The Longman Literature in English series provides students of literature with a critical introduction to the major genres in their historical and cultural context. Each volume gives an account of a clearly defined area, from Anglo Saxon times to the present. The aim of the series as a whole is to show that the most valuable and stimulating approach to the study of literature is that based upon an awareness of the relations between literary forms and their historical contexts. Thus the areas covered by most of the separate volumes are defined by period and genre. Each volume offers ways of reading literary works, and provides guidance for further reading in a reference section. As well as studies on all periods of English and American Literature, the series includes books on criticism and literary theory, and on the intellectual and cultural context. A group of volumes also deals with Irish and Scottish literature, and the literature of India, Africa, the Caribbean, Australia and Canada. In this study, chapters one to five, taken as a whole, are intended to give some sense of the intellectual climate in which 18th-century imaginative literature grew and flourished.
Chapter six, "Visual Arts", is concerned with parallel imaginative worlds in architecture, sculpture, painting and gardening. Chapter seven, "Models", is intended to give some notion of the wide eclecticism of 18th-century culture. Chapter eight is a "Conclusion" which indicates some of the connections between the material of the earlier chapters, giving most attention to the idea of the imagination because this is likely to be of most interest to students of literature.