Don Quixote de la Mancha

By Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra; Charles Jarvis et al. | Go to book overview

THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE

You may believe me without an oath, gentle reader, that I wish this book, as the child of my brain, were the most beautiful, the most sprightly, and the most ingenious, that can be imagined. But I could not control the order of nature, whereby each thing engenders its like: and therefore what could my sterile and uncultivated genius produce, but the history of a child, meagre, adust, and whimsical, full of various wild imaginations, never thought of before; like one you may suppose born in a prison,* where every inconvenience keeps its residence, and every dismal sound its habitation? Whereas repose of body, a desirable situation, unclouded skies, and above all, a mind at ease, can make the most barren Muses fruitful, and produce such offsprings to the world, as fill it with wonder and content. It often falls out, that a parent has an ugly child, without any good quality; and yet fatherly fondness claps such a bandage over his eyes, that he cannot see its defects: on the contrary, he takes them for wit and pleasantry, and recounts them to his friends for smartness and humour. But I, though I seem to be the father, being really but the step-father of Don Quixote, will not go down with the stream of custom, nor beseech you, almost as it were with tears in my eyes, as others do, dearest reader, to pardon or dissemble the faults you shall discover in this my child. You are neither his kinsman nor friend; you have your soul in your body, and your will as free as the bravest of them all, and are as much lord and master of your own house, as the king of his subsidies, and know the common saying, 'Under my cloak, a fig for the king'. All which exempts and frees you from every regard and obligation: and therefore you may say of this history whatever you think fit, without fear of being calumniated for the evil, or rewarded for the good you shall say of it.

Only I would give it you neat and naked, without the ornament of a preface, or the rabble and catalogue of the accustomed sonnets, epigrams, and encomiums, that are wont to be placed at the beginning of books. For, let me tell you, though it cost me some pains to write it, I reckoned none greater than the writing of this preface you are now reading. I often took pen in hand, and as often laid it down, not knowing what to say: and once upon a time, being in deep

-15-

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