Don Quixote - Part I (The Author's Preface, page 2 of 7)


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My wish would be simply to present it to thee plain and unadorned,
without any embellishment of preface or uncountable muster of customary
sonnets, epigrams, and eulogies, such as are commonly put at the
beginning of books. For I can tell thee, though composing it cost me some
labour, I found none greater than the making of this Preface thou art now
reading. Many times did I take up my pen to write it, and many did I lay
it down again, not knowing what to write. One of these times, as I was
pondering with the paper before me, a pen in my ear, my elbow on the
desk, and my cheek in my hand, thinking of what I should say, there came
in unexpectedly a certain lively, clever friend of mine, who, seeing me
so deep in thought, asked the reason; to which I, making no mystery of
it, answered that I was thinking of the Preface I had to make for the
story of "Don Quixote," which so troubled me that I had a mind not to
make any at all, nor even publish the achievements of so noble a knight.

"For, how could you expect me not to feel uneasy about what that ancient
lawgiver they call the Public will say when it sees me, after slumbering
so many years in the silence of oblivion, coming out now with all my
years upon my back, and with a book as dry as a rush, devoid of
invention, meagre in style, poor in thoughts, wholly wanting in learning
and wisdom, without quotations in the margin or annotations at the end,
after the fashion of other books I see, which, though all fables and
profanity, are so full of maxims from Aristotle, and Plato, and the whole
herd of philosophers, that they fill the readers with amazement and
convince them that the authors are men of learning, erudition, and
eloquence. And then, when they quote the Holy Scriptures!--anyone would
say they are St. Thomases or other doctors of the Church, observing as
they do a decorum so ingenious that in one sentence they describe a
distracted lover and in the next deliver a devout little sermon that it
is a pleasure and a treat to hear and read. Of all this there will be
nothing in my book, for I have nothing to quote in the margin or to note
at the end, and still less do I know what authors I follow in it, to
place them at the beginning, as all do, under the letters A, B, C,
beginning with Aristotle and ending with Xenophon, or Zoilus, or Zeuxis,
though one was a slanderer and the other a painter. Also my book must do
without sonnets at the beginning, at least sonnets whose authors are
dukes, marquises, counts, bishops, ladies, or famous poets. Though if I
were to ask two or three obliging friends, I know they would give me
them, and such as the productions of those that have the highest
reputation in our Spain could not equal.

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