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Páraic Frost and Mark Frost

On 4 June 1869, a year after dining merrily with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Charles Eliot Norton in Paris, John Ruskin records the following in his diary:

VERONA. – As I was drawing in the square this morning in a lovely, quiet Italian light, there came up the poet Longfellow with his little daughter, a girl of twelve or thirteen, with springy-curled flaxen hair – curls or waves, that wouldn’t come out in damp, I mean. They stayed talking beside me some time. I don’t think it was a very vain thought that came over me, that if a photograph could have been taken of the beautiful square of Verona, in that soft light, with Longfellow and his daughter talking to me at my work, some people in England and America would have liked copies of it.

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A Disciple of Whitman and Ruskin

William Harrison Riley, Transatlantic Celebrity, and the Perils of Working-Class Fandom

Mark Frost

This article focuses on attempts by working-class intellectual, William Harrison Riley, to act as a transatlantic bridge connecting John Ruskin and Walt Whitman, and on what this reveals about nineteenth-century celebrity culture. Despite contrasting attitudes to fame, Ruskin and Whitman both constructed public profiles as generational prophets with broad appeal to the working classes, at the same time pursuing rhetorical strategies stressing their own exceptionalism. Because their lofty elevation depended upon the existence of disciples, their public outreach only seemed to offer disciples opportunities to transcend the hierarchical structures underpinning celebrity culture. Riley is of particular interest as a marginalized working-class writer who sought equality with Ruskin and Whitman by joining Ruskin's Utopian Guild of St George, and by attempting to negotiate Ruskin's support in raising Whitman's profile. The costly failure of these enterprises suggests that celebrity culture often reflects, reinforces, and polices prevailing social divisions of late nineteenth-century capitalism.