Through close readings of diverse examples by Lamb, De Quincey, Hazlitt, Irving and Poe, this book argues that the familiar essay in the Romantic period embodies a quintessentially metropolitan mode of affect. The generic traits of the essay—astuteness of observation, an ambulatory or paratactic movement of thought, and an urbane tone of wry or ironic humour—all predispose it to the expression of a detached, non-pathological state of mind. This is a mind conditioned by the quickened pace, assorted humanity, and plenitude of spectacle which characterise urban and urbanised life. In making a valuable, genre-based contribution to scholarship on the importance to Romantic studies of the city and metropolitan culture, the traditional concept of Romantic affect is reassessed. The book proposes a more complex and varied model than the simple binary one of a “feeling” reaction to Enlightenment “reason.” Partly enacted within its own formal parameters and partly through its disruptive and genre-transcending progeny, the essayistic figure, the familiar essay articulates a blithe and, at times, shocking and provocative discourse of “un-affect,” or a strategically and often satirical callousness. Therefore, the overall concept of affect in this period needs to be understood not as a unified entity opposed to Enlightenment reason, but a dialogue between concurrent, opposing modes, played out against a dichotomized geo-cultural landscape of the country and the city. Essayistic un-affect emerges, in the end, as an apolitical phenomenon, a primary vehicle for the essayist’s inherent scepticism, sometimes enabling outright ridicule and, at other times, a tentative questioning or probing of both orthodox thought and emerging ideas: from the rarefied liberalist sensibility of the Lake poets, to the hubristic vanity of the colonial adventurer, and from the allure of hedonistic, Old World decadence to the proscriptive strictures of moralistic art.