Dec 6, 2015
When it comes to the Kardashians, or Paris Hilton, or anyone else who is 'famous for being famous,' I sigh, roll my eyes, and wonder how humanity could've fallen in love with such vapid people who don't contribute to society. 'When did we start valuing such uselessness?' I ask myself as I start sounding like a member of the 'International Adult Conspiracy' from 'The Adventures of Pete and Pete.'
When did Western Civilization become so inundated with such attention-hungry people? Was it the 1990s with the development of Reality TV? The 1940s with the rise of Pin-Up girls? Those darn flappers from the Roaring 20s? It turns out that Socrates wasn't far off when he said, 'The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.'
In 1741, Catherine Marie Fischer was born in England of German descent, and grew into the profession of hatmaker and haberdasher. Sometime in the 1750s, she was introduced to London High Society by Viscount Augustus Keppel and took the name 'Kitty Fisher.'
Kitty soon became a household name. Using the emerging mass media of the new London tabloids and her innate flair for self-publicity, anyone who was anyone was following what Kitty wore, how she was done up, and imitating it. She had world-renowned painter Joshua Reynolds paint her as the subject for about a dozen portraits. The portraits were made into engravings and hundreds of copies made of every size. Soon, every gentleman had a copy of her portrait in their snuffbox or in their pocket watch, and every woman copied her look.
Starlet drama isn't anything new, either. Kitty was an excellent and daring horsewoman. This made it all the more delicious for the tabloids when she fell off her horse while riding through St. James Park. In much the same way as the Star or E! latch onto the newest and latest flub of the celebrity elite, they jumped on this non-event. The papers joked about it for months, calling her a 'fallen woman.' Whole books were devoted to this little incident, but Kitty took the whole thing in stride. She even took out an advertisement in the Public Advertiser warning against, '. . . the baseness of little scribblers and scurvy malevolence.'
Kitty Fisher's short life is also reminiscent of of today's posh celebs, though she certainly didn't burn her candle at both ends. In 1766, at the age of 25, she married the son of a Member of Parliament named John Norris. She spent much of her married life helping out the local poor. Just four months after she and John were married, however, she died of tuberculosis. Thus, the life of one of the world's first people famous for being famous came to a close.
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