The Astonished Muse is that increasingly rare book in an age of specialists -- the ""gentlemen's treatise"". Its author, though a composer and musicologist, writes here as an amateur philosopher of history. He explicitly sets out to contend that ""artists have provoked those revolutions whereby civilization has made progress"", but in fact he never attempts to prove his staggering claim. Instead, this book is a survey of some important conveyors of political and social ideas-- those whose ability to articulate in a memorable fashion enabled them to influence the climate of opinion, and hence, the course of human events. Mr. Barlow makes an ambitious sweep through ideological history from the Hebrew prophets to the 19th century, including Greek and Roman thought, the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the 18th century political philosophers. Wylif, Voltaire, Rousseau, Jefferson, and Franklin are among his heroes. He has interesting things to say about the effect of anonymity upon the artist, and the role of patronage in different eras. Sometimes he digresses into straight historical accounts, especially about church history. This rambling, frequently platitudinous book is enlivened by comments on contemporary events which reveal the author's liberal sympathies.