Jane Austen: Details, Wit and Planets in Detriment

Monday January 28th 2013
Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle putting the sex into P&P

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

“But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.”

Mr. Bennet made no answer.

“Do not you want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently.

“You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.”

This was invitation enough.

The opening of Pride and Prejudice, published 200 years ago today, shows several of its author’s best qualities: economy, wit, clarity and the ability to tell a story. The stage is set for fun.

What stops Jane Austen’s novels from being simple farces are the penetrating psychology and observation of the detail of her small social world. But she does even more than that. Her prose style is still exemplary, as perfect as a glass of spring water.

You can see that Austen has a wonderful writer’s chart. She has Virgo Rising and Gemini on the Midheaven. These are the signs ruled by Mercury, the planet of writing: craft and storytelling respectively. But those signs are fed by Neptune, the planet of imagination on the Ascendant.

Furthermore, Jupiter also in Gemini, the planet of fame and expansion, is applying to her Midheaven, her career and status. And Uranus, which breaks boundaries is up there too: there had been female authors before Austen, but she broke through a gender barrier, what’s more her crisp and witty style created a new way of writing in English. That Uranus opposes Mercury in its own house, the third. This makes her tremendously quick thinking. In fact, it gives a kind of genius quite often.

“A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.” 

Mercury is debilitated in Sagittarius, which often goes with someone who is overly verbose. But the opposite is true of Austen. Her books are highly polished and surgically edited. That Mercury is actually on a midpoint between Saturn-Moon (self-criticism) in Libra and Mars-Pluto (ruthless cutting) in Capricorn, so restrained.

Venus (art) is in Scorpio, which reinforces that ruthless clarity. Like Mercury, it’s said traditionally to be debilitated there. But Venus is the planet of romance and more broadly of manners and Scorpio is the sign of dissection. That is exactly what her work does, so she has used that critical point of view to great effect. Scorpio is the psychologist of the Zodiac, but Venus here adds kindness.

“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.” 

Bridget Jones Diary was one of many

homages to Pride and Prejudice.

Not only are Austen’s Venus and Mercury supposedly debilitated, but also her Jupiter is in “fall”. If you read some astrological authors, you would expect her to be relentlessly shallow, lost in trivia. In fact, it is her attention to detail, her understanding of the importance of detail both in actual literary style, but also in the storytelling, which makes her books such a pleasure to read and such an inspiration for other writers.

She makes the specific universal, hence her popularity across time and cultures.

None of this talent would have gone anywhere without a healthy dose of ambition: Mars and Pluto in status-conscious Capricorn. And how conscious Austen is of status. You’ll never find an Austen heroine marrying a penniless writer; she will always get the richest, poshest man available.

And a writer needs solitude, of course. So there we see the Moon and Saturn, a lonely combination, which gives enormous emotional stamina. This combination is in Libra, the sign of romance, of course.

Finally, there’s the Sun on the IC. She never really left her parent’s home. But it’s in Sagittarius. If Sagittarius cannot travel in person, she travels in her mind.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    As an Austin fan, I loved this post. A lot of Austin fans picture her as a soft, romantic sort of person, but I have always thought of her as an extremely clever, astute sort of woman. This chart proves it. Her ambition and preoccupation with status was not merely an attribute of the time she lived in, it was part of her personality.

    • Christina says:

      Oh she was quite steely. That Moon-Saturn in Libra plus the Mars-Pluto in Capricorn tells it all. And frankly the romances are always tremendously practical at core. The key attribute for the hero is, after all, great wealth. Come to think of it is that 50 Shades of Grey guy another homage to Darcy – rich, eligible, damaged?

  2. You might like the following (eclectic!) blog post I wrote about Jane Austen a little while ago! She had Neptune on her Ascendent, and might have been, ironically, the “ultimate romantic.” http://beyondthestarsastrology.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/jane-austen-the-ultimate-romantic/

  3. Anonymous says:

    I always am amazed at the astrodienst charts. The orbs are so wide. It just makes one feel obliged to include in an interpretation what should not be included. Haven’t they heard that less is more?

    Anyway, for myself there are only two aspects worth noting. The first is the trine between neptune and pluto. Longevity (neptune) in business (pluto). She has or should I say a lot of business and money has been made over time. Second aspect is the quincunx between venus and chiron. This is the cinderalla aspect that she was born with. She will always be popular – no matter what type of person she really was. Like princess diana (who still makes money for the daily mail ‘GRIN’).

    • Anonymous says:

      A three degree orb is used as standard. Many of the aspects this chart has are around four degrees and more. Also the houses and the mc/asc/isc/dec are not included. Also the sign positions are not bothered with.

      I hear what your saying about the generational thing but she was born with it quite tight. That in combination the the venus/chiron made her. I am sure you will agree that the venus/chiron was not generational. Its just the neptune/pluto needed another ingredient to make it work on a personal level.

      But if I was to go with traditional astrology I would be quite concerned with saturn in libra making her right wing and or conservative. But this is speculation.

      All the best…

    • Christina says:

      Gosh – I have to disagree about the aspects on this chart: I think they are very revealing. And the Moon is applying to Saturn, and Mars is applying to Pluto, which makes them very strong. Also surely if you’re looking for tight orbs, it’s the Sun-Neptune-Asc contact that’s closest. The Neptune-Pluto aspect is generational.

  4. Christina says:

    Three degrees may be standard for minor aspects – quincunx etc – but for major aspects. it’s usual to have much, much wider orbs than that. Aspects to the Sun and Moon can easily be 8-10 degrees, and to the personal planets I’d be happy up to 6 at least, depending on the rest of the chart, which is of course the key to the whole thing. I’m looking at the chart as a complete picture.

    Also it depends on the combination of aspects. So for example in this chart, not only is Mars applying to Pluto, it’s in an exact square to Saturn, so putting Saturn and Pluto in contact and therefore the Moon to Pluto also. I see these planetary energies working together.

    • Christina says:

      It’s OK. I’m not annoyed and you must feel free to comment as much as you like. Everything you say is relevant and I can see that it is your honest opinion.

      It was your use of the word standard that I felt had to be corrected. It’s just not the case and I didn’t want my readers to go away with the idea that it is.

      To me there’s not too much information in the chart. It’s fascinating, and to ignore most of it is like painting a person’s portrait and simply depicting her left ear.

    • Anonymous says:

      First I would like to make it clear I am not trying to rail you, or annoy you.

      I have been thinking about this on my perambulation this afternoon. The astrology I have become interested in is concerned with events and talents. Not psychology of the individual. At least not directly, although it can be inferred. Why is a person good at this and not something else. When is the best time to sign a contract or move or start a new job etc …

      I know with western astrology the orbs are wide ie contact between sun and moon can be extended to 10 degrees.

      You see no man is an island. Its the transits and who we come into contact with (their birth chart) that can lock into our chart like a jigsaw piece. For instance in jane austins chart you could deduce by absence of the right aspects that she was not that sexually oriented. She did not go out of her way to look for it. She was interested in marriage venus/chiron and guess what she wrote about? She would not have made an athlete or a banker or an dancer She made a career (chiron) about writing about relationships (venus).

      I would love to have known when she signed the contract with the publisher. This was important as well as the chart of the publisher itself just to see how it fitted with her chart.

      A wise person pointed out to myself when throwing a pot on a potters wheel when do you stop? The astrodienst chart above tempts one to read to much into a person and/or situation by having too many aspects. Its one of the weaknesses of western style astrology and probably why its much derision. Its inaccurate. You see i know a lot about western astrology and have become disillusioned by its laxity.

  5. Sabrina says:

    Really need to start looking into midpoints more! (printing out few charts right now…)

    Not comparing myself with serious writers at all here, but it always strikes me that by looking at my own chart, I should enjoy and probably be good at writing. Virgo Asc, mercury trining Sat in Gemini. Neptune in 3rd House etc. But Usually I don’t seem to have patience for it! Mars in gemini maybe?

    Agree about the 3 deg orbs for minor aspects and much wider for major aspects, luminaries or angles. I usually reduce the percentage (to about 90 or 95%)in Astrodienst so I get tighter orbs.

  6. Christina says:

    I don’t always look at midpoint unless they jump out of the chart visually. I think they have to be part of a picture.

    Oh yes, Mercury-Saturn is very nice – a deep thinker. There’s some good stuff on this over at Donna Cunningham’s site Skywriter.

  7. Jassi J says:

    I should take time to read Austin’s book, I spend all my time reading Astro-blogs. Writing might suit me because I have Virgo Ascendant 20 degrees, Gemini MH, the thing is Saturn is at 19 degrees and Mercury is at 21 degrees in between the Asc. Moon and Neptune are in the 1st also at 11 and 13 degrees in Libra. Sun in 12th Leo. I did not know how to write a sentence until I was 25.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Read all your comments with great interest. As an aspiring writer my question is ” What / where should I look in my chart for ideas/subjects to write about?” I’m think fiction, but really have no starting point? Any suggestions from those with more astrological experience than myself? I’m a Sun Taurus (22deg) with a Pisces ASC (19D). Merc (26DAries/1H) trines Pluto (29DLeo/6H) trines Saturn/MC at 24/23D Sag in the10H. Also noticed that Pallas is below at 22D Gem next to the IC @ 23D. Any thoughts out there? Thanks

    • Christina says:

      I have to say crime springs to mind because of the Pluto-Saturn-Merc combo. Merc in Aries does suggest to me that you should stop thinking and just start writing though. Aries tends to just channel it straight down from the gods…

      Have you used the Artist’s Way?

  9. Sheila says:

    I am a writer of sorts- Communications for a non- profit – so a bit of visual, written and web based communicating. Yet I have no planets in Virgo, and Saturn in Gemini (11th house). My Mercury is in Aries 23′(9th house) opposing my Uranus in Libra 20′ (3rd house). I do get paid to write though – Virgo is on my 2nd house cusp.

    • Christina says:

      Don’t you think Saturn in Gemini is rather good for structuring ideas though? It’s a tremendously intelligent combo. i expect you’re good at explaining complexity.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thanks so much for this post. As a lifelong fan of Austen’s (I’m one of many who picked her books up around the age of 12 and have read and re-read…), I enjoyed looking at our synastry. Her NN is conjunct my Mercury, her SN is conj my AC; Her Mercury is conj my MC; her Sun opp my Venus; her AC/DC conj my nodal axis, and tellingly for me, her Sun is conjunct my Pallas Athena. No wonder I’m a fan. It feels like her voice helped me form my own sense of language, humor, etc.

  11. […] Jane Austen, chronicler of the pursuit of a man with a private income, has Psyche  in Taurus (of course), the sign of money and love. It makes a nice trine to her Neptune Rising (if we believe the time of this chart). […]