'Trouble springs from idleness, and grievous toil from needless ease' (Benjamin Franklin). Such negative evaluations of idleness and their contrary, positive reevaluations, as in Cyril Connolly's 'Idleness is only a coarse name for my infinite capacity for living in the present', have been common attitudes towards leisurely disporting and idle repose. This collection of essays traces the history of representations of idleness, indolence and leisure in English literature from the late Middle Ages to the present day. It focuses on issues as varied as the figure of the idle apprentice in the Elizabethan pamphlet wars, the 'lazy native' in British colonial discourse, positive re-evaluations of indolence and repose in the Romantic era and the delights of tramping in early twentieth-century prose. The contributions also significantly inflect current theoretical debates on race, class and gender. The topicality of the subject is emphasized by two pieces of sociological analysis which serve as epilogues to the volume.