Peter Murphy's book examines the tension between the material, economic pressures motivating poetry as an occupation, and traditional notions of the forces of literary history defining poetry as an art. It focuses on five writers in the Romantic period: James MacPherson, Robert Burns, James Hogg, Walter Scott, and William Wordsworth. The first four are Scottish; the economic and linguistic status of Scotland during the period makes its writers especially interesting as examples of poetic ambition. Murphy's study then crosses the border into England, offering a new perspective on Wordsworth's poetic ambition and career. Murphy's engagement throughout with the ballad revival yields fresh insights into some major concerns of the Romantic period: the interest in the primitive and the simple, experiments with poetic form, the problematics of loss, and the emergence of a new literary culture.