When this work appeared in 1948, Charles C. Griffin (in his review in the HAHR, 29:4 [November, 1949], 591) called it “. . . the most convincing Bolívar within the pages of any one book.” Ever since, it has served many as a basic profile of the Libertador in English.
The second edition, issued more than twenty years after the first, might well have reflected in its pages the mass of new documentation and studies about Bolívar which have seen print since 1946. It does not. Professor Masur disclaims (in a Note to this edition) any fundamental change in his interpretation of his subject, while averring that he has tried to correct whatever errors were made in the first.
There has been some textual revision, including a new first chapter, and the English (in places) is smoother, but Masur’s Bolivar is the same. The protagonist, in its pages, moves from one scene to another, pitted against Miranda (self-seeking adventurer), Marino (irresponsible), Páez (inconstant), Santander (hypocritical), and a number of other lesser dramatis personae, who by their faults heighten the virtues of Bolívar. Mirroring its sources, what emerges is a nineteenth-century style episodic biography.
This might be acceptable to some. What is not, is the point that in more than a few cases, the sources cited in the footnotes are not always in agreement as to facts or topics alleged as being in the originals. (See Chapter 3, notes 3, 9, 14, 19; Chapter 4, notes 10 and 11, for example). Nor are some of the English translations faithful to their Spanish originals (Chapter 3, page 34, lines 2-5; Chapter 7, page 87, lines 27-43, are examples).
Furthermore, an incredible number of spelling errors remain intact from the first edition, both in the text and much more so in the footnotes and bibliographic apparatus. The reader is told in the Preface that he must accept an accentless hero, “Simon Bolivar,” from there on. But do so many of the other actors and places in the drama that follows have to be stripped (without authorial warning or regard for Spanish orthography) naked of their accents?
As if to add insult to injury, the Bibliography and list of Abbreviations (unaccountably placed after the citations it was supposed to explicate) are a composite of inaccuracies and misinformation so grievous as to terminate the career of any graduate student who might commit them. It is deplorable indeed that a work which, despite its faults, remains our most convenient English-language biography of Bolívar has seen so little improvement in two decades.