Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

Was Thomas Shelton the Translator of the 'Second Part' (1620) of Don Quixote?"

Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

Was Thomas Shelton the Translator of the 'Second Part' (1620) of Don Quixote?"

Article excerpt

THIS PAPER IS ADMITTEDLY a provisional study of the authorial problems of Part Two of Thomas Shelton's Don Quixote (1620). I say provisional because a terminal illness prevents me from doing the definitive study that is called for. Nevertheless, it makes a convincing enough case for someone else to pursue the matter more thoroughly.

Like Cervantes, who first conceived of writing a "novela ejemplar" (1) of some seven or eight chapters but later expanded it into a full-size novel, I began translating Don Quixote in 1984 with the intention of translating only those chapters usually selected for inclusion in textbooks of surveys of world literature. I originally intended to send those chapters to publishers to let them compare my version with those of Samuel Putnam and J.M. Cohen. After finishing these chapters, I decided to translate a few more, and then a few more, and eventually decided to translate the whole novel, a task that I finally completed in 2006. In the course of this activity I assembled a collection of the 15 major English translations, beginning with Thomas Shelton's of 1612 and 1620, and ending with Edith Grossman's of 2003. (2) During this time I read through my draft more than 200 times, making a word-for-word comparison of each of the previous translations with my own, as well as comparing each of the others with the original Spanish. The Spanish text with which I worked was the critical edition of Vicente Gaos. (3) I frequently consulted as well the outdated but highly inspirational critical edition of Francisco Rodriguez Marin. (4) After self-publishing my Don Quixote in 2006, (5) I sent out several review copies, one of which was to the Times Literary Supplement of London. Their "reviewer" totally ridiculed it, whereupon I wrote a letter pointing out the places where I took issue with the "reviewer." As a result of my letter, Hackett Publishing Company asked to see a copy of my translation and, after vetting it with various readers of theirs, agreed to publish it in late 2008 or early 2009. I regret having "rushed" my version into print, but at the time I thought my illness might not allow me to see it published. I have since gone through my manuscript and made numerous improvements, incorporating many of the comments of the scholars who vetted my work. In working on my translation, when I came to Thomas Shelton's, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and power of his language, especially when I considered that it was the first translation of the Quijote into any language. But somewhere in the "Second Part" I became somewhat disenchanted with its literary style, even asking myself why I had been so tremendously impressed in the first place. During an exchange of correspondence with Dr. Anthony lo Re, Spanish professor emeritus at Chapel Hill, he mentioned the possibility that Part Two of Shelton's translation was not by Shelton himself. This struck a responsive chord in me and seemed to explain my lack of enthusiasm for the Second Part. I returned to study the controversial Second Part and discovered, to my amazement, that although it was indeed translated by Shelton himself up through Chapter Forty, it was startlingly clear that Chapters Forty-One through Seventy-Four were definitely the work of some other hand. I proceeded to read all I could about Shelton, which was easy enough, since very little is known about him. In reading the few references I could find, I discovered that there has been considerable discussion of the authorship of the 1620 translation. But, after studying Shelton's version over a period of years, I feel that the solution to the controversial question of authorship is really quite simple.

In effect, no formal proof is needed if one will merely read the 1620 translation with an eye to its literary style. When one reads Chapters Forty and Forty-One consecutively, his or her only conclusion will be that they cannot both be translated by the same person. However, proof needs to be based upon something more solid than mere reading, I went to the Web and downloaded the text of the Shelton translations of 1612 and 1620. …

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