[Ads-l] Antedating "star" for stage celebrity?

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jul 9 22:49:19 UTC 2015

Stuttgart's interesting 1809 citation for "stars" included a
contextual reference to "the theatrical heavens". The 1800 citation
below for "star" also referenced a "theatrical heaven". Perhaps this
1800 citation does not qualify as an instance of "star" in the desired
sense because it is still embedded in a metaphor. I don't know. But
this citation helps illuminate the evolution of the meaning of "star".
Interestingly, the "star" was an author and not an actor.

[Begin OED excerpt]
star noun
 5. fig. A person of brilliant reputation or talents.
 a. An actor, singer, etc. of exceptional celebrity, or one whose name
is prominently advertised as a special attraction to the public.

[1779 J. Warner in J. H. Jesse G. Selwyn & his Contemp. (1844) IV. 30
 The little stars, who hid their diminished rays in his [Garrick's]
presence, begin to abuse him.]

1824   Compl. Hist. Murder Mr. Weare 219   Carter..was at a loss for a
star in the pugilistic hemisphere to produce him a crowded house.
[End OED excerpt]

Date: February 1, 1800
Journal: The Monthly Magazine
Article: View of the State of the Stage in Germany
Author: Correspondent at Weimar
Start Page 34, Quote Page 35


[Begin excerpt]
It had certainly a very singular appearance, that, at the very time
when in London and Paris Kotzebue's Misanthropy and Repentance, and
his Child of Love, raised their author to the stars of the theatrical
heaven, and ingrafted into many thousand inhabitants of those Cities
the first love of German Literature . . .
[End excerpt]


On Thu, Jul 9, 2015 at 3:23 PM, Stuttgart <svaihingen at hotmail.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Stuttgart <svaihingen at HOTMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Antedating "star" for stage celebrity?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I believe OED and M-W online list earliest use as 1824 and 1821=2C respecti=
> vely.  It was a word associated with the stage as early as 1809.
> In a biographical sketch of an popular tenor named John Braham=2C dated Oct=
> ober 1809:
> "Behind the curtain=2C things are pretty much in statu quo=2C with the exce=
> ption of Braham and Mountain [(Mrs. Mountain=2C another popular singer)]=2C=
>  Stars=2C to use the stage phrase that shine brightly in the theatrical hea=
> vens. . . ." (Italics in original).
> Walker's Hibernian Magazine=2C or Compendium of Entertaining Knowledge (Dub=
> lin)=2C For September=2C 1809=2C page 549.
>   =20
>                                           =
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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