This article examines the effects of the unprecedented number of prosecutions for political opinion in the 1790s and afterward on romantic period literature. The chief instrument for these prosecutions was the law on libel. This legal framework placed a premium on various forms of metaphor, irony, and allegory, which the Crown had to construe as concrete libels in any prosecution. Many trials became major public events, a visible part of the period’s print culture, widely reported in newspapers and eagerly consumed by the public in a variety of media. The courtroom provided a theater of radical opinion in which defendants could publicize their views and mock the authority of the state. The pressure exerted on writers by the law on libel also conditioned a more general anxiety and may even have influenced developing ideas of the autonomy of the aesthetic.