Books: Mitford's Monarch

THE SUN KING by Nancy Mitford. 255 pages. Harper & Row. $15.

Life among the humanoids of outer space—if such ever come to light—could not be more remote from the modern world than the bizarre and ceremonious existence of Louis XIV. With learning and flair, Nancy Mitford, the biographer of Voltaire and Madame de Pompadour, employs an elegant and aphoristic style to match the complexity and splendor of her subject: the building of Versailles, and its principal inhabitant, the Sun King, revered as a demigod by his 20 million subjects.

Mitford's monarch was a bit of a monster, and although the term...

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