This work by Edmund Gosse (1849–1928) was commissioned by Macmillan as the third volume in a series of literary histories, and published in 1889, when literary criticism was still a relatively new field of academic study. His earlier work had led to his appointment as Lecturer at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1884 and to a hugely popular American lecture tour that same year. An established poet, author and critic, Gosse had a loyal following within the literary establishment of Cambridge and London, despite lacking formal academic qualifications. His approach to analysis was through personal impressions, and discussions of the biographies as well as output of a wide range of writers from Dryden to Johnson. Reviewers noted his identification of the years 1660–1780 as being central to the beginnings of the novel and the concern to 'reform and regulate ordinary writing', and praised his comparison of English and Continental literature.