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Thomas Shelton, Translator of Don Quixote

  • Edwin B. Knowles (a1)


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.



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1 4th Series, XI, 195, and 5th Series, VI, 388.

2 Thomas Shelton, Translator (London, 1898).

3 Thomas Shelton, Tachygrapher (London, 1896), also privately printed. For a late example of the confusion of these two Sheltons see Whitaker, M. C., A History of the Shelton Family of England and America (St. Louis, 1941), p. 26.

4 The main collections are at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, and the Archives of the Diocese of Westminster, London. References to Verstegan abound in the Domestic and Flanders State Papers. See The Catholic Encyclopedia and Rombauts, Edward, Richard Verstegen, een polemist der contra-reformatie (Brussels, 1933).

5 Calendar of Ancient Records of Dublin, ed. J. T. Gilbert (Dublin, 1891), Vols. I & II; Visitations, Vol. II, No. 48 (Dublin, 1607), Genealogical Office, Dublin Castle; Trinity College, Dublin, MSS. F.4.18, F.3.2, 1.1.3; Harris, Walter, The History and Antiquities of the City of Dublin (Dublin, 1766), pp. 503 ff.; Berry, Henry E., ‘Minute Book of the Corporation of Dublin, Known as the Friday Book, 1576-1611’, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy XXX (1913), Sec. c, No. 21, pp. 11 ff.

6 William Farmer, Chronicles of Ireland, Harleian MS. 3544, British Museum; Hist. MSS. Comm., Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Marquis of Salisbury, VIII, 412; Calendar of State Papers, Ireland, CCII, Pt. 3, 135.

7 Cal. S.P.I. CCII, Pt. 4, 33.

8 Ibid, CCVII, Pt. 2, 63.

9 Ibid, CCII, Pt. 3, 135; Hist. MSS. Comm., Calendar Salisbury MSS. VII, 218.

10 Pedigrees, XVII, 383, and Funeral Entries, 1, 64, Gen. Off., Dublin Castle. The Earl of Essex knew Father Nangle (Cal.S.P.I. ccv, 210) and Sir John Harington met him on his visit to Tyrone's headquarters in the fall of 1599 (Nugae antiquae, ed. 1792, II, 3).

11 Cal.S.P.I. CCVII, Pt. 4, 72. Richard Stanyhurst also contributed a poem to Verstegan's Restitution.

12 Archivo General de Simancas, ‘Secretario de Estado’, Leg. 236: ‘Richardo Nugento vase para españa, a besar de vra mag.d las manos y a emplearse en su real servicio, que por quedar su padre en prision no oso servir a vrã mag.d aqui porque no usen de mas crueldad con su padre, es cavallero muy principal ‘ Tyrconnel's letter is in the same legajo.

13 Archives Générales du Royaume, Brussels, ‘Secretaire D'État et de Guerre, Registre des Patentes … Concemant les Trouppes', xx, 66. The order from Archduke Albert is dated ‘siete de junio 1601'.

14 Cal.S.P.I. CCVIII, Pt. 3, 24; copies, substantially the same, are in Carew MSS. at Lambeth Palace, ed. Brewer and Bullen, in, 523; Cambridge University Library, MSS. Letters Concerning Ireland, K.K.1.15, and Stafford, Pacata Hibernia, 1633 (ed. of London, 1846), P-169).

15 Hist. MSS. Comm., Cal. Salisbury MSS. XI, 238.

16 The Whole Works of Sir James Ware concerning Ireland, Translated into English by Walter Harris, Esq. (Dublin, 1764), p. 252; see also Rev. Brady, John, ‘Christopher Cusack and the Irish College of Douai', Miscellany of Historical and Linguistic Studies in Honour of Brother Michael O Cléirigh, O.F.M., ed.Sylvester O'Briea, O.F.M. (Dublin, 1944), p. 101 .

17 See A Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London (London, 1876), III, no. 110.

18 Pp. D3v and D4r For my lead to this ‘unknown’ poem of Shelton's I am indebted to the unpublished bibliography of dedicatory poems compiled by Prof. F. B. Williams of Georgetown University. Only two copies of the Cynthia are known, one in the Henry E. Huntington Library and one in the British Museum. The book is only 28 pages in length.

19 Brady, , op. cit., p. 109 , who cites Vatican MSS., Archivo Particolare, 89.

20 ‘Cuanto a Thomaso Sheltone, intendo, ch'egli ha viuvio alcuni anni in Fiandra sempre in concetto d'honorato gentilhuomo, e che suo padre doppo esser stato none anno continui in priggione per sa fede Cattolica, mori nelle carceri molto cattolicamente; e che un suo fratillo su fatto morire, perche tente di far’ impadronire il Conte di Tirone del Castillo di Dublin. Queste cose ni vengono amrmate dello Sheltone….’ (Vatican Library, MSS. Barberini-Latini, 6806, 75). The other two letters are in MSS. 8626, 11 and 53. See also Giblin, Catholdus, O.F.M., ‘Vatican Library: A Guide to the Material of Irish Interest on Microfilm in the National Library', Archivium Hibernicum XVIII (1955), pp. 67 ff., and Brady, loc. cit.

21 Hist. MSS. Comm., Report on the Manuscripts of the Marquess of Downshire (London, 1938), in, 236.

22 Public Record Office, State Papers, Flanders, 77/10, Pt. 1, 177. These letters are indexed and bound but not yet calendared.

23 Trumbull MSS., Miscellaneous Correspondence, Vol. v, No. 55. The Downshire Papers are in the Shire Library, Reading; all quotations are made with the kind permission of the Marquess of Downshire and the assistance of Peter Walne, M.A., archivist. A more extensive discussion of Shelton's letters per se by Mr. J. George of Aberdeen University will appear during 1958 in the Bulletin of Hispanic Studies. Since Mr. George's emphasis is quite different from mine, and since each of us arrived at the letters unaware of the other, we have agreed that there is room for both articles.

24 Ibid., No. 80.

25 British Museum, Stowe MSS., 174, No. 164 (Vol. IX, Edmondes Papers).

26 Trumbull MSS., v, No. 129.

27 Ibid., No. 139.

28 Ibid., No. 34.

29 Ibid., No. no.

30 Ibid., No. 120.

31 Ibid., VI, No. 100.

32 ‘El portador, fray Thomas Shelton, natural de Dublin, yo le recebí al hábito, y es virtuosico ab infantia, y porque no tenemos sujetos naturales de Dublin, suppliqué al padre provincial de diese obedientia para essa santa casa; supplico a vuestra paternidad le admitta, que espero merezerá le estimen’ (Wadding Papers, ed. Brandon Jennings, O.F.M., Dublin, 1953. P. 320).

33 ‘Catalogus Alumnorum Hibernorum qui ab initio hujus salamantini seminarij & collegij numero ascribuntur olim Valesoleti inchoati translati vero salamanticam iussu regiae majestatis Philipi Secundi. 20 Augusti anno D. 1597. esta este Catalogo trasladado al Libro.’ I am indebted to Fr. Benignus Millet, O.F.M., archivist, Convent of Dún Mhuire, Killiney, County Dublin, for the translation and for assistance with the Franciscan records in his care.

34 At Valladolid the Matricula volumes for the years 1590 to 1619 are lost. The records at Salamanca are more complete, but the volume for 1588-1589 of the Matricula de los studiantes is lacking, and, more painful, sixteen pages of the names of ‘grammaticas’ are gone from the 1596-1597 volume.

35 See F. P. Wilson, ‘Court Payments for Plays', Bodleian Library Record v (1955). Dr. David Cook, of London University, has kindly sent me a complete list of the payments to this Thomas Shelton, which will appear in his forthcoming book on the Declared Accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber.

36 Harvey, , Visitation of Norfolk (Norfolk Arch. Soc., 1891), II, 345 , and Whitaker, loc. cit.


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