notes on Shelton
Translated From The Spanish Of Miguel De Cervantes
By Thomas Shelton
(1612, 1620)
Bibliographical Note by Alfred W. Pollard
   (Library of English Classics, Macmillan & Co., London, 1900)
Introduction to the First Part by James Fitzmaurice-Kelly
   (The Tudor Translations, Vols. XIII-XVI, David Nutt, London, 1896)
Bibliographical Note

IN 1612 Thomas Shelton, whose version of Don Quixote is here reprinted, wrote in his Dedication to what is now known as the ‘First Part,’ of “having translated some five or six years ago ‘The History of Don Quixote’ out of the Spanish tongue into the English in the space of forty days.” The ‘six’ in this assertion is impossible, for the diligence of Mr. Fitzmaurice-Kelly, the editor of Shelton in the ‘Tudor Translations’ (Nutt, 1896), has shown that it was the text of the Brussels edition of 1607 which Shelton used. But there is no reason to doubt that his version was made in this year, 1607, and his quickness in introducing to his friends a book which had only appeared in Spain in 1605 was a first proof of that English enthusiasm for Don Quixote, which has since produced many excellent contributions to his fame. Despite the delay in its publication, Shelton’s translation preceded that of any other foreign version, its nearest rival being the French rendering by César Oudin, which appeared in 1614. Both books were nearly thumbed out of existence, for when the British Museum in 1895 had the good luck to acquire first the one and then the other, the copy of Oudin was supposed to be unique, and of that of Shelton the only other known was that in the library of Lord Ashburnham. Other Sheltons have since come to light, and other Oudins may be in existence, but it is evident that neither with French nor with English readers was Don Quixote likely to remain long undisturbed on a book-shelf.

Extorted at last from Cervantes by the publication of Avellaneda’s Segundo Tomo del Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha in the summer of 1614, the true continuation appeared towards the close of the following year, and if we lay to the door of the pirate its hurried conclusion, it is probable that without the sting of this dishonest competition Part II would never have appeared at all. The Brussels edition of it was published in February, 1616, and proceeding more leisurely this time Shelton completed his English rendering in time for it to appear in 1620, issuing also with it a reprint of his version of Part I, in which he altered a good many phrases in the first few pages, and touched up a sentence here and there later on.

The 1612 text of Part I has been made available by Mr. Fitzmaurice-Kelly’s scholarly reprint in the Tudor Translations; in the present edition the text of 1620 has been followed throughout the whole work in order to introduce the few corrections which Shelton took the trouble to make in the first part. We may wish that he had made many more, or, in a word, that his translation were as uniformly exact as it is uniformly racy and untrammelled. But the temper in which a man takes upon him to translate a contemporary novel which has pleased him, and that in which he approaches a recognized classic are distinct enough, and in the joyous and courageous handling which results from the contemporary’s lack of reverence, though he misrepresent the letter more often than is creditable, he may well catch such a portion of his author’s spirit, as more learned and painstaking successors can only envy. In a translator of Don Quixote one touch of Cervantes’ spirit atones for a dozen verbal slips, and it is because Shelton had a true feeling of kinship with his author that his version has here been preferred to any other.

As to who Shelton was, Mr. Alexander Wright has suggested a probable answer in a pamphlet entitled Thomas Shelton, Translator, printed in 1898. In one of his marginal notes (Vol. III., p. 64) Shelton alludes to ‘the cries of the wild Irish,’ and it appears that in 1599 a Shelton who, earlier in the decade, had been in the service of the Lord Deputy at Dublin Castle was aiding Florence MacCarthy in a treasonable correspondence with the King of Spain, and therefore presumably knew Spanish. Again, to the Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, published by Richard Verstegan, another Englishman on the Catholic side, a Thomas Shelton contributed four seven-lined stanzas headed ‘To his deer frende M. Richard Verstegan.’ Mr. Wright suggests that Verstegan was not only the ‘deer frende’ of this sonnet, but ‘the very deere friend’ to whose importunity Shelton alludes in his dedication to Lord Howard de Walden. Mr. Wright also points out that Lord Howard de Walden’s mother had as her great-aunt an Anne Shelton, sister to the Sir John Shelton who hastened to Queen Mary at Kenninghall on the death of Edward VI. The connection is a little remote, but it nevertheless seems probable that our translator came of the stock of these Norfolk Sheltons and was the Irish agent of shifty loyalty whose doings are chronicled in the ‘State Papers.’ Whatever his birth and whatever his loyalty, he had a fine command of the English tongue, and that is our concern with him here.




Introduction to the First Part

JUDGED by any test, whether of authority or of vogue, Don Quixote must be accounted among the foremost books of the world. The Bible and the Imitatio Christi—perhaps also The Pilgrim’s Progress—have been more often translated; but the adventurous history of the Manchegan Knight appeals to a circle scarce less wide than they. The sense of humour is no rarer than the exaltation of mysticism, and of humour Don Quixote is all compact. Moreover, it is compounded of essences attractive to every age and walk, and hence it carries, as by natural right, the honourable title of the most catholic book of all time. Nor is its vast renown unproved by stress of circumstance. For nearly three centuries its fashion has endured; and it seems safe to predict that the popular book of the early Seventeenth Century will stand a favourite classic with the Twentieth. Its author did more than testify to a fleeting mode when he vaunted of his masterpiece that ‘it is so conspicuous and so void of difficulty, that children may handle him, youths may read him, men may understand him, and old men may celebrate him.’ So is it to-day; and, since the fundamental basis of human nature is a constant, so we may assume it will be to-morrow. Posterity has ratified the writer’s half-bantering, half-complacent verdict that his unique madman is ‘the most chaste, enamoured, and valiant Knight that hath beene seene, read, or heard of these many ages’; and that in Sancho Panza ‘are deciphered all the Squirelike graces dispersed throughout the vaine rout of Knightly Bookes.’ A classic of the first order, there never was work more heartily national, more native to the heroic soil that gave it being. To conceive of Spanish Literature without Don Quixote is to contemplate an army cut off from its artillery. And withal, Spanish to the core though the book be, none is dearer to the universal heart and the general fancy. In the rankest travesty, it has awakened the laughter and tears of countless multitudes, unconscious of its higher qualities. It belongs to the WeltLiteratur; and its hero is free of every city where the Comic Muse abides. If Sancho’s sententious wisdom be the despair of the most accomplished translators, the broader aspects of his creator’s brave gaiety can be divined in the most flagrant caricature. Toiling in the childhood of his art, Thomas Shelton first introduced Cervantes to the larger audience of mankind; and the fact that Shelton is still unsuperseded bears witness to the value of his work. Its naïveté, its crude fidelity, and its incomparable vigour give it a place apart.


Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra sprang from a famous Castilian stock, whose solar was at Cervatos, near Reinosa, in the province of Old Castile. There is no evidence earlier than the Fourteenth Century of its alleged connexion with Galicia. The surname derives from the Castle of San Cervantes, built beyond Toledo by Alfonso VI towards the end of the Eleventh Century, and so called in honour of Servandus, the martyred son of the centurion Marcellus. Ford, indeed, rejects this derivation; but on such matters his authority is not comparable to that of a trained contemporary genealogist like Rodrigo Méndez Silva. According to Conde, Benengeli,—the Son of the Stag,—the feigned historian of Don Quixote’s exploits, was meant to be the Arabic rendering of the real author’s name. The conjecture lacks probability. Cervantes was precisely the man to know the details of his house’s history: he must have met kinsmen who respected etymology by writing the name ‘Servantes’; and he assuredly knew that his arms were hinds—not the stags which distinguished the elder branch. Years afterward Góngora compared Cervantes to the battered old fort beside the Tagus: and agreement with Ford would shear Góngora’s bitter ballad of all its point. The youngest child of Rodrigo de Cervantes and Leonor de Cortinas, Miguel was baptized on October 9, 1547, in the Church of Santa Maria Mayor at Alcalá de Henares. His birthday is unknown. That he was educated at the University of Salamanca is most improbable: the theory depends solely on the belated witness of one Tomás González, who declared that he had seen Cervantes’ name in that University’s Matriculation Lists. No such entry can be traced; nor is there good reason to think that Cervantes ever set foot in Salamanca. Like Shakespeare, he had small Latin and less Greek; and university pedants japed him as an ingenio lego. That he knew his Knight Errantries by heart appears on every page of Don Quixote; and Lazarillo de Tormes is the original inspiration of such tales as Rinconete y Cortadillo. Himself records that he had seen Lope de Rueda on the boards: hence it may be inferred that his taste for the theatre developed early. But nothing has reached us of his youth. A schoolmaster named Juan López de Hoyos dubs him a ‘dear and beloved pupil’ in 1569; but the relation between the two is uncertain. This Hoyos reference occurs in a collection of verses on the death of Philip the Second’s wife, Isabel de Valois. Herein Cervantes dawns upon literature with live redondillas, an epitaph, and an elegy: all of decent mediocrity. So far as concerns the poetic gift, his endowment was scant; and, in the Viaje del Parnaso, written forty-five years later, he avows that he seeks ever to supply by the file what nature had denied

‘Yo, que siempre trabajo y me desvelo
Por parecer que tengo de poeta
La gracia, que no quiso darme el cielo…’

Before he could see himself in print, he left for Rome as camarero in the train of the Special Nuncio, Giulio Acquaviva. But a chamberlain’s was no life for him, and within two years he was serving as a private in Miguel de Moncada’s regiment. A born man-at-arms, he was fortunate in service. He was wounded (and maimed for life) at Lepanto; and, glorying in his scars, he never ceased to brag of his share in that memorable fight. He played his part in the operations before Navarino, Corfu, Tunis, and the Goletta. Returning to Naples, he sailed aboard the Sol for Spain in September 1575. On the 26th of that month, his caravel was boarded by Moorish corsairs; and, after a stout resistance, crew and passengers were taken into Algiers. The remaining details are recorded by Haedo in his Topographia de Argel, and are repeated by Méndez Silva, who had no inkling of the fact that the hero of this pageant of adventures was in very deed the author of Don Quixote. Cervantes abode a slave for five years: organising plans of escape, plotting a general rising that should leave Algiers a Spanish port, in imitation of what had passed at Tunis in 1535. He was so much the acknowledged leader of the captives that the Dey held him a hostage for the safety of the town; nor was he ransomed till 1580, when he was already shipped for Constantinople aboard the Viceroy’s galley. Once more he enlisted to serve in Portugal and at the Azores; and, on his return to Spain in the fall of 1588, he set about making a living by his pen.

In Algiers, as his fellow-captive Antonio de Sosa witnesses, Cervantes spent much time in verse-making; and, to the last day of his life, he was all too ready a sonneteer. It is worth while to track his steps through literature. Under the date of 1577, there survive two sonnets addressed by him to Bartolomé Rufino de Chamberí and a copy of verses dedicated to the Secretary of State, Mateo Vázquez. In 1582, Luis Gálvez de Montalvo in the Pastor de Fílida figures him as a poet of some repute. Next year he is discovered contributing one prefatory sonnet to Padilla’s Romancero, and another to the Austriada of Juan Rufo Gutiérrez. Herewith his reputation grows, and (in 1584) Padilla ranks his name with those of ‘los famosos poetas de Castilla.’ A more ambitious enterprise is the pastoral novel Primera Parte de Galatea, published at Alcalá de Henares in 1585 by Juan Gracián, soon after the author’s marriage with Catalina de Palacios Salazar y Vozmediano. During the years ensuing he produced without a halt. To the Jardín Espiritual of Padilla (1585) he prefixed a copy of redondillas, of estancias, and a sonnet. Another sonnet and some spirited quintillas precede the Cancionero of López Maldonado in 1586; and in 1587 two prefatory sonnets herald Padilla’s Grandezas y excelencias de la virgen Señora Nuestra and the Philosophia cortesana moralizada of Alonso de Barros. A more bizarre inspiration drew from him a sonnet for a book on kidney diseases by Doctor Francisco Diaz in 1588: the Tratado nuevamente impreso acerca de las enfermedades de los riñones.

But these performances are by the way; for at this period, as he announces elsewhere, he wrote some twenty plays, unblessed by popular approval. Of these El Trato de Argel and Numancia survive. Concerning the latter, Shelley records a too generous impression :—‘ I have read the Numancia, and after wading through the singular stupidity of the first act, began to be greatly delighted, and at length interested in a very high degree, by the power of the writer in awakening pity and admiration, in which I hardly know by whom he is excelled. There is little, I allow, to be called poetry in this play; but the command of language, and the harmony of versification, is so great as to deceive one into an idea that it is poetry.’ None the less, El Trato de Argel and Numancia both failed upon the boards. Among the plays now lost to us are La Batalla Naval, written, as it should seem, on the subject of Lepanto; La Gran Turquesca and La Jerusalén, attributed to the year 1584; La Amaranta and El Bosque Amoroso, referred to 1586. There remain to name La Confusa, on which the author plumes himself in the Viaje del Parnaso. And last of all is La Arsinda: lost but not—perhaps— irrecoverable. That it long survived its author is manifest from its mention by Juan de Matos Fragoso in La Corsaria Catalana, a comedy issued at Madrid as late as 1673. The very names of the others are forgotten. ‘Tis often said that the writer was driven from the stage by that ‘invincible portent,’ Félix Lope de Vega Carpio. The notion is absurd; for it is the simple fact that Cervantes had accepted his defeat, and had retired to Seville, long before Lope carried the scene. And, to judge from the examples that remain to us, he was rejected on his strict demerits. In competition with homelier wits he failed to shine. There needed not a miracle like Lope to compass his exclusion: natural causes sufficed.

At Seville he found work in the Audiencia Real, and in June 1588 he became Deputy-Purveyor to the hosts of the Invincible Armada. But he can be followed steadily in the by-paths of literature. In 1591 he is discovered contributing Los Celos, a romance of fifteen quatrains, to the Valencian edition of Andrés de Villalba’s Flor de varios nuevos romances: and the ballad (a favourite with its maker) reappears in the Romancero General of 1604, as also in the reprint of 1614. As late as 1592 he despairs not of success upon the stage, and, to ensure it, signs an agreement binding himself to produce six comedies at fifty ducats each: no payment to be made unless the manager— Rodrigo Osorio—should hold the plays for among the best in Spain. In 1594 he is named Collector of Revenues for the Province of Granada. The year after he swoops upon Zaragoza to take part in a literary joust held in honour of St. Hyacinth; and, as first prizeman, he departs in triumph, with three silver spoons. The unfailing sonnet (in memory of his old chief Santa Cruz) is prefixed to Mosquera de Figueroa’s Comentario en Breve Compendio de Disciplina Militar, published at Madrid in 1596; and to the same year belongs his satiric celebration of Medina Sidonia’s triumphal entry into a Cádiz, sacked and evacuated by the English. The tribute to Hernando de Herrera is referred with probability to 1597; but in the September of that year the author’s sonneteering closed abruptly: at least for the time. He was imprisoned at Seville because of irregularities in his accounts: he had intrusted the Exchequer balances to one Simón Freire de Lima, who absconded, leaving assets insufficient to cover the amount.

Released at the close of the year, Cervantes was cast adrift once more. But in the King’s service he had gained a provision ample for life and for fame. As tax-gatherer he had padded the hoof upon the highroad with rabblement of all estates. Footing it from one to another town, he had rubbed shoulders with his great originals: with the surpliced Bachelor of Alcobendas, who would fain pass for a Licentiate; with Ginés de Pasamonte, ‘a very comely personage, save onely that when he looked, he seemed to thrust the one eye into the other’; with the ‘Biscaine by land, and a Gentleman by Sea, a Gentleman in despite of the Divell’; with the Host, ‘an Andaluzian, and of the commarke of S. Lucars, no less thievish then Cacus’; with ‘Doña Tolosa, a Botchers daughter of Toledo, that ‘dwelt in the Rewes of Sancho Benega’; with the ‘Monkes of S. Benets order, mounted on two Dromedaries,’ masks, spectacles, and ‘Umbrilles’ complete. And Seville itself abounded in opportunities for a liberal education. On the Plaza de San Salvador, in every slum of the Triana, Cervantes would daily meet with the great twin-brethren Pedro del Rincón and Diego Cortado; with Monipodio, the Captain-General of the roystering Knights of the Hook; with Ganchuelo, who never stole o’ Fridays, nor talked o’ Saturdays to any punk styled Mary; with those pimping swaggerers Chiquiznaque, Maniferro, Repolido, and their ruddled doxies Gananciosa, Escalanta, and. Cariharta. And, as already shown, he knew the prison-life from within the bars. His financial muddling had ruined the Treasury’s trust in him: leastways, set loose from jail, he was no more officer of the King. But that he tarried in Seville is proved by his burlesque sonnet on a catafalque set up there by the City Fathers on the occasion of Philip the Second’s death in 1598: in a graver mood are the sonnet and twelve quintillas on the same subject. To 1598 also is referred a prefatory sonnet in Lope de Vega’s Dragontea; and one biographer upon another confirms the attribution. It may be worth while to say, here and now, that the poem appears, not in the first edition of the Dragontea, but in the second of 1602. There is evidence to show that Cervantes lingered in Seville as late as 1600. Save for the Dragontea sonnet of 1602, there follows a blank of three years, when the harried man posts to Valladolid in obedience to a Treasury writ; and with him he brings the manuscript of Don Quixote.


A vague phrase in the Prologue has suggested the theory that the First Part was begun in jail. But it may be a figure to describe the story as ‘a dry, shrivelled, whimsical offspring…, just what might be begotten in a prison.’ The immemorial tradition is that Cervantes was thrust into the cellar of the Casa de Medrano at Argamasilla de Alba; and reasons, as plentiful as they are improbable, are forged to explain the alleged imprisonment. Surmise apart, Argamasilla is indubitably Don Quixote’s town. His ‘wise and most absolute Historiographer’ sets out by indicating ‘a certaine village of the Mancha,’ the name of which he has no desire to recall; but he fails not of precision in the concluding antic doggerel of the Argamasillan Academics, embellished with epithets the most grotesque: as Monicongo the Mannikin, Paniaguado the Lickspittle, Cachidiablo the Imp of Hell, and Tiquitoc, the Elegist of Dulcinea. Within three years from the first publication of the Knight’s discomfitures, Quevedo’s comic ballad

‘De un molimiento de huesos
Á puros palos y piedras,
Don Quixote de la Mancha
Yace doliente sin fuerzas’

assumes the connexion between hero and place to be incontrovertible fact; and topography demonstrates its justification. Concerning the time of composition, the evidence is internal. ‘These that follow,’ says Master Nicholas (‘for so bight the Barber’), preparing the holocaust of Don Quixote’s library, ‘these that follow be The Sheepheard of Iberia...’ and Bernardo de la Vega’s work appeared at Seville in 1591. Again, in the Eighth Chapter of The Third Book, Ginés de Pasamonte proclaims his own history as one ‘that quite puttes down Lazarillo de Tormes, and as many others as are written or shall write of that kind.’ If, as some hold, the flout be aimed at Mateo Alemán’s Vida del pícaro Guzmán de Alfarache, the passage dates from 1599 or later. Howbeit, licensed for the press in September 1604, Don Quixote appeared early in 1605. Oddly enough, the book is twice named at an earlier date than that imprinted on its title-page. Writing under the pseudonym of Francisco López de Úbeda, Alonso Pérez introduces the hero in La Pícara Justina. As thus:—

‘Más famo— que Doña Oli—
Que Don Quixo—y Lazari—
Que Alfarache y Celesti—.’

And La Pícara Justina passed the Censor on August 22, 1604. More: in a letter revealed by Schack, Lope de Vega, on August 4, 1604, informs his patron, the Duque de Sessa, that no budding poet ‘is as bad as Cervantes, none so foolish as to praise Don Quixote.’ Clearly the book had achieved a reputation or ever it was in print. The dedication was accepted by the Duque de Béjar; nor was this the first time that a Cervantes had offered a gift to one of that ilk. Early in the previous century, a kinsman—the Licentiate Alonso de Cervantes—had addressed his gloss (in one hundred and seventy-two stanzas) of Manrique’s Coplas to Álvaro de Stúñiga, the second Duque de Béjar.

Despite the literary cliques in Madrid, Don Quixote took the town by storm; so that the Fifth Edition was a-printing in Valencia by July. The Peninsula, with Europe in its train, hailed the book a masterpiece, and its vogue became general. ‘Tis nowadays the mode to read strange, exoteric meanings into the writer’s pages. It is not enough that Cervantes should be for us what he was to his contemporaries: a genius of the first order, a fellow of infinite humour, of inexhaustible invention. It falls short of his meed to hold him for one of the greatest figures in all literature, for the author of the most diverting, the most varied book of entertainment in the world. He must perforce he exhibited as a scholar, a purist—even an exquisite—in style, a philosopher, a poet, a man of: science, a lofty political thinker still brooding upon his country’s decadence, a moralist, a preacher, a religious reformer. The great artist is degraded to a dull man’s fetish! In sober truth Cervantes wore none of these proud titles, nor aspired to any. A master who delighted in irony, a satiric genius who was also a finished observer of folly, he had surely immortalised the corybantics of his posthumous dervishes. He was no scholar, nor aught resembling it:—he dashes down a quotation at hazard, as he recalls it, with never a pedant spectre to affright him at his work. His memory plays him many a jest:—with inimitable assurance and gaiety he will confuse a pair of stories (borrowed from Ariosto), or will jumble history by representing Lautrec and the Great Captain as engaged in the same campaign. At his best, he is beyond all question a most distinguished writer of Spanish prose; but he abounds in incorrections, in lapses of grammar, in slips of sense, in Italian constructions, in sentences barbed with a thicket of relatives hopelessly estranged from their antecedents. As a craftsman Cervantes has no claim to the first, nor to the second, place among Spanish writers. And so likewise is it when he attempts to shine in abstract speculation. Wheresoever he puts by character and incident to take on a pontifical air, his confusions, his feeble reasonings, his tendency to banality bewray the amateur. To attribute to him qualities to which he never pretended—qualities which he not only had not, but which he could not have had and been the author of Don Quixote—is to do him heinous wrong. Cervantes never rises above the average thought of his time: as, indeed, why should he? He shares the petty hopes and fears, the trivial joys and pains of common humanity; and the sympathy which makes him kin to all the world forms a great part of his universal force. The average Spaniard of the Seventeenth Century with the temperament of genius: such precisely Cervantes was, and such he approves himself in every line of his masterpiece. He is to be judged solely as an extraordinary talent, as a consummate artist in humour, and as a prince of invention. Thus considered, he ranks among the supreme figures. And, as he recognised his multiple limitations, so did he appreciate his strength with unerring instinct. ‘The Galatea of Michel Cervantes, quoth the Barber. That Cervantes, saide the Curate, is mine old acquaintance this many a yeare. And I knowe, he is more practised in misfortunes then in verses. His booke hath some good invention in it… Again, in the Viaje del Parnaso, Mercury speeds a compliment: ‘Pasa, pasa adelante.’ Time upon time, Cervantes repeats the assertion of his claim: and with justice. A ‘rare inventor he was, before and above aught else. And as such he passes onward to a unique renown.


Conceived as a burlesque (mainly of Amadís de Gaula, that model of mysterious descent, Don Quixote remains the best of parodies. And, outgrowing the bounds of the first design, it became something more than the chief of picaresque novels. At the outset, Cervantes destined it, like enough, to a place among the Novelas Exemplares. Its present division into chapters is an obvious afterthought; and, assuredly, the epigraphs are the work of a bungling meddler. Regard the opening words of the Sixth Chapter in the First Book: ‘Who slept yet soundly.’ Meaningless as it stands, the phrase is plainly a fragment arbitrarily severed from the foregoing sentence. Cervantes, whatever his primitive intent, grew enamoured of his conception, and was, with intervals of discouragement—so far as an artist may be—possessed and mastered by it. As he avouches, his aim was ‘to diminish the authoritie and acceptance that Bookes of Chivalrie have in the world and among the vulgar’; ‘to overthrow the ill compiled Machina and bulk of those Knightly Bookes, abhorred by many, but applauded by more.’ There, Englished by Shelton, stands the author’s ingenuous avowal. But crotcheteers know better. Defoe would persuade you that Don Quixote is ‘an emblematicall History of, and a just Satyr upon, the Duke de Medina Sidonia; a Person very remarkable at that Time in Spain.’ Walter Savage Landor reveals the hero as Charles the Fifth, and enregisters the book as ‘the most dexterous attack ever made against the worship of the Virgin’: inasmuch as ‘Dulcinea was the peerless, the immaculate; and death was denounced against all who hesitated to admit the assertion of her perfections.’ And Rawdon Lubbock Brown (1803-83), outstripping his forerunners, discovers Pedro Franqueza as Sancho Panza, and demonstrates, with pain and labour, that Don Quixote is little better than a roman á clef. Of madness there are two kinds: Don Quixote’s, which is sublime; and his commentators’, which is ridiculous. So runs the new; but the old is better. The bald truth is that the publication of Don Quixote was the decisive triumph in the long campaign waged against the novel of Knight-Errantry. Mystics, theologians, and philosophers had essayed their ineffectual exorcisms, as Luis de Granada in the Símbolo de la Fe, Melchor Cano in his treatise De locis theologicis and Vives in the De corruptis disciplinis. In his maturer years Hurtado de Mendoza still read with infinite gusto the chronicle of the haps of Amadís; and the sober Juan de Valdés bewailed a youth misspent upon ‘these lies’: ‘Estas mentiras, en las cuales tomaba tanto sabor que me comía las manos tras ellas.’ The Ingenious Gentleman of La Mancha was not alone in those delightful studies wherewithal ‘he dryed up his braines in such sort as he lost wholly his judgement.’ Multitudes joined the Host in giving ‘two figs for the Great Captain,’ pinning their credit by preference to Bernardo de Vargas’ Cirongilio de Tracia and to Melchor Ortega’s Felixmarte de Hircania (this last, as Percy tells, once the summer pastime of Samuel Johnson). Among the devotees was numbered our Seraphic Mother Saint Teresa, an insatiable young reader of such fopperies, and—to trust a most credible bruit—herself a dabbler in the art of writing them. An extremer case is that of the Portuguese poet, Simon de Silveira, who pledged his oath upon the Gospels that he held every word in Amadís de Gaula for authentic history. Legislation was invoked to stay the plague. Charles the Fifth, himself a fierce admirer of Don Belianís de Grecia, forbade the introduction, sale, or printing of such books in the Indies; and the Cortes petitioned that the law be extended to the Peninsula, and that all existing copies be scandalously burned. From Knight-Errantry proper the delirium spread to religion; and the Valencian Hieronym Sempere reached the nadir with a chivalresque redaction of the New Testament, accomplished in the worst manner of Florisel de Niquea. Of this monster, suffice it to note that Sempere represents Christ as the Knight of the Lion contending with Satan, the Knight of the Serpent; and that the Apostles take rank as the Twelve Paladins of the Table Round. Where invective, statutes, and pious diversions had proved of none avail, where Ariosto’s courtly banter had failed, the pungent, serious humour of Cervantes conquered at a blow. After the appearance of Don Quixote, no new Knight-Errantry was issued; and, with the single exception of the Caballero del Febo, the former favourites remained without the honours of a reprint. In the theatre the old tradition lingered a while, as is shown by Lope de Vega’s Marqués de Mantua and by Montalbán’s Palmerín de Oliva; and among the rabble the taste endured. But the influence had perished, and the stories which Valdés had read in palaces and courts— ‘en palacios y cortes’ —found their last refuge among the chapbooks of the pedlar’s pack.


Himself a model Knight-Errant, Cervantes ridicules the inferior epics; but Amadís de Gaula remains ‘the very best contrived booke of all those of that kinde,’ and the satirist’s reverence is complete for the chivalrous ideals of devotion and loyalty and valour. Yet among his own people there have not lacked dolts to taunt him with compassing, like a second Roderick, his country’s ruin; and among these a bad pre-eminence belongs to Juan Maruján, who, in the Marqués de Valmar’s Historia crítica, exposes himself in this guise

‘Aplaudió España la obra
No advirtiendo, inadvertidos,
Que era del honor de España
Su autor, verdugo y cuchillo.’

But Cervantes, whether or not he ‘smiled Spain’s chivalry away’, survives withal, the greatest of Spaniards and the first of romancers. Like his contemporary Shakespeare, like Dickens and Balzac, Cervantes was strongly drawn by the workings of the abnormal human mind. Their fascination for him was unceasing: in El Licenciado Vidriera, in El Coloquio de los Perros, in El Celoso Extremeño, in episodic touches innumerable, he reverts with unfaltering interest to the theme of madness. With his exact, intuitive insight, he was a psychologist without theories, and without (one may say) knowing it. Hamlet and Don Quixote are something more than mere contemporaries in point of time: they are brethren insane with a difference, twin examples developed with a rigorous, natural logic. If Hamlet be the tragedy of thought, Don Quixote is the tragi-comedy of action. Where the one dreamer doubts of the real, the other believes without reserve in the visionary. The one is timorous, but half-convinced of the verity of the Ghost that he has seen; the other remains uncowed by the open enmity of the enchanter Friston, and knows the invisible wizard Esquife for a buckler and a friend. In pursuit of truth Hamlet suspects himself of self-deception; for Don Quixote phantoms vain are the sole realities. And the Knight appeals with confidence to experience, to reason, to precise texts. He quaffs the precious Balsamum of Fierebras, compounded of magic simples, consecrated by ‘eighty Pater-nosters and as many Ayes, Salves and Creedes’—and behold, the cure is absolute! A like draught throws Sancho Panza into ‘such excessive swoonings, as not only himselfe, but likewise all the be-holders, did verily deeme, that his life was ending.’ To find out the cause of this effect is easy, inasmuch as Sancho was not dubbed Knight:—‘for I perswade my selfe, that this liquor cannot helpe any one that is not.’ So rigidly is proof enforced, and evidence considered, in that most rational of all rational worlds!

But the popularity of Don Quixote is not at all to be explained solely by its wealth of drollery: the book includes a gallery of portraits, the most of them triumphs, sketched by a great craftsman. Consider the case of Sancho Panza, when ‘ever anone he lifted up his bottle with such pleasure, as the best fed Tapster of Malaga might envy his state.’ Was ever attitude suggested with greater ease, amplitude, and vigour? With equal artistry are given the semblances of Pero Pérez, that learned priest, at once the ornament of Sigüenza, the best of gossips and the busiest of meddlers: of Master Nicholas the Barber, expert in romances and champion of the Knight of the Sun: of the Housekeeper, hasting ‘with a holy-water pot and a sprinckler in her hand, to see justice done upon her ancient enemies— a hundred great volumes, and those verie well bound ‘—which had destroyed the most delicate understanding of all La Mancha. And the minor characters are wellnigh as successful as they are numerous. In portraiture Cervantes is ever at his best, and the odder his type the more masterly the execution and the detail. The weakness of his book lies otherwhere. As in every other example of the roman d'aventure, the construction is, of necessity, loose, the proportion unsymmetrical, the incident a farrago of hazard and whim. Written by fits and starts, in snatches stolen from less congenial work, it has too often an effect of patchiness: over-elaboration and insufficiency of outline are flaunted side by side. The supplementary stories, not all triumphs in themselves, are worked in at random, with no special relevancy: in part because, being already written, they must be used, and partly also, as their author confides, as a relief from concentrating interest upon the two central figures. Chronology, method, accuracy, were no hobgoblins to Cervantes. Careless of the sacred academic unities, he is rightly concerned with the sole unity of importance: unity of conception, of character, and of thought. Something, no doubt, of the first savour has passed with the course of time. Readers no longer recognise at sight the force of every allusion; and not one in twenty cares to remember that the blanketing of Sancho is borrowed, and bettered, from Guzmán de Alfarache. The sly hits at Lope de Vega—in the Prologue, in the Verses of Urganda, in the Twenty-first Chapter of the Fourth Book— no longer thrill as when that Phoenix flourished; and innumerable side-thrusts which tickled contemporary fancy are become so many riddles. But as a picture of life and manners, unalterably replenished with humour, fancy, and contrivance, Don Quixote remains immortal. A visible landmark, it stands at the parting of the ways. In some sort the last representative of mediaeval romance, it ushers in the new dynasty, being itself the earliest and most illustrious of modern masterpieces. Like the prophet Aaron, Cervantes stood between the dead and the living: and the plague was stayed.’


The fame of the new portent soon passed the Pyrenees, and a fragment was reproduced at Paris. There, in 1608, the story of the Curioso Impertinente was reprinted in the original Spanish by César Oudin at the end of Julio Iñígues de Medrano’s Silva Curiosa. Before the close of the year the tale was given in French by Jean Baudouin: an exceedingly rare version, of which a copy exists in the Munich Library. In 1609 another episode was anonymously transformed under the title of le Meurtre de la Fidélité et la Défense de l’Honneur, oú est racontée la triste et pitoyable avanture du berger Philidon et les raisons de la belle et chaste Marcelle, accusée de sa mort, en espagnol et en françois. Thomas Shelton had in view a larger scheme, and to him belongs the glory of rendering the book entire. His forthcoming effect is duly foreshadowed in the Register of the Stationers’ Company. ‘l9no Januarij 1611. Edward Blounte, William Barret. Entred for their Copy under the andes of master Edward Abbot and Th’ wardens, a book called, The delightfull history of the wittie knight Don Quishote vjd.’ But it imports to remark that our English version dates back earlier than this entry would imply. In his preface Shelton records it that he ‘Translated some five or six yeares agoe, The Historie of Don-Quixote, out of the Spanish tongue, into the English’; and he further recites that he completed his emprize ‘in the space of forty daies: being therunto more then half enforced, through the importunitie of a very deere friend, that was desirous to understand the subject.’ From this avowal it follows that Shelton set to his work about the year 1607, a twelvemonth earlier than the date of Baudouin’s French version of the Curioso Impertinente, and two years before the publication of the Parisian rendering of the episode of Marcela. It can be proved that Oudin’s French translation, which follows Shelton at an interval of two years, is based upon the Madrid Text of 1608: an Edition thought by some (for reasons hitherto unrevealed) to have been corrected by Cervantes himself. However that be, it becomes of interest to determine the text followed by Shelton; and the date 1607 at once suggests the idea that he may have used the Brussels Reprint of that year. And so, in effect, it was. Shelton proffers in his margins such references as these ‘Buscando pan de Trastrigo, p. 47’; ‘Arcaduz de Noria, p. 76’; ‘Porque la boca de la bozina está encima de la cabeça, p. 168’; ‘Y que todo lo annasca, p. 172.’ These shoulder-notes clearly indicate the pagination of the phrases as they occurred in Shelton’s original. And it is worthy of remark that the words quoted are to be found on pp. 47, 76, 168, and 172 of the Brussels Edition of 1607; while in all other Editions accessible to Shelton—those issued at Madrid, Lisbon, and Valencia in 1605, and that one printed at Milan dated 1610—the passages are imprinted on pages quite differently numbered. This witness is, in Shelton’s phrase, ‘significative’; but testimony more decisive remains. In the famous Ninth Chapter of the Third Book, where Sancho Panza is despoiled of his ass, the Editor of the Brussels text introduced an emendation of his own wit to remedy a flaw in the Editio Princeps. Thus, where the first version reads, ‘iba tras su amo, sentado á la mujeriega sobre su jumento the Brussels Editor substitutes:—‘iba tras su amo, sacando de quando en quando de un costal que Rozinante llevaba sobre si por falta del asno.’ Shelton renders the passage—a crucial one—with unflinching severity after the Brussels model ‘And so hee followed his Lord, taking now and then out of a basket (which Rozinante carried for want of the Asse…)’ A few lines later the Brussels Editor interpolates a fresh variant:—‘Fue necessario que Sancho los alçassen.’ And once more Shelton maintains exactitude by setting forth that ‘Sanchoes assistance was requisite to take them up.’ In all there are not less than seven variants peculiar to the Brussels Reprint, and, in the case of each, Shelton observes the Brussels reading. Inasmuch as these seven emendations are unknown elsewhere, the basis of Shelton’s version is, it may be asserted, irrefragably proved. A mysterious dispensation has decreed that Cervantists, as a race, should be mostly unmannerly and irrational; and their most amiable weakness is to belittle their predecessors. Nor has Shelton escaped the general fate. Charles Jervas, himself the author of an excellent translation of Don Quixote, takes occasion to observe, concerning other versions, that ‘the first by Shelton has hitherto passed as translated from the original, though many passages in it manifestly shew it to have been taken from the Italian of Lorenzo Franciosini.’ And Jervas, writing at his ease in the Eighteenth Century, goes on to cite two instances in support of his thesis. The contention is overthrown by a simple comparison of dates. L’ingegnoso Cittadino Don Chisciotte della Mancia, as rendered by Lorenzo Franciosini, was published at Venice in 1622, twelve years after the Milanese Reprint of the original. And a most admirable piece of work it is: worthy at all points of the praises lavished on it, and equal to the vaunt upon the title-page:—‘Tradotto con fedelta’, e chiarezza.’ But, since Shelton anticipated the Italian by ten years, the theft (if any) would be on Franciosini’s side. The plain fact is that Franciosini, like Shelton, used the Brussels Text: it may be in the 1611 Reprint. A like unfounded charge against Shelton’s method is based upon his Englishing of a passage in the Prologue. Cervantes’ friend, ‘a very discreet and pleasantly witted man,’ is reported as saying: —‘Yo os voto á tal de llenaros los márgenes y de gastar cuatro pliegos en el fin del libro.’ In Shelton’s version the words are rendered thus:—‘I doe promise thee that I will both fill up the margent, and also spend foure or five sheetes of advantage at the end of the Booke.’ It is argued that ‘of advantage’ is not only a meaningless phrase, but that, as it evidently is a servile rendering of davantage, Shelton must have translated directly from the French. Since Shelton was in the field two years before César Oudin, the first of the French translators of Don Quixote, the argument has to be eked out otherwise. Upon this slender basis—the existence of the two words ‘of advantage’ in one isolated passage—it is seriously contended that Shelton translated from a lost French manuscript version. If the conclusion be at once gratuitous and generous, the premises are small indeed. For the idlest theorist might have been expected to know that the expression ‘of advantage’ (in the sense of ‘more’) is found in Othello: even though he were ignorant of the fact that a chain of examples of this idiom is established, running back to the Ayenbite of Inwyt written by Dan Michel, brother of the Cloister of Saint Austin of Canterbury ‘in the yeare of our lhordes beringe 1340.’ On a review of the available evidence, only one conclusion is possible: that Shelton translated directly from the Spanish Edition published at Brussels in 1607. Any other inference is, not only illegitimate but, manifestly absurd.

His version is addressed by his ‘Honours most affectionate Servitor’ to ‘the Right Honourable, his verie good Lord, the Lord of Walden’: in other words, to Theophilus, Lord Howard of Walden, eldest son and heir of the Earl of Suffolk and, about the time of the rendering of the English Don Quixote, Governor of Jersey and Castle Cornet. So much as regards the patron. Concerning the translator no detail is to be gathered. It does not appear that Shelton was at either University or that he belonged to any of the Inns of Court. No biographical dictionary includes his name; and the accustomed oracles are likewise dumb. For posterity Thomas Shelton remains the first translator of Don Quixote: a proud distinction, which must suffice. Other writers of the same name exist to baffle the searcher; but their date makes it hard to believe that, in any case, their career of authorship began as early as 1607. It may be a mere coincidence that, in 1650, Thomas Shelton, author of Divine Drops distilled from the Holy Scriptures by that worthy Gospel Preacher Gualter Cradock, should write in his Preface to the Reader: ‘I have not (nor ever did in any mans works) taken the boldnesse to adde one piece of a sentence or to diminish ought.’ Just so, in Shelton’s version, the writer requests the Moor to translate from the Arabic ‘without adding or taking away any thing from them.’ There is nothing impossible in the supposition that a writer’s period of production should extend over forty-three years; but such cases are sufficiently rare to give one pause in concluding that Don Quixote and Divine Drops fell from the same fount. On the other side, there is absolutely no evidence to support a recent theory: that ‘Thomas Shelton’ is a pseudonym.


It remains to take account of the excellences and demerits of Shelton’s achievement. His task once accomplished, the translator’s interest in it waned. His declaration is that ‘after I had given him once a view thereof, I cast it aside, where it lay long time neglected in a corner, and so little regarded by me as I never once set hand to review or correct the same’; then later, ‘at the intreatie of others my friends, I was content to let it come to light, conditionally, that some one or other would peruse and amend the errours escaped; my many affaires hindering mee from undergoing that labour.’ An examination of the text fully bears out Shelton’s statement. His limitations are apparent enough; his anxious haste and fine nonchalance are visible in page on page. His colloquial knowledge of Spanish urges him to a close adherence to the letter, and the first found word too often contents him, if in sound or semblance it approaches the Castilian.

For Shelton ‘a trance’ suits the needs of trance far better than the more obvious ‘emergency’ which the context demands. Confronted with the words ‘todos los trances de la guerra,’ the translator airily transcribes ‘all the trances of warfare.’ Face to face with ‘este tan impensado trance,’ he shows impenitence by setting down ‘this unexpected trance.’ And as ‘trance’ stands for ‘trance,’ so do ‘successes ‘impersonate ‘sucesos.’ Where Cervantes writes ‘todos los sucesos que había visto,’ Shelton hits upon ‘all the successes of the thing she had seen.’ The aspect of ‘talante’ resembles ‘talent’ nearly enough to justify a blindness to the difference between a mood and a talent. Hence a rigid adhesion to the system produces ‘in a bad fashion and worse talent’ for ‘mala traza y peor talante.’ A more diverting example of the results of this impetuous fidelity occurs in the scene with the galley-slaves. One of the guards says to Don Quixote, ‘á este pecador le dieron tormento y confesó su delito’; the unmistakable meaning of which simple passage is that ‘they tortured this sinner and he confessed his crime.’ The likeness between ‘delight’ and ‘delito’ is of exquisite suggestion, and forthwith a frolic humour impels Shelton to record that ‘he confessed his delight.’ He reads of ‘la reina convertida en una dama particular llamada Dorotea, con otros sucesos’; and with invincible gaiety he manifests you ‘the Queen transformed into a particular lady called Dorotea, with other successes.’ The same tendency to the servile-exact is displayed in his treatment of the everyday verb desmayarse (= to faint or swoon). He detects Cardenio denouncing ‘el mudable de la desmayada traidora,’ and straightway transfixes Luscinda as ‘the mutable and dismaied traytresse.’ A fresh temptation recurs in the expressions ‘voz desmayada’ and ‘persona enferma y desmayada’; and here again our Shelton unflinchingly maintains his repute with a ‘dismaied voice’ and a ‘sicke and dismayed person.’ Moved by the same honourable intent, he does justice to ‘prosiguió en sus maldiciones’ by a declaration that ‘he prosecuted his maledictions’; and his persistent loyalty hinders him from perverting ‘todos eran suspensos’ into any form less literal than ‘all were suspended.’ Now and then he lends the right heroi-farcical touch. Thus when Cervantes describes the feigned fury of Camila, Shelton appreciates the opportunity of a lifetime and matches the occasion by picturing how ‘shee praunced up and downe the roome with the poyniard naked in her hand, with such long and unmeasurable strides, and making withal such gestures, as she rather seemed defective of wit, and a desperate ruffian, then a delicate woman.’ An inimitable attachment to the letter (or to a part of it) will lead this incorruptible interpreter to tamper with statistics, but not to juggle with figures. He beholds ‘tres azumbres,’ a measure of some six quarts: but, since ‘tres’ is unquestionably ‘three,’ Shelton upholds the numeral, and generously doubles the quantity into ‘three gallons.’ The passion for literality spurs him to invention: wherefore ‘irremediables’ becomes ‘irremedilesse,’ and ‘altisonante’ grows nobler as ‘altisonant.’ Concerning this last contrivance, it irks to learn that Sidney anticipated it, but Milton ignored.

But at call, despite his crazy prepossession, Shelton can turn about and treat the Spanish with a gallant contumely of his own. To a silk vendor walking the Alcaná of Toledo ‘a certaine boy by chance would have sold divers old quires and scrowles of bookes.’ The silk vendor hides behind a mask no denser than ‘sedero’; but, either the word sedero is banished from the Sheltonian vocabulary, or the connexion is deemed base, and lo! the silk vendor ruffles it as ‘a Squire.’ That ‘tañendo’ is a term applied to stringed instruments was doubtless within Shelton’s knowledge; but he has gone through the pastoral school, and observes the convention by the insertion of ‘piping,’ whereunto follows the ‘singing of Roundelayes, and playing on a Croud.’ Doubtless, in some cases, an apparent blunder is but the slip of a man in a hurry. The ‘pastor sardo’ who passes as a ‘Sardinicall Poet,’ had surely taken another guise in the course of that revision, the lack of which, as recorded in the Letter Dedicatory, ‘did at the first somewhat disgust mee.’ In other instances, Shelton had pleaded Johnson’s excuse of pure ignorance. There might be a doubt as to whether the ‘esparraguera’ on the shield of Espartafilardo of the Wood connotes one asparagus plant or more; but Shelton boggles not at petty subtleties, and bids you mark that the redoubtable fighter had ‘for his device a Harrow.’ ‘Aquel pastor de marras, Ambrosio’ (‘that shepherd of the other day, Ambrosio’) has puzzled more than one subsequent translator, not to speak of commentators sundered from Covarrubias and other builders of lexicons; and for Shelton the difficulty was greater, inasmuch as the Brussels Edition, maintaining a misprint in the Princeps, delivers the passage as ‘aquel pastor de Marias, Ambrosio.’ Shelton resolves the crux at sight, and, conferring an additional name upon the man, despatches him in a twinkling as a writer in the pastoral kind known to fame as ‘Marias Ambrosio his Sheepheard.’ The Host Juan Palomeque bore the epithet of el zurdo, as who should say ‘the left-handed’; but ‘zurdo’ and sordo are ranked as synonyms, and the Innkeeper takes place as ‘Palomeque the deafe.’ The like valour in facing an obstacle incited Shelton to transform the clause, ‘Porque la boca de la bozina está encima de la cabeça,’ into ‘For the mouth of the fish is over the head.’ The true meaning is that ‘the mouth of the Horn is overhead’; but Shelton recks not of the Little Bear and accepts ‘bocina’ as a legitimate variant of peace or piacina. Downright errors are presented, but in less profusion than might be conceived. A notable instance occurs in Don Quixote’s letter to Dulcinea where ‘el llagado de las telas del corazón‘—the pierced-to-the-heart’s core— is construed ‘the hurt by the Darts of thy heart.’ A still finer example of fallibility is offered in the First Chapter of the book. ‘Duelos y quebrantos los sábados,’ writes Cervantes, thereby baiting a dangerous trap for all to follow him. Shelton was the first to attempt the solution, and it interests to compare his results with those of his contemporaries, all working in the dark before M. Morel Fatio’s time. Oudin renders the words by ‘des oeufs et du lard les Samedis’; in Franciosini they appear as ‘il sabbato frittate rognose.’ The earliest Dictionary of the Spanish Academy limits the use of the expression to La Mancha, and warrants it to mean an omelette of brains. Pellicer—raro inventor, like the Master, but in devious ways—contrives the fable that the Manchegan herdsmen brought to the farmers the week’s ‘braxies,’ that the broken bones (quebrantados) were salted, and that the loss of the beasts caused grief (duelos) to the owners. The Pellicerian legend is obviously ridiculous, and the phrase is nothing more, as M. Morel Fatio demonstrates, than a common binary form (akin to bubble-and-squeak) applied to the grosura or offal—the head, trotters, tail, and tripe—which Spaniards were allowed to eat on Saturdays. Shelton, however, lived in the dark ages; and, passing by the inevitable ‘braxy,’ he jots down ‘griefes and complaints the Saturdays,’ without concern as to the meaning and, indubitably, without a notion that he was face to face with a conundrum. So also he takes ‘noria’ (=a water-wheel) for a town. In no single instance does he consult John Minsheu’s Dictionarie in Spanish and English (1599), ‘enlarged and amplified with many thousand words’ from Richard Percivale; nor had Minsheu helped him to grapple with duelos y quebrantos or with noria. But the translator spurns the lexicographer and advances dauntless in his own wild way.

It is undeniable that in the resolution of a chance problem like ‘el sastre del Cantillo,’ Shelton courts disaster with ‘the Taylour that dwells in a corner’; but in sum Sancho’s hurricane of proverbs is reported with enviable exactitude. ‘Plegue á Dios que orégano sea’ might daunt any translator who knew not that orégano was wild marjoram; and here had Minsheu aided, with his report of ‘an herbe called Origanie, or wild Marierom.’ But, pedantry apart, the suggestion remains in the fervent utterance:—‘I pray God, that it be a purchase of gold.’ In the search for the impeccable phrase, Shelton will find himself smitten with a pious scruple: and here, veiling his face before ‘Dios poderoso,’ he will invoke ‘Almighty Jove.’ When the whim takes him he will omit a line or two entire. In the colloquy following upon the downfall of the Biscayan, there is mention of the cheapness of Fierebras his balsam. Hereon Sancho pointedly inquires why his Lord delays teaching him to make it:—‘Pecador de mí replicó Sancho, ¿pues á qué aguarda vuestra merced á hacelle á enseñármele?’ To Shelton’s judgment the question is impertinent, and is instantly suppressed. Among such changes are certain positive improvements. The idea of a long-legged Sancho is nothing short of revolting, and (if it be not a burlesque transcription of the woodcuts in the books of chivalry) the original phrase, ‘las zancas largas,’ is unhappy; but Shelton’s dramatic sense comes to the rescue, and appropriately endows the flower of Esquires with ‘thick legges.’ Dorotea announces that Don Quixote’s renown has spread abroad ‘not only in Spayne, but also in’ La Mancha; the admirable Shelton scents danger of an anti-climax and La Mancha finds itself displaced by Æthiopia. Nor do his embellishments pause here. Cervantes may choose to write of Amadís, of Felixmarte of Hircania, and of Tirant lo Blanch, as commemorated by Mossen Ioanot Martorell and his assistant ‘lo magnifich caviller Mossen Johan de Gralla’; but the name of Don Belianís de Grecia quite vanquishes Shelton’s patience, and, in a fine burst of patriotism, he strikes a blow for England with the splendid interpolation of ‘Sir Bevis of Hampton, Sir Guy of Warwicke, Sir Eglemore, with divers others of that nation and age.’ Where Cervantes dailies with sentiment, his English interpreter follows him, overtakes and matches him in ornamentation of the culto taste. ‘La lastimada Dorotea’ shines as ‘the sweetly grieved Dorotea’; and even the matter-of-fact Castilian ‘puso Luscinda en Cardenio los ojos’ is metamorphosed into ‘Luscinda first severing her eyelids, beheld Cardenio.’ Nay, the translator will create the opportunity, if it do not exist. So is it where Cervantes briefly states that Dorotea ‘sighed deeply and, breaking silence, spoke:—‘Dando ella un profundo suspiro, rompió el silencio y dijo’ is a clause as simple as was ever writ; but Shelton recalls Marcela’s vapourings, perceives that here his author falls below the irreducible level of altisonance, and transfigures all to purple and vermilion in his imaging of how the heroine was wooed ‘at last to make a breach on her tedious silence, and with a profound sigh, blow open her curall gates.’


Shelton’s title to remembrance is based upon the broadest grounds. He had no sympathy for the arid accuracy that juggles with a gerund or toys with the crabbed subjunctive. From the subtleties of syntax, as from the bonds of prosody, he sallies free; and the owls of pedantry have bitterly resented his arrogant disdain for them and theirs. And they have sought to avenge themselves, after their manner, by reproaching him with taking a disjunctive for an interjection, and with the confounding of predicate and subject. They act after their kind. But Shelton’s view of his function was ampler and nobler than the hidebound grammarian’s. He appeals to the pure lover of literature; and as a man of letters he survives. He brought to the execution of his enterprise an endowment and a temperament such as no later rival could pretend to boast. And his circumstances favoured him. He not only had the happy fortune to discover and appreciate an incomparable book: he was admirably fitted to comprehend its spirit and to diffuse its interpretation. He lived in the very age of Cervantes; he had himself suffered from the malady of Knight-Errantry; he looked with the eye of a contemporary; he owned an alert intelligence, a perfect sympathy for his author’s theme, and a vocabulary of exceeding wealth and rarity. Moreover, and above all things, he was an Elizabethan, a contemporary of Shakespeare’s, nurtured on the marrow of lions, and blessed with the clear accent of that spacious age. His language is ever fitted to the incident, whether he be concerned with the Rhodian bombast of the heroic madman or with the homely wisdom and shrewd sententiousness of Sancho Panza. He is always at his ease and, in the most trying case, he remains natural, unspotted from affectation. From later versions, however superior in mere scholarship, there is never absent a sense of strain and effort. Safe from the pitfalls of anachronism and the possibilities of Wardour-Street English, Shelton despatches his phrase with address and vigour; the atmosphere of the book is his own, and his perspective is naturally just. It were too much to say that so had Cervantes written in English; but equity demands the admission that his manner is more nearly attained by Shelton than by any successor. This first translator is never lacking in a shrewd equivalent for an idiomatic phrase. ‘En lo de la valentía no le iba en zaga,’ asserts Cervantes of Don Galaor; and Shelton responds with:—‘In matters of valour, he did not bate him an ace.’ Again, for ‘despuntas de agudo’ his pregnant reading is ‘thy frumps nippe.’ In reproducing the rodomontade in praise of Dulcinea he is successful as her impassioned lover:—‘There drops not, I say, from her that which thou sayest, but Amber and Civet, among bombase; and she is not blinde of an eye, or crooke-backt, but is straighter then a spindle of Guadarama.’ Of marginal illustration he shows the wise economy of a writer who knows his readers to be fellows of parts. ‘The title of a Marguesse,’ he informs you, ‘is less then that of an Earle in Spaine.’ He notes an allusion to one who knew ‘a better and more ancient language’ than the Arabic; and, with nimble resource, he annotates ‘To wit, a Iew.’ Or, observe him on a great occasion, in the famous celebration of ‘the happier Age of Gold’:—’ Happy time, and fortunate ages were those, whereon our Ancestors bestowed the title of Goulden, not because Gold (so much prized in this our yron age) was gotten in that happy time, without any labours, but because those which lived in that time, knew not these two words, Thine and Mine, in that holy age all things were in common: No man needed for his ordinarie sustenance to doe ought else then lift up his hand, and take it from the strong Oke, which did liberally invite them to gather his sweete and savory fruit. The cleare fountaines, and running rivers, did offer them these savorie and transparent Waters in magnificent abundance. In the clifts of rocks and hollow trees did the carefull and discreete bees erect their commonwealth, offering to every hand without interest, the fertile croppe of their sweetest travailes. The loftie Corke tree did dismisse, of themselves without any other art then that of their native liberalitie, their broad and light rindes. Wherewithall houses were at first covered, being sustained by rusticall stakes, to none other end, but for to keepe backe the inclemencies of the Ayre. All then was peace, all amitie, and all concord.’ In narrative, as in description, the Englishman vies with the Spaniard in dignity, grace, and fleetness. Hearken to him reviewing the multitudinous hosts that march beneath the banners of the Lord of the Silver Bridge, of Timonel, Prince of New Biskaye, and other chiefs no less dread and invincible : —‘ This first squadron containeth folke of many Nations, in it are those which taste the sweet waters of famous Xante. The montainous men that tread the Masilicall fields. Those that doe sift the most pure and rare gold of Arabia Foelix. Those that possessed the famous and delightfull bankes of cleare Termodonte. Those that let bloud many and sundry waies the golden Pactolus. The Numides unstedfast in of their promise. The Persians famous for Archers. The Parthes and Medes that fight flying. The Arabs, inconstant in their dwellings. The Scithes as cruell as white. The Æthiops of boared lips, and other infinite Nations, whose faces I know and behold, although I have forgotten their denominations. In that other army come those that taste the Christaline streames of the Olive-bearing Betis. Those that recreat themselves in the Elisean fields of Xerez. The rich Manchegans crowned with ruddy eares of corne. Those apparelled with yron, the ancient relikes of the Gothish bloud. Those that bathe themselves in Pisuerga, renowmed for the smoothnesse of his current. Those that feed their flocks in the vast fields of the wreathing Guadiana, so celebrated for his hidden course. Those that tremble through the cold of the bushy Firens, and the lofty Apenines. Finally, all those that Europe in itself containeth.’ Or, again, let Shelton vindicate by argument the pomp, the repute, and the benignity of arms when Vivaldo holds the calling for ‘one of the most austere professions in the world,’ so that ‘even that of the Charter-house Monkes is not neere so straight ‘:—‘It may be as straight as our profession, quoth Don Quixote, but that it should be so necessary for the world, I am within the breadth of two fingers to call in doubt. For if wee would speake a truth, the souldier that puts in execution his Captaines commaund, doth no lesse then the very Captaine that commaunds him. Hence I inferre, that religious men doe with all peace and quietnesse seeke of heaven the good of the earth; but souldiers and we Knights doe put in execution that which they demand, defending it with the valour of our armes, and files of our swords: not under any roofe, but under the wide heavens, made as it were in Summer a marke to the insupportable Sunne-beames and in winter to the rage of withering frosts. So that wee are the ministers of God on earth, and the armes wherewith he executeth here his justice.’ Cervantes abounds not greatly in purple patches; but, where the Castilian original affords the occasion, Shelton rarely fails to seize and match it. So, with inimitable felicity of phrase and setting, with sustained sonority and splendour, in passages of uncommon majesty, he continues his deliverance of a classic masterpiece of Spain. And comparison with others serves but to enhance the merit of his exploit. With all his ungrateful contempt for translators and their work, Cervantes himself had been the foremost to applaud the breadth and gusto of a performance still unrivalled—at least in English—for simplicity, force, and beauty.


Thus Shelton: thus no competitor. And it rejoices to believe that he had his reward in the general acceptance, in a vogue that rested, and seems like to rest, permanent. In a very rare, if not unique, pamphlet by Robert Anton there is corroborative evidence of the fact. Anton’s Moriomachia, ‘imprinted at London by Simon Stafford, 1618,’ closes with a mention of the ‘little dangerous Combate’ between ‘Don Quishotte and the Barbor, about Mambrinoes inchaunted Helmet’; and the assumption clearly is that every reader would grasp the allusion. That The Knight of the Burning Pestle should derive from Shelton is a thing of course: and that Dulcinea hit the popular taste appears probable from an entry in the Register of the Stationers’ Company on May 22,1615, concerning the intention of John White and Thomas Langley to print ‘the ballet of Dulcina to the tune of fforgoe me nowe, come to me sone.’ More interesting it were to establish that Shakespeare (who read every thing) knew Cervantes through Shelton’s good offices. Unluckily the play called The History of Cardenio has perished: nor can it be demonstrated that Shakespeare had a hand in it, though many wilder assertions are made and believed. But a brief statement of the facts may be permitted. Among the Rawlinson MSS. in the Bodleian Library there exists ‘The Accompte of the right honorable the Lord Stanhope of Harrington, Treasurer of his Majesties Chamber, for all such Somes of money as hath beine receaved and paied by him within his Office from the feaste of St Michaell Tharchangell, Anno Regni Regis Jacobi decimo, untill the feaste of St Michaell, Anno Regni Regis Jacobi undecimo, conteyning one whole yeare’: to wit the year 1612-13. The account includes entries of moneys, disbursed in virtue of a Warrant in Council, for the representation of various plays; and of the charges detailed in Lord Stanhope of Harrington’s bill this note is significant :—‘ Item, paid to John Heminges uppon lyke warrant, dated at Whitehall IXº die Julij 1613 for himself and the rest of his fellowes his Majesties servauntes and Players for presentinge a play before the Duke of Savoye’s Embassadour on the viij daye of June, 1613, called Cardenna, the some of vjli xiijs iiijd.’ Whereunto succeeds the confirmation :—‘ Item paid to John Heminges vppon the Cowncells warrant dated att Whitehall xxº die Maij 1613, for presentinge before the Princes Highnes the Lady Elizabeth and the Prince Pallatyne Elector fowerteene severall playes, viz.: one play called ffilaster, one other called the Knott of fooles, One other Much adoe abowte nothinge. The Mayeds Tragedy, The merye dyvell of Edmonton, The Tempest, A Kinge and no Kinge, The Twins Tragedie, The Winters Tale, Sir John ffalstaffe, The Moore of Venice, The Nobleman, Caesars Tragedye, And one other called Love lyes a bleedinge, All which Playes weare played with-in the tyme of this Accompte, viz.: paid the some of iiijxx xiijli vjs viijd’: ‘Item, paid to the said John Heminges vppon the lyke warrant, dated at Whitehall XXº die Maij 1613 for presentinge sixe severall playes, viz: one playe called a badd beginninge make a good endinge, One other called [the] Capteyne, One other the Alcumist, One other Cardenno, One other Hotspur. And one other called Benedicte and Betteris, All played within the tyme of this Accompte viz: paid ffortie poundes, and by way of his Majesties rewarde twentie powndes, In all LXº.’ From these exchequer tallies it is gathered that The History of Cardenio ranked beside Much Ado about Nothing, The Tempest, The Winter’s Tale, The Merry Wives of Windsor, or, mayhap, the First Part of Henry the Fourth, Othello, and Julius Caesar. The existence of a play based on Cardenio’s story needs no corroboration; but the books of the Stationers’ Company afford a clew as to its authors:—‘September ye 9th 1653. Mr. Mosely, Entred also for his Copies the severall playes following xxs vjd … The History of Cardenio by Mr. Fletcher and Shakespeare’ … The evidence is scanty and is not decisive; but, so far as it is relevant, it tends to support the stage tradition that Shakespeare and Fletcher collaborated in a drama founded on an episode in Don Quixote, given in 1613, at the Globe Theatre in Blackfriars. In view of the play’s disappearance, it is impossible to show the connexion between Shelton and Shakespeare on the one side, and Cervantes and Shakespeare on the other: it suffices to say that the tradition offers no intrinsic unlikelihood, and such evidence as exists is in its favour. But the matter is exposed to the puzzle-headed ingenuity, not to say the dogmatic assurance, of the theory-monger; and strange results follow. One artist in assertion lays it down that the missing play is but the first draft of Love’s Pilgrimage taken from Cervantes’ novel, Las dos Doncellas; and the conclusion runs that ‘surely this is the Cardenna—Cardenno — Cardenio — Cardina — Cardena— Cardenas play.’ To the theory-monger all things are possible; but a comparison of dates is fatal. That The History of Cardenio was acted before the king by His Majesty’s Players in 1612-13, and that it was repeated before the Savoyard Ambassador on June 8, 1613, is shown by the official accounts. Now, Las dos Doncellas is the ninth in order of Cervantes’ Novelas Exemplares, the Aprobación of which was signed by Alonso Gerónimo de Salas Barbadillo, on August 8, 1613; and the Tasa, signed by Hernando de Vallejo, is dated a day later. The latest theory, then, resolves itself in this wise: a dramatic version of Las dos Doncellas was current in England at least two months before the publication of the original in Spain. As that conclusion is irrational, what remains of the theory is discredited; and it is justifiable to think that the play attributed to Shakespeare and Fletcher came direct from Don Quixote. And if it did so come, then it is not rash to assume that Shakespeare found the story in Shelton’s version.


That version is here reprinted for the first time from the excessively rare Edition of 1612. Heretofore Editors, mistaking the Second Edition for the first, have reproduced the changed Reprint of 1620, a book by contrast common. If Shakespeare in truth knew Cervantes, he knew him as here revealed, the author of what Macaulay pronounced to be ‘certainly the best novel in the world, beyond all comparison.’ It may well be that Shelton closed the First Part with no great belief in the promise of a Second; for the concluding words, misquoted from the Orlando Furioso, are as vague as may be :—Forse altro canterá con miglior plettro. Howbeit, though Shelton suppresses the final Ariostan line, it cannot be doubted that he did so, in the sure and certain hope that, if a continuation should be forthcoming, to him might fall the honour of Englishing it. And so—as we shall see—it proved.




  Source:   Library of English Classics, Macmillan & Co., London, 1900
The Tudor Translations, David Nutt, London, 1896