News, Biography, and Eighteenth-Century Celebrity
Abstract and Keywords
Celebrity was not invented in the eighteenth century, but it was transformed by the new publics, and the new media that emerged to cultivate and maintain these publics, from the mid-seventeenth until the later eighteenth centuries. Celebrity is therefore best understood as a certain kind of fame rather than a phase in the history of fame. Contemporaneity, publicity, and personality are key aspects of the kind of fame one may identify as celebrity. This chapter argues that attention to genre in the process of celebrity formation makes it possible to distinguish between regimes of fame as constituted by the media available and the ways in which public personalities were variously constructed. Two genres were particularly influential in shaping the development of the new celebrity of the long eighteenth century: news writing and life writing. The contributions of news and biography to eighteenth-century conceptions of celebrity are explored in detail.
Samuel Johnson was a writer acutely aware of his reputation, and he understood how public opinion was mediated by the journalism of his day. Conversing with James Boswell, he once offhandedly remarked, “I wish that I had copies of all the pamphlets written against me, as it is said [Alexander] Pope had. Had I known that I should make so much noise in the world, I should have been at pains to collect them. I believe there is hardly a day in which there is not something about me in the newspapers.”1 Johnson even admitted that his awareness of the power of the press influenced his own behavior. In conversation with another of his closest friends, Hester Thrale, he confessed that he would have loved to pay a visit to the notorious but fascinating Margaret Rudd, “if it was not for the News papers; but I am prevented many frolics, that I should like very well, since I am become such a Theme for the papers.” He confided much the same to Boswell when he claimed that while he might have been inclined to visit Rudd fifteen years earlier, he could not in 1778, for “now they have a trick of putting every thing into the newspapers.”2 Rudd was well known at the time as the subject of a prolonged set of criminal trials for forgery involving her and her common-law husband, Daniel Perreau, along with his brother, Robert.3
If Johnson thought he had reason to complain of being the perennial subject of newspaper and Grub Street print speculation, his grievances paled in comparison to the scrutiny afforded Mrs. Rudd and the Perreau brothers. These accused criminals and their case constantly occupied the pages of newspapers throughout Britain during the period of the American Revolution. The story broke in the Morning Chronicle and was soon followed up by stories in the metropolitan and regional press, as well as numerous tracts and pamphlets.4
Johnson’s fear of having private meetings with a figure of such great public interest as Rudd was well founded.5 Although he avoided any guilt by association with Rudd, Johnson certainly was the subject of intense scrutiny by later eighteenth-century journalists. Helen McGuffie tracked nearly every mention of Johnson in the London and Edinburgh presses from the first appearance of his name on the title page of a printed work (The Vanity of Human Wishes) in 1749 to his death in 1784.6 Her study reveals that England’s journalists must have kept close tabs on Johnson’s comings and goings; particularly later in his life, the press published regular updates on the state of his health. In the year 1781 alone there were at least 240 reports about Johnson in the papers. Steven Lynn adds that “when there were no sightings or symptoms to report, the papers made things up, recycled anecdotes, quoted excerpts from his works, or focused on someone somehow related to Johnson.”7 Johnson was famous in his own day, and his fame was monetized not only by Johnson himself and his confreres in the book trade, such as William Strahan and Robert Dodsley, but also by other entrepreneurs in the eighteenth-century media world, who sought to enhance their sales and attention from the public through association with Johnson’s fame.8
Johnson and Rudd were hardly exceptional cases. By the later eighteenth century a celebrity system had emerged that cultivated the fame of a host of public personalities.9 Writers, courtesans, criminals, politicians, preachers, and entertainers, among many others, could all vie for attention on an international scale.10 The eighteenth-century press generated a commercialized fame market that could make anyone with an interesting story, or even anyone associated with an interesting story, into a figure of public speculation. Public gossip about individuals’ private lives has always been a part of the social construction of reputation, but the traditionally oral and local nature of gossip was supplemented in the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by a new form of celebrity gossip published in print for an international readership.11 While the experience of famousness was not new, public recognition of famous individuals was fundamentally transformed by the changing media and publicity regimes that emerged in the second half of the seventeenth century and would flourish over the course of the eighteenth century.
Genres of Celebrity
New publics created new celebrities. Changing understandings of public life and new experiences of publicity in the century or so that followed the British civil wars and revolutions of the 1640s and 1650s generated new ways to become famous and made celebrities out of new types of people. Despite these important innovations, and despite the expansion of celebrity culture beyond the hitherto largely restricted boundaries of social, religious, and political elites, celebrity itself was not invented in the long eighteenth century. Celebrity was transformed by the new publics and the new media that emerged to cultivate and maintain these publics, but attempts to locate the origins of celebrity culture in the eighteenth century only obscure the connections between premodern and modern forms of fame and celebrity.
Recent scholarship on celebrity in eighteenth-century studies has tended to disagree with this perspective. There has been a growing propensity to insist that celebrity culture was invented, or at least only took on its recognizably modern form, in the eighteenth century, if not later. Works with titles proclaiming the “creation of celebrity” or the “invention of celebrity” in the eighteenth century abound.12 In an influential article, Stella Tillyard argued that “like so much else that defines us in Europe and America now, celebrity appears to have been made in the eighteenth century and in particular in London, with its dozens of newspapers and print shops, its crowds and coffee-houses, theatres, exhibitions, spectacles, pleasure gardens and teeming pavements.”13 Tillyard’s claim that the eighteenth century saw the invention of something new—celebrity—has been echoed and refined by many other historians, literary critics, and art historians.14 These historical claims are now being assimilated into theoretical work in the emerging field of celebrity studies, so it is worthwhile to subject them to greater scrutiny before they are fully accepted.15
There has been a certain amount of ambiguity about what this new “celebrity” was, and even more confusion about precisely when it might have emerged as a distinct social experience or form of personal identity. It is therefore important for new work in celebrity studies to produce an effective definition of celebrity as an analytic concept and to clarify the chronology of its putative emergence in the eighteenth century.
The two issues are related. Claims for the invention of celebrity in the eighteenth century rest strongly on an argument that the word “celebrity” only began to take on its modern meaning then. It is true that the word “celebrity” was not used to describe a renowned or famous person until the nineteenth century. Tillyard notes that “the Oxford English Dictionary finds the first printed use of the word ‘celebrity’ as applied to a person in 1849, and the persistent identification of individuals as ‘celebrities’ only entered everyday culture, in England at any rate, with the explosive growth of the popular press and mass literacy at the end of the nineteenth century.” She finds the distinctiveness of eighteenth-century celebrity in the difference between the Victorian-era recognition of celebrity as a distinct form of personal identity and the earlier Georgian-era sense of celebrity as an experience: “In the eighteenth century someone possessing celebrity was at a simple level someone celebrated, the centre of a throng, a person surrounded, the object of joyous attention. Celebrity was about being with others, together, adored in the here and now by an audience.”16 For Tillyard, the eighteenth-century experience of celebrity led directly to the nineteenth-century recognition that there were certain people whose popularity was so great that they were “celebrities” wherever they went.17
In a similar vein, Tom Mole has argued that “the modern vocabulary for talking about celebrity emerged with the phenomenon it described.” If “celebrity” was not used to describe a particular individual until the mid-nineteenth century, we also find that the word “star” only began to refer to “a person of brilliant reputation or talents” after 1824. American English began to abbreviate the word “fanatic” to “fan” only in the later nineteenth century, with reference to baseball team supporters. Big data analyses of word frequency provide further clues. Armed with the word usage data from the vast number of scanned texts provided by Google’s N-Gram, Antoine Lilti has demonstrated that the word “celebrity” occurs relatively more frequently in both French and English in the later eighteenth and earlier nineteenth centuries than it does in the earlier eighteenth or later nineteenth centuries.18 Based on evidence of this sort, it would seem that there is a good basis for thinking that the modern sense of celebrity as an experience of widespread public fame, and especially of the celebrity as a new social figure, did in fact emerge only in the later eighteenth or perhaps even the early nineteenth centuries.
While it is useful to recognize that the modern vocabulary for discussing celebrity culture developed in the Romantic era, it is equally important to understand the characteristics of the preceding periods that made it possible for this celebrity discourse to take hold and make sense in the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There were ways of discussing forms of famousness and the making of public figures long before people began identifying these phenomena as celebrity and such people as celebrities. This is the major accomplishment of Leo Braudy’s The Frenzy of Renown: Fame and Its History (1986). Braudy recognizes that the eighteenth century “seemed particularly preoccupied with the question of fame in the modern sense—as a way of defining oneself, making oneself known, beyond the limitations of class and family,” but he sees this as part of a much longer history of fame that began in the world of classical antiquity. Even the modern experience of the “democratization of fame” that helped create celebrity culture began with the Renaissance rather than the Enlightenment. For Braudy, modern celebrity developed as a consequence of a long modernization process that saw the gradual erosion of traditional notions of aristocratic honor, divine right monarchy, and the religious virtuosity of the saint. Beginning with the Renaissance, he sees the emergence of a new cult of democratic individualism, the growing influence of a media industry focused on the commercial theaters and the printing press, and the rising influence of public opinion as transformative forces that created modern celebrity culture.19
Braudy’s work offers a history of famousness that fits well with Jürgen Habermas’s argument for the emergence of a bourgeois public sphere, and this concurrence is acknowledged in the second edition of his book. Habermas’s influential thesis claimed that the long eighteenth century saw a structural transformation in the sense of “public-ness” (Öffentlichkeit) in which a feudal form of “representative publicity” (repräsentative Öffentlichkeit) was gradually replaced by a more modern “bourgeois publicity” (bürgerliche Öffentlichkeit). Representative publicity was monologic; it was characterized by the presentation of things, persons, and images to an audience that was expected to receive them passively. Bourgeois publicity, or the public sphere as it is most often called, was dialogic: it was created through discourse, often through debate, and preferably (for Habermas) adjudicated by appeal to reason rather than authority, class, or status. The bourgeois public sphere was both real, and hence identifiable in new social spaces such as coffeehouses, salons, and debating societies, and also virtual, in that it constituted an ideal for rational discourse and dispute resolution.20
Habermas’s public sphere thesis fits well with histories of celebrity that emphasize the transformative changes of the ‘long eighteenth century’ between the late seventeenth-century age of restoration and the early nineteenth century age of revolution and reform. The bourgeois public sphere was enabled by a media revolution and changing practices of sociability that made it easier for people to know about, and talk about, new public figures such as celebrities.21 Habermas’s own work makes little reference to celebrity culture, perhaps because it is likely that he would have seen it as an unfortunate byproduct of the more important, and more serious, impulse toward rationality that he found in the Enlightenment project. Had he tried to tackle the role of celebrities in the public sphere, it’s likely that he would have agreed with the more pessimistic view of the modern “culture industry” found in the work of his Frankfurt School mentors, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, who lamented the “forgetful cult of celebrities” that had replaced the respect accorded to the arts before the rise of consumer society.22
Here we find a common theme among mid-twentieth-century critics of celebrity culture: the notion that modern celebrity is trivial and ephemeral. It is unearned fame, or in Daniel Boorstin’s felicitious phrasing, being known for one’s well-knownness.23 When compared to traditional forms of fame, noteworthiness, or renown, modern celebrity always seems to come up short. For Antoine Lilti, modern celebrity was something distinct from the old regime’s preferred form of notoriety: “la gloire.”24 Glory was a lasting recognition of achievement; if it might be recognized incipiently during the lifetime of its recipient, it could only be confirmed posthumously. Glory thus offered the enduring approbation of posterity. More often than not, it was reserved for great men who had accomplished great works as rulers, warriors, philosophers, or saints. Glory was something for early modern elites to strive for; it was what made kings “great” and ensured their everlasting reputations.25
It is important to recognize, and distinguish between, these different ways of understanding fame, but it would be misleading to assume that modern celebrity supplanted traditional glory. Both forms of fame recognition can coexist, as they did during the eighteenth century. Indeed, the distinction between posthumous glory and contemporary celebrity was at the center of a long epistolary debate between Denis Diderot and his friend, the sculptor Etienne-Maurice Falconet, in the later 1760s. Diderot valued the judgment of posterity above all, whereas Falconet reveled in the praise and acclamation of his contemporaries.26 Rather than seeing celebrity as a replacement for, or still less a perversion of, older forms of fame, we should understand it as a particular kind of famousness. Celebrity is a form of fame that is more ephemeral than glory, and it is characterized by contemporaneity and popularity rather than endurance and quality, but it is not necessarily opposed to ideals of glory. Nor is it an invention of the modern age.
Much of the history of celebrity remains wedded to a teleological modernization narrative that posits a decisive break between the traditional past and a new world of modernity that gave birth to celebrity culture. There are some dissenting voices. Nigel Saul writes of knights as medieval celebrities in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, when the cult of chivalry showered renown and recognition on skilled warriors.27 Aviad Kleinberg makes a similar claim for saints as medieval celebrities; although saints were revered posthumously perhaps even more so than in their (often very short) lifetimes, there is also substantial evidence that these virtuosi of holiness were often celebrated and mobbed by contemporaries as well.28 A case could be made for monarchs, courtiers, divines, politicians, and certain acclaimed entertainers as other examples of premodern celebrities.29
Celebrity is therefore best understood as a certain kind of fame rather than a phase in the history of fame. It is a form of fame that is very much defined by the present moment, and it may or may not prove to be long lasting; it is also a form of fame that emerges out of a widespread public knowledge of a particularly interesting person. Contemporaneity, publicity, and personality are therefore key aspects of the kind of fame we may identify as celebrity.
Celebrities may be found throughout the past and in various places, but scholars of the long eighteenth century are not wrong to see that this period was particularly important in the making of a modern celebrity culture. There are good reasons why the word “celebrity” took on new meanings and gained new popularity in the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. One key reason is that new genres of writing had emerged in the preceding era that allowed for new ways of thinking about fame and famousness.
Despite the strong interest in celebrity from eighteenth-century literary scholars, it is surprising that more attention has not yet been paid to the influence of new literary genres on the making of celebrity in this period. Understanding genre can help explain how fame was constituted in any given epoch. Genres describe the shape, the styles of presentation, and the concerns expressed in the public images that made certain individuals into celebrities. They thus define the specific historicity of celebrity at any given historical moment—they are part of what makes the celebrity of a given historical moment distinctive. Attention to genre in the process of celebrity formation allows us to distinguish among different regimes of fame as constituted by the media available and the ways in which public personalities (or personae) were variously constructed. New genres can make new kinds of celebrities, and this is what happened in the long eighteenth century.
Two genres were particularly influential in shaping the development of the new celebrity of the long eighteenth century: news writing and life writing. The relatively new profession of the “journalist,” more commonly known at the time as newswriter, cultivated this new fame market through regular writing for the periodical press. News writing brought celebrities to public attention and helped maintain that interest by continuing to develop their stories over time. It ensured that contemporary fame would spread more quickly and would garner more attention than had been previously possible. If news writing provided breadth to celebrity stories, life writing offered depth. The growth of biography as a genre fostered a growing appreciation for the singularities of personality, perhaps even the psychological complexities, to be found among famous individuals. Life writing was not new, but it experienced an unprecedented efflorescence in both popular esteem and narrative sophistication over the course of the long eighteenth century. Together, news writing and life writing created new ways of reading about, thinking about, and therefore experiencing celebrity.
News writing was not invented in the eighteenth century, and it too has a long history that has only recently begun to attract serious scholarly attention.30 Although news stories had been published in both print and manuscript in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, they really took off in the first half of the seventeenth century. By the 1640s, news had become a clearly defined prose genre, as both royalist and parliamentarian propagandists required a regular media venue for sharing information and crafting it in ways that would support their partisan cause. In England at least, the formation of the news genre was deeply related to, and indeed enabled by, the political divisions and rivalries that emerged during the civil wars and their aftermath.31
Three characteristics helped to define what early modern people came to recognize as news writing: it was contemporary, and hence generally focused on what would later be called “current events”; it was produced regularly in a chronologically sequential serial format, hence the close relationship with the related genre of periodical writing; and finally, it was new—novelty in the sense of being previously unheard of, unusual, or unfamiliar was perhaps the defining quality of news writing.
News writing was closely related to other prose (and some poetic) genres that were popular in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, such as the periodical essay, the pamphlet, the “true relation,” and poems on “affairs of state,” but it remained distinct due to the concomitance of these three characteristics.32 News was also unusually self-reflective by early modern standards; it announced its appearance through a number of key words that identified it as such. Although the word “news” itself had to struggle to overcome a long-standing pejorative sense of association with frivolity and unreliability, by the end of the seventeenth century it was the standard identifier for current events reporting. Along with news, this form of current events reporting presented itself with titles such as “mercury,” “gazette,” “intelligence,” “diurnal occurrences,” and “flying posts,” and in some cases with avian metaphors such as “vultures” or “scritch-owls.”33 Although we tend to associate news writing with the printed newspaper, a large amount of news writing was disseminated in manuscript as well, and this was reflected in the popularity of the term “newsletter” for news periodicals in both print and manuscript.34 The eighteenth century added new titles such as “magazine,” “monitor,” “journal,” “advertiser,” “register,” and “herald,” among others. In terms of quantity of production, the rise of news was perhaps the most successful innovation in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century prose. News writers were certainly much more prolific than the fiction writers and satirists who tend to dominate accounts of eighteenth-century literature. In many cases, there was substantial overlap among these categories. Daniel Defoe and Samuel Johnson were both accomplished news writers, fiction writers, and satirists, for example.
News writing helped to shape the emergence of a celebrity culture, because news stories often generated interest in new celebrities, and the news maintained that interest for a sustained period of time through regular reports and updates to their stories. Early news stories tended to write about people generically and referred to their subjects as “a certain gentleman” or “a merchant” rather than identifying these people by name, but by the later seventeenth century, news writers became more comfortable naming names in certain circumstances. Aside from kings, aristocrats, and other high officeholders, some of the most common names to appear in early modern news stories were those of criminals and of printers involved in the book trade. Crime writing emerged in tandem with the news: along with criminal biographies and crime story pamphlets, another popular medium for publishing information about particularly lurid or unusual crimes was The Ordinary of Newgate’s Account, a formulaic serial work of cheap print originated by the ordinary, Samuel Smith, and published regularly from 1676.35 Aside from criminals, the earliest newspapers were perhaps keenest to promote the celebrity of other insiders within the book trade. News publishers became well known to their readers, and their names and characters became well known to the readers of their papers. The manuscript newsletter publisher John Dyer became almost as well known for his numerous prosecutions and escapes from legal action as he was for his notorious (but popular) news reporting.36 Early eighteenth-century newspapers such as the Flying Post and the Post Boy became closely associated with the identities and public personalities of their writers, George Ridpath and Abel Roper, respectively, and the exploits of these men became newsworthy in themselves.
While most studies of early modern news writing focus on domestic news reporting, it is worth remembering that the bulk of the news content published in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century papers was foreign. A major reason for this was surely that reports of foreign events and personalities were much less likely to run afoul of legal action by either aggrieved private persons or the government. Nevertheless, these foreign news reports continued to captivate readers with their stories of the movements of armies abroad, diplomatic relations between foreign rulers, as well as stories of crime and punishment that took place abroad. The fascination with public figures far removed from the local experience of English readers would be a common target of satires aimed at coffeehouse politicians and “quidnuncs”; this perhaps found its most popular expression in Joseph Addison’s “political upholsterer” character in the Tatler (1709–1711). Although distracted by all of the news he found in the papers, the upholsterer was particularly fixated on the figure of the Swedish king, Charles XII. Even Addison had to agree that King Charles was “one of the first heroes of the age.”37 News writing played a key role in making foreign leaders and personalities English celebrities.
Eighteenth-century newspapers also played a key role in the construction of a familiar figure in modern celebrity culture: the famous sportsman. Reports of pedestrian races, cricket matches, cockfights, horse races, and boxing matches were all popular news items, and these reports could make certain players or athletes into celebrities.38 Daniel Mendoza, the famous Jewish pugilist, was a particular favorite of the late eighteenth-century press.39 A sure sign that sport had begun to play a key role in celebrity formation is the publication of specialist sport periodicals, such as John Cheny’s Historical List or Account of all the Horse-Matches Run, which began in 1727 and later became known as the Racing Calendar.
Much work has been done in recent years on the growing recognition of actors and actresses as eighteenth-century celebrities, but less work has been done on the ways in which news reports of theatrical performances helped to shape the fame of these performers. Later Stuart-era actors such as Thomas Betterton and actresses such as Nell Gwynn and Elizabeth Barry have been considered early examples of theatrical celebrities, and their lives and performances were indeed topics of occasional interest to news writers, but sustained journalistic coverage of stage players and other such public entertainers did not take off until after the Hanoverian accession.40 Restoration news writers were more likely to comment on the audience, especially the aristocratic audience, than on the performers. This account of the opening performance of Elkanah Settle’s play The Female Prelate in June 1680 is typical of early theatrical news reporting: “On Munday last the Kings players began to Act the new play Called Pope Joan & on Tuesday the Duke of Norfolke was there to see it, but on Wednesday the Dutchesse of Portesmouth, to disoblige Mr Settle the Poet, Carryed all the Court with her to the Duke’s house to see Mackbeth.”41
This would change in the eighteenth century, and particularly in the age of David Garrick’s dominance as the preeminent actor and theatrical celebrity of his day.42 Garrick owned shares in London newspapers and used his influence with the press to promote his plays and entertainments.43 Thus began an enduring synergy between the business of news and the entertainment industry. Just as some theatrical celebrities invested in the news business, provincial news proprietors were equally keen to invest in the theater in the later eighteenth century.44 Playwright and politician Richard Sheridan continued to enhance the connections between the stage and the newspapers. By 1804 radical journalists such as William Cobbett could complain of impresarios such as Sheridan: “There is, and always has been, in this country, a natural alliance, a sort of family compact between the press and the theatre.”45 While the family compact between news and stage was evident enough to Cobbett, he was wrong to assume that this had always been the case; it had developed over the course of the eighteenth century and only appeared to be so natural by the end of the period. The detailed history of the emergence of this connection between the stage and the page remains to be fleshed out by future scholars.46
Perhaps the biggest boon to both the news business and celebrity formation in the eighteenth century was the growing scandal market. Scandal was a sure-fire means of selling newspapers, and it was bound to attract attention from the public. Hitherto unknown individuals could become famous overnight after the breaking of a scandalous story. Scandal of course was not invented in the eighteenth century, and the development of a mature commercial market for selling scandalous stories had its origins in seventeenth-century practices such as libeling, the circulation of clandestine satires, the proliferation of “secret histories” of backstairs court intrigues, and cheap print rumormongering.47 As competition for the attention of the reading public increased with the advent of daily newspapers after 1702, and as the market for print continued to expand, the scandal market grew accordingly.
The history of eighteenth-century scandalmongering is intimately connected with the development of trial reporting, for many of the most prominent scandals of the century resulted from, or were related to, criminal or civil suits that went to trial. The trial of Spencer Cowper for the murder of a Quaker woman, Mrs. Sarah Stout, at the Hertfordshire assizes in the summer of 1699 is just one of many such cases. The trial itself damaged the reputation of the Cowper family in their home county, Hertfordshire, and it caught the attention of several pamphleteers and news writers. Although Cowper managed to withstand this scandal after he was found not guilty, the proceedings of the trial would remain of interest as Cowper’s own political career continued to prosper through winning seats in Parliament and securing lucrative appointments as solicitor general and a chief justiceship in Chester. Twenty years after Cowper’s trial, the proceedings were anthologized in Thomas Salmon’s influential Compleat Collection of State-Tryals (1719) and they were reprinted repeatedly into the nineteenth century.48 Public commentary and debate about the politics of justice would be deeply intertwined with the media history of scandal reporting throughout the long eighteenth century.
Scandal is a topic that has garnered a great deal of attention from both historians and literary scholars in recent years. Anna Clark has demonstrated the deep connections between the debates provoked by sexual scandals among Britain’s political elites and deeper concerns related to the role of public opinion in politics, as well as the balance between monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy in constitutional governance. “Sex scandals can communicate political issues to people usually uninterested in politics because, unlike complicated and hard-to-follow financial scandals, they can be told through familiar stories of broken hearts, broken families, broken marriages,” she observes.49
Historians too have found these stories compelling, both for their inherent interest and for the ways in which they shed light on the cultural fault lines of Georgian Britain and the mechanisms of publicity that worked to highlight these controversies. Donna Andrew and Randall McGowen tell the story of the controversies aroused by the trials of the twin brothers Robert and Daniel Perreau, as well as their accomplice and Daniel’s mistress, the fascinating Margaret Rudd, who intrigued Samuel Johnson and seduced James Boswell. John Brewer describes how reports about the murder of Martha Ray, the mistress of the Earl of Sandwich, by James Hackman in 1779 were constructed through the prism of sentimentalism. Matthew Kinservik and Gillian Russell both use the highly public trials of Elizabeth Chudleigh, Duchess of Kingston, for bigamy and that of Samuel Foote for sodomy in 1776 to explore how the media, the entertainment industries, and the legal system all combined to create a particularly fervid public for scandalous stories. Helen Berry details the celebrated, yet sometimes scandalous, career of the famous castrato opera singer Giusto Ferdinando Tenducci and the debates about sexuality and marital relations provoked by his marriage annulment trial in 1776.50 It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the history of eighteenth-century celebrity is coterminous with the history of scandal.51
While few question that news writing brought a broad variety of interesting individuals to the attention of the news-reading public by publishing their names and presenting narratives of these newsworthy figures, some scholars have also argued that news culture created a more acute sense of a temporal “present” that was distinct from the past and the future. Many scholars of early modern news culture have remarked upon this unique contribution of the news to historical consciousness as the emergence of “contemporaneity.”52 This new awareness of an eternal, but always evolving, “now” created an environment that was ripe for celebrity culture. News writing requires new copy and new subjects of interest; hence there was a built-in impulse to construct the fame of new individuals for public consumption as part of the daily news.
The regular pace of daily news reporting that became a standard feature of the English news business after the success of the Daily Courant in 1702 certainly helped to make newsworthy individuals into early eighteenth-century celebrities. The controversial high church preacher Dr. Henry Sacheverell dominated news coverage throughout the year of his parliamentary impeachment in 1710, for example.53 But eighteenth-century news reporting tended to be very thin; news stories in the early eighteenth century were rarely longer than three or four sentences, and they could often be even shorter than that. News reports could be successful at drawing public attention to new celebrities, and they could keep readers updated about new developments in their lives. But news could not add much depth to understanding the life histories or insights into the psychological complexities, eccentricities, or affective lives of these personalities. For this depth of understanding, readers had to turn to other sources of information. Foremost among these alternative sources was life writing, and especially the biographical writing of “lives” that highlighted the most interesting aspects of celebrity personalities.
In 1750 Samuel Johnson declared that “no species of writing seems more worthy of cultivation than biography, since none can be more delightful or more useful, none can more certainly enchain the heart by irresistible interest, or more widely diffuse instruction to every diversity of condition.”54 The cultivation of this taste for biographical stories took off during the long eighteenth century. The modern sense of the word “biography” began to take hold after the Restoration. John Dryden and Jacob Tonson’s Plutarch’s Lives Translated From the Greek by Several Hands (1683–1686) is often credited as providing the first use of the word “biography,” to describe the Plutarchian model for life writing, but in fact the word had entered common usage two decades earlier, in the 1660s.55
Biography itself of course was not invented after the Restoration. Antiquity and the Middle Ages provided two major models for early modern life writing: Plutarch’s exemplary “lives” of great men and the hagiography of Christian saints. After the Reformation, martyrology and spiritual autobiography developed the hagiographic tradition for an age in which confessional identity was a preeminent concern.56 Both the classical and the Christian traditions of life writing continued to exert great influence over biographical writing in the long eighteenth century, and both played an important role in shaping the ways in which early modern celebrity was understood. But the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries also saw the invention of a new kind of biography, which was particularly concerned with detailing the minutiae of daily life, along with those eccentricities of habit and character that might provide readers with some insight into the inward psychological life and complicated personalities of its subjects.57 Hence Johnson opined that although a biographer might be pardoned for attracting the attention of readers by invoking “a celebrated name,” he insisted that “the business of a biographer is often to pass slightly over those performances and incidents, which produce vulgar greatness, to lead the thoughts into domestick privacies, and display the minute details of daily life, where exterior appendages are cast aside, and men excel each other only by prudence and by virtue.”58
Although the new biography could still be devoted to telling stories about great or holy men and women, these works also increasingly took as their subjects people of more common origins and deeds. The people whose stories attracted the interest of news writers soon found their way into various forms of popular life writing as well. Newsworthy figures such as criminals, actors, sex workers, writers, divines, and politicians of all sorts comprised the bulk of the subjects for the new biographies that emerged after the restoration.59 Rogue biographies of criminals, sex workers, and actors and actresses became particularly popular, and such stories fertilized the narrative field in which the fictional characters of novel writing would emerge.60
While life writers often took up the same subjects as the newspapers, the longer narrative form afforded by biography allowed for a more detailed investigation of the personalities and experiences of celebrity subjects. Biography thus differed from news in that it replaced the sense of a constant present that was cultivated by the continually updated short stories promulgated in the newspapers with a more prolonged, almost historical, sense of narrative development for its subjects’ stories. Most commonly beginning with the birth and family background of the subject and developing the narrative as part of the unfolding story of an individual life, biographies added context to readers’ understandings of who these new celebrities were and where they came from. They could, and often did, encourage their readers to develop a strong sense of sympathy for their subjects. Samuel Johnson’s Account of the Life of Mr. Richard Savage (1741) is perhaps one of the best examples of this kind of sympathetic life writing. Johnson went out of his way in this work to present the unfortunate writer Savage as a sympathetic figure, deserving of empathy from his readers: “Those are no proper judges of [Savage’s] conduct, who have slumbered away their time on the down of plenty; nor will any wise man presume to say, ‘Had I been in Savage’s condition, I should have lived or written better than Savage’.”61 Johnson did not write a form of secular hagiography, however; as Adam Rounce has noted, his Life of Savage succeeded precisely because it managed to “combine a real sympathy with subtle condemnation of Savage’s actions. The result was a portrait that was a landmark in literary biography because of the roundedness of its attitudes towards its subject and implications.”62
The new biographical writing of the long eighteenth century strove to present its subjects as fully human, with both the admirable and the unpleasant fully on display. This was the object of John Aubrey’s attempt in his biographical writings to “lay-downe … the Trueth, the naked and plaine trueth (and as neer as I can) … nothing but the trueth, which is here exposed so bare, that the very pudenda are not covered, and affords many passages that would raise a Blush in a young Virgin’s cheeke.”63 It was also the spirit behind John Sheffield, the Duke of Buckingham’s, anecdote relating Oliver Cromwell’s directions to the portrait painter Peter Lely: “I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts, and everything as you see me, otherwise I would never pay a farthing for it.”64 It may be significant that this anecdote circulated orally for over a century before it was finally published by Horace Walpole in the third edition of his Anecdotes of Painting in England (1782). By the later eighteenth century, the rage for this kind of verisimilitude in life writing had become extensive, perhaps nowhere more famously than in James Boswell’s Life of Johnson (1791). Boswell famously declared of his Life: “I will venture to say that [Johnson] will be seen in this work more completely than any man who has ever yet lived. And he will be seen as he really was; for I profess to write not his panegyrick, which must be all praise, but his Life; which, great and good as he was, must not be supposed to be entirely perfect.”65 For Aubrey, Walpole, and Boswell, verisimilitude in life writing was supplied above all by relying on knowledge obtained orally, through conversation and especially through gossip.
Gossip, an oral form of news culture, was a key source for eighteenth-century life writing, and it was the basis for the era’s rage for publishing anecdotes, witticisms, and all sorts of curious details relating to the celebrities of the age.66 Anecdotal writing was not an invention of the long eighteenth century; the classical ur-text here was Procopius’s sixth-century secret history of the Byzantine empire, the Anecdota. But like biography, anecdotes flourished as never before after the Restoration.67 Anecdotes provided the “-ana” behind the “Swiftiana,” “Popeiana,” and “Johnsoniana” that poured from the presses and provided readers with a steady diet of miscellaneous yet curious data relating to famous figures. Anecdotes spread most rapidly in the years immediately following the death of a celebrity, but they were not necessarily posthumous productions. Prolific and scandalous booksellers such as Edmund Curll or John Dunton published lives, memoirs, and anecdotal works relating to celebrities both living and dead as part of their common stock in trade.68 The publication of celebrity trivia became routine by the eighteenth century.
Readers thus developed a compendium of shared knowledge relating to the often eccentric personalities and distinctive life stories of celebrities through exposure to biography and all of the other associated forms of early modern life writing, such as memoirs, published correspondence, and diaries or journals, along with anecdotes about their well-known subjects. This led almost naturally to the notion that biographies could, and indeed should, be grouped together in collective publications such as biographical dictionaries or collected lives. Collective biography had been the mainstay of key post-Reformation martyrological and hagiographic works such as John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments (1563); Samuel Clarke’s Lives of Sundry Eminent Persons in this Later Age (1683); and the extensive ninth chapter of Edmund Calamy’s Abridgment of Mr Baxter’s Narrative (1702), with its “account of the ministers, lecturers, masters, and fellows of colleges and schoolmasters: who were ejected or silenced after the Restoration in 1660.”69 These collections of godly lives would be continually reprinted in various editions throughout the eighteenth century, and they contributed to an enduring cult of Protestant spiritual celebrity in both conformist and nonconformist veins that would shape senses of both national and individual identity throughout the period.70
After the Restoration, collections of secular lives began to be produced as well. John Aubrey and Anthony Wood worked on collective biographies of celebrated scholars in the later seventeenth century; while Aubrey’s lives remained in manuscript, Wood’s Athenae Oxonienses (1691–1692) made considerable use of Aubrey’s work and would become a major reference source in succeeding centuries.71 Pierre Bayle’s unorthodox but highly influential collection of mainly intellectual biographies in his Dictionnaire Historique et Critique (1697) was quickly translated into English in 1710. The biographical dictionary would become one of the major genres of eighteenth-century scholarly publishing and would continue to flourish in the modern age, with projects such as the Victorian era’s Dictionary of National Biography (1885).72
The grand collective biographies and biographical dictionaries of the age had somewhat more downmarket companions as well. John Dunton’s Post-Angel (1701–1702) and Edmund Curll’s Lives and Characters of the Most Illustrious Persons Who Died (1713–1716) published collective obituaries in the form of “memoirs” of the lives of recently deceased individuals. Newspapers and periodicals also published obituaries. These death notices were a regular feature in the Gentleman’s Magazine from its inception in 1731; starting in 1780, it introduced the title “Obituary of Considerable Persons” for the section. The obituary was a particular genre of posthumous life writing that emerged along with news writing in the seventeenth century, and it truly began to flourish with the expansion of the periodical press over the course of the eighteenth century.
The rise of the obituary can also be understood as an aspect of the development of celebrity culture, particularly insofar as obituaries could highlight the lives of individuals who attained fame in their own lifetimes for reasons that had more to do with their personal skills, talents, or circumstances than with their titles or offices held, although it is worth remembering that royal or aristocratic titles and positions of importance still dominated even eighteenth-century notions of fame and celebrity.73 This is made clear by the organizing principle behind James Granger’s Biographical History of England (1769), a catalog of engraved British portraits designed as an aid for collectors. Granger divided his subjects into twelve classes, eight of which were unambiguously linked to titles or offices held. The remaining four classes included mainly people who had achieved some form of distinction through their works or talents. The last two classes were catch-all categories reserved for “ladies and others, of the female sex, according to their rank” and most remarkably, “persons of both sexes, chiefly of the lowest order of the people, remarkable from only one circumstance in their lives; namely such as lived to a great age, deformed persons, convicts, &c.”74 It was this latter category that best approximates the modern sense of celebrity and the common subjects of the new biographies of the long eighteenth century. By the early nineteenth century, Granger’s omnibus category had developed into a popular subgenre of its own—the collective biography of “eccentric lives”—that would provide inspirational material for the fiction of Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens.75
A complete account of the ways in which life writing helped to shape eighteenth-century celebrity would need to take into account the conjuncture between biography and portraiture that developed over the period.76 If biography added narrative sophistication to popular understandings of celebrity personalities, portraiture allowed for greater visual detail and recognition of those personalities. Granger’s Biographical History brought the two together explicitly, but other works were also designed to allow for book binders to include engraved portraits along with the text. Samuel Johnson’s prefaces to The Works of the English Poets (1779–1781), colloquially known later as his Lives of the English Poets, included provisions for prefixing twenty-eight engraved portraits to several volumes in the collection.77 The development of new and improved visual and material technologies for the reproduction of celebrity images and effigies played a key role in the transformation of celebrity culture over the course of the long eighteenth century.
Some historians have identified a new, perhaps even modern, sense of the self emerging in the long eighteenth century. Michael Mascuch finds evidence for this in the life writing of the period, especially in autobiography, arguing indeed that the first modern autobiography in which a clearly articulate sense of an “individualist self” can be identified did not appear until James Lackington published his Memoirs of the First Forty-Five Years (1791). For Dror Wahrman, the last two decades of the eighteenth century saw an “ancien régime of identity” in which selves were understood as “mutable, malleable, unreliable, divisible, replaceable, transferable, manipulable, escapable, or otherwise fuzzy around the edges,” replaced by a modern subjectivity in which personal identity was deep, fixed, and focused on the individual.78 Selfhood and individual identity became ever more crucial concerns in eighteenth-century culture as the social order became more complex and offered more choices and opportunities for self-expression and understanding. This process of self-thickening and individualized identity formation was also essential to the development of celebrity culture. Celebrities stood out from the crowd in an increasingly anonymized and mass-mediated society. They offered models for personal identity and self-formation. It was through the cultivation of an interest in other people—especially celebrities—that eighteenth-century individuals came to better understand their own selves.
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(1) James Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. R. W. Chapman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), 1163.
(2) Fanny Burney, The Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney, 5 vols., ed. Lars Troide, Stewart Cooke et al. (Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1988–2012), 3:103; Boswell, Life of Johnson, 977.
(3) Donna Andrew and Randall McGowen, The Perreaus and Mrs. Rudd: Forgery and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century London, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001).
(5) Boswell felt no such compunctions. He not only visited Rudd, but engaged in a romantic and sexual relationship with her. See Gordon Turnbull, “Criminal Biographer: Boswell and Margaret Caroline Rudd,” SEL: Studies In English Literature, 1500–1900 26:3 (Summer 1986): 511–535.
(6) Helen McGuffie, Samuel Johnson in the British Press, 1749-1784, (New York: Garland, 1976).
(7) Stephen Miller, Three Deaths and Enlightenment Thought: Hume, Johnson, Marat, (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2001), 86; Steven Lynn, “Johnson’s Critical Reception,” in The Cambridge Companion to Samuel Johnson, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 240–241, quote at 241.
(8) A. S. Collins, Authorship in the Days of Johnson, (London: Routledge, 1927); Alvin Kernan, Samuel Johnson and the Impact of Print, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989); Lawrence Lipking, Samuel Johnson: The Life of an Author, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998); and Dustin Griffin, Literary Patronage in England 1650-1800, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), esp. 220–245.
(9) On the concept of celebrity as a system, see P. David Marshall, Celebrity and Power: Fame in Contemporary Culture, 2nd ed. (1997; repr., Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), xlviii.
(10) Antoine Lilti, “The Writing of Paranoia: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Paradoxes of Celebrity,” Representations 103, no. 1 (Summer 2008): 53–83; Sean C. Goodlett, “The Origins of Celebrity: The Eighteenth-Century Anglo-French Press Reception of Jean-Jacques Rousseau” (PhD diss., University of Oregon, 2000); Marcia Pointon, “The Lives of Kitty Fisher,” British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 27, no. 1 (2004): 77–98; Julie Peakman, “Blaming and Shaming in Whores’ Memoirs,” History Today 59, no. 8 (August 2009): 33–39; Lincoln B. Faller, Turned to Account: The Forms and Functions of Criminal Biography in Late Seventeenth- and Early Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Michael Mascuch, “John Wesley, Superstar: Periodicity, Celebrity, and the Sensibility of Methodist Society in Wesley’s Journal (1740–91),” in Controlling Time and Shaping the Self: Developments in Autobiographical Writing since the Sixteenth Century, ed. Ariane Baggerman, Rudolf Dekker, and Michael Mascuch (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 269–302; Matthew Kinservik, Sex, Scandal and Celebrity in Late Eighteenth-Century England (Houndmills, UK: Palgrave, 2007); Cheryl Wanko, Roles of Authority: Thespian Biography and Celebrity in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2003).
(11) On early modern gossip and female sociability, see Bernard Capp, When Gossips Meet: Women, Family and Neighbourhood in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), and in literature, see Patricia Meyer Spacks, Gossip (New York: Knopf, 1985).
(12) Martin Postle, ed., Joshua Reynolds: The Creation of Celebrity (London: Tate Britain, 2005); Antoine Lilti, Figures Publiques: L’Invention de la Célébrité 1750–1850 (Paris: Fayard, 2014).
(13) Stella Tillyard, “Celebrity in Eighteenth-Century London,” History Today (June 2005): 20.
(14) Lilti, Figures Publiques; Fred Inglis, A Short History of Celebrity (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010); Tom Mole, ed., Romanticism and Celebrity Culture, 1750–1850 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009); Tom Mole, Byron’s Romantic Celebrity: Industrial Culture and the Hermeneutic of Intimacy (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2007); Michael Rosenthal, “Public Reputation and Image Control in Late-Eighteenth-Century Britain,” Visual Culture in Britain 7, no. 2 (2006): 69–92; Clara Tuite, Lord Byron and Scandalous Celebrity (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015); Julia H. Fawcett, Spectacular Disappearances: Celebrity and Privacy, 1696–1801 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016).
(17) On Victorian celebrity, see Joss Marsh, “The Rise of Celebrity Culture,” in Charles Dickens in Context, ed. Sally Ledger and Holly Furneaux (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 98–108; and Edward Berenson and Eva Giloi, eds., Constructing Charisma: Celebrity, Fame, and Power in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Oxford: Berghahn, 2010).
(18) Mole, Byron’s Romantic Celebrity, xi–xii; Tillyard, “Celebrity in Eighteenth-Century London,” 21; Cheryl Wanko, “Patron or Patronsed? ‘Fans’ and the Eighteenth-Century Stage,” in Mole, Romanticism and Celebrity Culture, 209–226; Lilti, Figures Publiques, 144–147.
(19) Leo Braudy, The Frenzy of Renown: Fame and Its History (1986; repr., New York: Vintage, 1997), 14, 340, 371.
(20) Braudy, Frenzy of Renown, 613; Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989); Michael McKeon, “Parsing Habermas’s ‘Bourgeois Public Sphere,’” Criticism 46, no. 2 (Spring 2004): 273–727.
(21) Brian Cowan, “Public Spaces, Knowledge and Sociability,” in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Consumption, ed. Frank Trentmann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 251–266; T. C. W. Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture: Old Regime Europe 1660–1789 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); and James Van Horn Melton, The Rise of the Public in Enlightenment Europe (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
(22) Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, ed. Gunzelin Schmid Noerr, trans. Edmund Jephcott (1947; repr., Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002), 130.
(23) Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseduo-Events in America (1961; repr., New York: Vintage, 2012), esp. 217.
(25) Peter Burke, The Fabrication of Louis XIV (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992), 5.
(27) Nigel Saul, “Chivalry and the Birth of Celebrity,” History Today 61, no. 6 (June 2011): 20–25; Nigel Saul, Chivalry in Medieval England (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011).
(28) Aviad Kleinberg, “Are Saints Celebrities?” Cultural and Social History 8, no. 3 (2011): 393–397.
(29) Brian Cowan, “The Pulpit Idol: Henry Sacheverell and the Politics of Celebrity in Post-Revolutionary Britain,” in Public Interiors: Intimacy and Celebrity in Eighteenth-Century Literary Culture, ed. Emrys Jones and Victoria Joule (Houndmills, UK: Palgrave, forthcoming); S. P. Cerasano, “Edward Alleyn, the New Model Actor, and the Rise of the Celebrity in the 1590s,” Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 18 (2006): 47–58.
(30) Andrew Pettegree, The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know About Itself (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014).
(31) Joad Raymond, The Invention of the Newspaper: English Newsbooks, 1641–1649, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).
(32) Richard Squibbs, Urban Enlightenment and the Eighteenth-Century Periodical Essay: Transatlantic Retrospects (Houndmills, UK: Palgrave, 2014); Joad Raymond, Pamphlets and Pamphleteering in Early Modern Britain (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Frances E. Dolan, True Relations: Reading, Literature and Evidence in Seventeenth-Century England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013); and George de Forest Lord et al., eds., Poems on Affairs of State: Augustan Satirical Verse, 1660–1714, 7 vols. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1963–1975).
(34) Alex Barber, “‘It is Not Easy What to Say of our Condition, Much Less to Write It’: The Continued Importance of Scribal News in the Early Eighteenth Century,” Parliamentary History 32, no. 2 (2013): 293–316.
(35) Andrea McKenzie, Tyburn’s Martyrs: Execution in England 1675––1775 (London: Hambledon Continuum, 2007), 120–155.
(36) Brian Cowan, The Social Life of Coffee: The Emergence of the British Coffeehouse (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005), 214–219.
(37) Tatler, no. 155 (April 6 1710), in The Tatler, ed. Donald F. Bond, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 2:370; Brian Cowan, “Mr. Spectator and the Coffeehouse Public Sphere,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 37:3 (2004): 345–366.
(38) Jeremy Black, The English Press in the Eighteenth Century (London: Croom Helm, 1987), 82–83.
(39) John Whale, “Daniel Mendoza’s Contests of Identity: Masculinity, Ethnicity and Nation in Georgian Prize-Fighting,” Romanticism 14, no. 3 (2008): 259–271.
(40) Joseph Roach, Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 33–72; Joseph Roach, It (University of Michigan Press, 2007), esp. 63–69; Alison Conway, The Protestant Whore: Courtesan Narrative and Religious Controversy in England, 1680–1750 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010), 25–40; Kate C. Hamilton. “The ‘Famous Mrs. Barry’: Elizabeth Barry and Restoration Celebrity,” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 42, no. 1 (2013): 291–320.
(41) Folger Shakespeare Library, MS L.c. 943 (June 5, 1680).
(42) Gillian Russell, Women, Sociability and Theatre in Georgian London (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Daniel O’Quinn, Entertaining Crisis in the Atlantic Imperium 1770–1790 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011).
(43) Stuart Sherman, “Garrick among Media: The ‘Now Performer’ Navigates the News,” PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 126, no. 4 (October 2011): 966–982; John Brewer, The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century (New York: Farar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997), 340.
(44) Victoria E. M. Gardiner, The Business of News in England, 1760–1820 (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2016), 62, 68–92.
(45) William Cobbett, The Political Proteus; A View of the Public Character and Conduct of R. B. Sheridan (London: Cox, 1804), 206.
(46) See, however, The Multigraph Collective, Interacting with Print: Keywords for the Age of Media Saturation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, forthcoming), ch. 17.
(47) Alastair Bellany, The Politics of Court Scandal in Early Modern England: News Culture and the Overbury Affair, 1603–1660 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Andrew McRae, Literature, Satire and the Early Stuart State (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Harold Love, English Clandestine Satire, 1660–1702 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004); Rebecca Bullard, The Politics of Disclosure, 1674–1725: Secret History Narratives (London: Pickering, 2009).
(48) Mark Knights, The Devil in Disguise: Deception, Delusion, and Fanaticism in the Early English Enlightenment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 10–44; Thomas Salmon, A Compleat Collection of State-Tryals, 4 vols. (London, 1719), 4:406–444; Brian Cowan and Scott Sowerby, eds., The State Trials of Later Stuart England (London: Boydell, 2017).
(49) Anna Clark, Scandal: The Sexual Politics of the British Constitution (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), 3.
(50) Andrew and McGowen, The Perreaus and Mrs. Rudd; John Brewer, Sentimental Murder: Love and Madness in the Eighteenth Century (London: HarperCollins, 2004); Matthew J. Kinservik, Sex, Scandal, and Celebrity in Late Eighteenth-Century England (Houndmills, UK: Palgrave, 2007); Russell, Women, Sociability and Theatre; Helen Berry, The Castrato and His Wife (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
(51) Tuite, Lord Byron and Scandalous Celebrity; for France, see Sarah Maza, Private Lives and Public Affairs: The Causes Célèbres of Prerevolutionary France (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993).
(52) C. John Sommerville, The News Revolution in England: Cultural Dynamics of Daily Information (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996); Brendan Dooley, ed., The Dissemination of News and the Emergence of Contemporaneity in Early Modern Europe (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2010); and Daniel Woolf, “News, History, and the Construction of the Present in Early Modern England,” in The Politics of Information in Early Modern Europe, ed. Brendan Dooley and Sabrina A. Baron (London: Routledge, 2002), 80–118. Contrast, however, the critique in Tony Cladyon, “Daily News and the Construction of Time in Late Stuart England, 1695–1714,” Journal of British Studies 52, no. 1 (January 2013): 55–78.
(54) Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, ed. W. J. Bate and A. B. Straus, 3 vols. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1969), 1:319.
(55) Ian Donaldson, “National Biography and the Arts of Memory: From Thomas Fuller to Colin Matthew,” in Mapping Lives: The Uses of Biography, ed. Peter France and William St. Clair (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 67; Donald Stauffer, English Biography Before 1700 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1930), 218–219.
(56) Elizabeth Evenden and Thomas S. Freeman, Religion and the Book in Early Modern England: The Making of John Foxe’s “Book of Martyrs” (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Thomas S. Freeman and Thomas F. Mayer, eds., Martyrs and Martyrdom in England, c. 1400–1700 (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2007); Michael Mascuch, Origins of the Individualist Self: Autobiography and Self-identity in England, 1591–1791 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996).
(57) Mark Philips, Society and Sentiment: Genres of Historical Writing in Britain, 1740–1820 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), 131–146; Michael McKeon, “Biography, Fiction, and the Emergence of ‘Identity’ in Eighteenth-Century Britain,” in Writing Lives: Biography and Textuality, Identity and Representation in Early Modern England, ed. Kevin Sharpe and Steven N. Zwicker (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 339–355.
(59) Donald A. Stauffer, The Art of Biography in Eighteenth-Century England, 2 vols. (Princeton. NJ: Princeton University Press, 1941), offers a comprehensive bibliography. For the previous period, see Stauffer, English Biography Before 1700, and Allan Pritchard, English Biography in the Seventeenth Century (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005).
(60) Michael Harris, “Trials and Criminal Biographies: A Case Study in Distribution,” in Sale and Distribution of Books from 1700, ed. Robin Myers and Michael Harris (Oxford: Oxford Polytechnic Press, 1982), 1–36; Faller, Turned to Account; Hal Gladfelder, Criminality and Narrative in Eighteenth-Century England: Beyond the Law (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001); Laura Rosenthal, Infamous Commerce: Prostitution in Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Culture (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006); Wanko, Roles of Authority; Felicity Nussbaum, Rival Queens: Actresses, Performance and the Eighteenth-Century British Theater (Philadelphia: Universityof Pennsylvania Press, 2010).
(61) Samuel Johnson, The Lives of the Poets, ed. Roger Lonsdale, 4 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006), 3:188. Richard Holmes, Dr. Johnson and Mr. Savage (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1993), notes that Johnson took considerable liberties with the truth in order to present a sympathetic study of his friend Savage.
(62) Adam Rounce, Fame and Failure 1720–1800: The Unfulfilled Literary Life (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 29.
(63) John Aubrey, Brief Lives, ed. John Buchanan-Brown (London: Penguin, 2000), 3–4.
(64) Horace Walpole, Anecdotes of Painting in England, 3rd ed., 4 vols. (London: J. Dodsley, ), 3:30. The anecdote does not appear in the first (1762) edition.
(66) Harold Love, “Gossip and Biography,” in Writing Lives, ed. Sharpe and Zwicker, 91–104; April London, “Sarah Fielding’s Lives of Cleopatra and Octavia: Anecdote and Women’s Biographical Histories,” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 43, no. 1 (2014): 137–151.
(67) Lionel Gossman, “Anecdote and History,” History and Theory 42, no. 2 (May 2003): 143–168; Annabel Patterson, “Foul, His Wife, the Mayor, and Foul’s Mare: The Power of Anecdote in Tudor Historiography,” in The Historical Imagination in Early Modern Britain: History, Rhetoric, and Fiction, 1500–1800, ed. Donald Kelly and David Harris Sacks (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 159–178.
(68) Paul Baines and Pat Rogers, Edmund Curll, Bookseller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); Stephen Parks, John Dunton and the English Book Trade (New York: Garland, 1976).
(69) Evenden and Freeman, Religion and the Book in Early Modern England; Lake, “Reading Clarke’s Lives,” in Writing Lives, ed. Sharpe and Zwicker, 293–318; David Wykes, “To Revive the Memory of Some Excellent Men”: Edmund Calamy and the Early Historians of Nonconformity (London: Dr. William’s Trust, 1997).
(70) Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707–1837 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992), ch. 1; Tony Claydon, Europe and the Making of England 1660–1760 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007), ch. 2.
(71) Michael Hunter, John Aubrey and the Realm of Learning (New York: Science History Publications, 1975).
(72) Isabel Rivers, “Biographical Dictionaries and Their Uses from Bayle to Chalmers,” in Books and Their Readers in Eighteenth-Century England: New Essays, ed. Isabel Rivers (London: Continuum, 2001), 135–170; Robert Faber and Brian Harrison, “The Dictionary of National Biography: A Publishing History,” in Lives in Print: Biography and the Book Trade from the Middle Ages to the 21st Century, Robin Myers, Michael Harris, and Giles Mandelbrote, eds., (London and New Castle, DE: British Library and Oak Knoll Press, 2002), 171–192.
(73) Nigel Starck, Life After Death: The Art of the Obituary (Melbourne, Austral.: Melbourne University Publishing, 2006); Ralph Houlbrooke, Death, Religion and the Family in England 1480–1750 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 329–330; Elizabeth Barry, “From Epitaph to Obituary: Death and Celebrity in Eighteenth-Century British Culture,” International Journal of Cultural Studies 11, no. 3 (2008): 259–275.
(74) James Granger, A Biographical History of England, from Egbert the Great to the Revolution, 4 vols. (London, 1769), 1:sig. Ar–v; Marcia Pointon, Hanging the Head: Portraiture and Social Formation in Eighteenth-Century England (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993), 56.
(75) James Gregory, “Eccentric Biography and the Victorians,” Biography 30, no. 3 (2007): 342–376; and James Gregory, “Eccentric Lives: Character, Characters and Curiosities and Britain, c. 1760–1900,” in Histories of the Normal and the Abnormal: Social and Cultural Histories of Norms and Normativity, ed. Ernst Waltraud, (London: Routledge, 2006), 73–100.
(77) J. D. Fleeman, A Bibliography of the Works of Samuel Johnson, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), 2:1352.