420. No Place Will Please Me So: Thomas More

Posted on 7 May 2023

What is the message of the famous, but elusive, work Utopia, and how can it be squared with the life of its author?

Further Reading

• G.M. Logan and R.M. Adams (ed. and trans.), Thomas More: Utopia (Cambridge: 2002).

• G.B. Wegemer and S.W. Smith (eds), The Essential Works of Thomas More (New Haven: 2020).


• D. Baker-Smith, More’s “Utopia” (London: 1991).

• A.D. Cousins and D. Grace (eds), Companion to Thomas More (Madison: 2009).

• A. Fox, Thomas More: History and Providence (Oxford: 1982).

• A. Fox, “Utopia”: an Elusive Vision (New York: 1993).

• J.H. Hexter, More’s “Utopia”: The Biography of an Idea (Princeton: 1952).

• M. Leslie, Renaissance Utopias and the Problem of History (Ithaca: 1998).

• G.M. Logan, The Meaning of More’s “Utopia” (Princeton: 1983).

• G.M. Logan, (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Thomas More (Cambridge: 2011).

• E. McCutcheon, My Dear Peter: The “Arts Poetica” and Hermeneutics for More’s “Utopia” (Angers: 1983).

• J.C. Olin, Interpreting Thomas More’s Utopia (New York: 1989).

• R. Marius, Thomas More: a Biography (New York: 1984).

Q. Skinner, “Sir Thomas More’s Utopia and the language of Renaissance Humanism,” in A. Pagden (ed.), The Languages of Political Theory in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: 1987), 123-57.

• H. Yoran, Between Utopia and Dystopia: Erasmus, Thomas More, and the Humanist Republic of Letters (Lanham: 2010).

Stanford Encyclopedia: Thomas More


Thomas Mirus 7 May 2023

Thanks for this treatment of my patron, about as fair as I could hope for given that this is not a Catholic podcast! I only wish there had been more about his writings on conscience, which shed light on his choice to lose not his soul but his head (which I will be visiting where it's buried in Canterbury in just a few weeks).

I've read that the "Better a chaste husband than a licentious priest" quote is spurious, not to be found in his writings or early biographies - though, of course, it's a perfectly sound sentiment.

Pity if he didn't say it, since it is such a good quote! I'll add "supposedly" to the text for the book version so I am covered.

And yes his corpus is pretty vast so it was not easy to get in everything. Issues about conscience will come up later though when we tackle the Jesuits, so at least as a topic it will not be overlooked.

Man for all seasons 7 May 2023

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Also, I assume you have seen A Man for All Seasons (the 1966 one with Paul Scofield), but if not, I highly recommend it (even if it does portray More as a bit more modern in his sensibilities than he was). It's an adaptation of a play by Robert Bolt, who also screenwrote The Mission, Doctor Zhivago, and Lawrence of Arabia. And the movie is the reason my parents named me Thomas...

Actually I can do one better: in high school I had a bit part in a play called The Actor's Nightmare which was stitched together from scenes from various plays, and the last one is where Thomas More (= the actor) gets executed - and I played the executioner! I only had one line.

Andrew 11 May 2023

When was the last time Hiawatha was mentioned? How is she? Maybe you have mentioned her recently and I am just misremembering. Same for giraffes generally. 

Peter Adamson 14 May 2023

In reply to by Andrew

Yes I know, she hasn't made an appearance recently. I think it has been the topics - giraffes etc lend themselves better to illustrating points in metaphysics and epistemology and we've been doing a lot of politics recently, and the relation between reason and religion, humanism and scholasticism, that sort of thing. But I'll see if I can get the giraffes in again soon!

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