This introduction to the special issue on Philosophy and Literature in Nineteenth-Century Britain intends to define the fundamental historical and theoretical contexts of the volume. There are three main parts to this contextualization. First, and most substantially, I explore the interests and evolution of philosophical ideas in nineteenth-century Britain. Whilst giving an overview of the trends and movements in the period, I argue that literature was essential in the dissemination, interrogation and even the constitution of philosophical ideas. Secondly, I sketch the increasing anxieties surrounding ‘philosophy’ in the nineteenth century, and suggest that nineteenth-century novelists, poets and literary critics participated significantly in rethinking the nature of abstract, systematized philosophical discourse. Thirdly, in framing this discussion, I address why philosophy and literature have been marginalized in nineteenth-century studies, arguing that the relationship between literature and philosophy is fundamental to our understanding of the period. Looking ahead, I suggest how scholars in nineteenth-century studies might enter into an interdisciplinary dialogue with philosophical studies of philosophy and literature.