More's Utopia

More's Utopia

DOMINIC BAKER-SMITH
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 270
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442677395
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  • Book Info
    More's Utopia
    Book Description:

    This study plac Utopia in the context of early sixteenth-century Europe and the intellectual preoccupations of More?s own humanist circle, and clarifying those sources in classical and Christian political thought that provoked his writing.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7739-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. TEXTS AND ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Origins
    (pp. 1-22)

    Late in the year 1516 a Louvain printer named Thierry Martens issued the first edition of a book by Thomas More, Under-Sheriff of London, with the titleLibellus vere aureus nec minus salutaris quam festivus de optimo reipublicae statu, deque de nova Insula Utopia, which may be translated asA Truly Golden Account of the Best State of a Commonwealth and of the New Island of Utopia. For the remainder of this study we can refer to the book under its familiar name ofUtopia, but it is important to confront the full title at the outset since it declares...

  6. CHAPTER 2 ‘The sceptre of the rulers’
    (pp. 23-37)

    In 1504 More was a member of the Parliament summoned by Henry VII to provide a grant for the expenses of knighting of Arthur, Prince of Wales, as well as the marriage of Princess Margaret to James IV of Scotland. The whole issue was retrospective since Arthur, who had been knighted in 1489, had been dead for two years and Margaret had already travelled north. More did not find the royal request persuasive and he was doubtless representing City interests when he spoke against the subsidy. Roper’s report that ‘the King’s demands were clean overthrown’ overestimates the impact of More’s...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Platonic Satire
    (pp. 38-55)

    The most familiar aspect of More’s personality is his wit. Even more than his death his constant use of irony, repartee and ‘merry tales’ has defined his place in popular memory. But the responses to this trait have varied and not everyone has been in favour. The popularity of More’sEpigramshelped to sustain the image of ‘wittie sir Thomas More’, as Francis Meres called him in 1598, and the magpie antiquarian John Aubrey recorded that ‘His discourse was extraordinary facetious’. ‘Facetious’ here carries overtones of cultural approval, an urbane playfulness bound up with the elegant use of language. For...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Sanction of Custom
    (pp. 56-74)

    Those additions which Erasmus made to the 1515Adagiastand out among the writings of his most creative years. Even while he worked on his Greek text of the New Testament and his edition of St Jerome’s works, he was composing a series of political texts which included the new adages, theInstitutio Principis Christiani(1516) and culminated in theQuerela Pacis(1517). He had been appointed a councillor to Prince Charles, the future Charles V, in the course of 1515, an honorary appointment with a modest stipend, but one result was theInstitutiowhich he offered to the prince...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Narrative Credentials
    (pp. 75-103)

    We have already encountered the idea, traceable to Erasmus’s 1519 letter to von Hutten, that More wroteUtopiabackwards, devising first the account of the island in Book II when he had leisure, and then adding the dialogue of Book I in London as time allowed. Even without J. H. Hexter’s arguments in favour the idea seems persuasive enough; besides, Erasmus, who was directly involved in the production of the book, had no motive for inventing such a story. The issue is actually more interesting than mere textual archaeology since it clarifies the gradual development in More’s elaboration of his...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Dialogue of Counsel
    (pp. 104-150)

    When More came to write the Morton episode, set in the household that he had known as a page, the cardinal had been dead for some fifteen years. But the portrait of his former patron which opens the sequence is carefully developed and makes of him a controlling presence who dominates the narrative; he is presented in a positive light with none of the ambivalence that shades his image inRichard IIIand his conduct during the debate must strike the reader as eminently reasonable. Raphael introduces the account of his journey to England in order to demonstrate that complacent...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The Best State of a Commonwealth?
    (pp. 151-200)

    As his listeners wait for him to begin his account of Utopia Raphael sits for a while in silent thought, a Socratic touch which fittingly enacts his mental journey to an ideal world.¹ The teasing relationship between fact and fantasy which is a feature of More’s narrative has some similarity toThrough the Looking Glass, and at this juncture Raphael, like Alice, passes through the transparent surface into an imaginary world which mirrors familiar experience in an unexpected way. One minor example of this is the way in which Utopia is designed to suggest analogies with England: not only is...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Words and Deeds
    (pp. 201-227)

    Raphael’s peroration, by which he brings his criticism of European society to its searing climax, introduces the final section ofUtopia. Its unremittingly hostile tone has the effect of leaving the reader ill at ease about the driving forces of human society, and at this point Morus, whose uncertain response wins some sympathy from the reader, brings the narrative to what may seem an indecisive close. In any literal reading ofUtopia, one that assumes its admonitory or prescriptive intent, the conclusion can seem to be little more than a convenient device for closing the discourse in an Antwerp garden,...

  13. CHAPTER 9 In Search of Utopia
    (pp. 228-244)

    The standard humanist defence of fiction rested on Horace’s injunction in theArs Poeticathat the poet must combine the profitable with the delightful. It was a formula that More had appealed to in the letter to Thomas Ruthall which introduced his translations of Lucian, and there he remarked of thePhilopseudesthat it was difficult to tell whether it was more amusing or more instructive, ‘dialogus nescio certe lepidior ne, an utilior’. The identical contrast is there again on the title page ofUtopiawhere it is declared that this truly golden handbook is no less beneficial than diverting,...

  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 245-260)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 261-269)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 270-270)