CJ Sansom – lacking self esteem he still led the way

The writer C J Sansom, creator of the character Matthew Shardlake, the hunchbacked lawyer who solved murder mysteries against the backdrop of the melodramatic turmoil of faith, heresy, high treason and political intrigue of Tudor England, Henry V111 and Thomas Cromwell, has died.  His obituaries say he invented the genre of a crime series set against the great sweep of political history.

“There are no modern spy writers who do not define themselves against John le Carré, or fantasy writers untouched by JRR Tolkien. The same is true of Sansom. If you pick up a novel tomorrow that ties a murder to a king, or a serial killer to a pope, there is a small, hunchbacked lawyer lurking in that book’s genesis.”

  He started from unlikely beginnings in Edinburgh on  9 December 1952, no birth time, growing up in a traditional Presbyterian family and bullied at school with undiagnosed ADHD. He escaped into books and attempted suicide at 15, ending up in a mental hospital for a year.

“For the first time in my life, I was not treated as a pariah, and I owe more than I can say to the devotedly caring staff. They saved my life. My mind came to life and I found interests in literature, history and politics.”

 After a hiatus he studied history at University, taking a PhD, and trained as a solicitor, mainly working on legal aid cases so that he could “act on behalf of the underdog”.

In his late forties an inheritance enabled him to take a sabbatical to write fiction and “see what happened”. Seven best sellers followed.

 ‘Sansom’s novels made him rich, but living alone he continued to struggle with intermittent depression: “If you keep kicking a dog, it expects to be kicked. All my life I have had the feelings of worthlessness, inferiority and self-blame characteristic of abused children.”

  A Disney+ series based on his novels, starring Arthur Hughes as Shardlake and Sean Bean as Cromwell, airs this week, which sadly he did not live to see broadcast.

 He had a knowledgeable, communicative Sagittarius Sun trine Pluto and sextile a hope-for-a-better-society Saturn Neptune in Libra. Significantly his Sun was also on the focal point of a yod inconjunct Uranus sextile Jupiter. A quincunx to his Sun would make him socially-awkward and self-conscious but would also give him the ability to switch track into a new field of activity that would give him confidence, resulting in recognition. He could have mismanaged such an aspect, as some do, into becoming overbearing but he clearly found a way to balance out his ego drives in a way that found appreciation out in society even if he never fully embraced his success.  He had a Virgo Moon which is good for detail plus his determined Mars in Aquarius was conjunct his North Node giving him a passionate drive for a cause which perhaps tied into his Saturn Neptune fight for the underdog.

  His Mercury in Sagittarius was unaspected apart from a mild sextile to Venus which initially may have scattered his attention but clearly had its other attribute of being one-tracked with an extraordinary ability in one narrow area of life.

  When he embarked on his life-changing second career in fiction his yod apex planet his Sun was being triggered by tr Pluto conjunct and Solar Arc Saturn Neptune also conjunct in the immediate aftermath. Yods usually need a sharp nudge which comes not as a willed effort but as a result of a series of outside circumstances which conspire to bring it to life and carve out a meant path ahead.

And his earlier shift at 15 in mental hospital came when transiting Pluto Uranus in Virgo were square his Sun.

12 thoughts on “CJ Sansom – lacking self esteem he still led the way

  1. Thank you Marjorie. V interesting that his attempted suicide and breakdown coincided with the Uranus/Pluto conjunction square his Sag Sun. My own grandfather also had a breakdown and underwent electric convulsive therapy (ECT) for depression when that same Uranus/Pluto conjunction squared his Gemini Sun.

  2. As a former nurse in the mental health system of old, I am so pleased to hear the staff helped him so much, it is not often we hear that.

  3. Spent many hours with my head in all his books . Hoping his series will be aired on other tv channels .
    Thankyou for this Marjorie very interesting .

  4. Here is his rectified chart. Put magnifier over chart and click to enclarge.
    When he died, trans Osiris, god of death was conj his Asc, as well as trans Pluto.
    Trans Requiem was sextile his Asc, Solar Arc Saturn was conj his 12 cusp of
    hospice care.
    Trans Lunch, cancer, was conj his 8th House cusp of death and trans Handley,
    cancer, opposed his Ascendant.
    Rectified chart shows a career as a lawyer, while natal Mercury and a Sagit MH
    show career as a writer/novelist and lawyer.

      • Tricky.
        Go with the majority I suppose. The September/Virgo chart I looked at this morning did seem to make sense to me, but now your analysis of the Sagittarius one does too.

  5. Thank you Marjorie

    Shardlake’s compassion and sensitivity and a kind of revulsion of self, given his hunch back and humble beginnings, reflect on Sansom’s on self image and inate shyness I think, I assume a deliberate contrivance. A wonderful writer sadly gone too soon.

  6. What a sad loss. I love C J Sansom’s books, they’ve given me hours of pleasure. My Sun is at the same 17 Sagittarius as his!

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