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The English Utopias I. Early Modern Fantasies. The Birth of English Utopia: Thomas More Utopia and Travel Literature : Joseph Hall’s Mundus …. Editions.

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the english utopias i

The English Utopias I.

Early Modern Fantasies

  • The Birth of English Utopia: Thomas More
  • Utopia and TravelLiterature: JosephHall’sMundus…

The firstfive editions of More’s Utopia came out inLouvain, Paris, Basel and Florence from1516 to 1519; there was no printingof the Latin original in England until 1663 and Scotland until 1750;of More’s Latin writings, only his Epistola ad Brixium in 1520 and hisResponsio ad Lutherum in 1523 (twice) issued from an English press.

LotteHellingaandJ. B. Trapp eds. The CambridgeHistory of the Bookin BritainVol. III. 1400-1557(Cambridge: CUP, 1999), 290.

editions translations


1517 Paris

1518 Basel

1524Basel, Germantranslation (onlyBook II)

1548 Venice, Italian translation (Italy-criticism)

1551 Paris, Frenchtranslation

1559 Lyon, Frenchtranslation

1585 Paris, Frenchtranslation of Book II only

BM: Suppressing of poliphony;

no placefor a religionbasedonreason

Balázs Mihály, „Thomas Morus és JacobusPalaeologus,” in Boros Gábor szerk., Reneszánsz Filozófia (Budapest: NMFT, Tudástársadalom Alapítvány, 2009), 113-134. (NMFT Közlemények 4., Világosság-könyvek 4.)

  • collaborationamongintellectualfriends (letters, verse)
  • a mixture of seriousissues+ comedy (satire)
  • More’shopethat U. would be publishedwithtestimonialsfromthoseinpublicoffice (notonlyliterators)
  • manyambiguities, differentstrategies of reconciliation
    • chatolicmartyr divorce, marriedclergy, toleration
  • biographicalapproach – “not a pathrecommendedbythetext’sbestcritics”
  • question of anachronism – questionsarisingfromideologicaldevelopmentsafter More
  • G. Logan: U. as a “bestcommonwealthexercise”, followingthephilosophicaltradition of Plato, Aristotle
  • Grace:
  • L. suppressesthesimilaritiesbetween U. and England
  • restrictsthehumorous, playfulside of thework
  • somereaderscandownplaytheaspect of politicaltheory (C. S. Lewis)
  • a dialoguewiththereader – closertoCicero’shandling of philosophicaltexts
  • J. H. Hexter:Utopia is onthemargins of modernitybecauseoftheattitudebehindit (notthedetails).
  • plasticity, corrigibility of human nature
  • basis of More’spoliticaltheory:
    • publiclaw, commonaction
  • Dominic Baker-Smith: theabsenceof responsibility.
  • no roomforthewill, noprivacytoexerciseit
  • no namesexceptUtopus
  • similartoSparta
  • responsibilityintheUtopians’ rationality(throughinstruction and goodbooks)

E. Nelson: More’sUtopiaversus Macchiavelli’sThe Prince: strugglebetweenRomanrepublicanvalues and Greekethics.

Forthebestcritics, it is a questioning of conventionalthought, againsttheblindacceptanceofestablishedforms

Book 1 – prideprivateproperty

Book 2 –



“ItwouldtaketoolongtorepeatallthatRaphael told us he had observedineachplace, nowwoulditserveourpresentpurpose. Perhapsonanotheroccasionweshalltell more aboutthesethings, especiallythosethatitwoul be usefulnottobeignorant of – aboveall, thewise and prudentprovisionsthat he observedamongthecivilisednations. (…) While he told us of manyill-consideredusagesinthesenew-foundnations, he alsodescribedquite a fewothercustoms, fromwhichourowncitiesmnations, races and kingdomsmighttakelessonsinordertocorrecttheirerrors. These I shalldiscussinanotherplace, asIsaid.”

  • utilitarianismon an Epicureanbasis
  • “equal right of alltopleasure”
  • differentinterpretations of pleasure(Valla – More)
  • experiencewithoutopinion – Epicureanideal
  • book 1 – examples of judgmentdistortedbyopinion Morton: importanceofexperience
    • “[Cardinal:]It is noteasytoguesswhetherthisschemewouldworkwellornot, sinceit has neverbeentried. (…) [Hythloday:]WhentheCardinal had saidthis, theyallviedwithoneanotherinpraisingenthusiasticallyideaswhichtheyhadreceivedwithcontemptwhen I suggestedthem,”


“Utopiashapesthehumanistintellectualinheritanceintothescaffoldingfor a critique and a novelapproachto reform. Ifitdoesnotputthat reform inprogrammaticterms, itdoeschallengeitsreaderstothinkbeyondconventionalpoliticsinimagining a societythattakestheequalclaims of alltohappinessas a seriousmatterforgovernment.”