Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 36, 1996
Topical utopias: radicalizing humanism
in sixteenth-century England.
by David Weil Baker
The ascription of political "radicalism" to sixteenth-century humanism constitutes one of the more promising ripostes to the overworked notion of an irremediably "liberal" or "bourgeois" humanism. J. H. Hexter, David Norbrook, and Margo Todd have made the rubric of "radical humanism" a viable one for sixteenth-century studies, and their work provides an important critique of the far left's equation of humanism and political complacency.(1) However, their work also at times exhibits an essentializing tendency of its own by suggesting that radicalism was a fixed characteristic of sixteenth-century humanism or at least of particular humanist texts. Thus, although acknowledging that the politics of Renaissance humanism were "Protean," Norbrook makes Utopia the point of origin for a diachronic "radicalism" that extends well beyond the sixteenth century.(2) Norbrook in turn owes much to Hexter, who ascribes to Utopia the "fundamental social conviction" that the "social order based on hierarchy" is "only worth eradicating" and casts the "radicalism" of Utopia as a "window to the future."(3) Most recently, Margo Todd has broadened the arguments of Hexter and Norbrook concerning Utopia to include Erasmian humanism in general. Todd claims that Erasmus's "radical social theory" represented a complete rejection of sixteenth-century norms, based, as they were, on the so-called Great Chain of Being.(4)
I want to use the first English translations of More's Latin Utopia (1516) and Erasmus's Moriae Encomium (1511) to argue that radical humanism in England was often a matter of reception, timing, and topicality rather than a tradition with an inherent politics. The first English translation of Utopia--Ralph Robinson's 1551 Utopia--and the first English translation of Moriae Encomium--Thomas Chaloner's 1549 The Praise of Folie--represent two very different political uses of works that originally had much in common, and whose translations appeared at a historical moment when the possibility of eradicating social hierarchy seemed a real one for England. Of course, both More's Latin Utopia and Erasmus's Moriae Encomium extend Lucianic satire to critique in rather fundamental ways the political and ecclesiastical hierarchies of sixteenth-century Europe. However, both also use the equally Lucianic tricks of shifting perspectives, inconclusive conclusions, and unreliable narrators to make their politics uncertain.(5) Advancing a poststructuralist approach, John Perlette has argued for the "radical indeterminacy" of More's Utopia, as if indeterminacy per se possessed a determinate political nature.(6) But Chaloner's and Robinson's translations demonstrate that the politics of indeterminacy in sixteenth-century humanist books could not be settled in advance but instead were subject to the constructions of individual interpreters.
Sixteenth-century translators in particular could exercise a good deal of latitude in their interpretations of texts. The second English translator of Utopia, Gilbert Burnet, wrote in 1684 that he initially suspected More himself of having been the first translator of Utopia because that first "[t]ranslator has taken a liberty that seems too great for any but the author himself, who is Master of his own Book."(7) Indeed, in the Confutation of Tyndale's Answer (1532), More at least anticipated one form that such "liberty" might take. For there he appeared willing to see both Utopia and Erasmus's Moriae Encomium consigned to the flames rather than translated into English and, like Tyndale's at that time heretical translation of the Bible, made readily available to a broad readership, one liable to "misconstrue" its meaning.(8) Just as Tyndale's translation had turned the Bible into a heretical text, so More imagined the possibility of another master of Utopia transforming his book in an equally dire way. The Reformation and, in particular, the terrifying spectacle of the German Peasants Revolt (1525)--for which More blamed Luther--provide the political context in which More's remark must be understood.(9) It is one thing to discuss the possibility of a communistic society in a language that few can read, but any expansion of this readership raised the specter of widespread disorder and revolt for More. Indeed, both More and Luther, who vehemently disassociated himself from the peasants, viewed popular rebellion as the ultimate horizon of radicalism, and neither wanted challenges to authority to reach this horizon.
Robinson's Utopia and Chaloner's The Praise of Folie were published during one of England's most Protestant periods, the brief kingship of the boy-ruler, Edward VI (1547-1553), who acceded to the throne only twelve years after More's own execution marked the ineluctable progress of the Reformation in England. Both translations were also published at a time when, as Helen White has shown, religious change, political dissent, and popular uprising had once again become linked.(10) Furthermore, the connection that More had implied between an English Utopia and Moriae Encomium, and Tyndale's translation of the Bible proved prophetic as well: Robinson's Utopia and Chaloner's Praise of Folie appeared in an atmosphere of a decidedly Protestant zeal for vernacular translations of the Bible and other religious texts. Although Henry VIII continued to abominate Tyndale because of his stance on divorce, in 1537 the Matthew Bible, based largely on Tyndale's translation, was licensed for sale in England, and the Great Bible of 1539 soon followed. Nevertheless, social anxieties continued to accompany the ever increasing diffusion of the Bible in translation, and thus, in 1543 Henry permitted the passage of an act that forbade Bible reading to women and members of the lower social strata. But Edward's reign saw a royal injunction (1547) that licensed Bible reading for all as well as related developments like the first vernacular liturgy and the provisioning of Nicholas Udall's translation (1548) of Erasmus's Paraphrases in every parish church. In addition, longstanding heresy statutes and the specifically Henrician prepublication censorship of religious opinion were revoked. It was a period of greater freedom of the press than any England would enjoy until 1640.(11)
The Edwardian government's sponsorship of translations of religious texts had consequences for the vernacularization of less explicitly religious works as well. Among other things, such sponsorship underscored the possibility of a populism that could also appeal to the elite who ran the country. Thus, Robinson's dedication of his Utopia to William Cecil, an old schoolfellow of Robinson's and then "one of the twoo principal secretaries to the kyng," is significant.(12) For Cecil was an important patron of Protestant printers and writers during the Edwardian period. Indeed, Robinson's letter to Cecil serves as the preface to his translation of Utopia, and Robinson writes in this letter of his project to "renewe and revive" his "old acquaintance" with Cecil--a project that he has "already begonne to do."(13) John King has rightly argued that Robinson's dedication of Utopia to Cecil can be viewed as a complicated request for favor and patronage, which, as Robinson's various appeals to Cecil for money demonstrate, Cecil never did grant to Robinson's satisfaction.(14) Thus, even in the letter prefacing his translation of Utopia, Robinson makes a pointed reference to his "poore talente."(15) Nevertheless, from Cecil's perspective, Robinson's poverty might have seemed deserved, for Utopia was perhaps the last text that Cecil would have wanted publicly dedicated to himself in 1551.
The title page of the 1551 Utopia, on the other hand, further complicates Robinson's social position. For this title page labels Robinson a "citizein and Goldsmythe of London," and it ascribes Robinson's translation to "the procurement and earnest request of George Tadlowe citezein and haberdasher of the same citie."(16) A goldsmith might initially seem an unlikely translator of Utopia,(17) but the identification of Robinson as a London citizen suggests that such citizens might have been another intended audience of the translation. Indeed, despite the social position of Cecil (he was recently knighted) and his importance to the king, Robinson's prefatory letter to Cecil, which replaces More's letter to Giles in the original, also stresses Robinson's friendship with George Tadlowe, "an honest citizein of London, and in the same citie well accepted and of good reputation." Among other things, Robinson argues that Tadlowe, as the "chief persuadour" of the publication of Robinson's translation, must "take upon him the daunger, whyche upon this bolde and rashe enterpriyse shall ensue."(18) Robinson, however, does not make the nature of this danger entirely clear in his letter to Cecil.(19)
Robinson published another edition of his translation in 1556, and the textual apparatus to this later edition highlights by contrast the character of the 1551 preface. In 1556 Robinson eliminated his letter to Cecil (no longer a powerful figure during the Marian period), and he replaced this letter with a new prefatory epistle entitled "The Translator to the gentle reader." This letter to the "gentle reader" apologizes for mistakes in the 1551 edition, and it blames such mistakes on Tadlowe, whose "meanesse" of "learninge" forced Robinson to "submit" and "attemper" his "stile."(20) In other words, the 1556 edition, whose title page significantly dubs Robinson a "sometime fellowe of Corpus Christi college in Oxford," not a goldsmith and citizen of London, constitutes an attempt to alter the character of Robinson's translation of Utopia. The publication of William Rastell's edition of More's English Workes in 1557 would demonstrate that the Marian period was a good time for the reception of books by England's most accomplished writer against heresy, but Robinson's 1556 revision of his 1551 translation mentions neither More's martyrdom nor his religious polemics.(21) Rather, the more evident function of the textual apparatus to the 1556 edition is to cut Robinson's citizen ties. The reader of Robinson's translation is now identified as a "gentle" one, and Robinson figures as a university graduate who is embarrassed to have subjected his style to the "meanesse" of a London citizen.
Chaloner, however, achieved a more solid form of upward mobility than Robinson, and in the Praise of Folie he generally articulates the position of, though he does not explicitly address, the gentle reader. Between 1546 and his death in 1565, Chaloner was knighted, acquired substantial properties, and undertook numerous diplomatic missions for both Mary and Elizabeth. Cecil was described as the "chiefe mourner" at Chaloner's funeral.(22) The title page of Praise of Folie in turn reports that the work was "Englished by sir Thomas Chaloner knight." Nevertheless, Chaloner's language is at times slippery, and it does not always restrict the medium of the popularization to the interests of the gentry or nobility. Thus, in his preface, Chaloner describes himself as having "bestowed an englisshe liverey upon this latine boke."(23) This metaphor is not only an intriguing way of describing the relationship of Latin and the vernacular, but it also positions Chaloner's translation in a wonderfully ambiguous social space. The retainers of the nobility and the members of London companies such as that of the goldsmiths wore liveries, and thus Chaloner's bestowal of an "englisshe liverey" identifies his translation with the trappings of both feudal service and urban corporations. It will become clear that Chaloner uses Folie to reinforce the necessity of hierarchy, but, as a livery, the vernacular could also blur social distinctions.
Chaloner's populism, however, is largely stylistic, whereas more than a style is at stake in both the 1551 and 1556 editions of Utopia. Indeed, Robinson's changes in 1556 represent a modification of the politics of the 1551 edition--the "daunger" mentioned in the letter to Cecil. The danger, however, does not seem to have been More's Catholicism. To be sure, in his 1551 preface, Robinson laments More's refusal to see "the shining light of "odes holy truthe in certein principal pointes of Christian religion." Nevertheless, this refusal does not seem to vitiate the value of Utopia for Robinson or his readers. "But letting this matter [of More's religion] pass, I retourne again to Utopia," Robinson goes on to write, and he thereby renders More's Catholicism and the meaning of Utopia separate issues.(24) For, according to Robinson, despite More's obstinacy in the service of Catholicism, Utopia still contains an "aboundaunce" of "good, & holsome lessons." Robinson also claims that attacks upon his Utopia will come from those who dislike what is "both frutefull and godly."(25)
In his preface, however, Robinson does not make explicit what he means by "godly," an adjective that More never applies to his Utopia. Nevertheless, the religious significance of Robinson's Utopia becomes more evident from one of the outright interpolations that he makes in his translation. Thus, the heading to book 2 of Utopia appears in Robinson's translation as follows: "The Second Boke of the Communication of Raphael Hythlodaye, concernyng the best state of a common wealthe: conteynyng the discription of Utopia, with a large declaration of the Godly governement, and of all the good lawes and orders of the same Ilande."(26) On the other hand, in More's Latin we read of the "Sermonis quem Raphael Hythlodaeus de optimo reipublicae statu habuit, Liber Secundus."(27) "Best state of a common wealth" is clearly Robinson's translation of "de optimo reipublicae statu," but nothing in More's Latin corresponds to "Godly governement." Indeed, "Godly governement" would seem to offset the studied ambiguity of More's presentation of Utopia. To be sure, a marginal note in book 2 of the Latin Utopia does identify Utopia as a "sanctam rempublicam & vel Christianis imitandam,"(28) but the marginalia to Utopia were supposedly written by Erasmus and Giles, not More. However, even if Erasmus and Giles's marginalia can be said to represent, to some degree, More's point of view, Robinson, whose 1551 translation contains no marginalia, chooses a much more conspicuous place than is used in the Latin Utopia to suggest that Utopian society is perhaps the way in which true Christians are supposed to govern themselves.
Robinson's awareness of the boldness of this particular interpolation is apparent from the fact that he changed it in 1556 when the "Godly governement" of the Utopians significantly became a "politike" one.(29) "Politike," with its root polls, invokes pagan philosophers like Plato and Aristotle and suggests that the L topian government is an outgrowth of an essentially secular and classical "optimus status reipublicae" tradition. Robinson's shift from "Godly" to "politike" thus makes Utopia a less authoritative paradigm. This shift also helps to decrease the particular kind of topicality characteristic of the 1551 Utopia.
For in 1551 "Godly governement" could have been read as an allusion to the mixture of political and religious reform espoused by a group of Protestant preachers and publishers, dubbed both "gospellers" and "commonwealth men" by modern historians.(30) These preachers and publishers overlaid, as Arthur Ferguson has argued, Erasmian humanism with the "apocalyptic theology of an embattled Protestantism," and, in their vehement criticism of social and religious abuses, they articulated a radicalism that at times verged on the incendiary.(31) Indeed, Hugh Latimer, one of the most eloquent of these reformers, preached his famous Sermons on the Plough at Paul's Cross in London, and thus he provides an obvious precedent for Robinson's own attempt in 1551 to address to London citizens a text emphasizing the link between social injustice and religious corruption. In particular, Latimer's only extant Sermon of the Plough connected enclosers, who placed their "private commodity" above the "commonwealth," to preachers who did not preach and thereby hindered spiritual ploughing.(32) This sermon compares the failure of religious leadership to the appropriation of communally owned land, and it is probably indebted to More's Raphael Hythlodaeus, who attacks enclosers, including religious potentates, in Latin.(33) But this sermon also anticipates the vernacular anti-enclosure assault of Robinson's Raphael, who accuses enclosers of "nothyng profytyng, ye, muche noyinge the weale publique."(34) Indeed, Robinson's Utopia owes much to Latimer's attempt to give the "commonwealth" a basis in a decidedly Christian notion of communality.
The radicalism of commonwealth men such as Hugh Latimer, John Hales, and Robert Crowley, however, was not "subversive" in the now familiar sense of opposing the state or government. Rather, between 1547 and 1549 their radicalism was quasigovernmental since many of the commonwealth men had close ties to the Duke of Somerset, the Protector of England and real power behind Edward's throne. They also had ties to Cecil, the dedicatee of Utopia. But in 1551 they were no longer at the apogee of their influence. Rather, they were under pressure to disassociate themselves from their earlier support of both the downtrodden and Somerset himself, who lost the Protectorate in 1549 and his life in 1552. Indeed, Cecil himself had succumbed to this pressure and after a brief stint in the Tower had made a deal with Somerset's rival on the Privy Council,John Dudley, and thereby both returned to power and acquired a knighthood.(35) The reasons for this pressure and Somerset's downfall were both the outspokenness with which the "commonwealth men" discussed social issues such as enclosures, and the reformist government policies to which this outspokenness seemed to be leading. For this apparently official zeal for radical political and religious reform was perceived to be the cause of one of the most devastating instances of social turmoil in sixteenth-century England.
In 1549 a wave of rebellions had swept across England, including numerous instances of class strife in Cornwall and, most explicitly, Norfolk. Historians disagree over the precise degree to which different instances of social unrest in 1549 had religious or economic motivations, but anti-enclosure rioting seems to have been common both to the Catholic-inspired uprising in Cornwall and to the rebels in Norfolk, who, although loyal Protestants, were disaffected with economic conditions. Sixteenth-century historiography of the Norfolk rebellion, in particular, refers repeatedly to instances of social conflict. Although the leader of the Norfolk rebellion, Robert Kett, was both a landowner and encloser, the rebellion included numerous attacks upon enclosures and members of the gentry. But the rebellion was not limited to the countryside, for it involved Norwich, too. Indeed, this city changed hands numerous times during the fighting, and municipal figures seem at different times to have cooperated with and opposed the rebels.(36)
Royal forces led by John Dudley ultimately crushed the uprising, but sixteenth-century accounts of and responses to Kett's rebellion suggest that the rebels saw themselves as allies of the government. Both Nicholas Southerton's unpublished "The Commoyson in Norfolk, 1549" and Alexander Neville's De Furoribus Norfolciensium (1575) locate the source of the uprising in anti-enclosure riots that the government's own opposition to enclosures had instigated. Moreover, accounts depict Kett and his fellow leaders seated under a "tree of reformation" and claiming to be acting in the king's name, which they even forged in writing. In his "The Hurt of Sedition: How Grievous it is to a Commonwealth" (1549), John Cheke accused the rebels of having "sent out in the kinges name, against the kinges wil, preceptes of al kinds, and without commaundement commaunded his subjectes, and unrulily . .ruled."(37) Likewise, the history of the rebellion in Holinshed's Chronicles (1587) includes a rebel proclamation from the "king's friends and deputies" granting "license" to "all men" to bring into the rebel camp "all manner of cattle and provision of victuals" without any "violence or injury" being done to any "honest or poor/ man."(38) Cheke, too, emphasized such attacks upon private property, and he accused the rebels of using the "commonwealth" as an excuse for the killing and despoiling of "gentlemen."(39)
The time in 1549 was definitely out of joint, and the problem of setting it right occupied some of England's best (and worst) minds. Thus, for instance, in Sir Thomas Smith's A Discourse of the Commonweal of this Rearm of England (1549), references to the problems of insurrection, disorder, and the seditious "diversity of opinions" sown by ministers abound. Interestingly, despite the literary debt that Smith's Discourse owes to More's Utopia, the possibility of a Utopian solution to England's economic and social woes suffers rejection in favor of an apparently more realistic economic policy: Utopia, claims the main speaker of the Discourse, Dr. Pandotheus, "had no traffic with any other outward country" and thus cannot serve as a model for England. "What harm is it, though we imagined here a whole Commonweal among ourselves, so it be not set forth as though we would needs have it after our devise?" another character asks nervously. "It is dangerous to meddle in the King's matters," Dr. Pandotheus replies, and indeed the Discourse circulated in manuscript but was not itself "set forth" in print until after Smith's death.(40)
Given Pandotheus's and Smith's caution, the publication of a text that designated Utopian society as a "Godly governement" in 1551 could not have been more inopportune or, depending upon one's perspective, apt. The same can be said of its dedication to Cecil, only recently released from the Tower. After 1549 censorship once again tightened in England as the gentry realized that the freedom of the press permitted by Somerset was one cause of the rebellion. Robinson's suggestion that a communistic society is "Godly" thus recalls the "commonwealth" reformers of the late 1540s, but it does so prudently--under the guise of translation rather than originality. As Annabel Patterson has argued, during the Renaissance "[c]ensorship encouraged the use of historical or other uninvented texts, such as translations from the classics." Translation in Patterson's view both allowed an author to "limit his responsibility" for a text and "provided an interpretive mechanism" whereby the reader was "invited to consider the timeliness of the retelling of another man's story."(41)
Indeed, Robinson uses the technique of "retelling another man's story" to preface his Utopia with an allusion to recent events. The story that he retells is from Lucian's How to Write History--that of Diogenes and his tub. The French humanists Guillaume Bude and Francois Rabelais had already made use of this story as a somewhat ironic prefatory topos in Annotationes in Pandectas (1508) and the Tiers Livre (1546). Robinson, however, uses Diogenes not only as a figure of bemused detachment but also as a way of quite topically emphasizing the "vocation" of writers laboring on behalf of the commonwealth:
Upon a tyme, when tidynges came to the citie of Corinthe that Kyng
Philippe . . . was comming thetherward with an armie royall to lay
siege to the citie; the Corinthians, being forth with strycken with
grease feare, beganne busilie and earnestly to looke aboute them
and to falle to worke of all hands . . . The whiche busie labor and
toyle of theires when Diogenes the phylosypher sawe, having no
profitable busines whereupon to sette himself on work . . . immediatly girded about him his phylosophicall cloke, and began to
rolle and tumble up and downe hether and thether upon the hil syde,
that lieth adioynginge to the citie his great barrel or tunne, wherein
he dwelled, for other dwellynge place wold he have none . . . This
seing one of his frendes . . . came to hym . . . whie doest thou thus,
or what meanest thou thereby? . . . I am tumblyng my tubbe . . .
(quod he) bycause it were no reason that I only should be ydell,
where so many be working. In semblable manner, right honorable sir
[i.e. Cecil], though I be, as I am in cede, of much less habilitie than
Diogenes was, to do any thinge, that shall or may be for the avauncement . . . of the publique wealth of my native country; yet I,
seing every sort and kynde of people in theire vocation and degree
busilie occupied about the common wealthes affaires, and especially
learned men dayly putting forth in writing newe inventions and
devises to the furtheraunce of the same, thought it my bounder dutie
. . . so to tumble my tubbe [i.e., translate Utopia](42)
Robinson's Diogenes still possesses some attributes of ironic aloofness, as in Lucian and Rabelais. Indeed, the "philosophicall cloak" that Robinson's Diogenes dons here reappears in book 1 of Robinson's Utopia as the "philosophers apparrell" that the character More accuses Hythloday of wearing when Hythloday defends his own detachment from politics by demonstrating the "no place" for the philosopher at court.(43) In book 1 Raphael speaks despairingly of books, too: philosophers have "put forth" books of advice for kings, but these monarchs are not willing to "folowe good counsell."(44) Yet unlike Lucian, Rabelais, or Raphael Hythloday in book 1, Robinson's preface includes a more encouraging allusion to the "learned men dayly putting forth in writing newe inventions and devises to the furtheraunce" of the "common wealthes affaires" in conjunction with those who are contributing to the cause of such affairs through other forms of labor. In Robinson's version of the story, the "vocation" of learning is already a politically engaged one, and thus Robinson's preface both articulates and undermines the philosophical isolation of Diogenes and, by implication, of Utopia itself. Learned men are already creating a place for philosophy in England, and one obvious referent for these learned men in 1551 would have been figures such as Latimer and Crowley.(45)
Diogenes, however, is attached to a city at war with a royal army, and thus he also serves as a reminder that the court was not the only locus of national politics in England. The 1549 revolts had subjected a number of English cities to siege by both royal and rebel forces, and they had made places such as Norwich and Exeter foci of national attention. But Robinson's learned men are also writers putting forth their works, and therefore they necessarily highlight London, England's printing center. Indeed, among the commonwealth men, Robert Crowley was himself a printer, and the dissemination of Hugh Latimer's sermons owed as much to the printing press as to the pulpit. The Sermon of the Plough appeared in print the same year as it was delivered. Likewise, the sermons that Latimer delivered before Edward VI in 1549 and 1550 were also published in those same years, and thus they did not remain restricted to a court audience. On the other hand, the learned men described in the letter to Cecil are also proleptic of the primarily urban Utopians, too, who, in Robinson's translation, being "inurede and exercysed in learnynge," are "marvelous quycke in the inventyon of feates."(46) Indeed, one of the chief confirmations of Utopian urbanity is their invention of the "feat of gravynge letters"--i.e., printing.
But Robinson's presentation of English learned men differs from their Utopian counterparts in at least one marked way: Robinson's emphasis on the "vocation" of learning underscores its status as labor whereas in Utopia learning constitutes an exemption from labor. Those Utopians who display intellectual aptitude and zeal are relieved of the obligation to have an occupation, and thus an entire class possesses in Robinson's translation a "perpetual licence from labour to learnyng."(47) Robinson's preface, on the other hand, shows the influence of what Max Weber identified as the Protestant valuation of work in the world as a "calling."(48) Latimer had exhibited a similar influence when depicting spiritual leadership in his Sermon on the Plough: "right prelating is busy labouring, and not fording." Indeed, one purpose of that sermon was to represent preaching as being akin to the hard physical toil of ploughing rather than the pastimes of "gallant gentlemen."(49) Robinson's depiction of the "vocation" of learning in his preface both recalls Latimer and also represents a departure from the otiose conception of learning in Utopia itself.
For the most part, however, Utopia too is a society of laborers, and Robinson's depiction of a busy Corinth thus reveals part of Utopia's religious appeal to him. Yet, the dignity of labor in Utopia leads to the opposite of Weber's thesis--i.e. communism, not capitalism--and this communism too has a religious basis. For the communism that the Utopians practice is said to have a New Testament analogue in the primitive communism of the early Christian Church, as described in Acts 2:44-5 and 4:32-5. Indeed, one reason that the Utopians take to Christianity when Hythloday introduces it to them is that the organization of the early Church reminds them of their own society: "Christ instytuted among hys all thynges commen; and that same communitie clothe yet remayne amongest the rightest Christian companies. [quod Christo communem quorum victum audierant placuisse, & apud germanissimos Christianorum conventus adhuc in usu esse.]"(50)
The important question that both More's Latin and Robinson's English raise here is the contemporary referent for "rightest Christian companies" or "germanissimos Christianorum conventus." Significantly, the marginalia to the Latin Utopia help to resolve this question with one word--"coenobia," i.e., monasticism. This resolution, however, is distinctly absent from Robinson's 1551 translation, which includes no marginalia and thus leaves readers free to form their own opinions. Indeed, the outlaw community that Kett and his followers formed in Norfolk was one possible referent for the phrase "rightest Christian companies" in 1551. Barrett Beer has argued that Kett and his followers articulated "radical Christian social doctrines."(51) A reader might also have applied the phrase to the Anabaptists, a Continental communistic sect with whom the Norfolk rebels were associated in the popular imagination. Not surprisingly, Robinson adds marginalia in the 1556 edition of his translation, and he inserts "religious houses" as both a translation of "coenobia" and a way of limiting the meaning of "rightest Christian companies" to monasticism.(52)
The pertinence of Robinson's Utopia to the situation of both Cecil and the commonwealth men in 1551 can best be understood in comparison to English attempts to mitigate the potentially radical elements of Erasmian humanism. Such mitigations reach their zenith in Chaloner's Praise of Folie, but Richard Taverner's 1539 translation of Erasmus's famous adage--Amicorum communia sunt omnia--provides a good initial indication of the kind of hermeneutical anxiety that could accompany the translation of Erasmian texts even before Norfolk. In the middle of his translation, Taverner feels obliged to interpolate a caveat against reading the sharing of material goods, ascribed in the adage to Pythagoras and his disciples as a legitimation of the communists of his own day, the much dreaded Anabaptists, or the monasteries displaced by the Henrician Reformation: "Certyes, this communion of those Heathen Pythagorians resembled much better that communion used in the primitive church amongst the Apostles, then cloth either our monkery at this day, or the wicked Anabaptistical sect, which will have no rulers, no order, but which goeth about to disturb the whole world with horrible confusion."(53) Although Taverner links Pythagorean and early Christian communism, he denies the possibility of any contemporary equivalent to these ancient communities arising. Similarly, Thomas Elyot, in The Book Named the Governor (1531), includes in his version of another famous Erasmian adage, Nosce te ipsum, or "Know yourself," a criticism of those who "under colours of Holy Scripture, which they do violently wrest to their purpose," try to "bring the life of man into a confusion inevitable" by abolishing "all superiority."(54) Despite Elyot's strictures, however, such chapters as Acts 2 and 4 did not require much wresting to support the kind of social equality that was supposed to inform Anabaptist communities.
In 1549 England had received a taste of Elyot's "confusion," and consequently in 1551 the commonwealth men were under pressure to sound more like Elyot and Taverner and less Utopian. As Penry Williams notes, "the spokesmen for the oppressed--men like Latimer, Hales, and Crowley--were careful after 1549 to express their abhorrence of revolt."(55) That is, these "spokesmen for the oppressed" were also trying but not always proving able to distinguish their own opposition to enclosures and other social injustices as well as their occasionally communist-sounding rhetoric from Anabaptism or the kind of social strife that had erupted at Norfolk. Indeed, the writings of Crowley and Latimer reveal a good deal of defensiveness concerning their own role, however unintended, as fomenters of disobedience and violence. They were anxious to disassociate the vocation of learning from the kind of strife that Robinson had allusively depicted in his preface.
These writings show that the commonwealth men had good reason to be defensive. Robert Crowley in his pre-Norfolk An Information and Petition against the Oppressors of the Poor Commons of the Realm (1548) sounds like a vernacular Hythlodaeus: "But as for the oppression of the pore . . . I canne scarcely truste that any reformacion canne be had; unlesse God do nowe work in the hearts of the possessioners of thys realme, as he dyd in the primitive church, when the possessioners wer contented and very wyllynge to sell theyr possessions and geve the price thereof to be commune to all the Faythful belevers."(56) To be sure, Crowley does add that he does not want "men to make all things common," but he nevertheless comes dangerously close to advocating communism organized according to the model of the primitive church as the only just society. Thus, in his 1550 The Way to Wealth, wherein is Plainly Taught a Most Present Remedy for Sedition, when Crowley summarizes the complaints of the landowners against the rebellious peasants, he reveals his own defensive position: "they [i.e., the gentry] would saie:--'The Paisant knaves to be welthy, provender priketh them! They knowe not themselves . . . thei regard no lawses, thei would have no gentlemen, they would have all men like themselves, they would have all things commune! They would not have us maisters of that which is our own!'"(57) [my emphasis] Note here that the accusation of the gentry is not only one of communism but also lack of self-knowledge: "they knowe not themselves." The passage thus shows how the events of 1549 revived Elyot's antiAnabaptist rhetoric of the 1530s. But even more importantly, the accusation "they would have all things commune" seems to include Crowley himself since he had expressed this same wish in his An Information (1548). Crowley shows how the "spokesmen for the oppressed" were having to find safer and more contained ways to make their points in the wake of popular rebellion and the widespread belief that they had helped to incite it and were in secret sympathy with the rebels. One example of this widespread belief occurs in an indignant letter (1549) written by Sir Anthony Aucher to Cecil in which Aucher castigated that "commonwealth, called Latimer" who had acquired pardons for some of the rebels and thus, according to Aucher, had made the king seem to will the "decay of gentlemen."(58)
Aucher's aggrieved identification of Latimer with the "commonwealth" indicates another way in which Robinson's translation engages the issues of its day, for Robinson uses "commonwealth" throughout the English Utopia both as a translation of the Latin respublica and a reference to the communistic organization of Utopian society. G. R. Elton notes that the word "commonwealth" did not necessarily contain any egalitarian implications in sixteenth-century England, but the danger that it would acquire such implications was famously conceived by Thomas Elyot as a danger lurking in translation.(59) Thus, at the outset of his Book Named the Governor (1531) Elyot combines philology and politics to reject "commonwealth" as a translation of the Latin respublica: "wherefore it seemeth that men have been long abused in calling Rempublicam a commonweal. And they which do suppose it so to be called for that, that everything should be to all men in common, without discrepance of any estate or condition, be thereto moved more by sensuality than by any good reason or inclination to humanity."(60) Instead of 'commonwealth" as a translation for respublica, Elyot prefers 'public weal," which has no hidden egalitarian or, I might add, Utopian agenda. Indeed, one critic has used this passage to term The Governoran"anti-Utopia."(61) Elyot, like More in the Confutation, dreads the possibility of a vernacular Hythlodaeus. One reason his dread takes the form of an argument over translation of respublica is that Raphael Hythlodaeus, at a crucial moment in book 2 of Utopia--the beginning of his peroration--gives the word a new and controversial meaning: "Descripsi vobis quam potui verissime eius formam Reipublicae quam ego certe non optimam tantum, sed solam etiam censeo, quae sibi suo lure possit Reipublicae vendicare vocabulum. Siquidem alibi, de publico loquentes ubique commodo, privatum curant." Given Elyot's strictures about the proper English equivalent of respublica, Robinson's translation here is revealing: "Nowe I have declared and descrybed unto yowe, as truely as I coulde, the fourme and ordre of that commen wealth, which vereley in my judgement is not only the beste, but also that whiche alone of good ryght may clayme and take upon it the name of a common wealth or publyque weal. For in other places they speak stil of the commen wealth; but everye man procureth hys owne pryvate wealth."(62) In his translation of More, Robinson appears to ignore Elyot's distinction between "commonwealth" and "public weal" and almost to flaunt the interchangeability of "public" and "common." However, here the egalitarian implications of "commonwealth," as articulated by Elyot himself, actually serve to further inflect the Latin respublica and Elyot's preferred translation of it--"public-weal"--in the direction of social and economic justice. Where wealth is not common, no sense of the public good can exist. The significance of Robinson's translation of More's work, then, depends upon a knowledge of intervening texts such as Elyot's "antiUtopia," too.
But in order to assess more fully its departure from the norm, Robinson's translation needs to be measured not only against the reception of Utopian ideas in England prior to 1551 but also the direction that religious reform took in England after the disturbances of 1549. For after these disturbances the English government continued in the path of religious reform even as it sought to purge itself of perceived social reformers like Somerset. The king himself, as he put it in a letter to Archbishop Cranmer, wanted to continue religious reform "grounded upon Holy Scripture, agreeable to the order of the primitive church."(63) But it was a selectively defined "primitive Church." Anthony Aucher notwithstanding, the king did not will the "decay of gentlemen."
The language of religious change, however, could evoke the more radical and hence Utopian-like elements of Christianity. Thus, for instance, the Anglican ritual of "communion"--a translation of the Greek koinonia--had etymological and scriptural ties to the kind of communistic "communion" that Taverner castigated in his translation of the Erasmian adage, Amicorum communia sunt omnia, as well as the "community" that the Utopians so admired in the early Church.(64) Nevertheless, the fellowship of Anglican communion, which did lessen the distance between priests and the laity, was obviously not an attempt to implement a Utopian "commonwealth." Nor did the title of England's first vernacular liturgy, The Book of Common Prayer, point to such a commonwealth either. On the other hand, the Utopian embrace of early Church "community" in Robinson's translation did amount to an egalitarian "commonwealth" and thus demonstrated that radical social reform, too, was rooted in the practices of the early church. Given such roots, Robinson's decision to dub the discourse of Raphael a "communication" is significant. For this word, which, as noted, appears at the beginning of book 2 (and elsewhere) as a translation of the Latin "sermo," echoes the communistic society that Raphael Hythloday praises.(65) Raphael's "sermo," however, becomes a "communication" as part of Robinson's effort to make Utopia accessible to a wider, vernacular readership, and this "communication" suggests that the communistic ethos of Utopian society also underlies Robinson's own efforts to popularize Utopia itself.
But perhaps the most startling feature of Robinson's translation is its inclusion of a sympathetic portrayal of a vanquished rebellion--that of Cornwall in 1497--which might easily have reminded readers in 1551 of the more recent Cornwall rebellion as well as the impending battle between an "army royal" and the Corinthian commonwealth described in Robinson's preface. This portrayal occurs during Hythloday's account in book 1 of his sojourn in England and in particular of his experiences at Cardinal Morton's table. Indeed, Hythloday's first reference to the 1497 rebellion is unspecific and could easily double as an allusion to more recent events: "Many times have I chaunced upon suche prowde, lewde, overthwart, and waywarde Judgements, yea, and ones in England. `I pray yow Syre,' (quad I) [More], `have yow bene in owr contrey?' `Yea forsothe,' (quad he) [Hythloday], `and their I tarried for the space of iiii. or v. monythes together, not longe after the insurreccion, that the westerne Englishe men made agaynst their kynge; which by their owne myserable and pitefull slaughter was suppressed and endyd."'(66) This sympathy with the rebels is present in More's Latin, but the expression of such sympathy in the vernacularjust after the vanquishing of another insurrection of Western Englishmen is quite remarkable. The next reference to this rebellion is more historically specific: "`Nay,' (quod I) [Hythloday], `you shall not skape so: for, fyrste of all, I wyll speake nothynge of them that come home owte of warre maymede and lame, as not long ago owte of blacke heath filde [Cornubiensi praelio] and a lityll before that owt of the warres in Fraunc: such (I say) as put their Iyves in ieopardy for the weale publiques or the kinges sake' [qui vel Reipublicae impendunt membra, vel regi]."(67) The deciding battle of 1497--at Blackheath field--militates against temporal ambiguity here. But Robinson's decision to include the name of the battle indicates his sense of a dangerous interpretive crux. More's Latin has only "Cornish battle," but Robinson nervously adds the name of the battle so that it will not be confused with more recent events. Nevertheless, such nervousness, like Taverner's additions to Erasmus's first adage, also serves to underscore the pertinence of the very interpretation that Robinson is trying to forestall. Furthermore, Robinson's anxiety here highlights the potential topicality of Raphael's allusion to the danger of class warfare in book 2 of the 1551 Utopia. For, in criticizing the notion that the retainers of the nobility make good warriors, Raphael argues that "those same handy craft men of yours in cities, nor yet the rude and uplandishe ploughemen of the contrey, are not supposed to be greatly affraid of your gentilmens ydill serving men."(68) Attacks on enclosures and the gentry in both Cornwall and Norfolk had demonstrated this point only too vividly in 1549, and though the rebels had ultimately been defeated, they had shown that they could constitute a military threat to their social superiors.
By virtue of its timing alone, Robinson's 1551 Utopia had resonances that More would have abhorred, and its daring is all the more striking in comparison to the caution of the commonwealth men after 1549. In 1551, despite the efflorescence of social criticism under Somerset, Robinson's Utopia might easily have seemed the work of an isolated Diogenes figure. Indeed, not only did Latimer and Crowley modify their earlier positions after Norfolk, but other English humanists were castigating rebellion in no uncertain terms.(69) These attacks in turn provide the context in which the political significance of Chaloner's Praise of folie becomes clear.
Chaloner's preface clearly reveals that his Folie is meant to allay passions that might lead to rebellion:
And seeyng the vices of our daies are suche as can not
enough be spoken against, what knowe we, if Erasmus in this booke thought good betweene game and ernest to rebuke the same? And chiefly to persuade (if it myght be) a certaine contentacion in everie man, to horde hym agreed with suche lotte and state of livyng as ariseth to hym. For whiche purpose was I also soonest moved to englisshe it, to the end that meane men of baser wittes and condicion, myght have a
maner comfort and satisfaction in theim selves. In as muche as the hiegh god, who made us all of one earth, hath natheless chosen some to rule, and more to serve . . . For surely, if a man of the poorer sorte, whose eies is cased in beholdyng the fayre glosse of wealth and felicitee, whiche the state of a great lorde or counsailor in a commen wealth cloth outwardly represent, did inwardly marke the travailes, cares, and
anxieties, whiche suche one is driven to susteigne (doyng as he ought to doe) in servyng his maister and countrey, wherby he is nothyng lesse than his owne man: Now I beleve he
would not muche envie his state, nor chose to chaunge
condicions of life with hym.(70)
Like Robinson's use of Diogenes in his preface, this passage offers a reading of the text that it prefaces. Thus, for instance, Chaloner's distinction between what a great lord "cloth outwardly represent" and the "travails" that one might "inwardly marke" in such a lord is reminiscent of the Silenus image that Folie employs to such effect in Moriae Encomium. According to Folie, and as further developed by Erasmus himself in Sileni Alcibiades (1515), great potentates are fools and monsters on the inside whereas apparently lowly philosophers such as Socrates, Christ, and interestingly, Diogenes contain an inner divinity.(71) Chaloner suggests, however, that the envious and rebellious poor view the powerful as hard workers rather than fools and beasts. Once the "glosse of wealth and felicitee" is removed, Chaloner's Sileni-like great lords present a much different interior than their Erasmian precursors.
Chaloner's preface suggests that his Folie, unlike Erasmus's Stultitia, will be a quietist one, not likely to incite controversies. Thus, as Clarence Miller notes, Folie at times even alters the argument of her Erasmian original: "For short conclusion, (I saie) so muche lacketh that any maner friendship, societie of life, or companiyng together, maie without myne accesse be pleasant . . . as not the people would longe beare theyr ruler, nor a servaunt his maister, a mayde her mastress, a scholer his teacher . . . unles by turns atwixe them selves thei shuld sometimes erre, sometime flatter, sometime wincke for the nones, and now and than coumfort theyr bittred test with some hony of foolisshnesse."(72) Miller points out that Folie here makes the "dissatisfaction come from below" whereas in the original it comes from above. That is, in accordance with his preface, Chaloner's Folie demonstrates that she eases the burden of the subjugated rather than that of the powerful. To do so in 1549, she must provide an especially powerful dose of her vaunted drug, Nepenthe.
But most interestingly and anachronistically, Chaloner's Folie laughs at Utopia: "Let the Stoikes therfore (if they list) take theyr wyseman to theim selves, and make muche on hym alone, or (if they thynk good) go and dwell with hym in Platoes citee, or in the lance of Fairie, or Utopia."(73) In 1511, Erasmus's Stultitia could not have known of Utopia, and indeed the locale that Utopia replaces in Chaloner's translation is the "Gardens of Tantalus." Chaloner's Folie claims that the only places fit for Stoic apatheia--lack of passions--are Utopia, Plato's ideal city, and Faerie land, and her reference to Utopia provides a fascinating (mis)reading of More's text. For in Utopia the Utopians are said to be more prone to Epicureanism than Stoicism; thus, Chaloner's Folie is demonstrating here that, like her original, she is capable of cleverly misusing her sources.(74) But Folie's implication that Utopian society would entail the impossible-- i.e., a complete transformation of human nature--does have some warrant in Utopia; for, at the end of his description of Utopia, Hythlodaeus claims that "superbia"--i.e., pride, the leading attribute of fallen human nature-does not exist in Utopia.(75) Even before the character "More" expresses his reservations, Hythlodaeus thus provides the basis for a critique of Utopian society as an impossibility, a basis of critique that is consonant with Folie's banishment of Stoic man to Utopia in Chaloner's translation.
But Chaloner's Folie may also owe something here to Juan Luis Vives' De Communione Rerum (1539)--a Latin tract written to counter Anabaptist communism. For one of Vives' critiques of such communism is that it does not adequatedly take into account human nature:
Tolle ab hominibus hos animorum motus qui affectus dicuntur, fortasse communionem rerum perfeceris; finge novos
quosdam homines et rempublicam Platonis non solum a
philosophic derisam, sed a nature ipsa rerum ejectam; nam in his hominibus, et his affectibus, non communionem introduces, sed odia, dissensiones . . . [Remove from men these motions of spirit which are called affections, and perhaps you will have created a perfect communism; fashion certain new men and the Platonic republic not only derided by philosophers, but rejected by the nature of things. For in these men, and in these affections, you will not introduce communism, but hatreds, dissensions].(76)
Although Vives does not explicitly mention Utopia anywhere in De Communione Rerum, his reference to the Platonic republic does invoke the tradition from which Utopia emerged, and thus Vives helps to prepare the way for Folie's point that the only possible inhabitant of both Plato's republic and Utopia would be a man who did not partake of human nature. Repeatedly in De Communione Rerum Vives argues that the communism of the early Church was a special case; the blood of Christ was still "fervens" (p. 468) in the hearts of Christians, and therefore the normal vices of human nature were temporarily suspended. Chaloner's Folie merely extends this kind of argument to the text that Vives undoubtedly also had in mind when criticizing Anabaptism--Utopia. Both Chaloner and Vives thus offer revisions of Utopian communism in the light of later events that made the notion of a return to the communism of the early Church a distinctly unsettling prospect.
But the locale that Utopia replaces in Chaloner's translation--the Gardens of Tantalus--is also revealing. For this garden can be found in Erasmus's Adagia, where it is said to denote goods that cannot be enjoyed [bonis, quibus tamen frui non liceat], and it of course originates with the story of Tantalus, who is tormented by the sight of fruits he cannot eat and water he cannot drink.(77) A reader of Chaloner's translation who was also familiar with the Latin could not miss his point: Utopia is itself a kind of tantalizing vision that can only lead to dissatisfaction, frustration, and perhaps, in the case of the English poor, outright insurrection. But Utopia could never work as a solution to England's economic problems, for the constitution of human nature forbids the enjoyment of the goods that it seems to offer. Chaloner's Folie seems to agree here with Smith's Pandotheus, whose observation that Utopia has no "traffic" with any "outward country"--including, presumably, England--also reduces Utopia to an object of unfulfillable desire.
Folie's nervous banishment of the wise to Utopia did prove useful to another Renaissance English writer addressing the problems of rebellion and dissension. As part of his A Sermon of Christ Crucified (1570), whose subject is the need for "reconciliation," John Foxe once again associates Utopia with a Stoic refusal to accept human nature as it is: "Such stoicall stomackes and unsociable natures, which neither live here like Angels, nor yet remember themselves to be but men amongst men, are to be sent ad rempublicam Platonis, or to Mr. More's Utopia, either there to live with themselves or else where as none may live to offend them. With what measure ye meete to other, the same shall be mette unto you, sayth the voice of justice. But here speaketh the voice of mercy and desireth you, that as God hath measured unto you, so ye will measure to other."(78) Here I suspect that Foxe is assimilating Folie's critique of Utopia into a nascent discourse of antipuritanism. Foxe certainly could not have preached the message of reconciliation at a more apposite moment. The Catholic-inspired rebellion (1570) of the northern earls and the duke of Norfolk had been quelled, but the Pope had excommunicated Elizabeth and absolved her subjects from the sin of disobedience. Furthermore, events such as the Vestiarian controversy of the 1560s showed that Catholicism was not the only threat to the national church that Foxe's writings would help to establish. The appropriation of Folie's castigation of Utopia in the service of antipuritanism would have been a natural one since the word "puritan" itself entered the English language during the 1560s as a designation for Anabaptists.(79) Foxe merely updates the neglect of human nature that Vives ascribed to Anabaptists and Chaloner's Folie to Utopians so as to make this neglect an attribute of a new form of Protestant radicalism. This passage also represents the ultimate transformation of Erasmus's Stultitia--originally a parodic preacher, she becomes part of a genuine sermon.
Such transformations, as they affected the works of Erasmus and More, serve to illustrate a broader point--the degree to which the interpretation of humanism was a genuine political problem in the English Renaissance. Haberdashers as well as members of the gentry were capable of vying for the control of what texts such as Utopia and the Moria meant, and Robinson's Utopia in particular provides an example of different social and political interests intersecting to determine the significance of a single book. Writing in 1684, Gilbert Burnet refused to "think More himself went in heartily to that which is the chief basis of his Utopia, the taking away of all property, and the levelling the world."(80) Burnet is here reading into Utopian communism the English radicals of the 1640s, but he also may be distinguishing his own interpretation of Utopia from that of Robinson, whose translation, as we have seen, Burnet found too free. Either way, More's nowhere provided English literati with a way of both articulating radical sentiments and expressing profound anxieties concerning the possible overlap between high humanist culture and low Protestant sectarians such as the Anabaptists, Puritans, and Levelers. Utopia then does not so much give rise to a tradition, whether liberal or radical, as a collection of contradictions which express the ambiguous politics of English humanism. Such contradictions led to the continual reinterpretation of one of the inaugural texts of English humanism in the light of contemporary events. Figures such as Burnet, Foxe, Chaloner, and Robinson certainly cast Utopia as a "window to the future," but the prospect was both a frightening as well as an exhilarating one.
(1) See J. H. Hexter, "A Window to the Future: The Radicalism of Utopia" in Utopia, ed. J. H. Hexter and Edward Surtz (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1965) pp. cv-cxxiv and especially cxvi, where Hexter distinguishes sharply between a "radicalism" that extends from sixteenth-century humanism through the Enlightenment and the "scientific socialism " of Marxism. For more on Hexter's ideological motivations, see Hexter, More's Utopia: The Biography of an Idea (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1952; rprt. 1965). See also David Norbrook, Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984). Norbrook sees Mole's "radical humanism" as "undermining older forms of political discourse". This radicalism forms an implicit counterpoise to the poststructuralist view of radicalism as a subversion of the "conventional processes of signification" that Norbrook critiques in his introduction (see, for instance, p. 8). Like Hexter, Norbrook uses the rubric of "radicalism" to defend a humanistic and centrist position against the far left, albeit a different left in the case of Norbrook than in that of Hexter. See also Margo Todd, Christian Humanism and the Puritan Social Order (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1987). For an explicit critique of the overuse of the rubric of "bourgeois humanism" in Renaissance studies, see Victoria Kahn, "Habermas, Machiavelli, and the Humanist Critique of Ideology" in PMLA 105, 3 (May 1990): 464-76. Kahn's notion of the humanist interest in critiquing ideology has some affinities to the "radical humanism" argument. For a Marxist critique of Utopian "topicality," see Fredric Jameson, "Of Islands and Trenches: Neutralization and the Production of Utopian Discourse," in The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971-86, vol. 2 (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1988), pp. 75-103. For a recent locus classicus of Marxist antihumanism, see Louis Althusser, For Marx, trans. Ben Brewster (New York: Pantheon Books, 1969), pp.219-49. For Marx's own critique of Enlightenment-inspired forms of radicalism, see The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. In a related vein, Jonathan Dollimore's Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology, and Power in the Drama Shakespeare and His Contemporaries (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1984) opposes an "essentialist" humanism to the "radical" and subversive forces of Jacobean tragedy.
(2) Norbrook. Norbrook's reference to the "Protean" character of humanist politics occurs during a discussion of Petrarch's shifts between republican and monarchist ideals. Norbrook is also attuned to topicality as well as diachronicity, and thus he is careful to note that More himself regarded Utopia differently after the Reformation. Nevertheless, his emphasis on radicalism as "the more innovative currents of thought, which link More with Milton, leads him at times to marginalize disruptions and to abstract ideas--"currents of thought"--from their manifestations in particular textual forms at specific historical moments. Thus, Norbrook notes that Utopia was first translated during the radical upheavals of the Edwardian period, but his limited analysis of Robinson's translation also downplays its impact on the meaning of Utopia in the Renaissance. See also J. H. Hexter, The Vision of Politics on the Eve of the Reformation, in which Hexter argues that Robinson replaced More's disparagement of the nobility with an equation of "gentility with humanity, goodness, clemency, kindness, and benignity" ([New York: Basic Books, 1973]). My essay, on the other hand, will make the case that many aspects of Robinson's translation militate against Hexter's point.
(3) Hexter, "A Window to the Future," pp. cxxi and cxvi.
(4) Todd, especially 185. Todd makes one of the broadest and most sustained attempts to extend Hexter's thesis concerning the "radicalism" of Utopia to early-sixteenth-century humanism in general. A good deal of her argument is successful, but her thesis that sixteenth-century humanism was necessarily radical leaves her no convincing way of explaining the conservatism of leading humanists when faced with real social upheavals occasioned by the Reformation. Thus, Todd notes that the Reformation led More to "repudiate humanism" as if no distinctly humanist continuities between the More of 1516 and the late 1520s exist. But, for instance, More's A Dialogue Concernyng Heresyes (1529) recalls his humanistic side at numerous points, not the least of which is its being a dialogue--a favorite humanist literary form.
(5) For a good analysis of More's slippery style in Utopia, see Elizabeth McCutcheon's My Dear Peter: The Ars Poetic and Hermeneutics for More's Utopia (Angers: Moreana, 1983).
(6) John M. Perlette, "Of Sites and Parasites: The Centrality of the Marginal Anecdote in Book 1 of More's Utopia," in ELH 54, 2 (Summer 1987): 231-52. Interestingly, Perlette's presuppositions lead him to cast Hythlodaeus as a kind of "monologic" fool because Hythlodaeus insists on a too determinate truth and ignores "radical indeterminacy." Norbrook's critique of poststructuralism certainly seems applicable to Perlette, for whom the advocate of communism becomes the antiradical because of his conventional epistemology and understanding of signification.
(7) See the preface to Sir Thomas More's Utopia, trans. Gilbert Burnet (London: Richard Chiswell, 1684). See also Reed Edwin Peggram, "The First French and English Translations of Sir Thomas More's Utopia," in MLR 35, 3 (July 1940): 330-40. Peggram emphasizes the contrast between the first French translation of Utopia (1550) and Robinson's 1551 translation.
(8) More, The Confutation of Tyndale's Answer, ed. Louis Schuster, Richard Marius, James Lusadi, and Richard Schoeck (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1973), p. 179.
(9) See More, Confutation, pp. 59-60.
(10) Helen White, Social Criticism in Popular Religious Literature of the Sixteenth Century (New York: Octagon Books, 1965), pp. 41-81 and 110-31.
(11) See A. F. Pollard, England under Protector Somerset: An Essay (London: Kegan Paul, 1900), which provides a sympathetic account of Somerset's rule. For a less idealized account of Somerset's protectorship, see M. L. Bush, The Government Policy of Protector Somerset (London: Edward Arnold, 1975), pp. 40-99. See also John N. King, "Vox Populi, Vox Dei," in English Reformation Literature: The Tudor Origins of the Protestant Tradition (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1982), pp. 122-60; and Norbrook, pp. 32-59.
(12) See Robinson's prefatory letter to Cecil in Utopia, ed. J. H. Lupton (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1895), pp. 15-20. With the exception of this prefatory letter, all references to Robinson's 1551 translation are to J. Churton Collins's edition of this translation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1904). This is the only twentieth-century scholarly edition that I have been able to find of Robinson's 1551 translation; it is based on Lupton's edition, which includes both More's Latin and Robinson's English. Unfortunately, the Collins edition omits Robinson's prefatory letter to Cecil. For that I have used the copy of the edition (London: Abraham Vele, 1551) in the Folger Shakespeare Library, referenced hereafter as the 1551 Utopia, and the reproduction of this letter in Lupton's edition of Utopia. I will also make reference to the 1556 Marian edition of Robinson's Utopia in the Folger Shakespeare Library. Finally, all references to More's Latin are to the Hexter and Surtz Utopia.
(13) Lupton. For more on the patronage of Protestant printers and writers during this period, see King.
(14) King. For more of the little that is known of Robinson's life, see Collins, pp. li-lii.
(16) See the title page of the 1551 Utopia.
(17) Collins, which castigates a "ryche goldsmythe."
(19) See Lupton, where Robinson discusses the possibility of his having ruined the "grace and pleasure of the eloquence" of More's Latin and thereby damaged the "frutefulnes of the matter," too. Nevertheless, Robinson's desire to be, as he puts it, "acquytte and discharged of all blame" is suggestive of more than stylistic anxieties.
(20) 1556 Utopia, p. ii.
(21) See The Workes of Sir Thomas More, ed. William Rastell (London: Richard Tottell, John Waly, and John Cawod, 1557), p. ii. The following excerpt is from Rastell's dedication of the work to Mary: "I truste this boke shal be most acceptable, both for that . . . it being red of many, as it is likely to be, shall much helpe forwarde your Maiesties most godly purpose, in purging this your realme of all wicked heresies."
(22) Quoted from Clarence Miller's introduction to Sir Thomas Chaloner, The Praise of Folie, ed. Clarence Miller for EETS (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1965), p. xliv. The original reference is to William Camden's Annals.
(27) Hexter and Surtz.
(28) Hexter and Surtz.
(29) Collins notes this change in his edition of Utopia.
(30) The validity of the term, "commonwealth men," has been challenged by G. R. Elton in his "Reform and the `Commonwealth Men' of Edward VI's Reign" in The English Commonwealth: 1547-1640: Essays in Politics and Society, ed. Peter Clark, Alan G. R. Smith, and Nicolas Tyacke (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1979). Elton's essential point is that "commonwealth men" is a name devised by modern historians to denote a group of moralists--Hugh Latimer, Robert Crowley, and John Hales, among others--who had little in common besides relatively incoherent goals. Elton is right to observe that the "commonwealth men" did not form a political "party" in the modern sense of the word. Nevertheless, although Pollard may overstate the case when he terms them such a "party", their populist rhetoric and the patronage of government officials such as Cecil and Somerset gave them more of a coherence than Elton is willing to admit. Similarly, Helen White, while not using the term "commonwealth men," has grouped figures such as Crowley and Latimer together, associated them with the "age-old protest of the havenot's against the have's", and emphasized the common themes that pervaded their protests. The Renaissance evidence for the validity of the phrase "commonwealth men" is slender but telling. In a letter of the aggrieved gentryman, Sir Anthony Aucher, to William Cecil, Aucher expresses a "fear of these men called Commonwealths and their adherents" and suggests that "under the presence of simplicity and poverty there may rest much mischief" (September 1549; State Papers, Domestic, Edward VI, vol. 8. no. 56). See also the discussion of the "commonwealth men" in Julian Cornwall, Revolt of the Peasantry, 1549 (London: Routledge, 1977). John King avoids the whole question by calling the "radical reformers" of the Edwardian period "gospellers", but I have retained "commonwealth men" because this phrase indicates the undeniably social implications of their gospel message.
(31) Arthur B. Ferguson, The Articulate Citizen and the English Renaissance (Durham NC: Duke Univ. Press, 1965).
(32) Sermons by Hugh Latimer, vol. 16, ed. George Elwes Corrie for the Parker Society (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1844).
But there be two kinds of inclosing, to let or hinder both these kinds
of ploughing; the one is an inclosing to let or hinder the bodily
ploughing, and the other to let or hinder the holiday-ploughing, the
church-ploughing . . . The bodily ploughing is taken in and inclosed
through singular commodity. For what man will let go, or diminish
his private commodity for a commonwealth? And who will sustain any
damage for the respect of a public commodity? The other plough
[i.e., spiritual] also no man is diligent to set forward, nor no man will
hearken to it. But to hinder it and let it all men's ears are open.
(33) See Hexter and Surtz.
(35) For an account of Cecil's complicated maneuvering during this period, see Conyer Read, Mr. Secretary, Cecil and Queen Elizabeth (New York: Knopf, 1955), chap. 2. See also Pollard.
(36) The degree to which the 1549 rebellion in Cornwall was, like that of Norfolk, social has been a subject of debate among historians. Pollard makes the case that, despite the apparently religious agenda of the rebels in Cornwall, they also manifested a good deal of class antagonism in the form of attacks upon enclosures. On the other hand, Frances Rose-Troup's The Western Rebellion of 1549 (London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 1913) challenged Pollard's emphasis on social discontent rather than religious grievances. However, in Rebellion and Riot: Popular Disorder in England during the Reign of Edward VI, Barrett L. Beer argues that, despite the religious nature of the formal demands of the Cornwall rebels, contemporary accounts of the Cornwall rebellion reveal in it a strong undercurrent of class struggle as well as a tendency on the part of commentators to lump the different uprisings of 1549 together (Kent OH: Kent State Univ. Press, 1982). In a letter to Sir Thomas Hoby (August 1549), Somerset himself provides evidence of the difficulty that the government had in distinguishing between religious and political motivations: "The causes and presences of these uproars and risings are divers and uncertain, and so full of variety . . . that it is hard to write what it is . . . Some crieth, `Pluck down enclosures and parks.' Some, for their commons. Other pretendeth religion. A number would rule another while, and direct things as gentlemen have done" (quoted in the Rev. Frederic William Russell, Kett's Rebellion in Norfolk [London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, 1859]).
(37) John Cheke, "The Hurt of Sedicion howe Greveous it is to a Commune Wealth" (London: John Day, 1549). Unfortunately, it is unpaginated. Alexander Neville's De Furoribus Norfolciensium, Ketto Duce (London: Henry Binneman, 1575) and Nicholas Southerton's unpublished "The Commoyson in Norfolk, 1549" are the two main sixteenth-century accounts. See Barrett L. Beer's edition of Southerton's manuscript in "`The Commoyson in Norfolk, 1549': A Narrative of Popular Rebellion in Sixteenth-Century England," JMRS 6, 1 (Spring 1976): 73-99. Neville writes of the news concerning a royal commission on enclosures having spread "in vulgus," and he sees this dissemination as the beginning of the uprising. See also Neville, where he discusses the "Kettiana diplomata." In these "diplomata" so called "regis amici" granted the rebels the right to seize certain kinds of property, and these diplomata led to the arrest of members of the gentry and the destruction of enclosure fences. Neville emphasizes throughout his work the threat that the revolt posed to the gentry. He also indicates that the rural rebels were joined by a number of "nefarious" men who left Norwich to join the rebels. Southerton, on the other hand, presents a vivid account of the "tree of reformation": "and the gentyllmen they tooke they browse to the Tree of Reformacion to be scene of the people to demande what they would doe with them; when some cryide hang him . . . and some that heard noe word criyd even as the rest . . . and indeede they did presse theyr weapons to kyll some of those gentylmenn . . . and further the rest of the gentylmenne imprisoned they fettrid with chenis and locks".
(38) Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Ireland, and Scotland, vol. 3 (London: J. Johnson, 1808).
(39) See Cheke: "Ye pretende a commune wealth. Now a mende ye it, by kyllynge of gentilmen, . . . by enprisonynge of gentylmen? A marvelous tanned commonwealth. Why should ye thus hate them for their riches or for their rule?"
(40) Thomas Smith, A Discourse of the Commonweal of this Realm of England, ed. Mary Dewar (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1966), and 126-9. To be sure, the reference to Utopia occurs in a discussion of the advisability of devaluing the English coinage--a solution that Pandotheus rejects as Utopian. The reference may be to the Utopian practice of using gold in demeaning ways (Hexter and Surtz), but it also serves a broader purpose of suggesting that Pandotheus's ideas offer no imaginary or "unrealistic" solution to England's woes.
(41) Annabel Patterson, Censorship and Interpretation: The Conditions of Writing and Reading in Early Modern England (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1984).
(45) See Lucian, How to Write History, vol. 6, trans. K. Kilburn, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1959), where he describes himself as surrounded by hack historians. But Lucian is satirizing this multitude of writers while Robinson seems to take the learned men writing on behalf of the commonwealth more seriously. See also Guillaume Bude, Opera Omnia, vol. 3 (Basel, 1557; rprt. Westmead Farnborough: Gregg Press Limited, 1966), where Bude uses the Diogenes topos as part of his preface to Annotationes in Pandectas. In Bude's version he is not so much surrounded by hack writers as inept readers, who will misjudge his efforts. See Andrew Weiner, "Raphael's Eutopia and More's Eutopia: Christian Humanism and the Limits of Reason," Huntington Library Quarterly 39 (November 1975): 26, where the argument is made that Robinson's source is Rabelais. But see the prologue to the Tiers Livre, which addresses the issue of the writer's function during war and his relationship to his public but not the "vocation" of learning, as Robinson does.
(48) Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958). The notion that the advisory role and "calling" of the learned and that of other kinds of laborers may even overlap is also expressed in the preface to Smith's Discourse: "Therefore I would not only have learned men (whose judgment I would wish to be chiefly esteemed herein) but also merchantmen, husbandmen, and artificers (which in their calling are taken wise) freely suffered and yea provoked to tell their advice in this matter [i.e., the grievances of the commonweal]". Accordingly, although Doctor Pandotheus takes the lead, a knight, husbandman, and merchant also participate in the process of giving advice. The king is only one possible audience for their counsel. To be sure, Robinson's busy workers also have a "degree" as well as a "vocation." But note that this "degree" seems to be a function of what they do rather than an inherited privilege.
(50) Collins, and Hexter and Surtz.
(51) Beer, "`The Commoyson in Norfolk.'"
(52) Folger 1556 Utopia.
(53) Richard Taverner, Proverbs or Adages by Desiderius Erasmus, ed. Dewitt Starnes (Gainesville FL: Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1956).
(54) Thomas Elyot, The Book Named the Governor, ed. S. E. Lehmberg (London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1962).
(55) Penry Williams, The Tudor Regime (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1979).
(56) Select Works of Robert Crowley, ed. J. M. Cowper (London: Kegan Paul, 1872: rprt.1905). See also Helen White's discussion of Crowley's interest in the communistic ideals of Christianity.
(57) Crowley. The following passage is taken from a sermon that Latimer preached from a pulpit in the royal privy garden before Edward VI and a large audience (March 1549): "There is a certain man that shortly after my first sermon, being asked if he had been at the sermon that day, answered, Yea. `I pray you,' said he, `How liked you him?' `Marry,' said he, `even as I liked him always; a seditious fellow.' O Lord! He pinched me there indeed . . . Yet I comfort myself with that, that Christ himself was noted to be a stirrer up of the people against the emperor; and was contented to be called seditious." (Sermons by Hugh Latimer, vol.16, ed. George Elwes Corrie for the Parker Society [Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1844]). But after Norfolk "sedition" became a much more uncomfortable issue for Latimer. In his last sermon preached before Edward VI (1550), the vehemently Protestant Latimer even borrowed an anecdote from More the heretic hunter and religious polemicist to argue his own innocence of sedition:
But here is now an argument to prove the matter against the preachers.
Here was preaching against covetousness all the last year in Lent,
and the next summer followed rebellion: ergo, preaching against
covetousness was the cause of rebellion . . . Here now I remember an
argument of Master More's, which he bringeth in a book that he
made against Bilney [i.e., Tyndale]: and here by the way I will tell
you a merry toy: Master More was once sent into commission into
Kent . . . "Forsooth," quoth he [More's interlocutor], " . . . And
before that Tenterton steeple was in building there was no manner
of speaking of any flats or sands that stopped the haven; and therefore
I think that Tenterton steeple is the cause of the destroying and
decay of Sandwich haven." And even so to my purpose is preaching
of God's word the cause of rebellion, as Tenterton steeple was cause
Sandwich haven is decayed.
Latimer took this anecdote from More's A Dialogue Concerning Heresies (1529), ed. Thomas Lawler, Germain Marc'hadour, and Richard Marius (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1981). Fascinating is Latimer's switch from suggesting that the accusation of sedition does not worry the truly Christian preacher to invoking the authority of one of England's most famous opponents of Protestantism and its potential to incite revolt. That is, after the summer of 1549, Latimer found himself on the side of the More who had abhorred the possibility of sedition and preferred to see Utopia burned rather than translated.
(58) See n. 29. But see also Beer, where he argues that the Latimer of this letter was not Hugh Latimer.
(59) G. R. Elton, Reform and Renewal: Thomas Cromwell and the Common Weal (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1973).
(61) John M. Major, Sir Thomas Elyot and Renaissance Humanism (Lincoln: Univ. Of Nebraska Press, 1964). Interestingly, Major takes all his Utopia quotes from Robinson's translation. The historical argument that he makes could thus be reversed. Instead of The Governor being an anti-Utopia, the utopia to which he makes reference (Robinson's) could be an anti-Governor. For more on Elyot and More, see David Baker, "`To Divulgate or Set Forth': Humanism and Heresy in Sir Thomas Elyot's The Book Named the Governor," in SP 90, 1 (Winter 1993): 46-57.
(62) Collins, and Hexter and Surtz.
(63) Quoted in James Gairdner, Lollardy and Reformation in England: An Historical Survey (London: Macmillan, 1911), 3:175.
(64) The replacement of the mass by communion began with the 1548 Order of Communion, which provided an English form of administering communion in both kinds to be used with the Latin mass. In the 1549 Book of Common Prayer the "Supper of the Lord and Holy Communion, commonly called the Mass," primarily replaced the Missal. In 1552 "communion" is no longer "commonly called the mass" but replaces it altogether. See King, for the significance of "communion" in lessening the gulf between laity and clergy and its derivation from the Greek koinonia. For a humanist discussion of the social and communistic meaning of New Testament communio, see Erasmus's gloss on Acts 2:42 in Erasmus' Annotations on the New Testament: Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, ed. Anne Reeve and M. A. Screech (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1990).
(65) See above as well as Collins, where the title of book 1 is called "The fyrste boke of the communycacion of Raphaell hythlodaye concernynge the best state of a commenwealthe."
(67) Collins and Hexter and Surtz.
(69) For instance, there was Cheke, The Hurt of Sedition, and Nicholas Udall's An Answer to the Articles of the Commoners of Devonshire and Cornwall (London, 1549) .
(71) For Erasmus on the Silenus image, see Margaret Mann Phillips, Erasmus on His Times: A Shortened Version of the Adagia of Erasmus (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1967). See also Clarence Miller's Praise of Folly, a modern translation of Desiderius Erasmus's The Praise of Folly (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1979).
(74) See Hexter and Surtz. The Utopians debate whether felicitas consists in virtue or pleasure, and according to Hythlodaeus they lean too much in the direction of the faction that asserts the primacy of pleasure [i.e., tht- Epicureans].
(75) See Hexter and Surtz.
(76) Juan Luis Vives, De Communione Rerum in Opera Omnia, vol. 4 (Valencia: Benedicti Monfort, 1784; rprt. London: Gregg Press Unlimited, 1964). The translation is my own.
(77) For this adage, see Erasmus, Opera Omnia, vol. 2 (Leiden, 1703), 424C.
(78) John Foxe, A Sermon of Christ Crucified (London: John Day, 1570). To the best of my knowledge, no modern edition of this sermon exists. For more on the multiple Protestant appropriations of More, see Anne Lake Prescott's introduction to Jackson Campbell Boswell's Sir Thomas More in the English Renaissance (Binghamton NY: Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, 1994), pp. xi-xxxiv.
(79) See the introduction to Lawrence Sasek, Images of English Puritanism: A Collection of Contemporary Sources (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1989). For more on Foxe's own complex relation to the national church that his writings helped to found, see Jane Facey, "John Foxe and the Defense of the English Church," in Protestantism and the National Church in Sixteenth-Century England, ed. Peter Lake and Maria Dowling (London: Croom Helm, 1987). For the context of Foxe's Sermon of Christ Crucified, see William Haller, Foxe's Book of Martyrs and the Elect Nation, Bedford Historical Series (London: Jonathan Cape, 1967).
(80) See the preface to Burnet's Utopia.
(81) I would like to express my gratitude to the following people for their generous help and encouragement: David Kastan, Kathy Eden, Anne Lake Prescott, Jean Howard, and Margaret Ferguson. David Kastan, in particular, first gave me the idea of examining the politics of Robinson's Utopia. I would also like to acknowledge the influence on my thinking of an NEH Institute on the Renaissance City led by Anthony Grafton and David Quint at Princeton University.
David Weil Baker is an assistant professor of Renaissance literature at Rutgers University-Newark. He has published articles on Thomas More and Thomas Elyot, and he has completed a book-length manuscript entitled "Divulgating Utopia: Radical Humanism in Sixteenth-Century England, 1508-1596."