The nationality of objects

Jane Austen
Jane Austen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An American singer called Kelly Clarkson, who is apparently really quite successful, bought a ring at auction in England last year. She paid £150,000 for it. For that kind of price, I’d be looking for a blue diamond, but she bought a rather unfashionable 19th century round turquoise in a gold setting. It happened to belong at one time to Jane Austen, who as we all know continues to delight millions of readers with her stories of the exchange of beauty for money.

The UK government is now trying to prevent the ring leaving the country, on the basis that it is of national cultural importance. I can’t think how a random object is of any significance in relation to an author. If the American had bought the original manuscript of Pride and Prejudice, that would be somewhat different, but I fail to see why an object unrelated to Jane Austen’s writing is of any significance at all. Her descendants sold it because presumably they valued the money much more than the object (as indeed did most of the protagonists of her novels), someone who wants to wear it as an engagement ring bought it, and as far as I’m concerned she can do whatever she likes with it.

While we’re at it, perhaps the Ministry of Culture would also like to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece, since they’re quite definitely of great cultural significance – for ancient Greek culture that is.

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