JANE AUSTEN: The Banker's Sister

JANE AUSTEN: The Banker's Sister

E. J. CLERY    Book Number: 87032    Product format: Hardback

In 2013 the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney announced that Jane Austen would appear on the redesigned £10 note. Few noted a fact that the £10 'Austen' bank note was already in existence. Her brother Henry had established himself as a banker in 1806 and built up a small empire of country banks with its headquarters in London. A £10 bank note issued by the Alton Partnership of Austen, Gray and Vincent is now on display at the cottage where Jane once lived, in the village of Chawtan, rural Hampshire and it was here at the Jane Austen House Museum that the governor made his announcement. But Henry Austen went almost unmentioned, for the good reason that he had gone bust. His banking experience had been swallowed up in the post-war financial crash of 1816 and many clients including family, friends and neighbours had suffered terrible losses. This has been an aspect of Jane Austen's life brushed under the carpet by descendants and neglected by biographers. This history of Henry's rise and fall, intertwined with Jane's publishing career and imaginative life as a novelist, is the topic of this book. Henry was Jane's favourite among her six brothers and they were drawn together by temperament, both of them quick and witty, while his boundless optimism and enthusiasm counterbalanced her occasional tendency to low spirits and irritability. Once Jane began writing novels in earnest their connection became professional. His various homes in London were her base of operation for entering the publishing industry. Henry acted as her agent, dealing with publishers and printers on her behalf. After her death he became her literary executor, arranging publication of her final works and presenting to the public the earliest biographical sketch of his sister. Henry's stories have the makings of a good novel. As a young man he was attracted to a cousin Elizabeth Hancock, a glamorous figure several years older who was born in Calcutta and benefitted socially and financially from the generosity of her godfather Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of India. She was married to a French aristocrat and Henry went to Oxford to study for the clergy, but the flirtation continued on her visits to England. The French Revolution changed the course of both their lives. Henry joined the militia on the declaration of war in 1793, and Eliza lost her husband to the guillotine. Henry became a captain and eventually married Eliza after an initial rejection in 1797. With her fortune as capital, Henry and his career was compromised by the involvement of a shadowy figure, Major Charles James, who acted as a secret partner and drew Henry into illicit and dangerous practices. James's role was to ease the finances of Moira, a man as profligate and unscrupulous as his bosom friend the Prince Regent. Here is the epicentre of power and corruption in Regency society and how Jane fitted into this picture. 361pp, illus.
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Additional product information

ISBN 9781785901768
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