Ages in Chaos by Samuel Francisn”In history tlie way of anniliilation is invariablynprepared by inward degeneration. . . . Only thenncan a shock from the outside put an end to thenwhole.”n— BurkhardtnTreason in Tudor England:nPolitics and Paranoia by LaceynBaldwin Smith, Princeton:nPrinceton University Press; $25.00.nConspiracy of Silence: The SecretnLife of Anthony Blunt by BarrienPenrose and Simon Freeman, NewnYork: Farrar, Straus & Giroux;n$22.95.nDiscussion of treason has becomenalmost impossible without quotingnSir John Harington’s famous couplet,n”Treason doth never prosper,nwhat’s the reason? / For if it prosper,nnone dare call it treason.” Lacey BaldwinnSmith quotes it as the epigraph ofnthe first chapter of his learned andnentertaining study of treason in 16thcenturynEngland, and various snatchesnof the lines have been used for severalnbook titles in recent years. The popularitynof Harington’s poem may be duennot only to the seeming ubiquity ofnbetrayal in the 20th century but also tonthe revival of the world view that itnreveals.nHarington’s cynical insight contains anstatement about human nature and,nmore deeply, about truth: men will notncondemn the victors, even if their victorynis won by treachery. HermannnGoering, among other celebrities of then20th century, understood this precept;nwhen asked by the official psychiatrist atnthe Nuremberg trials to write somethingnappropriate on the copy of hisnindictment for war crimes, the formernReichsmarshall scribbled, “The victornwill always be the judge, and the vanquishednthe accused.”nHarington’s lines also suggest thatnthe meaning of treason is itselfnrelative — one man’s traitor is anothernSamuel Francis is deputy editor of theneditorial page of the WashingtonnTimes.nman’s patriot—and the linguistic nominalismnimplicit in the couplet recallsnHumpty Dumpty’s counsel to Alice.nCan words mean what you want themnto mean? asked the small Victorian girl.nBut of course, said Dumpty, and theynmust mean what you want them tonmean if your will is to prevail, which,nafter all, is the most important thing.nHarington’s simple doggerel thus containsnthe germ of a philosophy (or annantiphilosophy) not very pleasant, to bensure, but strikingly similar to ideas thatnhave been current throughout much ofnour own century: the universe has neithernpurpose nor meaning; values arenentirely subjective; and all that mattersnis who wins. Whether Harington himselfnsubscribed to this creed or simplynoffered it as a sarcastic commentary onnhis age I do not know, but enough ofnhis contemporaries and ours did and donadhere to it to account for the drasticndeflation in the price of loyalty thatncharacterizes both eras.nIn his account of the problem ofnloyalty and disloyalty in 16th-centurynEngland, Mr. Smith is acutely aware ofnthe similarities in the two ages, thoughnhe tends to be somewhat cavalier towardntreason. While acknowledgingnthat the century was “not clinicallynparanoid,” he assures us that it didnmanifest many of the symptoms of “thenparanoid cognitive response to life,”nwhose central feature is “the convictionnthat things are never as they appear tonbe — a greater and generally more sinisternreality exists behind the scenes —nand the corollary that what is standingnhidden in the wings, prompting, manipulating,nbut always avoiding exposure tonthe footlights, is the presence of evil.”nMr. Smith presents a considerable bodynof evidence from literary sources tonsubstantiate his view, but he seemsnsomewhat to forget that in the days ofnHenry VIII, Queen Mary, and ElizabethnI, there was often good reason tonbelieve that things were not what theynnnseemed.nThe political revolution that occurrednon Bosworth Field in 1485nbrought to power a dynasty (Tudors)nthat for over a century had problemsnreproducing heirs, eliminating rivals,nand securing the allegiance of its subjects,nmighty and miniscule. This uncertaintynwas compounded by the religiousnrevolution of the Reformationnand the persistent struggles amongnCatholic, high Protestant, and Puritannfactions. There was also an economicnupheaval called the “Price Revolution,”nin which the prices of goods doublednbetween 1550 and 1600 (caused by angrowing population and aggravated bynthe inflation that followed of gold andnsilver from new South American andnCentral European mines). Finally,nthere was the intellectual revolution,nheaded by, among others, Copernicus,nMachiavelli, Luther and Calvin, andnBodin, which challenged the bases ofnpolitical and social loyalties. It is thereforennot surprising that men of thenAPRIL 19881 31n