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How, and why, did the Anglo-American world become so obsessed with the private lives and public character of its political leaders? Marilyn Morris finds answers in eighteenth-century Britain, when a long tradition of court intrigue and gossip spread into a much broader and more public political arena with the growth of political parties, extra-parliamentary political activities, and a partisan print culture. The public's preoccupation with the personal character of the ruling elite paralleled a growing interest in the interior lives of individuals in histories, novels, and the theater. Newspaper reports of the royal family intensified in intimacy and its members became moral exemplars--most often, paradoxically, when they misbehaved. Ad hominem attacks on political leaders became commonplace; politicians of all affiliations continued to assess one another's characters based on their success and daring with women and money. And newly popular human-interest journalism promoted the illusion that the personal characters of public figures could be read by appearances.