THE LAST KING By W. B. Wells
It is close on four years since Don Alfonso XIII left Spain : in that time the pros and cons of his reign have been weighed more than once in print. Anyone inclined to pursue these " responsibilities " further will find Mr. Warre Bradley Wells' portrait (Muller, 7s. 6d.) an unflattering and on the whole a just likeness. Convincing in that it is all true (though not the whole truth) and interesting because the story itself is dramatic, this full-length account of Don Alfonso's antecedents, difficulties', mistakes and gradual decline in popularity nevertheless contrives to exaggerate a little and to dramatize too much. Presumably, however, the flamboyance of Mr. Wells' style may be relied upon to warn the reader against the occasional injustices he commits in putting upon facts the right construction and the wrong stress. Despite this weakness, Mr. Wells has succeeded in painting a very clear picture of the historical forces the King was up against, and of his genuine responsibility under the Constitution. It is obvious, too, that this last Bourbon enjoyed exceptional opportunities for "learning nothing and forgetting nothing." There is here a sufficient tragedy pending. yet we are spared no spectacular coincidence or rhetorical flourish. Unfortunately Mr. Wells' mixture of the banal and the dramatic is distinctly less impressive than that of Spanish life itself—and his lighting often seems wrongly focitsed on the stage. There is more "characteristic bravery ", in a King watching from his palace roof the evolutions of a rebel airman's plane than in Franco's despicable and futile intent to bomb it ; more dignity in Alfonso's last proclama- tion and simplicity in his anawer of "Viva Espafitt ! " - to
his halberdiers' "Viva el Rey ! " than virtue in Zamora's ultimatum : "The King to the frontier ! " ; more heroismin a reactionary general facing,- with four followers, a mutinous force of eight hundred men than in the " martyrdom ";of the unscrupulous visionary who 'led them to revolt.