Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/346

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sibilities of the imaginary society described. The imaginary society is simply the vehicle for satire and criticism of things as they are, In other words, it is as literature and not as a scientific treatise that ideal commonwealths should be considered. The possession of literary qualities has made a few of them effective. More's "Utopia" meets this test admirably and is, therefore, properly included among the Five-Foot Shelf of Books.


Some acquaintance with social conditions and politics in the time of More adds much to the significance and interest of the book; but society, and even more human nature, changes so slowly from age to age that much of it can hardly fail to prove full of stimulating suggestion even to readers familiar only with present conditions. Speaking generally, our own society is no nearer that depicted in the "Utopia" than was that of More's own period. In some respects it is further removed from Utopian conditions, notably in the greater relative importance of manufacturing and commercial as contrasted with agricultural activities. In some directions changes have taken place which all would agree are for the better, though they are contrary to the Utopian ideal. The government of "Utopia" was distinctly aristocratic. To a modern idealist the best of all conceivable societies would certainly be democratic in form and in practice. Slavery, though of an ameliorated sort, was an essential foundation of the Utopian polity. No better illustration may possibly be found of the difficulty experienced in getting away from the blinding influence of one's own environment, even when gifted with an exceptionally humane spirit and a powerful imagination. One may hazard the hope, in this connection, that in the distant evolution of society a higher level of improvement may be reached than can now be foreseen.