So in terms of access, the new periodicals represented the popularisation of high literary culture: they showed middling class people the vocabulary, the ideas, the framework of reference that they needed to appreciate high literature. It gave them ideas, and it gave them opinions, all carefully presented in a conversational, approachable way to enable them to feel part of the republic of letters, which had up till now been associated with aristocratic gentlemen amateurs, men with the time and education to devote themselves to these rarified pursuits. But one of the interesting things about the Spectator was that in addition to these essays on how to approach ‘high’ literature, it also contained a series of essays on the English ballads, emphasising the existence of a native literary tradition that should be taken as seriously as that imported from classical Greece and Rome. We can see the influence of this kind of literary revival and antiquarianism in the many editions of ballads published later in the century. This was a time before ‘English Literature’ existed as a concept, let alone a discipline. It is only during the eighteenth century that people start to see Shakespeare, Chaucer, Spenser as literary greats, and start to take seriously the idea that there might be a tradition of English literature worth talking about. There definitely wasn’t a sense of the transition from Anglo Saxon, to Middle English, to the Renaissance that you have now. So it was a big deal to assert the literary merit not just of earlier English literature, but of popular cultural forms like the ballad. Those essays in the Spectator anticipate the wider take up of English ballads and popular tradition in the late 18C and romantic period, like Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner , Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads , or Keats’s Eve of St Agnes , which are all rooted in a sense of the imaginative potential of native popular cultural forms. So we can see again that at the same time that satirists were policing the boundaries of the popular and the polite, there was also a groundswell of interest in the truly popular: ballad forms, earlier oral culture – and the ways in which it could be read as literature, rather than cultural detritus.
In his 1999 study of the effect on British literature of the diseases and climates of the colonies, Alan Bewell read "the landscape of 'To Autumn ' " as "a kind of biomedical allegory of the coming into being of English climatic space out of its dangerous geographical alternatives."  Britain's colonial reach over the previous century and a half had exposed the mother country to foreign diseases and awareness of the dangers of extreme tropical climates. Keats, with medical training,  having suffered chronic illness himself,  and influenced like his contemporaries by "colonial medical discourse",  was deeply aware of this threat.