Britain possesses a literary heritage which is almost unrivalled in the Western world. In this lavishly illustrated volume, the richness, diversity, and continuity of that tradition are explored by a group of Britain's foremost literary scholars. Chapter by chapter the authors trace the history of English literature, from the earliest Anglo-Saxon poetry to the present day. At its heart towers Shakespeare, who is accorded a special chapter to himself. Other major figures such as Chaucer, Milton, Donne, Wordsworth, Dickens, Eliot, and Audenare treated in depth, and the story is brought right up to date with discussion of living authors such as Seamus Heaney and Harold Pinter.The illustrations have been chosen by the contributors to exemplify and bring to life the content and concerns of the text. They range in subject from manuscripts and book illustrations to works of art and architecture, portraits, social scenes, landscapes, and caricatures, and illuminate not merelythe material of literature but also the social, political, and personal aspects of our literary history.The contributors have succeeded in weaving together the complex strands of English literature into a highly readable narrative, accessible to the general reader and student alike.