Studies in a Literary Genre
CHAPTER 3 Swift’s Utopias
Swift once characterized Sir Thomas More as “a person of the greatest virtue this kingdom ever produced.” Perhaps he had to admire so highly before he could bring himself to imitate, the unexampled probity af fording a kind of license. More’s Utopia was a source to which Swift went repeatedly when he was writing Gulliver’s Travels. But if Swift’s attitude toward the author of Utopia is one of unqualified admiration, his attitude toward the idea of utopia itself is less easily stipulated. It is true that he had the utopian temperament and an itch toward utopian solutions. He once wished that he could write a utopia for heaven, and on occasion, as in the Project for the Advancement of Religion and the Reformation of Manners (1709), he was willing to have a go at earth: Among all the schemes of fered to the public in this projecting age, I have observed, with some displeasure, that there have never been any for the improvement of religion and morals: which, besides the piety of the design from the consequences of such a reformation in a future life, would be the best natural means for advancing the public felicity of the state, as well as the present happiness of every individual. For, as much as faith and morality are declined among us, I am altogether confident, they might, in a short time, and with no very great trouble, be raised to as high a perfection as numbers are capable of receiving. Indeed, the...
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