Toby Young may be right that modern society is ruled by a celebrity elite. But so were the Victorians.by Jonty Olliff-Cooper / January 17, 2009 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2009 issue of Prospect Magazine
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When Britney Spears totters from a night club at 5am—hair askew, often drunk, often without knickers—we tend to assume her behaviour is terribly modern. Certainly Toby Young, who argues that we are “lulled by the celebritariat” (December), seems to think so. But celebrities are not new. Nor is our obsession with them, as Prince Charles recently demonstrated with his 60th birthday portrait, modelled on Victorian hero Frederick Burnaby (1842-85). Burnaby is almost totally forgotten, but in his day he was so famous that the Queen reportedly fainted at news of his death. The Times gave him a 5000-word obituary. Grown men broke down and wept in the street.