THE last forty years have undoubtedly witnessed a renaissance of interest and scholarly activity in British music of the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth. Our view of this period, in terms of its musical repertoire and historical context, is now much more richly detailed and our appreciation of its cultural issues, complexities and tensions is that much greater; moreover, our familiarity with the music has been greatly aided by the supporting literature of monographs, essays and articles, by the research evinced at conferences (such as the biennial ‘Music in Nineteenth- Century Britain’ meetings) and by the increasing availability of commercial recordings, live performances and broadcasts. Yet, while we may now have a more thorough understanding of the period in terms of its chronology, its works and composers, its key educational institutions, performing venues, conductors and performers – indeed a more complete picture of British artistic trends, stylistic influences and prevailing aesthetic characteristics – we lack a proper contemporary perspective of the world of criticism and intellectual thought which fruitfully coexisted alongside its creators and music-makers. Certainly, the diversity and individuality of this somewhat neglected facet of British musical life has yet to be fully understood or evaluated. This study, in the form of a series of individual essays, seeks therefore to identify its main participants, its key writings and publications, and those central features of an intellectual tradition which developed quite independently of its continental counterparts in Germany, France and Italy. Just as Britain's geographical ‘separateness’ had determined its own course of intellectual development, so it can be demonstrated that the nation's understanding and appreciation of music was governed by a set of criteria entirely different from those that informed, for example, Germany's most prominent musical thinkers (where the emphasis was essentially on metaphysics, dialectics and aesthetics), even though, as we know, German musical processes of composition deeply influenced British music before the First World War. National musical life was coloured by the lionization of Handel and Mendelssohn, by Anglican liturgical music, choral societies, the popularity of the domestic piano, the ascendancy of the cathedral organist, and the notion that concert music and opera were essentially foreign commodities; as such, British musical criticism at the beginning of the nineteenth century emerged from very particular circumstances and with a set of quite different philosophical precepts, social values and aspirations.