoecough) or drunk (I’m looking at you, every great writer of the 20th century). The only other possibilities I can think of are Hawthorne, Melville, or Louisa May Alcott.

Who’s with me? We have nothing to lose except … actually, we will completely and inevitably lose, but maybe someone will read the Sketch-Book, and that’s a good thing.

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • maddermusic

    So, um, can’t we have both?

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com/ Thomas L. McDonald


  • TheodoreSeeber

    Irving wasn’t crazy? Have you ever read the original version of either the Legend of Sleepy Hollow or Rip Van Winkle?

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com/ Thomas L. McDonald

    Were there versions other than those in the Sketch-Book? Those were inspired by old German folk tales.

    Irving is actually a perfect writer for rediscovery: much of his work his like hyperliterate blogging: short observational sketches mixing history and fiction.

  • Thomas Collins

    What about Mark Twain? I’d put him ahead of Irving any day.

  • http://www.thewinedarksea.com/ Melanie B

    Well my vote would be for Samuel Clemens. But Irving would be acceptable too.

  • Dale

    How about Laura Ingalls Wilder?

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com/ Thomas L. McDonald

    Yeah, Twain would be the popular choice. My brain fritzed out when I was writing the list of alternatives.

    Irving, however, has the benefit of being the first American writer of international renown. And he’d be less controversial. (Twain’s acidity could be corrosive at times.)

  • Niemand

    Kurt Vonnegut.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    Stephen Vincent Benet–though I admit I don’t know if he was a drunk.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    I’m with you. Though I’d suggest Walt Whitman.

  • Procopius

    Henry David Thoreau (Walden)? Henry Adams (Mont Saint Michel and Chartres)?
    My main objection to Irving is that he was a virulent anti-Catholic who was one of the prime figures responsible for inventing the whole “Columbus proved the Earth was round. Others (i.e. the Church) thought is was flat” bollocks that is only now just starting to be expunged. He did this on no other academic basis than his own imagination and desire to formulate an Enlightenment-based mythology for the founding of the American polity.
    Thoreau was a keener observer of human nature, Adams a far superior man of letters.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Only the later abridged versions that appeared in school readers and Disney cartoons. The part that made me say that was the memory of the comparison of groinal area in Rip Van Winkle, which of course was often considered far too raunchy for later school children.

  • Brian Westley

    I’ll take scientists over writers myself.

  • Roki

    Interesting that the motivation was not so much to have an “international literary figure” on the banknote, but to have a woman.

    And then, there’s no small irony in Miss Austen gracing a banknote with her visage, when she so roundly satirized the reduction of human relationships to economic ones.

    All that said, she certainly is among the subjects of the British Empire most worthy to be publicly honored.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com/ Thomas L. McDonald

    Bah. The man’s a piker. Chaucer did much better raunch.

  • Guest

    Yeah, I guess spending your life carefully studying many of the animals of the earth and figuring out where they came from and how they relate to each other is a total waste of time. It’s better to live in a fantasy world…
    I like Jane Austen, but seriously? If it wasn’t for people like Charles Darwin doing science, you wouldn’t have a blog, or the electricity to power your computer, or antibiotics.
    Oh well, at least today’s google doodle is in honour of Rosalind Franklin, who helped discover the structure of DNA. I guess you think that was a bad thing too, since the evidence from DNA made the theory of evolution even more strongly supported.

  • Billiamo

    I think Melville’s a whale of a candidate.

    Incidentally, there’s a terrific book out on Melville and Kierkegaard — contemporaries who never met, but had much in common. I recently received it as a gift, and haven’t begun it yet, but it looks promising.

  • Niemand

    Though really I’d find almost any American writer this side of maybe Dan Brown more acceptable than Jackson. Can we get rid of Washington and Jefferson too? I’m uncomfortable with having people who believed in slavery on the money.

  • JefZeph

    Sorry Thomas, but that’s what postage stamps are for. If we put Washington Irving on the $20 today, how long do you think it would be before we got to Barbra Streisand on the $10? Or (God help us) 50 Cent on the half dollar?

    This is a slope that slips just by looking at it. Nothing to see here folks.