I wish it were possible, to dispense with writing this preface; for that which I put at the beginning of my Don Quixote did not turn out so well for me as to give me any inclination to write another.
The fault lies with a friend of mind — one of many I have made in the course of my life with my heart rather than my head. This friend might well have caused my portrait, which the famous Don Juan de Juaregui would have given him to be engraved and put in the first page of this book, according to custom. By that means he would have gratified my ambition and the wishes of several persons, who would like to know what sort of face and figure has he who makes bold to come before the world with so many works of his own invention.
My friend might have written under the portrait, “This person who you see here, with an oval visage, chestnut hair, smooth open forehead, lively eyes, a hooked but well-proportioned nose, a silvery beard that twenty years ago was golden, large mustaches, a small mouth, teeth not much to speak of, for he has but six, in bad condition and worse placed, no two of them corresponding to each other, a figure midway between the two extremes, neither tall nor short, a vivid complexion, rather fair than dark, somewhat stooped in the shoulders, and not very light-footed: this, I say, is the author of Galatea, Don Quixote de la Mancha, The Journey to Parnassus, which he wrote in imitation of Cesare Caporali Perugia, and other works which are current among the public, and perhaps without the author’s name. He is commonly called Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.
“He was for many years a soldier, and for five years and a half in captivity, where he learned to have patience in adversity. He lost his left hand by a musket-shot in the Battle of Lepanto: and ugly as this wound may appear, he regards it as beautiful, having received it on the most memorable and sublime occasion which past times have ever seen, or future times can hope to equal, fighting under the victorious banners of the son of that thunderbolt of war, Charles V, of blessed memory.”
Should the friend of whom I complain have had nothing more to say of me than this, I would myself have composed a couple of dozen of eulogiums, and communicated them to him in secret, thereby to extend my fame and exalt the credit of my genius; for it would be absurd to expect the exact truth in such matters. We know well that neither praise nor abuse is meted out with strict accuracy.
—Cervantes (Translated by Walter Keating Kelly)
Exemplary Novels (PDF)