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Suppose someone is suddenly exposed to a barrage of media attention today, they might say something like "I feel like a Kardashian".

What if I have a character (in Europe) experiencing something similar in the 1850s, who are some of the analogous public figures that they might reference - "I feel like ____"?

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  • "Media" in 19th, and particularly 18th centuries was much different from today. And by "media attention" do you mean "objectively unwarranted media attention"? – Alexander Jan 27 '20 at 18:36
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I would suggest "I feel like Jenny Lind!"

Jenny Lind was not only a star performer in Europe and the USA, she was also well-loved for her charitable donations. Along with giving money, she frequently donated her time and singing in order to attract other donors to events.

She had sold-out concerts around the world and a hugely profitable tour of the USA in the 1850s through PT Barnum's efforts (who marketed her widely) and then her own management. She had operas and roles and music written for her by famous composers - Mendelssohn, Chopin, Lindblad, Meyerbeer. She was a performer with various European opera companies or concert halls for months or years at a time.

She attracted huge crowds in the US during her concert tour, selling out most of the concerts. People mobbed her carriage in the street, attempting to climb into it. She had to leave buildings by the back door but was still chased down.

Lind, performing as a 'moral' woman, helped make it acceptable for US middle-class women to attend less formal theatrical events, and helped other women become popular performers without having to be classified as "dance hall" type women. She gained many followers because of her character, along with her singing.

Buildings, streets, ships, etc were named after her. Jenny Lind hairstyles were copied. Her choice in dress was copied. Sheet music for the songs she sang became popular and she has been cited as one of the artists that helped make the music publishing business grow so large so fast in the USA. People could "sing like Jenny Lind!" and "be a nightingale" with her sheet music.

You can see some of that sheet music at the Library of Congress:

Library of Congress Jenny Lind all items

Library of Congress Jenny Lind notated sheet music

She used a certain trunk on her US concert tour and it ended up with her name as the style. Furniture is named after her. Cartoons about her and the Lind Craze appeared in European newspapers. Gloves, bonnets, shoes, stockings, fans, buttons, pins, etc were all marketed for her tours. Her image was created and marketed for the general public just like celebrities today. Her pose in pictures, her word choices, the songs she sang, the trinkets sold, were all selected to appeal to certain people (the burgeoning middle class) and to market herself as a moral woman.

She was a true celebrity, talented but also keenly marketed.

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Based on exactly when and where, there were a lot of writers who are still well known today and therefore have recognizable names for your readers. Here are my favorites outside of the U.S. (obviously I've read more 19th century writers):

1700's Robert Burns, Daniel Dafoe, Henry Fielding, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Jonathan Swift, Voltaire

1800's Louisa May Alcott, Hans Christian Andersen, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the Brontë sisters, Lord Byron, Lewis Carroll, Anton Chekhov, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Emily Dickinson, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexandre Dumas, George Eliot, Gustave Flaubert, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Hardy, Victor Hugo, Henrik Ibsen, Henry James, John Keats, Rudyard Kipling, Guy de Maupassant

Hope this helps.

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As to celebrity in the 1800s, specifically, the closest you generally get is royalty.

Generally.

But the sort of attention you are talking about didn't exist in the same way. Therefore, nobody would say that in the same way. I "felt like the Queen" would be the closest. I felt like the Maharaja, would be another.

Now, as to celebrity analogs:

Not in Europe, but in America, post-Civil War, the most famous person that I can think of on the level of a Kardashian was Harriet Beecher Stowe. She wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin and a LOT of other things. She wrote for newspapers and had other best-sellers (Palmetto Leaves). Her winter house in Mandarin FL was written about in a NY newspaper, described in detail down to what the cracks in the wall BEHIND the wallpaper were caulked in. Because people wanted to know. They would wake up to random people in their yard taking branches off their orange trees because steamboats in Jacksonville were charging people to tour down to her winter home in Mandarin. Without the consent of the Stowes.

In Europe somewhat earlier, there's Lord Byron.

Dickens could draw a crowd.

You should know: George Bryan “Beau” Brummell (specifically for fashion!)

P.T. Barnum

Ranjitsinhji (for sports, although there are a lot more where this came from)

Earlier there's Mozart and Beethoven.

Again, for drawing a real crowd or being pampered there's nothing like royalty. Even though Harriet Beecher Stowe's level of celebrity was arguably at the level of the Kardashians (complete with proto-paparazzi), nobody's going to be like "I felt like Harriet Beecher Stowe" in the situation you're talking about.

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