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INTRODUCTION.

Of the two books of the Utopia, the second was written a year before the first. The first, which constitutes what may be called the framework or setting for the second, was completed in 1516,just about the time when More, though strongly urged to do so by Cardinal Wolsey, had declined to give up his position as undersheriff, and his income from legal work, that he might enter the service of Henry VIII. We find therefore that there are put into the mouth of the supposed traveller to Utopia many of the arguments which had no doubt weighed with More in the decision at which he had arrived. When, for example, it is urged upon Hythloday in the dialogue (p. 24) that he might bestow his time fruitfully, for the private commodity of his friends and the general profit of all sorts of people, as well as for his own advancement, by getting into some king's court, he replies that in his present condition he lives at liberty and after his own mind, which great estates and peers of the realm rarely can do; and beside this most princes now take delight rather in warlike matters and feats of chivalry than in the good feats of peace, while their present counsellors will admit into the councils no other independent man's advice. So it comes to pass that any one putting forward what he has learnt from history or experience, is little likely to find acceptance for his views. Here we may be sure that we are listening to an exposition of More's own feelings, and so we may also conclude that we have in other parts of the book his views of the condition of the society in England, when Raphael is made the speaker in the

conversation before Cardinal Morton. The Utopia therefore is interesting as giving us in this way an insight into the mind of its author on topics of the greatest importance at the time when he lived.

More represents the conversation which is set forth in the Utopia as having taken place at Antwerp. The traveller, Raphael Hythloday, is introduced to More by his friend Peter Giles, and that they may hear more conveniently the wonders which he has to tell, they betake themselves to a quiet seat in More's garden. Raphael is represented as having been one of the companions of Amerigo Vespucci, but he had been left behind in the New World when that discoverer last returned to Europe. The listeners to his narrative at first put now and then a question to the speaker and so the way is paved for making him tell his experience of England, where he had once visited Cardinal Morton, and he relates many things in the government and customs of the English which are worthy to be condemned. He first dwells on the number of thieves, and the frequency of capital punishment for theft, and insists that such severity is not likely to deter offenders, while at the same time so extreme a penalty as death for theft is not equitable.

He next complains of the raising of rents beyond the real value of the land, of the number of idle retainers who when their masters die must steal or starve, of the unnecessary multitudes of soldiers that are kept, of the decay of husbandry, and the great evil of increased sheep-farming, seeing that it employs few men while husbandry furnishes work and wages for many. He then proceeds to point out the dearness of all commodities in the land, victuals, wool and cattle; speaks in strong terms of the licentiousness in manners and of the greed of the rich, who by monopolies and engrossing regulate the markets just as they please.

The reformer would not have thieves punished with death, but would let them live and so have the profit of their labour for the nation. He glances at the warlike array of all Europe as he proceeds to give his opinions against the universal fondness for war, but soon returns to what were the special sorrows

of England in the time of Henry VIII. The debasing of coin for the enrichment of the monarch, the pretence of war that money may be raised by taxation though it shall never be spent, the fines exacted on account of old and obsolete laws which are revived for the purposes of extortion either in the form of penalties on offenders, or in payments for dispensations by those who do not choose to observe them, all carry the mind back to the close of the reign of the seventh Henry, when Empson and Dudley were in the height of their power. In such wise does More declare through his fictitious narrator the difficulties which he felt would attend on life in the royal service. To him it would have been for ever a swimming against the stream, a struggle to remedy overwhelming evils, with no one to support him, and so with small hope of success.

The Utopia was perhaps the most powerful among such lamentations over the state of the land at this time, but there were many voices raised with the same cry. Among the publications of the Early English Text Society may be found of the same character

(1) 'Certain causes gathered together wherein is shewed the 'decay of England only by the great multitude of sheep, to the utter decay of household keeping, maintenance of men, dearth ' of corn, and other notable discommodities' (about 1550).

(2) Henry Brinklow's complaint of Roderick Mors unto the 'Parliament house of England his natural country for the redress ' of certain wicked laws, evil customs, and cruel decrees.' This book, like the Utopia, dwells on the enhancing of rents, the enclosing of parks, forests and chases, the selling of wards for marriage, of the law's delays, of lords which have turned shepherds, and many other kindred evils.

(3) And over the same ground with the Utopia goes still more closely 'Thomas Starkey's description of England in the 'reign of King Henry VIII., conveyed in a dialogue between 'Cardinal Pole and Thomas Lupset, Lecturer in Rhetoric at 'Oxford.' Here we find exactly the same complaints as are made by More concerning the decay of towns and villages, the increase of sheep farms and enclosures, the growth of poverty

and crime, the characters of the clergy and lawyers, which are both painted in dark colours. Men of religion were a scandal to their profession, and men of law were not slow to follow their example according to the view which Starkey gives us of his own times, and we gather confirmation of it to the full from other sources, among which, to mention no more, Latimer's sermons at Paul's Cross supply evidence in abundance.

With the framework of this first part did More enclose the fiction which he had written in the previous year, to shadow forth remedies for evils against which plain and direct speaking would probably have been dangerous. He tells us (p. 23) that from Hythloday's narrative 'these our cities, nations, countries and kingdoms may take example to amend their faults, enormities and errors.' Such reform is the drift of his whole narrative. We can see how his heart longed and laboured after those things which he spake of to his son-in-law Roper, saying, 'Were they well established in Christendom, would to God I were put in a sack and cast into the Thames.' For there is much in the laws and customs of the imaginary Utopia that holds up to admiration the blessing of universal peace among nations for which More was constantly sighing and praying, and much too that proclaims a desire for the time when the Church should be settled in an uniformity of Religion.

And as we turn over the chapters of the second part we can see what were More's ideas of the remedies which ought to be applied to the evils in the society in which he lived. He first describes the country of Utopia and one of its chief cities, and through the whole we may observe that England is in his mind. Utopia is an island, and its great river is very like to the river Thames, and is in the same way spanned by a bridge of stonework with gorgeous and substantial arches. Its government is representative like that of More's native land. Husbandry and tillage are chiefly regarded and advanced among the Utopians, as all reformers in More's day thought they should be in England. There is in Amaurote abundance of fresh water, the streets are broad and kept clear of all filth, the buildings are good, with gardens at the back of all the houses, and such

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