John Adams was Thomas Jefferson’s friend – and nemesis – and like Jefferson, he was obsessed with Don Quixote.
In David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book on John Adams we read,
“Another child, Thomas Boylston, was born in September of 1772, and again Adams was off on the ‘vagabond life’ of the circuit, carrying a copy of Don Quixote in his saddlebag and writing Abigail sometimes as many as three letters a day.”
Surviving among John Adams’ books in the Boston Public Library are a six-volume set of Don Quixote in French, (Paris, 1768,) and a four-volume set in Spanish, (Madrid, 1777.)
His son, John Quincy Adams, wrote, “I never can think of a Wind-mill, but what Don Quixote comes into my mind. He used to fight Wind-mills, and if his head had not run so much upon fighting, perhaps he might have built them.”
When John Quincy Adams was president, the American colonies broadened into a new nation. And Miguel Cervantes’ mad, misbegotten nobleman kept steady pace on the bestseller list, offering Americans a path to explore self and society anew.