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Corin Throsby explores the unexpected literary influences on Byron, Browning and Tennyson - their fan mail.

Fan mail is generally regarded as a modern phenomenon but, in the early nineteenth century, Lord Byron received hundreds of letters from ardent strangers. This correspondence was indicative of a growing culture of intimacy between reader and author in the Romantic period. Although Byron struck an aristocratic pose of indifference towards his fans, he secretly kept all their letters and, while never replying directly, subtly responded to them in his later poetry.

In this programme 'Radio 3 New Generation Thinker' Corin Throsby rifles through the fan-mail of Byron, Siddons, Tennyson and Browning amongst others and explores the personality-saturated media of the digital age through the letters sent to contemporary figures. Technology may have re-engineered the way fans write to their heroes - through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook - yet the relationship is, ironically, more distant despite claims that technology has brought us closer together. Byron subtly answered his fan-mail, yet today's celebrities' social networking sites are mediated by third parties. Thus today's fan finds direct contact with their idol harder to come by -

Producer: Gavin Heard.