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Funerals in Utopia; from a 1730 French translation of 'Utopia'

Excerpt from Utopia, Book 2.


      They are nearly all of them firmly persuaded that good men will be infinitely happy in another state. Therefore, though they be compassionate to the sick, they lament no man's death, unless they see him loath to part with life. This they esteem a very bad presage; as if the soul, conscious of guilt, and hopeless, feared to leave the body from some prepossession of approaching misery. They think a man's appearance before God cannot be acceptable to him, who, being called, goeth not cheerfully, but is backward, unwilling, and as it were dragged to it. They are struck with horror when they see any die in this manner; and carrying them out in silence and sorrow, praying God to be merciful to the errors of the departed soul, they inter them.

      But when they die cheerfully and full of hope, they mourn not, but sing hymns when they carry out their bodies, commending their souls very earnestly to God. Their whole behaviour then, is rather grave than sad. They burn the body, and erect a pillar where the pile was made, with an inscription to the honour of the deceased. When they return from the funeral, they discourse of his good life and worthy actions, but speak of nothing oftner, or with more pleasure, than of his serenity at the hour of death. They think such respect, paid to the memory of good men, to be, as well the greatest incitement to others to follow their example, as the most acceptable worship which can be offered themselves. For they believe, that though, by the imperfection of human eyes, they be invisible to us, yet they are present among us and hear our discourses concerning themselves.

       They deem it inconsistent with the happiness of departed souls, not to be at liberty to range where they please, and imagine them incapable of the ingratitude of not desiring to see those friends with whom they lived on earth in the strictest bonds of love and kindness. Beside, they are persuaded, that good men, after death, have these affections and all other good dispositions, increased rather than diminished; and therefore conclude, they are still present to the living, and observe all they say and do. Hence, they engage in every pursuit with greater confidence, trusting to their protection; while the same opinion of the presence of their ancestors is a restraint, which prevents their engaging in ill designs.

Cayley, Arthur, the Younger, ed. Memoirs of Sir Thomas More, &c.. Vol II.
London: Cadell and Davis, 1808. 129-130.

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