The following article first appeared in the summer 1995 issue of The Traditional Astrologer Magazine. With the movie Wilde currently receiving rave reviews, it seems appropriate and timely to reconsider Wilde's nativity in light of the traditional astrological aphorisms regarding imprisonment and a fall from grace. The analysis draws upon the 17th century classic, Christian Astrology, by William Lilly.
In the late 19th century, the sparkling wit of Oscar Wilde dazzled London society. The Irish playwright pierced the veil of Victorian hypocrisy by highlighting life's absurdities.
matters of grave importance", he said wryly....
Wilde's subversive humour alienated his peers and few came to his aid when in 1895 he faced disgrace and ruin. Tried in April for 'gross indecency' he was imprisoned for two years. Transiting Neptune at 21degrees Taurus approached a conjunction with the North Node in the 9th house of legality.
He admits in De Profundis: "Certainly no man ever fell so ignobly, and by such ignoble instruments as I did" (2)
One hundred years later however, on the anniversary of his trial and imprisonment, Wilde was awarded a place of honour in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey. The ceremony occurred on St. Valentine's Day. Two months later, BBC television commemorated his life and works.
It was the natal Neptune this time, and its tryst with poetry, which received the important transits during this latter period; a conjunction with transiting Saturn followed by a square with transiting Jupiter in Sagittarius. Both transits also ignited natal Saturn and the ascendant, creating a 'Grand Cross' across the 1-7th and 4 - 10th houses. It was of course, the relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) which put an end to Wilde's reputation and career. His letter to Bosie makes this clear.
your father but you who had put me into prison,
A 7th house Neptune in Pisces, square Saturn suggests sensitivity as well as irresolution in love. Indeed he tells us that: "The essence of romance is uncertainty" ( 4)
Romance with the volatile Bosie however, consumed Wilde's creative muse and he tried to end the liaison. Yet pity for the young lord weakened his resolve and the association continued until he was caught in the crossfire of a family feud which presaged his fall from grace.
William Lilly in Christian Astrology warns that "Saturne in 10th House never suffers the Native to enjoy his honours long, but casts him down headlong, when it is least expected, and once dejected the Native rises no more to preferment" (5)
The rules of imprisonment according to Lilly (6) are to some extent fulfilled in Wilde's chart. The infortunes afflict the MC, and the Sun rules the 12th house of confinement. Though in its fall and with scant dignity, its steady trine to Saturn at first seems favourable. Yet a sinister square to Jupiter, which rules the 7th house of open enemies, seals Wilde's fate.
The Moon knocking on the door of the 12th house, is in a partile sextile to Saturn. Lilly says of the lights that "Nature's dignity continues when Saturne is in partile aspect but many times will be in danger of receiving interruption..." (7). It seems that the general fortune or misery of the nativity is greatly dependent upon the "well or ill position of the Sun and Moon" (8). The Moon also conjuncts the unfortunate fixed star Dubhe.
The bristling self-confidence of a Leo Moon, accelerated by its sinister square to Mercury and dexter square with Uranus creates a pattern of erratic genius and self-will. Even though Wilde was offered a chance to flee from justice he refused to budge. Could this be an example of his self-undoing, immortalised in his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol?
each man kills the thing he loves,
The Apostle of Aestheticism
Certainly love and beauty were always uppermost in his mind and no doubt seductive Venus, so strong in her own sign and term is the key to Wilde's legendary charm and love of beauty.
One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art (9)
It was at university - Venus rules the 9th house of higher education - that the ideas of symmetry and beauty espoused by classical Greece mesmerised the highly sensitive Wilde. A 2nd house Venus also points to money being an issue.
"It is only by not paying one's bills that one can hope to live in the memory of the commercial classes" (10)
Yet the strength of Venus belies Wilde's problems with money, especially since it makes a trine to the Midheaven, pointing to his success in the arts. Artistic gain is also promised by the Sun's conjunction to the fixed star Spica, but quite possibly, its aforementioned square to profligate Jupiter in the 5th house of pleasures shows subsequent squander of resources.
Jupiter's weak position in the 5th house does not at first promise success in the dramatic arts. However it is rescued from its fall by a mixed reception with Mars in the 3rd house, which casts its rays to the MC bringing both success and subsequent legal strife.
Mars in the terms of Jupiter suggests philosophy with a cutting edge. Mars disposits Mercury, also placed in the 3rd house, and it is the winged messenger that has most dignity in the chart. Lilly mentions that "Mercury in either of his own houses, shewes a sharp understanding". (11) Mercury in Scorpio bestows a probing mind and its first aspect is to the poetic Neptune, indicating Wilde's favoured means of expression. His ascerbic wit is suggested by the opposition to unorthodox Uranus in Taurus, 9th house. His genius lay in changing traditional idioms such as:
"The truth is rarely pure and never simple" (12)
Further, Mercury's sextile to Jupiter, also in its term, indicates his 'oratorical' gifts and evidence that he will 'profit by his endeavours'. (13) Since Mercury rules the Midheaven his rhetorical genius helped his career, success promised through Mercury's trine to the Part of Fortune. The Virgo ascendant with its propensity for analysis, receives a sextile from its ruler also suggesting oratorical gifts. The ascending degree is in the term of Jupiter - indeed Wilde was very tall and inclined to corpulence.
A pronounced urge to gain knowledge is shown by Pluto edging into the 9th house. However, without major aspects Pluto seems unintegrated in the chart. Did this show public alienation to his philosophies or perhaps his own inability to put his ideals into practice? Certainly he wavered between religious doctrines all his life and constantly wrestled with scholastic paradigms, further emphasised by the placement of the North Node in the 9th.
"The whole theory of education is radically unsound. Fortunately, in England at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever" (14)
The South Node in the 3rd spoils relations with his siblings. He was always at odds with his brother Willy and the sister he loved died in childhood.
After leaving prison, Wilde rekindled the calamitous relationship with Bosie.
"Friendship is far more tragic than love," he said,"it lasts longer" (15)
It seems Bosie's affections only lasted until the money run out. Wilde died soon after Bosie left.
Though prison had impaired his health the seeds of his last illness were sewn during his university days when he contracted syphilis. Wilde's death was triggered by an ear infection which led to meningitis, in his case the legacy of syphilis. (16) Saturn rules ears and the 6th house of illness; Venus rules venereal disease and the trine between the planets seems at first to pose little threat. However, Venus brings the two infortunes together by translation and Mars rules the 8th house of death.
Did Wilde die a broken man or had his fall from grace instilled a lesson of some profundity? For after all, if Saturn in the 10th house augurs dishonour, its rulership of the knees suggests obeisance. Wilde seemed aware of this for he says in De Profundis:
"... nothing in the whole world is meaningless, and suffering least of all That something hidden away in my nature, like a treasure in a field, is Humility... it is the last thing left in me, and the best." (17)
The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, Collins, p.371