The Chronicles of Don Q.

By Kate and Hesketh Prichard

The Chronicles of Don Q from 1904
The Chronicles of Don Q
J. B. Lippincott, 1904
Illustration by Stanley L. Wood

The kingdoms of England and Spain emerged as the first true "world powers" in the sixteenth century, competing with each other on land and sea for the riches of the Americas and for political influence in Europe; the two nations would remain bitter rivals for almost a hundred years, their rivalry intensified to outright enmity by England's Protestantism and Spain's Catholicism. One of the minor consequences of this international power struggle was the creation of a literary stereotype—the ruthlessly cruel, suavely sophisticated, and highly intelligent Spanish aristocrat—that was heavily exploited by English writers of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, before the two World Wars turned the Germans into the new stock villains of the English-speaking world.

Most of these outrageously diabolical Spanish villains appeared in historical novels set during the greatest era of Spanish-English rivalry, the second half of the sixteenth century (examples include Charles Kingsley's Westward Ho and H. Rider Haggard's Lysbeth). However, the gentleman-bandit Don Q, one of the last notable representatives of the species, was placed in a much later era (the 1830s, to be exact) when he made his debut in an 1897 Badminton Magazine story called "The Parole of Gevil-Hay"—the first of many "chronicles" of Don Q.

Hesketh Vernon Hesketh-Prichard
Early 1900s

Before introducing you to Don Q, let me say a few words about his creators. One of them, Major Hesketh Vernon Hesketh-Prichard (1876-1922) was, among other things, an international reporter and war correspondent, an explorer, a big-game hunter, a prominent conservationist, a skilled cricketer, and an expert marksman who was placed in charge of training England's sniper squads during World War 1. He also found the time to write many novels and magazine stories—several of them (including the Don Q tales) in collaboration with his mother, Kate O'Brien Ryall Prichard (1851-1935).

The earlier Don Q stories were originally credited to the pseudonymous "E. and H. Herron," but had been openly acknowledged as the work of the Prichards by the time they came out with their full-length Don Q novel, Don Q's Love Story, in 1907. As the latter title might indicate, Don Q underwent noticeable development as the Prichards continued to chronicle his adventures; in his first appearance, he was in most regards the epitome of the evil Spaniard character mentioned above—but was a given a courage and a sense of honor that made him more than a simple villain.

Had Don Q continued to be portrayed in this fashion, he'd occupy a literary niche alongside two later foreign villains—Sax Rohmer's Chinese master criminal Dr. Fu Manchu and Valentine Williams" German spy Dr. Adolph "Clubfoot" Grundt, both of whom were unspeakably heinous but were also admirably brave and even honorable in their own fashion. However, Don Q developed beyond either of these figures; as his magazine stories proceeded, the Prichards turned him into a sort of antihero who took on antagonists more reprehensible than himself and avenged offenses against the peasantry—a more sinister version of Robin Hood or the later Zorro.

Don Q's Love Story, a novel that served as both a prequel and a conclusion to the Don Q short stories, transformed the Don even further, turning him into a romantic hero and finally having him end his life of banditry. This book was purchased from Kate Prichard after Major Prichard’s death by Douglas Fairbanks Sr., who was seeking a swashbuckling follow-up to his popular Mark of Zorro film. A loose adaptation of Don Q's Love Story came to theatres in 1925—under the unexpected title of Don Q, Son of Zorro.

Dan Neyer
March, 2014
Introduction © 2014 by Dan Neyer
L.-Don Q. 1904 R.-Don Q. 1909

A note on the text: By the time the first set of Don Q stories were collected in book form as The Chronicles of Don Q (1904), the Prichards had already modified their devilish bandit enough that they apparently felt the need to make several alterations to the original text of the stories—particularly when it came to Don Q's physical description, which had become less unflattering as the stories progressed. Our texts of the initial six stories are taken from their first American printings in Pearson's Magazine, and retain Don Q in his original grotesque form.

Editor's Note: As an enhancement to the restored text, we are also presenting the Don Q. stories in an "instant translation" version. Instructions for using the translation function can be found as an "Editor's Note" with the individual stories.

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