Sara Georgini, of the Adams Papers, has written a fascinating post “Men of La Mancha” on the popularity of Cervantes’s novel in early America, for the group blog the Junto. Sara writes that “No other foreign novel seemed to claim the American mind with such fervor until the Civil War”.
The Jays were no different than Adamses, Franklin, and Washington in their love for Don Quixote. While journeying to Madrid in 1780, where John Jay would assume his position as Minister Plenipotentiary to Spain, Sarah Jay wrote her sister Susan:
“When we came to La Mancha we naturally recollected the exploits that had been there atchieved by the renowned knight of the rueful countenance and looked but in vain for those large trees that some time afforded a safe retreat for the affrighted squire.” (28 August 1780).