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The Clements Bookworm: “The Strange Genius of Mr. O: The World of The United States’ First Forgotten Celebrity An Author Conversation with Carolyn Eastman
August 19 @ 10:00 am - 11:15 am
When James Ogilvie arrived in America in 1793, he was a deeply ambitious but impoverished teacher. By the time he returned to Britain in 1817, he had become a bona fide celebrity known simply as Mr. O, counting the nation’s leading politicians and intellectuals among his admirers. And then, like so many meteoric American luminaries afterward, he fell from grace.
The Strange Genius of Mr. O is at once the biography of a remarkable performer–a gaunt Scottish orator who appeared in a toga–and a story of the United States during the founding era.
Why should we care about a now-forgotten celebrity of the early 19th century? Carolyn Eastman (Associate Professor of History, Virginia Commonwealth University) examines an explosive celebrity performer who captivated audiences at a key moment in the founding era, a man whose career featured many of the hallmarks of celebrity we recognize from later eras: glamorous friends, eccentric clothing, scandalous religious views, and even a drug habit. And yet examining his career and the Americans who loved (or hated) him reveals a vivid portrait of the United States in the midst of invention.