Thomas More's Utopia - pomp, circumstance and wealth

I never saw a clearer instance of the opposite impressions that different customs make on people, than I observed in the ambassadors of the Anemolians, who came to Amaurot when I was there. As they came to treat of affairs of great consequence, the deputies from several towns met together to wait for their coming. The ambassadors of the nations that lie near Utopia, knowing their customs, and that fine clothes are in no esteem among them, that silk is despised, and gold is a badge of infamy, use to come very modestly clothed; but the Anemolians lying more remote, and having had little commerce with them, understanding that they were coarsely clothed, and all in the same manner, took it for granted that they had none of those fine things among them of which they made no use; and they being a vain-glorious rather than a wise people, resolved to set themselves out with so much pomp, that they should look like gods, and strike the eyes of the poor Utopians with their splendour.


More goes on to explain how foolish this finery appeared to the Utopians for whom lavish clothes and jewellery were the badges of slavery or the marks of infamy or 'the playthings of children.' The Utopian approach to wealth and money was very different from 16th century England. The Utopians shared their surpluses with one another, helped each other out and built a store of gold to be prepared for a disaster. They even paid for mercenaries to do their fighting for them! They developed a culture where ostentation and vulgar displays of money were seen as pathetic and childish.

Image taken from: L'Utopie de Thomas Morus
Creator: Thomas More
Publisher: Pierre van der Aa
Date created: 1715
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: 232.b.20

Taken from: Sir Thomas More's Utopia
Author / Creator: Thomas More (translated by Gilbert Burnet)
Publisher: George Routledge & Sons
Date: 1885
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board