Empire and Celebrity

In the 18th century, celebrity culture helped make the British Empire seem both a part of everyday life and a place of fantasy.

iIlustrations from Fashions and Customs of Marie Antoinette and her Times, by Gustave de Reiset, 1885 © Bridgeman Images.

On 7 November 1777, a letter in the London Morning Post described a ‘strange monster’ being driven in a phaeton along Fleet Street.

Notwithstanding the creature cannot be old; its eyes looked something like those of a dead cod, – its mouth rather large, and it grinned not to laugh, but to shew its teeth, which appeared tolerable white. … The only thing it moved was its lips and head, which it turned from side to side, and seemed to stare at the people with an unmeaning, cold, contemptuous look, as if they were creatures below its notice.

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