Who Wrote Don Quixote?
Sancho Panza & Don Quixote meet "Cid Hamete Benengeli"
"If a man will begin with certainties,
he will end in doubts;
but if he will be content to begin with doubts,
he will end in certainties."--Sir Francis Bacon
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England, in the opinion
of the French historian, Roger de Manvel, "Has held Cervantes to her
heart as though he were her very own son. Don Quixote is
certainly an un-Spanish book in many ways."1
England was the first country to produce a complete version of the book in a foreign language, and it was the English in the seventeenth century, not the Spaniards, who most keenly read and used stories from the work in their own writings. For two and a half centuries Spain treated Cervantes and Don Quixote with disdain. It was not until 1738 that a critical study of the author appeared, and only two more studies were published in the eighteenth century, in 1780 and 1798. The first Spanish biography of Cervantes, by Gregorio Mayans, appeared in 1738, one hundred and twenty-two years after his death, a commission by Lord Carteret, the English Secretary of State. It was only in the second half of the nineteenth century that Spaniards began to appreciate this masterpiece. In a study of Don Quixote, edited by M. J. Bernadete and A. Flores, published in 1932, the editors began their work with the admission that it was only in the last thirty years that the Spaniards "have rediscovered Cervantes."2
With justification Spaniards have seen Don Quixote as a caricature of many of their national traits. Understanding these feelings of hurt pride, de Hanvel thought it strange that this book is the work of a Spaniard. "I do not doubt, " he declared, "that there are some who would receive with great satisfaction a proof that the author was an Irishman."
What evidence is there that Miguel de Cervantes wrote Don Quixote? There is no manuscript, no letter, no diary, no will, no document that proves that he wrote this masterpiece. There is no portrait, no marked grave, and no record of any payment for it, although it became popular during his lifetime. What do we know about Thomas Shelton, whose translation has won the praise of literary historians ever since it appeared in England in 1612? What do we know of Cid Hamet Benengeli, the Arab historian, who, we are told by Cervantes, is the real author?
What does it matter you may ask. It matters for two very important reasons. Research leads us to the real author -- and it solves the Shakespeare authorship question.
Isn't Cervantes the real author of Don Quixote? I have recently completed a book, entitled Who Wrote Don Quixote?, in which I give evidence on every page that this work was written not by a Spaniard, but by an Englishman, Francis Bacon.
When someone makes a claim which sounds absurd, ridiculous, impossible, he should immediately put forward historical facts which demonstrate that he may, after all, be correct.
What do we know about Cervantes? We know the date
of his death -- April 23, 1616. A familiar date, the date of
Shakespeare's death. The two dates are the same, in the records; but
as the English calendar differed by ten days, Cervantes died, in the
English calendar, on April 13. No friar or nun, no member of
Cervantes' family, no friend took the trouble to mark his grave. He
never lived in the house now shown to tourists as his own in
Esquivias, and Catalina, his wife, never owned any property in the
street named after her, Calle de Dona Catalina. The house where
Cervantes was born, in Alcala de Henares, was pulled down in 1955.
Over and over again in Don Quixote -- 33 times in fact -- we
are told that the real author is an Arab historian, Cid Hamet
Benengeli. There is no such person. Cid is a Spanish title, a lord;
it is a word of high esteem. Hamet is one letter short of Hamlet; Ben
is Hebrew for son, Engeli could mean of England. I will not take you
into the complicated world of cipher, but the simplest of all ciphers
is the numerical one, in which A is 1, B is 2, C is 3 - and so on.
(but counting I and J both as 9, as was done in those days). If you
turn BACON into a number, using this cipher, it would be 2,1,3,14,13,
which, added up, makes 33. Why repeat 33 times in a single novel that
the real author is a non-existent historian with a strange name?
Another non-existent person is Thomas Shelton, the first translator of Don Quixote. There is no trace of a man with this name at that time -- 1605, when Quixote first appeared in Madrid, or in 1612 when it was published in London. Again we are given a fictitious name. Why?
On May 11, 1606, only a few months after Don Quixote was published in Madrid, Dudley Carleton wrote to John Chamberlain telling him that Francis Bacon had married Alice Barnham. Two sentences further on he wrote:
I send you Don Quixote's challenge, which is translated into all languages, and sent into the wide world.3
What do we know about the mysterious translator, Thomas Shelton? We have only one letter from him, which he placed at the beginning of his version of Don Quixote. It tells us something of great importance, in the first sentence:
Having Translated some five or six years ago, The Historie of Don Quixote, in the space of forty days . . .
The book was registered in London in January 1611.
Shelton in this letter says that he wrote his version, or his
translation, five or six years ago, which takes us back to 1605.
Don Quixote in Spanish was published in Madrid in January
1605. And, of course, Shelton does not expect us to accept that he
wrote the English version -- over 500 pages in forty days. He means
us to look deeper into the whole question of authorship.
On the first page of the Author's Preface to the Reader, Cervantes tells us that he is not the author; he is "the stepfather." This is the only book of any language which has been disowned by the man who is supposed to be its author.
Many indications, many clues, are found in the text itself. I have found seventy quotations in Don Quixote which appear in the works of Francis Bacon, or Shakespeare -- or both.
One swallow does not make a summer.
All is not gold that glisters.
He that gives quickly, gives twice.
God and St. George!
Might overcomes right.
He that is warned is half armed.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Look not a given horse in the mouth.
The weakest go to the wall.
Comparisons are odious.
The nearer the Church, the further from God
the golden age
Murder will out.
The naked truth.
I was born free.
Walls have ears.
Time out of mind.
But why the secrecy? Why should any man take the
trouble to write a novel and pretend that it was written by a
foreigner, and allow it to be published first in a foreign
It is a question that is not easily answered. All we can do is place Don Quixote in its correct setting, among the other great masterpieces produced in Europe at this time, the great Shakespeare plays. What plainly emerges from this juxtaposition, is the European -- not just English -- dimension. The greatest, most famous play about Scotland is Macbeth. The greatest plays about Italy are Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice and Othello, the Moor of Venice. The greatest play about ancient Rome is Julius Caesar. The greatest play about ancient Egypt is Antony and Cleopatra. The greatest play about Denmark is Hamlet. These seven plays were written by the same man, and many believe they were written under a pen-name. One leading European nation is conspicuous by its absence in this catalogue of masterpieces. There is no world-famous play about Spain, which is on the same level of genius as the plays just mentioned; but there is one great novel about Spain which is just as famous throughout the world--Don Quixote. The hero, everyone agrees, is not a typical Spaniard, but the setting is Spain, and with this masterpiece Spain is placed firmly on the literary map of Europe.
Before rejecting the possibility that Bacon wrote both Quixote and the Shakespeare plays, I would ask you to take one very important fact into consideration.
Shakespeare and Cervantes were contemporaries. Geniuses are very rare birds. Only a handful have appeared in the whole history of the human race. When two appear at the the same time, we should pay special attention, because this happens so very rarely. Imagine living in Vienna in the latter part of the 18th Century, when Mozart and Haydn were both composing and performing! Or in the early 16th Century, when Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were painting in Florence.
In the early 17th Century we could meet Shakespeare and Cervantes. But they never met. Four writers have put pen to paper to see if some sort of connection can be found. They have all failed. Anthony Burgess wrote a short story, entitled A Meeting in Valladolid, in which Shakespeare comes to Spain and meets Cervantes. (The Devil's Mode, 1989). Pure fiction, of course. Charles Hamilton, the American scholar, has written a short chapter on the two writers in his new edition of what he thinks is the anonymous play, Cardenio, which was put on in London in 1612. He finds no connection. Salvador de Madariaga, the Spanish author, brings the two men closer to each other by finding many links between Hamlet and Don Quixote: Carlos Fuentes, the Mexican novelist and critic, goes as far, in Myself with Others, to say
It is stated that perhaps Cervantes and Shakespeare were the same man.
I can read your thoughts. How in heaven's name can
one man write not only all the 37 Shakespeare plays and Don
Quixote? The man who wrote Hamlet and King Lear was
able to write other masterpieces. If he wrote a novel, we would
expect it to be in the same category. In adding Don Quixote to
the great output of the author of the Shakespeare plays we are not
asking too much of him, any more than the Archbishop of Salzburg was
asking when he commissioned Mozart to write yet another Mass. Don
Quixote is a long novel, over 900 pages; but quantity, as well as
quality, is a feature of the works of great minds which should be
considered. Haydn wrote one hundred and four symphonies; Mozart wrote
forty-one, and 27 piano concertos. The letters of the great
letter-writing genius, Horace Walpole, fill forty-seven volumes. If
the author of Hamlet wrote Don Quixote, then this novel
is just one more masterpiece from his pen.
Not one Spanish or English critic has given any real thought to the importance of the date of Don Quixote-- 1605. The long and bitter war with Spain was over. Writers in Spain vented their wrath on England in poetry and prose. Here is another reason for Bacon's anonymity. Quixote appeared in Madrid in 1605, only six years after the Fourth Armada -- after the 1588 Armada, Spain tried three more times to invade us.
If it bore the name of an English author, everyone would have been understandably prejudiced against it. As it was, Don Quixote took a long time to win the lasting admiration of the Spaniards. If it had carried an English name on its title page, it would immediately have aroused hostility among critics and the general public.
Allowing a Spanish author to present this novel as his own work, Bacon gave this subtly pro-English book the best possible chance of being read and accepted in Spain without prejudice.
Don Quixote, in fact, should be regarded as an instrument of reconciliation between Spain and England, two great countries kept apart by war and the threat of war for five decades. Now was the time for peace and goodwill, a policy that James I keenly pursued.
At the same time, in England, Don Quixote, read and enjoyed by a large public in the 17th Century, acted in the same way as a healer of the wide gulf between the two countries, as there is nothing in the book that is hostile towards Spain; and nothing is said about Spanish hatred of the English.
-- Francis Carr
Here is a final clue which will, I think, at least make you think that perhaps I am right. As in Midsummer Night's Dream, this is a bottom story.
In the story of Sancho Panza's whipping -- panza is Spanish for belly -- near the end of the novel, the number 33 is twice put in quite unnecessarily. As already mentioned, 33 is the number produced by adding together the five letters of Bacon's name. There are 33 Masonic degrees and Bacon was the leading thirty-three degree Mason in England at that time. Quixote believed Sancho's story that the beautiful Dulcinea de Tobosa had been transformed into a coarse-looking peasant girl. While Quixote and Panza are staying at the Duke's comfortable castle, they are tricked into believing that Merlin -- the English wizard -- proclaimed that the only way that Dulcinea could regain her former beautiful figure and face was to subject Sancho to a prolonged beating. The amount of lashes he is to suffer is not a mere fifty or a hundred, but 3,300 -- 33 hundred. Why this particular number?
He only agrees to this painful humiliation when Quixote promises to pay him the sum of 825 reals. This would amount, Panza says, to "3,300 pieces of three blankes," the coins that he would be paid for each stroke.
Once again we have this Baconian signature -- 33.