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Victorian celebrity

Toby Young may be right that modern society is ruled by a celebrity elite. But so were the Victorians.

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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…

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