The fire blazing on the jacket comes from a blast furnace, fervently painted--for this ""mighty ferment"" is Britain's Industrial Revolution and its strange analogue, the Romantic Movement. David Snodin is a young scholar and dramatist with the historical imagination to integrate--without oversimplifying--the transformation of life and the transformation of values; to describe the passage from ""quiet resignation"" to discontent, from callous indifference (""People of all classes relished cruelty without conscience"") to tenderness, sympathy, and a reforming spirit; and to explain how Britain twice escaped European upheavals. He notes the advent of charitable institutions (and the new system's abuses); honors the reformers for their intentions and Robert Owen specifically ""to emphasize the fact that not all employers were as cruel as history has pictured them""; and most outstandingly, quotes poetry, cites paintings, to sometimes breathtaking effect. Here is the shock, to the 18th-century sensibility ""nursed on rhyme, reason and good sense,"" of first coming upon Wordsworth's ""Tintern Abbey"" and Coleridge's ""Ancient Mariner""--as well as portraits, in this astutely illustrated book, of Wordsworth in craggy profile and Coleridge ""in a contemplative mood."" When, perforce, the text turns to political matters, it becomes more specifically British, but never incomprehensibly so. For any youngster with a historical bent, this is a mighty treat.