But since my intention is to say something that will prove of practical use to the inquirer, I have thought it proper to represent things as they are in a real truth, rather than as they are imagined. Many have dreamed up republics and principalities which have never in truth been known to exist; the gulf between how one should live and how one does live is so wide that a man who neglects what is actually done for what should be done moves towards self-destruction rather than self-preservation. The fact is that a man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous. Therefore if a prince wants to maintain his rule he must be prepared not to be virtuous, and to make use of this or not according to need.
-Machiavelli, The Prince, p. 50, George Bull trans (Penguin edition) [drafted 1513, begins circulating 1516]
Truth in fact is the only thing at which I should aim and do aim in writing this book… For, as I’ve taken particular pains to avoid having anything false in the book, so, if anything is in doubt, I’d rather say something untrue than tell a lie.
-Thomas More, prefatory letter to Peter Giles, Utopia [1515, first printed 1516]
[The poet…] nothing affirmeth, and therefore never lieth. For, as I take it, to lie is to affirm that to be true which is false. [….] But even in the most excellent determination of goodness, what philosopher’s counsel can so readily direct a prince as the feigned Cyrus in Xenophon, or a virtuous man in all fortunes as Aeneas in Virgil, or a whole commonwealth, as the of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia? I say the way, because where Sir Thomas More erred, it was the fault of the man and not the poet, for that way of patterning a commonwealth was most absolute though he perchance hath not so absolutely performed it.
-Sir Philip Sidney, An Apology for Poesy [written c. 1579, printed 1595]