Catholicism is usually more or less invisible, or severely marginalised, even in the most recent accounts of Romanticism and the ‘Romantic’ period. For example, Robert Ryan only devotes a few pages to the subject in his wide-ranging and authoritative The Romantic Reformation, which carries the suggestive sub-title Religious Politics in English Literature, 1789–1824. Ryan’s survey may well be, as it claims, ‘the first book to examine the literature of the Romantic period as a conscious attempt to influence the religious life of society’. Its main summary of Catholicism rightly notes how the Irish Act of Union (1800) revived many of the anxieties and the arguments which had largely lain dormant since the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots of 1780. Rightly, too, it observes the effect of the disputes for Catholic claims on the careers or the writings of William Pitt, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Yet, although it acknowledges that Catholic demands ‘became the most explosive political issue in Britain in the early years of the [nineteenth] century’, it also argues that the predominant driving energies arose from a different and opposing source: ‘it was not Catholics but Protestants who fomented most of the domestic agitation during the crucial decade of the 1790s in which British Romanticism first emerged as a cultural force’. 1