Three Early Modern Utopias Thomas More: Utopia / Francis Bacon: New Atlantis / Henry Neville: the Isle of Pines

ISBN-10: 0199537992
ISBN-13: 9780199537990
Edition: 2008
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Description: With the publication of Utopia (1516), Thomas More provided a scathing analysis of the shortcomings of his own society, a realistic suggestion for an alternative mode of social organization, and a satire on unrealistic idealism. Enormously  More...

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Book details

List price: $10.95
Copyright year: 2008
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 1/15/2009
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 320
Size: 5.00" wide x 7.75" long x 0.50" tall
Weight: 0.484
Language: English

With the publication of Utopia (1516), Thomas More provided a scathing analysis of the shortcomings of his own society, a realistic suggestion for an alternative mode of social organization, and a satire on unrealistic idealism. Enormously influential, it remains a challenging as well as a playful text. This edition reprints Ralph Robinson's 1556 translation from More's original Latin together with letters and illustrations that accompanied early editions of Utopia. This edition also includes two other, hitherto less accessible, utopian narratives. New Atlantis (1627) offers a fictional illustration of Francis Bacon's visionary ideal of the role that science should play in the modern society. Henry Neville's The Isle of Pines (1668), a precursor of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, engages with some of the sexual, racial, and colonialist anxieties of the end of the early modern period. Bringing together these three New World texts, and situating them in a wider Renaissance context, this edition--which includes letters, maps, and alphabets that accompanied early editions--illustrates the diversity of the early modern utopian imagination, as well as the different purposes to which it could be put.

Born in London, the son of a judge, More became an important statesman and scholar. He was also one of the most eminent humanists of the Renaissance. Educated at Oxford, More became an under-sheriff of London and, later, a member of Parliament. Under King Henry VIII he served as Treasurer of the Exchequer, speaker of the House of Commons, and, finally, Lord Chancellor. More is probably best known for his Utopia, which was written in Latin (then the language of literary and intellectual Europe). It was translated into English in 1551. As the first part of this small masterpiece indicates, when More was weighing the offer to be an adviser to Henry VIII he was well aware of the compromises, bitterness, and frustration that such an office involved. In the second part, More develops his famous utopia---a Greek word punning on the meanings "a good place" and "no place"---a religious, communistic society where the common ownership of goods, obligatory work for everyone, and the regular life of all before the eyes of all ensure that one's baser nature will remain under control. Inspired by Plato's (see Vols. 3 and 4) Republic, More's Utopia became in turn the urbane legacy of the humanistic movement (in which More's friends were most notably Erasmus (see Vol. 4), John Colet, and William Grocyn) to succeeding ages. More also wrote a history, Richard III, which, if arguably the first instance of modern historiography in its attention to character and its departure from chronicle, is also, in its responsiveness to the Tudor polemic of divine rights, largely responsible for the notorious reputation of Richard as an evil ruler. More's refusal to recognize Henry VIII as Head of the Church led to a sentence of high treason. Imprisoned for more than a year, he was finally beheaded. Eventually, More was granted sainthood.

Francis Bacon was born on January 22, 1561 in London. After studying at Cambridge, Bacon began a legal career, ultimately becoming a barrister in 1582. Bacon continued his political ascent, and became a Member of Parliament in 1584. In 1600, he served as Queen Elizabeth's Learned Counsel in the trial of Robert Devereaux, the Earl of Essex. After numerous appointments under James I, Bacon admitted to bribery and fell from power. Much of Bacon's fame stems from the belief by some that he was the actual author of the plays of William Shakespeare. While many critics dismissed that belief, Bacon did write several important works, including a digest of laws, a history of Great Britain, and biographies of the Tudor monarchy, including Henry VII. Bacon was also interested in science and the natural world. His scientific theories are recorded in Novum Organum, published in 1620. Bacon's interest in science ultimately led to his death. After stuffing a fowl with snow to study the effect of cold on the decay of meat, he fell ill, and died of bronchitis on April 9, 1626.

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