• Deborah Yaffe

In the stars

Jane Austen was a Sagittarius. Would she have cared? Or, as a clergyman’s daughter and a pious Anglican, would she have rejected the ancient idea that the alignment of the planets at the moment of her birth influenced the future course of her life?


As far as I’m aware, we have no evidence about Austen’s views of astrology, pro or con. Lucky, then, that we’ll learn more this weekend, when Austen—or, at least, an actor embodying Austen—will have her birth chart read by a real life astrologer.


The event, “The Astrology of Genius,” which takes place on Saturday at 3 pm (US Eastern), costs $26, with proceeds going toward a planned workshop of Sarah Rose Kearns’ adaptation of Persuasion. It’s the second online benefit this month for the show, which was produced off Broadway last year.


“I'm anxious to hear about [Austen’s] transits in 1995, which I think we can agree was a very good year for our friend, notwithstanding she was dead,” Kearns said, in her tongue-in-cheek announcement of the event. Kearns also held out the tantalizing possibility that in conversation with astrologer Anne Ortelee, Austen, who will be played by Boston-based writer and performer Laura Rocklyn, might “also spill some tea about the thing with Tom Lefroy."


Ortelee, a sixty-seven-year-old New Yorker who spent decades doing tech-related work before discovering astrology, typically charges $314 for an hour-long consultation, so Austen is getting a bargain here. Which seems only appropriate, since the existence of dozens of biographical studies surely gives Austen’s chart-reader a head start on figuring out how the planets steered that short but productive life.

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