This book began life as a conversation over lunch with Kim Scott Walwyn in Melbourne, Australia. It was she, and later Andrew Lockett from the Oxford University Press, who encouraged me to think that I could write a more ambitious book than the one I originally proposed. I must thank the three anonymous readers who (I am embarrassed to recall when I think of its crude condition) read that original proposal and supported the idea of a broadly based study of the period's writing.
Alexander Pope's punning advice to would-be authors in the Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot is to 'keep your piece nine years'. For modern scholars working under current employment conditions in the U.K., that advice is all too easy to heed. Under current employment conditions, a book that has been nine years in the writing is likely to have had around nine months actually devoted to It. I have been working on a study of the professionalization of imaginative writing in England since 1991, but the truth is that I have been not working on it since that date; and its completion is due to the generosity of the R. D. Roberts bequest of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, which funded a sabbatical year in 1994-5. That I was able to take the period of leave was due to the willing and unstinting co-operation of my colleague Professor Lyn Pykett, who assumed the duties of head of department and has discharged them so well that it is unlikely my colleagues will ever want me back. To Lyn Pykett and to my other colleagues who also took a share of extra tasks, and have provided me with opportunities at research seminars to air my ideas, I am more grateful than I can say.
Once the writing got under way, several colleagues and friends were instrumental in reading drafts, which they did with unfailing generosity and unflagging vigilance: to Ian Bell, Tanya Caldwell, Steve Copley, Simon Dentith, Edmund Fryde, Paul Hunter, Michael McKeon, Gill Manning, Valerie Pedlar, David Shuttleton, Harold Weber, and Peter Wright, I am especially grateful. Very many other individuals have contributed to the making of