by Thomas More


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781443735001
Publisher: Pomona Press
Publication date: 11/04/2008
Pages: 158
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Sir Thomas More

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Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1997 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-11070-7


HENRY THE EIGHTH, the unconquered King of England, a prince adorned with all the virtues that become a great monarch, having some differences of no small consequence with Charles the most serene prince of Castile, sent me into Flanders, as his ambassador, for treating and composing matters between them. I was colleague and companion to that incomparable man Cuthbert Tonstal, whom the king with such universal applause lately made Master of the Rolls; but of whom I will say nothing; not because I fear that the testimony of a friend will be suspected, but rather because his learning and virtues are too great for me to do them justice, and so well known, that they need not my commendations unless I would, according to the proverb, "Show the sun with a lanthorn." Those that were appointed by the prince to treat with us met us at Bruges, according to agreement; they were all worthy men. The Margrave of Bruges was their head, and the chief man among them; but he that was esteemed the wisest, and that spoke for the rest, was George Temse, the Provost of Casselsee; both art and nature had concurred to make him eloquent: he was very learned in the law; and as he had a great capacity, so by a long practice in affairs he was very dextrous at unravelling them. After we had several times met without coming to an agreement, they went to Brussels for some days to know the prince's pleasure. And since our business would admit it, I went to Antwerp. While I was there, among many that visited me, there was one that was more acceptable to me than any other, Peter Giles, born at Antwerp, who is a man of great honour, and of a good rank in his town, though less than he deserves; for I do not know if there be anywhere to be found a more learned and a better bred young man: for as he is both a very worthy and a very knowing person, so he is so civil to all men, so particularly kind to his friends, and so full of candour and affection, that there is not perhaps above one or two anywhere to be found that is in all respects so perfect a friend. He is extraordinarily modest, there is no artifice in him; and yet no man has more of a prudent simplicity: his conversation was so pleasant and so innocently cheerful, that his company in a great measure lessened any longings to go back to my country, and to my wife and children, which an absence of four months had quickened very much. One day as I was returning home from Mass at St. Mary's, which is the chief church, and the most frequented of any in Antwerp, I saw him by accident talking with a stranger, who seemed past the flower of his age; his face was tanned, he had a long beard, and his cloak was hanging carelessly about him, so that by his looks and habit I concluded he was a seaman. As soon as Peter saw me, he came and saluted me; and as I was returning his civility, he took me aside, and pointing to him with whom he had been discoursing, he said, "Do you see that man? I was just thinking to bring him to you." I answered, "He should have been very welcome on your account." "And on his own too," replied he, "if you knew the man, for there is none alive that can give so copious an account of unknown nations and countries as he can do; which I know you very much desire." Then said I, "I did not guess amiss, for at first sight I took him for a seaman." "But you are much mistaken," said he, "for he has not sailed as a seaman, but as a traveller, or rather a philosopher. This Raphael, who from his family carries the name of Hythloday, is not ignorant of the Latin tongue, but is eminently learned in the Greek, having applied himself more particularly to that than to the former, because he had given himself much to philosophy, in which he knew that the Romans have left us nothing that is valuable, except what is to be found in Seneca and Cicero. He is a Portuguese by birth, and was so desirous of seeing the world, that he divided his estate among his brothers, run the same hazard as Americus Vesputius, and bore a share in three of his four voyages, that are now published; only he did not return with him in his last, but obtained leave of him almost by force, that he might be one of those twenty-four who were left at the farthest place at which they touched, in their last voyage to New Castile. The leaving him thus did not a little gratify one that was more fond of travelling than of returning home, to be buried in his own country; for he used often to say, that the way to heaven was the same from all places; and he that had no grave, had the heaven still over him. Yet this disposition of mind had cost him dear, if God had not been very gracious to him; for after he, with five Castilians, had travelled over many countries, at last, by strange good fortune, he got to Ceylon, and from thence to Calicut, where he very happily found some Portuguese ships; and, beyond a11 men's expectations, returned to his native country." When Peter had said this to me, I thanked him for his kindness, in intending to give me the acquaintance of a man whose conversation he knew would be so acceptable; and upon that Raphael and I embraced each other. After those civilities were past which are usual with strangers upon their first meeting, we all went to my house, and entering into the garden, sat down on a green bank, and entertained one another in discourse. He told us, that when Vesputius had sailed away, he and his companions that stayed behind in New Castile, by degrees insinuated themselves into the affections of the people of the country, meeting often with them, and treating them gently: and at last they not only lived among them without danger, but conversed familiarly with them; and got so far into the heart of a prince, whose name and country I have forgot, that he both furnished them plentifully with all things necessary, and also with the conveniences of travelling; both boats when they went by water, and waggons when they travelled over land: he sent with them a very faithful guide, who was to introduce and recommend them to such other princes as they had a mind to see: and after many days' journey, they came to towns, and cities, and to commonwealths, that were both happily governed and well peopled. Under the equator, and as far on both sides of it as the sun moves, there lay vast deserts that were parched with the perpetual heat of the sun; the soil was withered, all things looked dismally, and all places were either quite uninhabited, or abounded with wild beasts and serpents, and some few men, that were neither less wild nor less cruel than the beasts themselves. But as they went farther, a new scene opened, all things grew milder, the air less burning, the soil more verdant, and even the beasts were less wild: and at last there were nations, towns, and cities, that had not only mutual commerce among themselves, and with their neighbours, but traded both by sea and land, to very remote countries. There they found the conveniences of seeing many countries on all hands, for no ship went any voyage into which he and his companions were not very welcome. The first vessels that they saw were flat-bottomed, their sails were made of reeds and wicker woven close together, only some were of leather; but afterwards they found ships made with round keels, and canvas sails, and in all respects like our ships; and the seamen understood both astronomy and navigation. He got wonderfully into their favour, by showing them the use of the needle, of which till then they were utterly ignorant. They sailed before with great caution, and only in sunumer-time, but now they count all seasons alike, trusting wholly to the loadstone, in which they are perhaps more secure than safe; so that there is reason to fear that this discovery, which was thought would prove so much to their advantage, may by their imprudence become an occasion of much mischief to them. But it were too long to dwell on all that he told us he had observed in every place; it would be too great a digression from our present purpose: whatever is necessary to be told, concerning those wise and prudent institutions which he observed among civilized nations, may perhaps be related by us on a more proper occasion. We asked him many questions concerning all these things, to which he answered very willingly; only we made no inquiries after monsters, than which nothing is more common; for everywhere one may hear of ravenous dogs and wolves, and cruel men-eaters; but it is not so easy to find states that are well and wisely governed.

As he told us of many things that were amiss in those new-discovered countries, so he reckoned up not a few things from which patterns might be taken for correcting the errors of these nations among whom we live; of which an account may be given, as I have already promised, at some other time; for at present I intend only to relate those particulars that he told us of the manners and laws of the Utopians: but I will begin with the occasion that led us to speak of that commonwealth. After Raphael had discoursed with great judgment on the many errors that were both among us and these nations; had treated of the wise institutions both here and there, and had spoken as distinctly of the customs and government of every nation through which he had passed, as if he had spent his whole life in it; Peter being struck with admiration, said, "I wonder, Raphael, how it comes that you enter into no king's service, for I am sure there are none to whom you would not be very acceptable: for your learning and knowledge, both of men and things, is such, that you would not only entertain them very pleasantly, but be of great use to them, by the examples you could set before them, and the advices you could give them; and by this means you would both serve your own interest, and be of great use to all your friends."—"As for my friends," answered he, "I need not be much concerned, having already done for them all that was incumbent on me; for when I was not only in good health, but fresh and young, I distributed that among my kindred and friends which other people do not part with till they are old and sick; when they then unwillingly give that which they can enjoy no longer themselves. I think my friends ought to rest contented with this, and not to expect that for their sakes I should enslave myself to any king whatsoever."—"Soft and fair," said Peter, "I do not mean that you should be a slave to any king, but only that you should assist them, and be useful to them."—"The change of the word," said he, "does not alter the matter."—"But term it as you will," replied Peter, "I do not see any other way in which you can be so useful, both in private to your friends, and to the public, and by which you can make your own condition happier."—"Happier!" answered Raphael, "is that to be compassed in a way so abhorrent to my genius? Now I live as I will, to which I believe few courtiers can pretend. And there are so many that court the favour of great men, that there will be no great loss if they are not troubled either with me or with others of my temper." Upon this, said I, "I perceive, Raphael, that you neither desire wealth nor greatness; and indeed I value and admire such a man much more than I do any of the great men in the world. Yet I think you would do what would well become so generous and philosophical a soul as yours is, if you would apply your time and thoughts to public affairs, even though you may happen to find it a little uneasy to yourself: and this you can never do with so much advantage, as by being taken into the counsel of some great prince, and putting him on noble and worthy actions, which I know you would do if you were in such a post; for the springs both of good and evil flow from the prince, over a whole nation, as from a lasting fountain. So much learning as you have, even without practice in affairs, or so great a practice as you have had, without any other learning, would render you a very fit counsellor to any king whatsoever."—"You are doubly mistaken," said he, "Mr. More, both in your opinion of me, and in the judgment you make of things: for as I have not that capacity that you fancy I have; so, if I had it, the public would not be one jot the better, when I had sacrificed my quiet to it. For most princes apply themselves more to affairs of war than to the useful arts of peace; and in these I neither have any knowledge, nor do I much desire it: they are generally more set on acquiring new kingdoms, right or wrong, than on governing well those they possess. And among the ministers of princes, there are none that are not so wise as to need no assistance, or at least that do not think themselves so wise, that they imagine they need none; and if they court any, if is only those for whom the prince has much personal favour, whom by their fawnings and flatteries they endeavour to fix to their own interests: and indeed Nature has so made us, that we all love to be flattered, and to please ourselves with our own notions. The old crow loves his young, and the ape her cubs. Now if in such a Court, made up of persons who envy all others, and only admire themselves, a person should but propose anything that he had either read in history, or observed in his travels, the rest would think that the reputation of their wisdom would sink, and that their interest would be much depressed, if they could not run it down: and if all other things failed, then they would fly to this, that such or such things pleased our ancestors, and it were well for us if we could but match them. They would set up their rest on such an answer, as a sufficient confutation of all that could be said; as if it were a great misfortune, that any should be found wiser than his ancestors; but though they willingly let go all the good things that were among those of former ages, yet if better things are proposed they cover themselves obstinately with this excuse of reverence to past times. I have met with these proud, morose, and absurd judgments of things in many places, particularly once in England."—"Was you ever there?" said I.—"Yes, I was," answered he, "and stayed some months there, not long after the rebellion in the west was suppressed with a great slaughter of the poor people that were engaged in it.


Excerpted from Utopia by Thomas More, RONALD HERDER. Copyright © 1997 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

The Document
Translator Ralph Robynson's Dedicatory Letter to William Cecil (1551)
Utopian Alphabet

What People are Saying About This

Louis Martz

Fluent and highly readable, this new version should be welcomed by all admirers of the Utopia.
— From Yale University

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Utopia 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book and talked about it with my college philosophy professor. It is an amazing book that will force you to think on human nature. This book however can not be taken for face value it is not a suggested form of government it is a tale of a world that will never be. Many readers assume it is meant to glorify communism but it is not. In direct translation from latin "utopia" means a nonexistent place. Also, the narrator "Hythloday" means speaker of nonsense or liar. So do not think of government or face value think on the insight into human nature and what we long for but can never be and I promise this will be a true eye opener.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is a fool who reads Utopia and thinks More a devoted communist. Analyze the names of those involved, the problems of Utopia, and More's as well as Erasmus' humanistic works and it becomes an analysis of the nature of man. The structure of poverty, the effects of property and patronage all create a cycle of despair. Most important of all, his relation to Plato's Republic. Does the philosopher advise the king, or is that a futile endeavor of compromise and corruption. Decide for yourself, but realize that Utopia is a staggering and insightful work, full of wit and humor. It should be read by all philosophers, historians and interested readers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book from begining to end. It is such an insightful look at the human spirt and desires. Moore wrights of a perfect world that is in truth, not perfect. Those that missed the point of the story, that this is a satire of human life, need to reread the story and discuss it with others. The point of the story is to show that even in a perfect world there are inperfections, and no matter how we justify them, someone will always be unhappy. Loved the book, definetly a story high school seniors need to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Utopia Thomas More inspired me in his descriptions of a perfect society, and how he later influenced such thinkers as Karl Marx and the Utopian socialist of the 19th century. It is my belief that some thinkers may have mis-interpreted Utopia as somthing it isn't, what it certainly is not, is an outline for goverment, and More attempts to tell us that with his outlandish names for the main characters. If u are not sure on weather or not to buy Utopia i highly reccomend it, for it tells us a story about a place we will never see, but i still dominates our imaginations.
Adanos More than 1 year ago
I must say the translation of Utopia by Paul Turner is the best out of all Utopia books out there. Very easy to read, not lengthy and manages to maintain some humor that the original author intended in his book. I would recommend this version of Utopia to anyone who would want to read it for the first time.
streets913 More than 1 year ago
The book, Utopia, by Thomas Moore, is a book of great interest to the knowledgeable reader. In order to fully understand the concepts of this book, you must understand the time period and have some notion of government. In some ways the country described is flawed in our sense of today's culture.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The first half of 'Utopia' is but a history lesson - teaching us 16th-17th century English laws and its obsurdities. The second half of 'Utopia' talks about... Utopia! A world where an idealist lives and an existenlist goes insane (again). To call 'Utopia' the 'best philosophical work ever written', as some other reviewers of this title did; I can't but wonder how many 'philosophical works' has this person actually read.
Angelic55blonde on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is another one of those classic books that everyone should read. It was written in 16th century England so the language can make reading this a bit difficult/tedious. But it is worth it.This is a small book but it is broken down into two sections. The first book is letters between Sir Thomas More and several people he met. The reader is introduced to Raphael, whose the main character. The second book is about Utopia. The reader learns what life is like there, how things are run. For instance, people are re-distributed around the households in the Utopia to keep numbers even. People wear the same type of clothing, no one is unemployed. Everything is kept as equal as possible. What I found interesting abotu Utopia was that it was a welfare state, not unlike the U.S., but it was taken to the extreme. I liked this book and I would recommend it to everyone. Again, it's a classic and everyone should read this at least once in their life time.
lauranav on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reading this is a good exercise in humility, to realize how many subjects we discuss today have been discussed (in the same details) before. I find it interesting that people don't know just how serious More was about most of this. Is he sincere and exposing how he really feels even though he can't be more explicit or act on much of it? Or it is satirical? The subjects are presented with such respect that it isn't obvious either way.
pratchettfan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Utopia offers an interesting critical look at live in the 16th century on the one hand as well as proposing an idea for an ideal civilization. Whether Utopia was meant to be a satire or represented More's personal views remains unclear, however, the discourse on Utopia contains several jokes and offers light reading.
TineOliver on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm sure Utopia has lost much of its meaning through the translation from its native Latin (By no means is this comment directed at the translation - I think much of the difficulty lies in the inherent limitations of English).For the rating I have given, I considered three things: the general enjoyment from reading the book, the ideas contained within and the historic importance (and context) of the work. Immediately after I finished reading the book, I determined that I didn¿t enjoy it. After giving it much thought, I¿m still not sure why that is ¿ possibly the difficulty I have with the concept that all men are created equal, yet women are subservient to men (although, given the historical context, Moore can hardly be chastised for that), the inherent flaws I see in the ability of any society to function as described, or even some of the other more subtle difficulties I see with the novel (such as attempting to applying logical debate to religion).The difficulty I¿m also faced with is the degree to which Moore is suggesting that Utopia would be the perfect society (particularly since he states within the text that he does not agree with all of the Utopian ideals) and the degree to which it is a work of satire (a highly debated topic among academics - see for example the introduction in the Penguin Classics edition).
Zare on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In a very interesting way More paints his ideal state - state of Utopia. Here, all the virtues of men are cherished while all foolishness and - well, let us call them - all the bad things in society are non-existent, due to the very nature of Utopians, their state and the very way of their educational system.Interesting book, a rather subtle critique of the European states of the time (especially when it comes to vanity of the rich and uneven distribution of wealth among the populace - again some virtues glorified in the book may prove obsolete today [because of that ever-lasting temporal element that stands between writer and the reader or maybe some political reasons] but were focus of many a debate at the time). Man cannot but agree with many aspects of Utopia to be the very ideal - dedication to knowledge and constant strive to be better human being - but the required level of social maturity is so high that even today (maybe especially today) it may be considered to be way too high.Again, society itself is not peace loving as it may seem at the beginning - when faced with conflict (forced upon them or caused by them - for territory e.g) Utopians won't hesitate to fight, but first they will extensively use their allies (motivated by political means - sounds familiar does not it) to end the conflict rarely entering the fray themselves. This makes them very modern and in my opinion less ideal society. Again, those societies that reach the level of Utopians can be forgiven to feel supreme to every other nation/society and to behave in the manner they do - but nevertheless this stains their reputation.Very questions that arise in this book - like is it better to have free roaming citizenry without any restraints thus causing havoc on most on behalf of few, or to have ordered and disciplined society that will have limited liberties but live freely and under the benevolent government - are very common themes in SF literature (there exists no better example than Heinlein's "Starship Troopers").Writing style may be difficult but don't give up - book gives a rather good view of human nature and a lot can be learned from it.
Sourire on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the kind of book that wouldn't be done justice with just one read-through. One should carefully read, reread, analyze, take a break from, and read again. Every time I read it, I pick up on something new or come to a different conclusion about what More might have meant. It's truly fascinating, especially for the fact that the reaction upon reading may in fact reveal more about the reader than it does about More or the work itself. I've never met anyone who takes exactly the same thing away from it as someone else, and have been constantly amazed at the various insights people have that never occurred to me. To hear one's impressions of the book is to have a small window into their mind. For the sheer amount of thought and introspection Utopia provokes, I feel it is a must-read. Much is said about the actual description of Utopia, but I would encourage readers to pay just as much attention to the first portion of the book, where Raphael is introduced and speaks with his companions (the character versions of More and Giles). One might also want to keep in mind that Utopia (as opposed to Eutopia- "good place"), despite modern usage, means "no place" rather than some sort of ideal. Just as Raphael Hythlodaeus/Hythloday is a "speaker of nonsense", Utopia/"no place" is not so simple as to be the description of a perfect society. Or is it? That ambiguity is the beauty of More's work.
aethercowboy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Utopia is the book that put the word "utopia" in our lexicon. Utopia, the word, is generally used to describe a place in which everything is a happy land where everybody is happy, and life is relatively easy. Like most children's fiction, where even the most dastardly of villains is just a litterbug or a liar, and he or she learns a valuable lesson before too many pages have passed.The book itself is written as a frame story in which More is telling others about his visit of a man named Raphael (though his last name depends on which translation you're reading), who told him about this wonderful island in the New World called Utopia, in which everybody is happy, even the slaves!Raphael goes on to explain the aspects of this island, and how it works, presenting a sort of proof-of-concept for better living (hint, hint, you new, developing nations in the New World!).No study of utopian writing is complete without at least starting here, so this book is highly recommended to any utopian (or even dystopian) reading schedule. It's also highly recommend if you like philosophical writing, and are looking for some great new ideas to consider.
AlexTheHunn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Thomas More brought his considerable skills from numerous fields to bear when he created Utopia. His intimate knowledge of the workings of the English legal system, government and politics enabled him to posit an ideal society, wherein, More corrected the ills which plagued sixteenth century England and Europe.People in Utopia held few possessions privately. The government organ-ized the economy, the methods of producing food and most other goods and ser-vices. Work and hardships were shared as equitably as possible. Similarly, all people partook of the bounty of the food, shelter and goods, with few exceptions.More anticipated the objections that this idealized society would raise; and he answered them at length. He explained how Utopians dealt with criminals, showing a means of isolating society from harmful individuals, while yet deriving benefit from their existence and providing deterrent examples to those teetering on the verge of crime. In an age where torture and mutilation were common and executions were routine, More offered a voice of reason and humanity. Signifi-cantly, his methods of dealing with crime did not mete out the same punishment for all offenses, both severe and trivial.More¿s world was based on his well-considered principles, humanistic be-liefs and plain common sense. He was not one-dimensional like Niccolo Machia-velli; More was not driven by desire for power, fame or wealth. He wanted to show a means of organizing a well-ordered society in which the people, not the prince, would live happy and productive lives. On the other hand, More did not set his culture in a world where all was roses and problems did not exist. Whereas Erasmus was strong on encouraging upright and moral behavior, he seemed light on the realization that, in the real world, people often fail to live up to his high ideals. More¿s society took man¿s frailties into account. More pro-vided means for dealing with crime and war, as well as, with personal envy and greed. More understood that his argument would be the stronger if he could head off objections by answering them in advance.In addition, More¿s work showed his love of humor. His organization of the material, arranged as if he had genuinely talked to someone who had been to Utopia, and the overall pains More took to imbue the work with as much authen-ticity as possible, must have been a source of great pleasure to him.Besides giving him a private chuckle at putting over his joke, More had a more serious level in mind in Utopia. Placing his society in an imaginary or dis-tant land, allowed him the freedom to address a variety of political and social is-sues with impunity. Had More directly criticized Henry VIII¿s spending, his readi-ness to dispense executions, his policy of war, or the ostentatious court, More would have faced serious charges. By using the oblique approach, besides al-lowing More to indulge his love of irony and satire, he was able to elude charges of treason or sedition. More showed great courage in publishing this work, as in his life in gen-eral. He saw wrongs and dared to speak out about them. But with his fine mind and keen sense of balance, he also knew that to throw himself into championing a cause at the expense of his life would do neither him nor the cause any good. Although he ultimately was martyred for his beliefs, evidence suggests that More did not actively seek our martyrdom. He enjoyed life far too much to risk death needlessly. However, his personal belief in God and religion, as well as his per-sonal integrity, demanded that he not shrink away if death were his only accept-able recourse.Alex Hunnicutt
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a RPer since 2012, I say this is good!
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Yup this will be awesome!!!!
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Interesting work coming from the patron saint of lawyers and politicians.
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