More, Montaigne, and Matthew Arnold: Thoughts on the Utopian Vision
I INTEND TO DISCUSS several utopias of a more or less literary character that are not usually considered in the conventional listing of utopian projects. Thomas More's famous masterpiece which gives us the word we use to designate the entire genre can be studied both as a project and as something far more penetrating and profound. Like Plato Republic it is a classic on every score, and I shall use it as a standard, so to speak, a basis for comparing or contrasting the other utopias I shall describe. My title indicates that Montaigne and Matthew Arnold will come under scrutiny insofar as they offer somewhere in their work a "utopian vision." I must hasten to add three other names to my heading: Rabelais, Jonathan Swift, and Voltaire. For the sake of brevity and an alliterative rhythm I left their names out of my title, but their contribution to the utopian literary corpus is equally great, and in this essay, if not in its title, they will receive their due.
My procedure will be to treat these authors in chronological order -- Rabelais, Montaigne, Swift, Voltaire, Matthew Arnold. Their utopias will be briefly described, and my thoughts about them and how they relate to More Utopia will follow. At the outset let me say a few words about the famous book of Thomas More.