July, 2002

Return to Home Page, Links to More Papers
Go to the Paper on William Styron and Clinical Depression
Go to the Paper on Robert Schumann and Bipolar Disorder
Go to the Paper on Patty Duke and Bipolar Disorder
Virginia Woolf and Insanity
Paper on Schizophrenia: 13 Cases

Heredity and Depression
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
by Sandra Weidner
Readers interested in depression should first read papers on this site about William Styron and Patty Duke, who had clinical depression and bipolar disorder, respectively. Styron's, in particular, develops the astrological explanation for saturn’s sponsorship of depression. The paper on Robert Schumann makes clear the correlation between depression and Angular saturn by timing, that is, major episodes of depression. This paper is short, written to explore heredity, depression, and astrology.

In his book The Secret Life of the Brain” Richard Restak includes a table showing two generations of Tennysons. It illustrates the occurrence of bipolar disorder, depression, and “rage, unstable moods and/or insanity” through these relatives. Two generations is not much, but Tennyson had eleven brothers and sisters, so two generations gives us more than could normally be expected. Below is his family’s information in table form:

Elizabethb. 1776auntrecurrent depression
Maryb. 1777auntrecurrent depression
Charles d’Eyncourtb. 1784-1861unclerage, etc.
George C. Tennyson1778-1831fatherbipolar
Elizabeth Fichte1781-1865mother
Frederick1807-1898brotherrage, unstable, etc.
Charles1808-1879brotherrage, unstable, etc.
Alfred1809-1892selfrecurrent depression
Edward1813-1890brotherrage, unstable, etc.
Arthur1814-1899brotherrecurrent depression
Septimus1815-1866brotherrecurrent depression
Matilda1816-1913sisterrecurrent depression
Cecelia1819-1899sisterrecurrent depression
Horatio1819-1899brotherrage, unstable, etc.
Tennyson’s oldest brother, George, died in infancy.

Restak writes that genes alone do not determine such things as depression (how does he know that?). The occurrence of depression through families, however, implies genes play a part in its expression.

So, I might add, does saturn.

Unfortunately, I do not have birth data on any Tennyson except Alfred. According to Restak, heredity played a part in transmission of depression through Tennyson's family. This astrological method identifies depression as well as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This method clearly identifies Tennyson's depression. Therefore, it is possible that in identifying depression astrologically, this method also isolates the astrological equivalent to the hereditary factor of depression if it exists.

Let's take a look at the astrology of Tennyson's depression. In looking for his depression, we must look in his harmonic chart for the 3rd house. The 3rd chart is a whole chart (that is, it contains all twelve traditional houses from the perspective of the harmonic for developing the 3rd house) which portrays the mental tendencies of each individual. Tennyson's 3rd chart, therefore, will reveal personal information about how his mind works.

Since I have already identified excessive saturn/3rd chart/3rd house as correlated with depression, we should find excessive saturn in Tennyson's 3rd chart. Tennyson's was not just a major depressive episode. His was an experience of life-long depression. In order for saturn to sponsor life-long bouts of recurrent depression, Tennyson would have had to start out (be born with) excessive saturn in his 3rd. That is, his mind was pre-disposed to depression and it would not take much to start him on another episode. His predisposition, then, was a condition of his life represented by his astrology at birth.

Those individuals, like William Styron, who experience one bout of really severe depression did so because of bad timing. His clinical depression was the result of unusual saturn/3rd progressions that momentarily (i.e., for months as opposed to a lifetime) put his 3rd chart/house into a phase of excessive saturn. Styron's depression was more an event than a condition of his life. His event was correlated with unusual progressions. In time, therefore, it had to pass.

Individuals, like Tennyson, who experience life-long depression are experiencing as their "life” what some individuals experience only as a painful event.

I wish I had been able to do a better drawing of Tennyson. His face is thinner, more severe. The drawing above was done from a tiny photo in Restak’s book. Tiny though it was, Tennyson’s picture showed in his face all the struggle, pain, heroic effort, even fear he had to muster continuously to live to its natural conclusion a life assaulted by recurrent, severe depression. This, notwithstanding the fact he was a successful man, Poet Laureate of England.

The Chart
Closeness of aspect (same or close degree positions, for instance, in planets in square to each other) in sets is very important. So that makes accurate time of birth very important because all placements of planets change degree with time--some faster, some slower. Tennyson's given birth time of 12:05 a.m. LMT reasonably assures us that his birth time is accurate or close to it. But I have also checked his birth time through rectification techniques. Footnote 1, at the bottom of this page, contains information on events in Tennyson’s life used to check the timing of his chart.

I need to mention a few rules proper to this astrological method.

Astrological Method
This method is not traditional. It uses a birth and conception planets and their harmonics and houses, all of which share the same axis. Conception is based on a formula discussed in the following paper: How to Find Conception

This astrology uses the sidereal positions of the planets based on the Fagan-Bradley’s SVP. My view of the practical differences between the tropical (Western) and the sidereal (Eastern) zodiacs can be found at Tropical vs. Sidereal Zodiac.
Harmonics are taken from the sidereal position of the planets. The Egyptian harmonic, discussed in the paper “About This Method” (link just below), is used.
”Lights” include suns, moons, and moons nodes. When mercury rules an Angle, it also acts like a light and has the same orb as the other lights. The MC or Asc also acts like a light, but one with only a 2° orb, because when a set is on an Angle it does not need a light to be active.
This method uses only conjunctions, applying and separating squares, and oppositions. Orbs for static planets with lights is 5°; without lights, about 2.5°. Orb for MC/planet or Asc/planet is 2°. Planets so related to each other are referred to as in the same “set.” A set, then, is two or more planets (or an Angle) connected to each other through conjunction, square, and opposition within the defined orbs. Sets without Angles are more active when they contain a light, and less active without one. Learning to look in terms of “crosses” can be helpful in rapidly finding planets that are in the same set.
Because this approach uses both a birth and conception chart and they share the same axis, birth houses usually overlap different houses of the conception chart. These are called “house overlaps.” Throughout all papers I use the convention when writing about house overlaps of putting the birth house first, then the conception house. So, for instance, a “5th/1st” overlap refers to an overlap of birth 5th house with conception 1st house in that order.
Birth planets (including their harmonics) rule only birth houses. Conception planets (including their harmonics) rule only conception houses.
For a more thorough explanation of this astrological approach, refer to the following papers:

About This Method
Empirically-Derived Rules for Reading These Charts
In the partial charts shown below, birth planets and their harmonics are inside the circle. Conception planets and their harmonics are outside the circle. Conception sidereal planets are red; conception harmonic ones, black. Birth sidereal planets are blue; birth harmonic ones, green. Occasionally, because of space limitations, I have had to violate this inside/outside arrangement, but the color coding remains constant.
Abbreviations used are b = birth, c = conception, and t = transiting. Even though the harmonic used for each chart is always two more than the chart’s number, in these papers—for ease of reading—I write the harmonic number the same as the chart number. For example, the 5th chart uses the 7th harmonic, but I have established the convention of writing harmonic planets for the 5th chart as, e.g., c5 mars, which reads, “the harmonic for the 5th chart for conception mars.” Pc3 mars stands for the harmonic for the 3rd chart of its progressed conception mars. T5 pluto represents transiting (at the time of the event) pluto for the 5th chart.

Now we can move on to Tennyson's astrology. Mental attributes are particularly represented in two charts of this method--the 3rd of mind, and the 7th of relations to significant others. The latter is typically--but not always--the "main chart" for each individual. That is, its astrology best describe the individual's life and personality. While severe depression can show up in either chart, some mental conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder usually show themselves in the 3rd chart. Here we go directly to Tennyson's 3rd chart (also called the harmonic chart for the 3rd house).

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Harmonic Chart for His 3rd House

The first set we are interested in is the one that includes C Asc at 0 Aquarius 28 in square to c saturn at 0 Scorpio 14 and its harmonic (c3 saturn) at 1 Scorpio 08, shown in the drawing above. It shows that Tennyson has an Angular saturn. The non-harmonic part of it (C Asc to c saturn) occurs in all charts. It co-rules his 6th house (30 of 32°) and plays a part in his lifelong fear of illness (6th). It is in c 8th and b 6th houses, so, for the same reason, troubles his health. While it adds some downfalls and delays (saturn) to his life, it does not sponsor his major bouts with depression. Why? It is not specifically a 3rd chart set (no harmonics involved) and it does not specifically refer to a 3rd house within his 3rd chart.

But the harmonic part of the above set--c3 saturn at 1 Scorpio 08, to C Asc--is a specifically 3rd chart (mind) set. So, it is specifically a factor in his life-long depression (saturn).

I know nothing about his emotional relationships, so cannot comment on the set's 8th (shared values and resources) influence. In his wife he appears to have picked well and found a good helpmeet.

The other set we are interested in includes the conjunction of C MC at 23 Scorpio 26 with c3 mercury at 23 Scorpio 06 and b3 saturn at 25 Scorpio 38, also shown in the drawing above. Birth moon, ruler of b 3rd house, at 21 Taurus 16, is also part of this set. So, this set is a specifically 3rd chart set (contains harmonics) and also specifically influences a 3rd house (through b moon) within the chart. Moreover, it is made far more powerful--for good or ill--by being lighted (b moon). Lights in sets always energize them.

But there is another consideration. B3 saturn rules B MC, so now we can see that Tennyson has specifically harmonic saturn influences to three Angles in his 3rd chart--C MC, C Asc, and B MC. This is a disproportionate amount of saturn influence. It brings saturn's influence on his mind forefront in his life, giving him life-long depression.

I should add some comments about mercury's presence in the second set. Mercury with the MC/saturn conjunction has two possible effects. One, since mercury has a "3rd house influence" through its association with Gemini as natural ruler of the 3rd house, it gives the set a distinctly 3rd house influence. (This is in addition to this being a 3rd chart set and b moon's rulership of b 3rd house). On the other hand, mercury allows some expression of the mood created by this forefront saturn. People without the mercury to their saturn are more prone to "expressionless (no mercury) depression (saturn, an outer planet not really expressible--see paper on Styron's depression, link above)."

Tennyson also has c mercury conjunct b saturn. It is not Angular and not lighted, so not so big a deal, but with b saturn ruling B MC it shows another influence of mercury/saturn to an Angle.

One can and should always question how much Angle/light/saturn influence is too much. The way we really answer that is empirically, through research. We need to discover the correlation of Angle/saturn/3rd (3rd chart and/or 3rd house) with depression by examining the astrology of depressed people. Some of my efforts in that direction are shown by the papers shown as links at the top of this page. But I also, along with many other astrologers, have years of experience noting the correlation of forefront saturn and depression in charts of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. None would argue against a correlation of forefront saturn with the depression we socially recognize as "depression" (depression can occur in other ways--see Styron paper). So, it is not so much a question of the planet involved in sponsoring depression. It is more a matter of quantifying its effects to see the curve yielded. Is it a straight line?

It is also true that if an astrological load (be it what it may) is not so great as to outright crush the individual, then over time s/he learns better ways to carry it. What Tennyson carried for a lifetime would sink individuals unused to it. To some extent, questions of degree are relative to what one is used to and the time one has had to grasp and manage its machinations.

We want to look at some of Tennyson's more beneficent astrology.

Possibly Interesting Additions
Tennyson, through unwise investment, lost inherited money. The money in the family was in the hands of his paternal grandfather, who mostly disinherited his father. Losing what little he did inherit was, therefore, a disaster for Tennyson. He postponed marriage, a union he felt he desperately needed for his temperament and balance. On December 1, 1843, he described his loss of his inheritance and the time that followed it as “the pain and horror of the last two years.” On that date pb mars was at 5 Scorpio 07, conjuncting his c mercury conjunct b saturn. Two years earlier it was at 3 Scorpio 48, just beginning to approach c mercury. Progressing mars conjoining his c mercury/b saturn would also, in its harmonic, be conjuncting his C MC/c3 mercury/b3 saturn. This shows his mental anguish--mars to saturn is hard on all of us. Mars to mercury conjunct saturn (ruling B MC) would be harder. Their placement in Scorpio, natural sign of the 8th house, connects them to (loss of) shared or inherited wealth. His 2nd and 8th charts should also be checked.

We should look at the astrological condition which sponsors his poetry.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Harmonic Chart for His 7th House

The set containing C Asc, c saturn, c mercury, c venus (ruling c 3rd house) and c7 nodes is the major set for poetry. A gift with words is represented by lighted mercury/venus. Saturn turns it reflective, serious. This set influences an Angle and c 3rd house. The Angular influence allows him to be known (Angular) as a poet. The 3rd house influence identifies where his mercury/venus operates (through his speech and mind, 3rd). Mercury/venus is also prominent in the charts of persuasive, charming speakers, even con artists.

The other condition noted in the charts of all poets (I probably had between 20-25 charts before they were lost) is a light in Pisces. I do not usually include a NN in Pisces as a “light in Pisces” because, contrary to the situation with suns and moons, how much an individual experiences a north node depends on how it, and its opposite, south node, is aspected. A moon conjunct his south node would make experiencing his Pisces north node much more difficult to achieve. In Tennyson’s case, his north node in Pisces is conjunct venus in Pisces (ruling B Asc) and square saturn (ruling B MC). Nothing is conjunct the south node. So this set constitutes a major powerful, additional forefront influence. North node conjunct venus in Pisces shows reward (NN) for reaching for (NN) “inexpressible” (Pisces) beauty (venus). North node behavior always helps us balance our consciousness. Tennyson could happily use his in his poetry, which also took him away from his south node consciousness of being too critical and picky--an undesirable state for some one already burdened with recurrent depression.

In this chart C MC forms a set with b moon and b7 jupiter in Leo. B Asc forms another set with b7 mercury and c7 venus. They assist in his popularity and ability to speak well. The latter does not sponsor his poetry because neither mercury nor venus have 3rd or 10th house influence.

The main pre-progressed set in his 10th chart indicating his poetic renown was:

b10 saturn1 Cancer 32ruler of B MC
b mercury3 Cancer 05
b10 venus3 Cancer 55ruler of B Asc
b10 NN3 Cancer 14
c10 SN3 Cancer 48
b jupiter2 Aries 42

The planets in Cancer are all in his birth 3rd house of mind (giving the lighted mercury/venus/Saturn its 3rd house influence.) He also had b venus conjunct b10 jupiter in Gemini (less than 3° apart), but they have no light so play primarily in things like returns. Progressions to them would be separate.

In writing about Mike Boorda and his relationship to his father, I promised I would mention Tennyson’s 4th chart and its implications about his father.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Harmonic Chart for His 6th House

Tennyson starts out (all non-harmonic) with sun/mars/uranus all conjunct in Libra. Used to describe a male parent, it would indicate some one heavy-handed (sun conjunct mars), willful (same) and autocratic (uranus). In this 4th chart it has picked up b4 neptune at 12 Cancer 11 as part of its set. That gives Tennyson sun/mars/neptune as well as sun/mars/uranus. Tennyson’s father drank (neptune) and was violent (sun/mars). He was stated to have vacillating moods (therefore unpredictable, neptune), and sometimes even crazy (mars/neptune). He was subject to unpredictable fits (mars/neptune and mars/uranus.).

The set involving B Asc conjunct mercury in Taurus and out-of-sign south node and saturn in Gemini (and another node, venus, progressed pluto) is negative, but I do not know how to interpret it. South node conjunction saturn in Gemini imply mental (Gemini) fears or burdens (saturn) in relation to his father. Perhaps his father wants to keep him mentally (Gemini) dependent (saturn), or vice versa. Tennyson also has both harmonic uranus’ conjunct B MC (which is in c 12th house), indicating his father tended to make Tennyson dance to his tune (uranus, autocratic).

Not all of this chart is negative. Tennyson’s 10th chart, however and on the contrary, has no serious affliction generated by harmonics. His mother was “easygoing and sweet tempered.” (Restak)

The main reason for this paper was to show the correlation between something considered at least partly hereditary (depression) and the astrology of depression. That was demonstrated in conditions (a) and (b) above.

It would have been preferable to have the charts of all of Tennyson’s siblings to see if indications for depression, bipolar disorder, instability, and good nature remained constant in their astrology. It would have been even better to have charts for several generations of any family wherein exaggerated mental conditions display among descendants.

(1) Events used to check the time on Tennyson’s chart were: his death (October 6, 1892) , his father’s death (March 16, 1831), his move to Farringford (November 1853, a fortunate event), his marriage to Emily (June 13, 1850) and his nomination as Poet Laureate of England (November 19, 1850).

(1) Restak, Richard, The Secret Life of the Brain. Washington, D.C: Joseph Henry Press, c2001.

(2) Martin, Robert Bernard, Tennyson, the Unquiet Heart. Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press, 1980. Dates for events were taken from this book.

Data Acknowledgments
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Birth: 8/6/1809, 12:05 a.m. LMT, Somersby, England. From The American Book of Charts, by Lois Rodden. From Constellations, 1977, Lockhart quotes Astrology, October 1892, “from him, a few minutes past midnight.”
Conception:10/26/1808, 2:38:36 p.m. LMT, Somersby, England.

About This Method
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Contact the author at: sleeweidner@yahoo.com