Francis Bacon – “The New Atlantis” (excerpts)

When Bacon wrote his answer to More’s Utopia, his ideal state of course turned out to be run by scientists. In the excerpt in the NAEL a nameless narrator gets an audience with one of the “fathers” of the fictitious state. We are treated to a somewhat long description of his very fine chamber and very fine if austere clothes. I wonder why in these texts about visits to imaginary lands (or half-imaginary, I remember noticing something similar about Anne Catherine Emmerich visions of biblical scenes) we get treated to so many descriptions of clothes. Is it to make them more believable? Or is it just some sort of padding, since there is little or no narrative interest and these texts serve only as a medium for their authors’ political/social/religious agenda/ Anyway, the clothes of the “father” are like a cross between those of a clergyman and an Oxbridge don, which stands to reason, taking into account that traditional university garb derives from clerical garb. The narrator bows reverently and kisses his host’s tippet (oh, wouldn’t some university professors like that), after which the “father” speaks to him about the organization of his country, which is basically just one big scientific laboratory: some of them on the tops of high towers on the hills, some of the deep inside the earth in caves, some of them in lakes and pools etc. etc. The purpose of all these is both to observe the world as well as to produce useful and fine products, such as ceramics surpassing those of China.

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