Don Quixote - Part I (The Author's Preface, page 1 of 5)

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Idle reader: thou mayest believe me without any oath that I would this
book, as it is the child of my brain, were the fairest, gayest, and
cleverest that could be imagined. But I could not counteract Nature's law
that everything shall beget its like; and what, then, could this sterile,
illtilled wit of mine beget but the story of a dry, shrivelled, whimsical
offspring, full of thoughts of all sorts and such as never came into any
other imagination--just what might be begotten in a prison, where every
misery is lodged and every doleful sound makes its dwelling?
Tranquillity, a cheerful retreat, pleasant fields, bright skies,
murmuring brooks, peace of mind, these are the things that go far to make
even the most barren muses fertile, and bring into the world births that
fill it with wonder and delight. Sometimes when a father has an ugly,
loutish son, the love he bears him so blindfolds his eyes that he does
not see his defects, or, rather, takes them for gifts and charms of mind
and body, and talks of them to his friends as wit and grace. I,
however--for though I pass for the father, I am but the stepfather to
"Don Quixote"--have no desire to go with the current of custom, or to
implore thee, dearest reader, almost with tears in my eyes, as others do,
to pardon or excuse the defects thou wilt perceive in this child of mine.
Thou art neither its kinsman nor its friend, thy soul is thine own and
thy will as free as any man's, whate'er he be, thou art in thine own
house and master of it as much as the king of his taxes and thou knowest
the common saying, "Under my cloak I kill the king;" all which exempts
and frees thee from every consideration and obligation, and thou canst
say what thou wilt of the story without fear of being abused for any ill
or rewarded for any good thou mayest say of it.

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.

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