Thomas More “Utopia” ctd.

I’ve thought about the phrase “I’d rather be truthful than correct”. This is the ultimate praise of one’s subjective conscience: More prefers being true to his own convictions and being potentially wrong than correcting his book if the data is not sufficient to convince him. But on a larger scale it could be interpreted as the meaning of the whole “Utopia” – it is not a factually correct description of a real island, but through this medium he can express some of his deeper beliefs. And on even a larger scale, it’s like the ultimate praise of the freedom of thought and belief, something that More eventually died for. It’s a pity he didn’t think about it when he tortured and executed people suspected of heresy, I should add.

This section is rather humdrum and serves as the introduction. More ends his preface with the standard author’s complaint about how readers don’t really appreciate good books and there’s no pleasing them. He also exhorts Gilles to get the answers from Hythloday, in person or by letter, and also to get him to read the book, if possible.

Book 1 starts with describing the circumstances of More’s meeting Hythloday. He went on a diplomatic mission to Low Countries in the retinue of the real-life diplomat Cuthbert Tunstall (the mission is historical, too). During a break in the negotiations, More travels from Bruges to Antwerp, where he befriends Peter Gilles. One day, after the Mass, he notices his friend talking with a man who looks like a sailor because of his sun-burnt face and a long beard. Peter greets More and tells him he would like very much to introduce the stranger to him.

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