The qualities and achievements of eighteenth century English literature have suffered denigration as a result of a prevailing Whig interpretation of literary history. It is the contention of this book, originally published in 1986, that an alternative form of Whig interpretation is possible and even desirable. It has as its sphere of interest the ways in which views on the nature and benefits of political freedom, and various "whiggish" readings of literary history, political theory and aesthetics, did in fact shape literary and social changes through the eighteenth century. Many characteristic Romantic tenets can be seen as springing, not fully formed from the heads of their creators, but directly out of the aesthetic concerns focusing around Longinus, and the recognition of the historically singular nature of the British constitution.

This book studies and analyses the forms such concerns took in several of the central thinkers and writers of the period, and is an important contribution to the understanding of the eighteenth century milieu.

part One|23 pages

Freedom’s Ample Fabric.

chapter |12 pages

Liberty and the Arts

chapter |11 pages

Freedom and the National Character.

part Two|54 pages

The Early Decades.

chapter |17 pages

The Third Earl of Shaftesbury

chapter |10 pages

Thomas Blackwell

chapter |12 pages

Mark Akenside

chapter |15 pages

Augustan, Grecian, Gothic.

part Three|18 pages

Turning Points

chapter |18 pages

David Hume

part Four|35 pages

The Years of Experiment

chapter |16 pages

Brown and Sheridan

chapter |11 pages

Adam Ferguson

chapter |8 pages

Samuel Johnson

part Five|22 pages

The Shade of Ancestral Feeling.

chapter |22 pages

William Wordsworth

chapter |6 pages