Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes is my favorite book of all time. Dream the
impossible dream. Follow Don Quixote along with his faithful sidekick Sancho as
they tilt at windmills and search out heroic deeds to accomplish in the name of
the fair Dulcinia. Should a bar maid’s life be valued any less than a
lady’s? Miguel de Cervantes may have reached the unreachable star!
His book lives on after over 400 years.
The history of our English translations of "Don Quixote" is instructive. Shelton's, the first in any language, was made, apparently, about 1608, but not published till 1612. This of course was only the First Part. It has been asserted that the Second, published in 1620, is not the work of Shelton, but there is nothing to support the assertion save the fact that it has less spirit, less of what we generally understand by "go," about it than the first, which would be only natural if the first were the work of a young man writing currente calamo, and the second that of a middle-aged man writing for a bookseller. On the other hand, it is closer and more literal, the style is the same, the very same translations, or mistranslations, occur in it, and it is extremely unlikely that a new translator would, by suppressing his name, have allowed Shelton to carry off the credit.In 1687 John Phillips, Milton's nephew, produced a "Don Quixote" "made English," he says, "according to the humour of our modern language." His "Quixote" is not so much a translation as a travesty, and a travesty that for coarseness, vulgarity, and buffoonery is almost unexampled even in the literature of that day.But it is, after all, the humour of "Don Quixote" that distinguishes it from all other books of the romance kind. It is this that makes it, as one of the most judicial-minded of modern critics calls it, "the best novel in the world beyond all comparison." It is its varied humour, ranging from broad farce to comedy as subtle as Shakespeare's or Moliere's that has naturalised it in every country where there are readers, and made it a classic in every language that has a literature.