Legal Monstrosities: from Book I of More’s Utopia

Thomas More’s “Utopia” (1516) is written in two books.  The second of these, Utopia Frontispiecedescribing in detail the island of Utopia, is the more famous.  Here’s an enjoyable passage from the first book, in which More is getting to know the traveler Raphael Hythloday and asking him about his geographic explorations:

But what he told us that he saw in every country where he came, it were very long to declare. Neither it is my purpose at this time to make rehearsal thereof. But peradventure in another place I will speak of it, chiefly such things as shall be profitable to be known, as in special be those decrees and ordinances that he marked to be well and wisely provided and enacted among such peoples as do live together in a civil policy and good order. For of such things did we busily inquire and demand of him, and he likewise very willingly told us of the same. But as for monsters, because they be no news, of them we were nothing inquisitive. For nothing is more easy to be found than barking Scyllas, ravening Celaenos, and Laestrygons, devourers of people, and suchlike great and incredible monsters. But to find citizens ruled by good and wholesome laws, that is an exceeding rare and hard thing. But as he marked many fond and foolish laws in those new found lands, so he rehearsed divers acts and constitutions whereby these our cities, nations, countries, and kingdoms may take example to amend their faults, enormities, and errors.

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