Today I am doing a guest blog at the brilliant 'Reading Between the Wines Book Club': Readingbetweenthewinesbookclub.blogspot.co.uk
In it I’ve taken a point in my book ‘The Rebel’s Promise’ and written an imaginary gossip column about a scandal involving Jack and Rosie, the hero and heroine.
Because, of course, both gossip and celebrity have been around for a long time! Until the early 18th century scandal was spread by word of mouth and letter. Once the printed page grew in popularity, however, newspapers became a popular means of communication.
Newspapers were expensive and few people could afford to purchase their own copy. It became popular for men to gather with friends at public coffee houses and clubs to catch up on the prevailing scandal. Women pay each other visits to discuss the latest ‘crims cons’ and other gossip. In London, the elite scoured the scandal sheets for mention of their friends and acquaintances (and perhaps themselves).
The scandal sheets claimed that their purpose was to keep people informed and perform a public duty. Much the same as today’s gossip columnists claim!
It would be easy to mistake Georgian celebrities, who hit the headlines for their misdemeanours, for their present day equivalents:
· A once beautiful, talented woman who destroyed her good looks, threw away her fortune and wrecked her reputation through an "excessive indulgence in love, liquor, lust and laudanum".
· Or the steamy account of the affair between the married woman and the dashing nobleman (which included sordid details of them having sex the first time they met).
· There were frequent attacks on the scurrilous behaviour of the ‘courtesans’ or ‘gold-diggers’ - women who slept with the rich and well-known for the money and fame it brought them.
· Failed marriages (and the reasons for the failure) were always a popular item.
Some of the famous Georgians I have blogged about here were the darlings (or otherwise) of the press. The affair between Nelson and Lady Hamilton was widely publicised and Nelson was happy to contribute to the spin which created his heroic image.
The beautiful Gunning sisters had to be escorted by guards whenever they went out, for fear of being mobbed. On one occasion a huge crowd turned out at an inn to watch them eat! On their presentation at the Court of St James, many of the gathered nobles (themselves celebrities!) stood on their chairs to get a better view.
Royalty watching was as popular then as it is now. And the Georgian royals, particularly The Prince Regent, certainly gave the gossip columnists plenty to write about.
Of course, it is human nature to enjoy reading about people behaving badly. Whether it’s the 18th century, or the present day, muck-raking is a popular past-time!