Don Quixote de la Mancha

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

PREFACE TO THE READER

BLESS me! with what impatience, gentle, or (it may be) simple reader, must you now be waiting for this preface, expecting to find in it resentments, railings, and invectives against the author of the second Don Quixote; him I mean, who, it is said, was begotten in Tordesillas, and born in Tarragona!* But, in truth, it is not my design to give you that satisfaction; for though injuries are apt to awaken choler in the humblest breasts, yet in mine this rule must admit of an exception. You would have me, perhaps, call him ass, madman, and coxcomb: but I have no such design. Let his own sin be his punishment; let him chew upon it, and there let it rest.

But what I cannot bear resenting is, that he upbraids me with my age, and with having lost my hand; as if it were in my power to have hindered time from passing over my head, or as if my maim had been got in some drunken quarrel at a tavern, and not on the noblest occasion* that past or present ages have seen, or future can ever hope to see. If my wounds do not reflect a lustre in the eyes of those who barely behold them, they will, however, be esteemed by those who know how I came by them; for a soldier makes a better figure dead in battle, than alive and at liberty, in running away: and I am so firmly of this opinion, that could an impossibility be rendered practicable, and the same opportunity recalled, I would rather be again present in that prodigious action, than whole and sound without sharing in the glory of it. The scars a soldier shows in his face and breast, are stars which guide others to the haven of honour, and to the desire of just praise. And it must be observed that men do not write with grey hairs, but with the understanding, which is usually improved by years.

I have also heard that he taxes me with envy, and describes to me, as to a mere ignorant, what it is; and, in good truth, of the two kinds of envy, I am acquainted only with that which is sacred, noble, and well-meaning. And this being so, as it really is, I am not inclined to reflect on any ecclesiastic, especially if he is besides dignified with the title of a Familiar of the Inquisition: and if he said what he did for the sake of that person,* from whom he seems to have said it, he is utterly mistaken; for I adore that gentleman's genius, and admire

-465-

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