Robin Chapman, 18 September 1986
According to John Constable, the trouble with self-taught painters was that they had such bad teachers. Creative writing workshops notwithstanding, every novelist is self-taught. An enduring reminder of this is Cervantes’s relationship with his equivocal double masterpiece Don Quixote, and the most persuasive analyst of both book and author remains E.C. Riley, who as long ago as 1962 first alerted us in Cervantes’s Theory of the Novel to what has since become received opinion: that Cervantes was a highly self-conscious literary artist who had to teach himself to write the first modern European novel.