Samuel Palmer is one of the best loved, but least understood, figures in British art. A romantic at heart, he lived through most of the Victorian age, increasingly at odds with the world around him, yet sustained by the belief and the abiding values of beauty, of poetry and of landscape. This book is the first to critically examine Palmers career, and to present his work within the artistic and cultural context of his times. It explores the visual and literary sources of his early pastoral drawings, and reveals how Palmer's later works engage with many of the most burning controversies of the day, including religion, the superiority of gothic or classical style, and the rise of mass culture. His pastoral ideal is no fool's paradise, but a vision uniquely in tune with his times.