I am a mature student undertaking researching the impact of celebrity culture upon wider society during the Regency period (Britain 1811-1832).
My thesis uses William Long-Wellesley (1788-1857) as a case study, to shed light on avenues open to achieve celebrity status, and explore the extent that such contemporary celebrity influenced public political and legal opinion.
Long-Wellesley was an unashamed self-publicist, directly communicating with the public through the medium of mass-produced print media. His readiness to discuss his personal life so openly ran counter to existing practices respecting privacy of the individual - by participating in the release of such stories, Long-Wellesley by-passed existing mechanisms protecting well-known individuals from exposure, compelling changes - both in attitudes to standards of behaviour in public life, but also in terms of significant legal reforms.
My thesis will argue that Long-Wellesley's celebrity ambitions were not unusual - and that increased consumerism after 1750 created a new public sphere within which it was possible for individuals to become commodified for public consumption. This was a democratic process; celebrity could be bestowed on a criminal or a bare-knuckle fighter just as easily as upon an artist or aristocrat - and it was enabled by a boom in print and visual media, which responded to (or fed) an enormous public appetite for novelty and sensation.
Long-Wellesley makes a good case-study because he was prominent for so long in the public eye, having no discernible talent other than the ability to generate interest in himelf.