|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.