Miguel de Cervantes
Prologue to the Reader
I would have preferred, had it been possible, Dearest Reader, not to write this Prologue: the one I put in my Don Quijote was not such a success that I am anxious to follow it with another. The blame lies with a friend of mine, one of many I have
acquired over the years, more by luck than judgment, who could well have engraved my portrait on the title-page of this book,
as is the custom, since the celebrated Juan de Jáuregui had given him my likeness. With that, my ambition would have been
satisfied, as too would the desire of anyone keen to know what he looks like, this man who dares to display his inventions
and submit them to public gaze in the market-place of the world. All he had to do was write under the portrait:
"This man you see here, with aquiline face, chestnut hair, smooth, unwrinkled brow, joyful eyes and curved though well-proportioned
nose; silvery beard which not twenty years ago was golden, large moustache, small mouth, teeth neither small nor large, since
he has only six, and those are in poor condition and worse alignment; of middling height, neither tall nor short, fresh-faced,
rather fair than dark; somewhat stooping and none too light on his feet; this, I say, is the likeness of the author of La Galatea and Don Quijote de la Mancha, and of him who wrote the Viaje del Parnaso, after the one by Cesare Caporali di Perusa, and other stray works that may have wandered off without their owner's name.
He is commonly called Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. He was many years a soldier, five and a half a prisoner, when he learned
patience in adversity. He lost his left hand in the naval battle of Lepanto, from a blunderbuss wound, which, although it
looks ugly, he considers beautiful, since he collected it in the greatest and most memorable event that past centuries have
ever seen or those to come may hope to see, fighting beneath the victorious banners of the son of that glorious warrior, Charles
V of happy memory."
And if the memory of my friend, of whom I complain, had failed to come up with anything more to say about me than the above,
I would have put together a couple of dozen testimonials and passed them to him on the quiet so that he could extend my renown
and bear witness to my inventiveness. For it is foolish to imagine that such eulogies tell the exact truth, as praise and
vituperation have no fixed abode.
In the event, for that opportunity was lost and I have been left blank and unillustrated, I shall have to make do with my
tongue, which, though tied, will be quick enough to tell home truths, which are wont to be understood even in the language
of signs. And so I say again, Gentle Reader, that you cannot make a fricassee with these novels I now offer you, for they
have no feet, nor head, nor entrails, nor anything of the kind; by which I mean that the sweet nothings you will find in some
of them are so proper and so seasoned with reason and Christian discourse, that they could not provoke anyone who might read
them, careless or otherwise, into evil thoughts.
I have called them Exemplary, and if you look closely, you will see that there is not one from which you cannot extract some profitable example; and if
it were not for the fact that it would make this over-long, perhaps I would show you the delicious and wholesome fruit which
could be pulled both from the collection as a whole and from each one alone.
My intention was to set up in the main square of our society a billiard table, where anyone could come and have fun without
snookering anyone else; that is, without harming body or soul, for honest and agreeable exercise is of benefit rather than
After all, we cannot always be in church; the oratories are not always occupied; we cannot always being doing business, no
matter how important it is. There is time for recreation, when the tormented spirit can rest.
That is why poplar groves are planted, springs are made into fountains, slopes are levelled and gardens created in wonderful
designs. One thing I will venture to say, and that is that if by any chance it should happen that the reading of these novels
might lead my readers into evil thoughts or desires, I would rather cut off the hand with which I wrote them than have them
published. At my time of life I cannot afford to mess around with the hereafter, for at fifty-five I might have nine years
left, and I could still beat them to it.
So I have applied my imagination to the end to which my natural inclination leads me. And there is one more thing I would
make clear, and that is that I am the first to write novels in Castilian, for the many novels which have appeared in print
are all translated from foreign tongues, and these are my very own, neither imitated nor stolen; they were conceived in my
imagination, given birth by my pen, and are being nurtured in the arms of the printing press. After them, if life does not
abandon me, I will offer you the Trabajos de Persiles, a book which dares to compete with Heliodorus, if, indeed, it does not overreach itself and fall on its face; and first
you will see very shortly the further exploits of Don Quixote and more quips from Sancho Panza, and then the Semanas del jardín.
This is a lot to promise with strength as weak as mine; but who can put a rein on desire? I would only wish you to consider
this: that since I have been bold enough to dedicate these novels to the Count of Lemos, they must contain some hidden mystery
which elevates them to that level.
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Enough, except to say may God keep you and give me patience to suffer sharp remarks and starchy comments. Vale.
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