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England and Europe: Utopia and its aftermath*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 February 2009

D. B. Fenlon
Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.


The most celebrated product of the early English Renaissance was composed not in English but in Latin. It was conceived in Antwerp, completed in London, published in Louvain, and reprinted in Paris, Basle and Florence long before it was finally rendered into English, some sixteen years after its author had been executed. He was executed for refusing to adhere to the doctrine that the head of the Church was to be found in England, not in Europe.

Research Article
Copyright © Royal Historical Society 1975

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1 More, Thomas, Utopia, ed. Surtz, Edward, , S. J., and Hexter, J. H., The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St Thomas More, iv (New Haven and London, 1965) P. 247Google Scholar. Hereafter cited as Utopia.

2 See the excellent analysis in Johnson, R. S., More's Utopia: Ideal and Illusion (New Haven and London, 1969)Google Scholar.

3 The German Ideology, ed. Ryazanskaya, S. (London, 1965), p. 507Google Scholar; Kautsky, K., Thomas More and his Utopia (London, 1927)Google Scholar; Hexter, J. H., The Vision of Politics on the Eve of the Reformation (New York and London, 1973)Google Scholar. These interpretations find Utopia's full significance in its anticipation of modern conditions. Another view is to be found in Chambers, R. W., Thomas More (London, 1935)Google Scholar; Duhamel, P. Albert, ‘Medievalism of More's Utopia’, Studies in Philology, lii (1955), pp. 99126Google Scholar; Surtz, Edward, The Praise of Wisdom (Chicago, 1957)Google Scholar, The Praise of Pleasure (Cambridge, Mass., 1957)Google Scholar, and Introduction to Utopia (n.i above), pp. cxxv–cxciv.

4 n.I above, pp. xv–cxxiv. Republished in extended form in The Vision of Politics, pp. 19–149.

5 Skinner, Quentin, ‘More's Utopia’, Past and Present, 38 (1967), pp. 153–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 The Vision of Politics, pp. 117, 119, 136–37.

7 n.3 above.

8 Surtz, , Introduction to Utopia (n. I above), pp. clxxxiii–cxcivGoogle Scholar.

9 Hexter, , The Vision of Politics, pp. 50107Google Scholar.

10 Utopia, pp. clii, ff. (Introduction by Surtz, )Google Scholar and Surtz's other work (above, n. 3).

11 Roper, William, The Life of Sir Thomas More, in Two Early Tudor Lives, ed. Sylvester, Richard S. and Harding, Davis P. (New Haven and London, 1962)Google Scholar. Hereafter cited as Roper, Life.

12 Ibid., p. 198.

13 Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ed. Allen, P. S. and Allen, H. M., 12 vols (Oxford, 19061958), IV, no. 999, p. 18Google Scholar. Hereafter cited as Allen.

14 I am grateful to Dr Paul Lawrence Rose and Professor Denys Hay for pointing this out to me.

15 Stapleton, Thomas, The Life and Illustrious Martyrdom of Sir Thomas More, trans. Hallett, Philip E., ed. Reynolds, E. E. (London, 1966), p. 62Google Scholar. Hereafter cited as Stapleton, Life. A hagiographical portrait from the Counter-Reformation, but its details of More's family life sufficiently coincide with the observations of Erasmus and others to make it seem reliable in this matter.

16 Gairdner, James, ‘A Letter Concerning Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More’, Eng. Hist. Rev., vii (1892), pp. 712–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

17 Stapleton, , Life, pp. 6263Google Scholar.

18 Ibid., pp. 88–89.

19 Ibid., pp. 87–102.

20 ‘Ac talis Morus etiam in aula. Et postea sunt qui putent Christianos non inueniri nisi in monasteriis’. (Allen, iv, no. 999, p. 21). For More's recurrent preoccupation with monastic life, cf. Roper, , Life, pp. 213 and 239Google Scholar.

21 McConica, James Kelsey, English Humanists and Reformation Politics, (Oxford, 1965), p. 41Google Scholar, comments on the affinity between the Enchiridion and Utopia.

22 Ibid., p. 22.

23 Utopia, pp. 113, 149.

24 Pullan, B., Rich and Poor in Renaissance Venice (Oxford, 1972)Google Scholar; 'Addario, A. D., Aspetti della controriforma a Firenze (Rome, 1972)Google Scholar; Renaudet, A., Préréforme et Humanisme à Paris pendant Us premières guerres d'Italic (Paris, 1916)Google Scholar.

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26 Hexter, , The Vision of Politics, pp. 204–30Google Scholar.

27 Davis, , ‘Poor relief, humanism and heresy’, p. 269Google Scholar.

28 Thomas More, p. 178, and pp. 136–37.

29 Ibid., and, most persuasively, by Duhamel (n. 3 above).

30 Hexter, , The Vision of Politics, pp. 40 ffGoogle Scholar; Skinner, , More's' Utopia', p. 157Google Scholar. Hexter, in the course of criticizing Chambers remarks upon the ‘neglected theme … of patriarchal familism’ in Utopia. One feels that a certain credit is due to Chambers, if only for neglecting his own insights.

31 Utopia, p. 148.

32 Utopia, pp. 127–35, and p. 141.

33 Ibid., p. 226.

34 Ibid., p. 217.

35 Ibid., p. 227.

36 Ibid., pp. 227–29.

39 Ibid., p. 219.

40 Allen, ii, no. 499, p. 414. Trans, in St Thomas More: Selected Letters, ed. Rogers, E. F., (New Haven and London, 1961), p. 73Google Scholar. Hereafter cited as Rogers, Selected Letters.

41Hic ubi nihil priuati est, serio publicum negotium agunt’. (Utopia, p. 238).

42 Johnson More's Utopia.

43 Utopia, p. 103.

44 Ibid., pp. 2–15.

45 Allen, ii, no. 461, p. 339; trans, in Rogers, , Selected Letters, p. 73Google Scholar.

46 Utopia, pp. 86–94.

47 Elton, G. R., ‘Thomas More, Councillor’, in Studies in Tudor and Stuart Politics and Government', (Cambridge, 1974), i, pp. 129–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

48 Notes 23–25 above.

49 More to Erasmus, 31 October 1516 (Allen, ii, no. 481, p. 372; Rogers, , Selected Letters, pp. 8081)Google Scholar.

52 Utopia, p. 21.

53 Ibid., p. 18.

54 Ross, J. B., ‘Gasparo Contarini and his Friends’, Studies in the Renaissance, xvii (1970), pp. 192232CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Jedin, H., A History of the Council of Trent, i (London, 1957) PP. 128–30Google Scholar, for the plan advanced by Giustiniani and Quirini for a root and branch reformation of the Church.

55 D'Addario, Aspetti della controriforma a Firenze. It is worth noticing the influence of Florence on More's mind, through the medium of John Pico della Mirandola, whose Life he translated.

56 Renaudet, Préréforme et Humanisme à Paris.

57 Above, n. 24.

58 Trans, in Desiderius Erasmus: Christian Humanism and the Reformation, Selected Writings, ed. Olin, John C. (New York, 1965), pp. 92106Google Scholar.

59 Post, R. R., The Modern Devotion (Leiden, 1968), pp. 660–70Google Scholar; Tracy, J. D., Erasmus—The Growth of a Mind (Geneva, 1972), pp. 3139Google Scholar.

60 Allen, i, nos. 21–32, pp. 100–25.

61 n. 58 above.

62 Utopia, p. 241.

63 Ibid., p. 101.

64 Ibid., p. 197.

65 Moeller, B., Imperial Cities and the Reformation, ed. and trans., Midelfort, H. C. Erik and Edwards, Mark U. (Philadelphia, 1972)Google Scholar; Dickens, A. G., The German Motion and Martin Luther (London, 1974)Google Scholar; Chrisman, Strasbourg and the Reform.

66 The Vision of Politics, p. III.

67 Ibid., pp. 107–17.

68 Cf., for example, Martin, Gregory, Roma Sancta (1581), ed. Parks, George Bruner (Rome, 1969)Google Scholar.

69 The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Parsons, Talcott (London, 1967), PP. 116–25Google Scholar.

70 Ibid., p. 120.

71 Cf. the discussion by John Bossy in Evenett, H. O., The Spirit of the Counter-Reformation, ed. Bossy, J. (Cambridge, 1968), pp. 126–32Google Scholar.

72 Ibid., p. 129 and n.I.

73 Hexter finds in Beza's admonition to the students of the Genevan Academy to ‘work for the glory of God’ a ‘perfect expression of the religious aspiration which the Utopian commonwealth reflected’. (The Vision of Politics, p. 111). It was also a perfect counterpart to the Jesuit ideal of living ‘ad majorem Dei gloriam’.

74 Monumenta Historica Societatis Jesu, lxv: Monumenta Ignatiana, ser. 3, S. Ignati de Loyola Constitutiones Societatis Jesu, iii (Rome, 1938)Google Scholar. Knowles, D., From Pachomius to Ignatius: A study in the Constitutional History of the Religious Orders (Oxford, 1966), pp. 61 ffGoogle Scholar. Bataillon, M., ‘D'Erasme à la compagníe de Jésus’, Archives de Sociology des Religions, xxiv (1967), pp. 5781CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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76 The eremitic life nevertheless remained the highest ideal. Leclercq, J., Alone With God, trans. McCabe, E. (London, 1961), pp. 189–93Google Scholar. Bataillon (n. 74 above) comments on the alignment between Jesuit and monastic spirituality.

77 Utopia, p. 219.

78 Responsio ad Lutherum, ed. Headley, John M., The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St Thomas More, v, (2 parts) (New Haven and London, 1969)Google Scholar.

79 More to Cromwell, 5 March 1534 (Rogers, , Selected Letters, p. 212)Google Scholar.

80 Ibid., pp. 212–14.

81 Responsio, i, pp. 140–41.

87 Responsio, i, pp. 140–41.

88 Utopia, pp. 226–29.

89 Surtz, E., The Works and Days of John Fisher (Cambridge, Mass., 1967, pp. 390 ffCrossRefGoogle Scholar.

90 Where they differed was in their conception of the Church.

91 More to Cromwell, 5 March 1534 (n. 79 above).

92 Martz, Louis L., ‘Thomas More: The Tower Works’, in St Thomas More: Action and Contemplation, ed. Sylvester, R. S. (New Haven, 1972), pp. 5783Google Scholar.

93 Roper, , Life, pp. 239Google Scholar and 242, quoted in Chambers, , Thomas More, p. 325Google Scholar.

94 Corpus Reformatorum, ed. Bretschneider, C. Gottlieb, ii (Halle, 1835), pp. 918Google Scholar, 1027. English abstracts in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic … Henry VIII, ed. J. S. Brewer and J. Gairdner, ix, nos. 222 and 1013.