In 1878 A. J. Duffield, then preparing his translation of Don Quixote (1881), addressed a letter to Notes and Queries:
Thomas Shelton. Could any of your readers furnish me with an account of this old English worthy? He was not only the first translator into English of Don Quixote, but the first of all translators; and it would be a disgrace to us if we cannot discover who he was and what other works he did.
Apparently the risk of national disgrace was an ineffectual stimulus, for three years later H. E. Watts, whose own translation followed Duffield's in 1886, also sent a query to the same journal: ‘Who was Thomas Shelton, the first translator of Don Quixote, and where is any information to be got of him?’ These were the first occasions in the two and a half centuries since his translation appeared in London in 1612 that any one had publicly expressed any curiosity about Thomas Shelton.