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Victorian celebrity 8th December 2008

When Britney Spears totters from a nightclub at 5am—hair askew, often drunk, often without knickers—we assume her behaviour is terribly modern. Certainly Toby Young, who argues 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’s 60th birthday portrait, modelled on Victorian hero Frederick Burnaby (1842-85), showed. 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 5,000-word obituary. Grown men wept…

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