These essays focus primarily on the theme of selfhood and subjective experience in the poetry of the British Romantic period, and in the later poetry and novels that were its legacy. There are chapters on Gray, Cowper, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Shelley, Byron, Hardy and George Eliot - writers who, though often having a strong interest in public affairs, all turned inwards to make trial of imagination and the individual life as sources of order and value against a background of cultural unsettlement. The book moves from the emergence of post-Enlightenment "psychological man" to the proto-modernist preoccupation with the self as "construct" in Byron and Hardy. The book also addresses such issues as the evolution of genres, the function and staus of the artist, links between literature and politics, and recent critiques of "Romantic ideology". "Existentialism" emerges as the fittest model of the human condition, stressing the necessity to create meaning in an impersonal world.