Mercury and the Full Moon herald Charles Dickens at 200

'Dickens' Dream' painted 1875 by Robert William Buss, portraying Dickens at his desk at Gads Hill Place, surrounded by many of his characters.

Today is the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. Born in Portsmouth, England, he lived from Feb. 7, 1812 till June 9, 1870. The works of Charles Dickens — which include Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, David Copperfield and of course, A Christmas Carol, have been praised by other authors for their realism, skillful prose and treatment of social issues — and criticized by some for being sentimental, melodramatic and implausible. One thing is certain, however: his books are among the most famous in the world and have never gone out of print.

Natal chart of Charles Dickens, data rated A by the late Lois Rodden.

But who exactly was Charles Dickens, and why should we care today?

Our friend Carol van Strum said, “We should care for the same reasons Dickens himself did, passionately and unceasingly: his books were an early warning bell for civilization of the dangers of industrialization, colonization, empire, the class system and the obscene enrichment of a few at the cost of everyone else. I think his books are scorned today for the very reason that their message is so timely; far better people should think him out of fashion and cliche than that they actually read the books and look around them with newly opened eyes to the poverty and despair all around them; they might see with clearer vision the hypocrites and pompous moralizers dominating our airwaves, and they might learn to laugh at the idiots masquerading as our wise leaders. And to top it off, he is great fun to read.”

Dickens was an Aquarius, and when it’s working well, that is one of the most socially conscious signs. Yet it is his conjunction of the Moon and Neptune in Sagittarius that adds the visionary leavening to his chart. In fact, that visionary quality was truly wide: with both the Sun and Moon conjunct an outer planet (Vesta in the case of his Sun), Dickens could see a big world. That vision, in part, led him to visit the nascent United Sates twice in his life. The U.S. at that point was still expanding into its western frontier, during a rather unruly stage of its history, and an ocean crossing was still a relatively dangerous undertaking. His two trips across the Atlantic are markers of that Sagittarius Moon’s sense of adventure.

Dickens was, in part, a crusader for what he deemed the disproportionate economic burden placed on the backs of the poor in Victorian England, including work and sanitation conditions; a strong critic of class stratification at a time when England was the major world power. In addressing these subjects in his novels, he was able to embody the service aspect of his Virgo ascendant.

He began his writing career as a journalist and became a serial novelist who skillfully wrote the installments shortly before they were published (rather than pre-writing them all) and still ended up with cohesive stories — a form of writing whose necessary attention to detail and organization further speaks of that Virgo ascendant. Often basing characters on people he knew, Dickens created characters who seem quite alive and real in their peculiarities, such as this housekeeper described in Great Expectations: “Mrs. Joe was a very clean housekeeper, but had an exquisite art of making her cleanliness more uncomfortable and unacceptable than the dirt itself. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and some people do the same by religion.”

A quote from David Copperfield illustrates the very fine line tread by the poor between relative contentment and and the despair Carol mentions above: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

That’s a pretty slim margin of error, and one too many people in England, the U.S. and around the world still find themselves on the wrong side of. Perhaps we need a modern-day Dickens — a writer who can not only capture the imaginations of millions of readers worldwide, but inspire us to lean our own imaginations and talents into the task of treating all of humanity as human. At the very least, we do have Dickens himself, still very much alive and relevant in his books, if we’re willing to listen to his message and see our world through his eyes. At the very least, Mercury — the planet of writing — has made sure to add some zing to his 200th birthday by joining in today’s Full Moon setup. With all that solar and lunar light at Mercury’s disposal, we may actually be able to see what Dickens was trying to show us today.

4 thoughts on “Mercury and the Full Moon herald Charles Dickens at 200”

  1. Thanks for this beautiful piece on Dickens dear Amanda – with some superb quotations! being a brit – I had Dickens shoved down me at school, and I was never a big Dickens fan. Having said that, he’s a part of my national psyche – and I can’t go for a walk along the River Thames without thinking about “Our Mutual Friend”. And no one wrote about the cruelty of adults to children like Dickens did. But also their capacity for great kindness. I loved Polanski’s version of Oliver Twist – which I thought was Polanski’s way of telling his own terrible childhood, and how he was at the mercy of adults. But how can I say I was never a fan of Dickens? Writing this now, I realise I’ve loved him al my life! Thank you Amanda!

  2. Amanda,
    Thank you. You will receive no debate from me. i think your interpretation is evocative of Dickens’ writing and therefore appropriate by virtue of resonance.

  3. hi len —

    oh yes — i noticed Ceres there, along with everything else in a row in his third ans sixth houses.

    also: thanks go to eric for his assistance with this piece (more than he ought to have had to provide) and his notes on that Sag Moon and the outer planets conj Sun and Moon.

    my take on Sun-Neptun-Ceres there in Sag in the 3rd was:

    His imagination, emotional response to the world & his childhood and mother (he reportedly felt uncared-for, esp when she did not immediately send for him once the rest of the family was released form debtor’s prison), creativity and *writing* were not only his career calling, but in Sag, they were connected to higher purpose — the betterment of humanity. Again, service — supporting his asc, but on a high level.

    Ceres adds the idea of nourishing: not only did he literally feed himself & his family off his writing, but his writing fed the souls of others around the world, and continues to do so.

    feel free to add more or debate this interpretation — heaven knows i’m still trying to get the hang of this stuff.

  4. Amanda:
    Thank you for an excellent piece that does justice to Dickens and offers a very good reading of his chart. Many thanks to Carol for her wonderful quote (fortunately i don’t know anybody who scorns his books).

    Interesting to note that Dickens’ natal Moon is conjunct to more than Neptune, it is also conjunct Ceres. This is an interesting contrast to another author recently featured by Planet Waves, John Steinbeck, whose natal Moon opposes Ceres. What is your take on that, please?

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