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This highly original and penetrating study explores fundamental intellectual predispositions and concepts which underpin the literature and thought of the Augustan period in England. By examining in particular Augustan notions of probability and the way they provided a framework for thinking about and organising experience, Dr Patey reconstructs a characteristically eighteenth-century theory of literature which offers a much more satisfactory account of the work of Pope, Johnson, Fielding and others than the Romantic literary categories already in existence. The scope of this study is encyclopaedic and it will be an essential reference work for all scholars of eighteenth-century English literature and intellectual history, as well as historians of ideas.