Theme: Early Christians "had all things in common". Heathen Utopia shows how the abolition of property and the adoption of pseudo-monastic rules can curb humanity's greed and envy.
Style: More's Latin avoids Ciceronian ornament and aims to be "homely, plain and simple." Even so, a battery of rhetorical tricks manages to tease and puzzle.
Chief strengths: More's opinion of the Utopians is buried under layers of knowingness. He presents them as heartless, reasonable, liberal and sinister.
Chief weakness: The construction is haphazard. Although More knows he wants to finish with a denunciation of pride, the details of Utopian life emerge arbitrarily.
What they thought of it then: Dim-witted readers scoured maps to locate Utopia's position. Erasmus and his bunch of Euro-humanists chuckled wisely and wrote appreciative letters to each other. Thomas Cromwell, More's arch-rival, preferred Machiavelli's The Prince.
What we think of it now: Conservative Catholics believe the text should be regarded as a ludibrium (Latin for jeu d'esprit). Post and neo-Marxists take it all in deadly earnest.
Responsible for: Bacon's New Atlantis, Swift's decision to put Gulliver among clever horses and ream after ream of William Morris's wallpaper socialism.Reuse content