- MORE, (Sir) Thomas
- (1478-1535)UK writer, lawyer, diplomat and politician. The son of a barrister, he was first educated for the Church, but soon decided upon a secular career; he sat in Parliament and gained steadily in political influence, being knighted in 1521 and occupying several posts under Henry VIII until that king's proposed divorce from Catherine of Aragon; TM'ssubsequent refusal to swear to the Act of Supremacy led to his execution. He was canonized in 1935. Throughout his career he was intellectuallyinvolved with the kind of humanism best exemplified by his friend Erasmus (1466-1536), who spent some time in England, and the work by which TM ispopularly remembered, Utopia (Part 2 1516 in Latin; trans Ralphe Robynson including Part 1, written after Part 2, 1551), can be seen as the first substantial humanistic work written by an Englishman.In Part 1, TM, as a character, comes across Raphael Hythloday, a Portuguese seaman who went with Amerigo Vespucci to the New World. Hythloday, having discovered the ISLAND of Utopia on his travels, compares the corrupt state of Europeansociety with the ideal world of Utopia. In Part 2, Utopia is described in detail. It is a humanistic reversal of English society: all goods are held in common; the island's 54 shires are constructed and run rationally by citizens who participate fully in the government, though there are also slaves; arms are borne in self-defence only; there is religious tolerance, though not for atheists. Most of the rational ingredients of the hundreds of UTOPIAS (a word which, in TM's usage, is a pun on ou-topos, nowhere, and eu-topos, good place) that followed TM's initiative can be found in Utopia; what many of its successors lacked, however, was TM's insistencethat his humanistic, rationally governed world was amenable to change, and that his picture of Utopia had caught only a moment in its evolution towards a more perfect constitution for the life of men on Earth.While the majority of readers of Utopia seem to have assumed that TM was recommending the kind of society he would have liked to live in himself, a number of critics have pointed out that some of his suggestions may have been SATIRE; since irony is largely a matter of tone, and since it is difficult for most modern readers to evaluate the tone of a Latin text, it is almost impossible to prove the case one way or the other. Certainly some aspects of TM's Utopia seem, to the modern reader, rigid and even cruel, but to impute similar emotions to TM himself may be anachronistic sentimentality. However, at least in translation, the book has a kind of dry, ambiguous wit which suggests that to read it as a straightforward prospectus of the good life may be simplistic.The degree to which Utopia and utopias in general can be thought of as relevant to sf, particularly GENRE SF of the 20th century, is controversial; it can be argued that theutopian tradition has contributed only minimally to the fundamentally Romance nature of modern sf (but see PROTO SCIENCE FICTION).The amount ofavailable reading on TM and on utopias is huge; some relevant works are listed under UTOPIAS.JC/PN
Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. Academic. 2011.