Eça de Queirós (1845-1900)

Eça de Queirós is the most representative writer of Portuguese realism. In his novels and short stories he portrays diverse aspects of Portuguese society, showing its shortcomings and defects. His detailed and profound treatment of issues associated with religion and the church, the family structure, education, and the political and economic life of nineteenth-century Portugal have earned him respect as a gifted prose writer both in Portugal and abroad.


José Maria Eça de Queirós was born on 25 November 1845 in Póvoa de Varzim. He was registered as the natural son of the magistrate José de Almeida Teixeira de Queirós. His mother's name, Carolina Augusta Pereira de Eça, does not appear on the birth certificate, probably because she and Queirós's father did not marry until four years after his birth. Queirós spent those years with his godmother, Ana Joaquina Leal de Barros. After his parents' marriage he was moved to his paternal grandparents' house in Verdemilho, where he lived until 1855. The local priest, António Gonçalves Bartolomeu, taught him to read and write.

When his paternal grandmother, Teodora Joaquina, died in 1855, Queirós was sent to the boarding school Colégio de Nossa Senhora da Lapa in Porto. This school, considered one of the best at that time, was directed by Joaquim da Costa Ramalho, father of writer José Duarte Ramalho Ortigão, who was a French teacher at the school. Even though Ramalho Ortigão was nine years older than Queirós, the two developed a lasting friendship. During his years at the school, Queirós demonstrated a gift for writing, which pleased his father.

Between 1858 and 1861 Queiros's father served as the judge in two scandalous trials. The first involved the powerful count of Bolhão, who was accused of making counterfeit money. The strict magistrate found him guilty, but the count's political allies had the ruling overturned. The second case involved his friend, the writer Camilo Castelo Branco, who was accused of committing adultery with Ana Plácido. The judge was forced to rule against his friend, who was eventually absolved of the crime. Before being released, however, the couple was held for several months in prison. Upset with these two cases, the judge moved from Porto to Vila França de Xira. These events occurred about the time Queirós began law school at the University of Coimbra. The future writer became disillusioned with the immorality of society and the fragility of the juridical system, subjects his father addressed in a letter to the king.

In 1861 Queirós began his studies at the University of Coimbra, where he met Teófilo Braga and Antero de Quental. The academic atmosphere at the time was agitated, since the students were unhappy with the strict policies of the dean, Basílio Alberto de Souza Pinto. The students created a secret society to combat his despotism; they called themselves the Sociedade do Raio (The Ray Society), and their most eloquent representative was Quental. Two years later, in 1863, the dean submitted his resignation.

Queirós did not belong to the Sociedade do Raio, but he signed their protests. A shy individual, he accomplished his academic work without enthusiasm. He read many works, including novels and French poetry. His preferred authors were Victor Hugo, Alfred de Musset, Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire, and Heinrich Heine. He liked to recite passages from those authors' works for his friends, interpreting them with gestures as if he were on stage. His dramatic abilities, inherited from his father's family (his uncle Fernando José Queirós was a famous actor), led him in October 1863 to the university theater. At the Teatro Acadêmico he was able to overcome some of his shyness.

The theatrical sessions were filled with discussions on art and literature and were often accompanied by dinners of fried fish and wine. Queirós had a voracious appetite and over the years developed intestinal problems. Some of his biographers consider these problems to be the first manifestations of his intestinal tuberculosis. He also participated in the bohemian life in Coimbra. In 1863 he moved from José Doria's house on the Rua do Loureiro to a room at 16 Rua do Salvador, where he lived until he finished his studies. There he received his friends for serious debates on philosophy and art. Around this time Queirós met Carlos de Lima Mayer, a rich man who became his friend for life. Mayer later moved to Paris during Queirós's assignment as consul in that city.

Like many of his classmates, Queirós had a profound appreciation for Quental, whom he called "Saint Antero." He got to know him in 1864 during a student movement against the government. The group was called Rolinada, taken from the surname Rolim of the duke of Loulé, the head of the government. Quental's work Bom senso e bom gosto (Good Sense and Good Taste, 1865) was the catalyst for the "Questão Coimbrã" (Coimbra Affair), in which he defended a new approach to art: realism. The Questão Coimbrã began in 1865 when the author, translator, journalist, and professor of literature Pinheiro Chagas published Poema da Juventude (Poem of Youth). A postscript to the poem by António Feliciano de Castilho, one of the first Romantics in Portugal, referred derogatorily to the writers Antero de Quental, Teófilo Braga, and Antonio Manuel Lopez Vieira de Castro. Quental responded in a pamphlet, and the quarrel that became the Questão Coimbrã began. Proponents of an arcadian aesthetic and Romantic literature, led by Castilho, fought against the scientific and realistic spirit. This new generation was solidified six years later with the Conferências Democráticas do Casino (Casino Democratic Conferences). Queirós was a silent and loyal observer, and later in his essay on Quental he stated that the artist's protest was more against society than against art.

Quental and Mayer had left Coimbra by 1866, Queirós's last year as a university student. Around this time he became friends with poet João Penha, who was six years older and a popular figure at the university. Penha was a fun-loving bohemian and was involved in several pranks with Queirós and his friends during his last year at school. One such incident occurred on a night at the cathedral in Coimbra. Queirós, at the portal of the church, invoked in his theatrical voice the memory of Sancho I. A few minutes later they heard the sound of running footsteps on the wooden floor. Penha jokingly said that it must have been the sound of a dead lady running from the devil. The group fled, but Queirós insisted on returning to "face the danger." Later, he joined fiction to history and fantasized that it could have been Mécia Fufes de Anaia, who had been buried in the dungeons of the cathedral after her death in 1371 in Santa Clara monastery. Her father, Arnulfo Eanes Zurara, was the murderer of Iñigo Ansur, her boyfriend. Some days after the incident in the cathedral, in March 1866, Queirós published his first poem in the Gazeta de Portugal, a prestigious magazine directed by António Augusto Teixeira de Vasconelos, a friend of Queirós's father. The morbid character of the poem, possibly inspired by the incident, was the first of his romantic compositions published in the Gazeta de Portugal from October 1866 to December 1867. Ten were included in the volume Prosas bárbaras (Barbarous Prose, 1903).

In June 1866 Queirós graduated with a degree in law. That same year he sent his translation of Joseph Bouchardy's play Philodor (1863) to the Teatro D. Maria I. The play, however, was never performed. After he graduated, Queirós moved to Lisbon and settled into his parents' house on the fourth floor of 26 Rossio. His father had been transferred from Porto to Vila França de Xira in 1861, and in 1862 to Almada. After a short period in Évora, he returned to Lisbon on 21 October 1862. Queirós, possibly at his father's insistence, applied for the position of lawyer in the Supreme Tribunal of Justice on 10 October 1866. The dedication to literary activities and bohemian habits, however, contributed to his short juridical career. At the end of 1866 Queirós left for Évora to run the opposition political newspaper Distrito de Évora. The paper was launched on 6 January 1867 and was published twice a week. Queirós also worked as a lawyer. Life in the provinces, without his friends with whom he could talk about art and literature, proved too boring after a while, so in July 1867 Queirós left the newspaper and the city and returned to Lisbon. He took up his work at the Gazeta de Portugal, and on 6 October he published "O Milharfe" (The Glede), a narrative that tells of a bird's metaphysical reflections on the image of Christ on a rat-gnawed cross.

At the end of 1867 Queirós joined a group of young intellectuals at the home of Jaime Batalha Reis, whose father was a friend of the poet Almeida Garrett, to discuss topics including art, philosophy, politics. The author had met Reis earlier while serving on the editorial board of the Gazeta de Portugal. The enthusiastic gatherings were known as the Cenáculo (Cenacle), and Queirós was one of the first members. Reis, Mayer, Ramalho Ortigão, Salomão Sáraga, Augusto Fuschini, Oliveira Martins, Abílio Manuel Guerra Junqueiro, and others soon joined the group. The group eventually merged with one led by Quental, who had just arrived from his birthplace, São Miguel, where he had lived since 1868 after leaving Coimbra. Quental introduced the group to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's socialism, and they often read his books far into the night.

The first verses of Carlos Fradique Mendes, "the satanic poet," appeared in 1869. Reis, Quental, and Queirós invented this pen name for verses they wrote. According to A correspondência de Fradique Mendes (The Correspondence of Fradique Mendes, 1900), Queirós alone wrote the verses under this name from 1888 to 1900. In October 1869 the author reestablished contact with Luís and Manuel Resende, who had been his classmates at the Colégio da Lapa in Porto. The Resende family was descended from a long line of noblemen, including Álvaro Pires de Castro, brother of Inês de Castro, Pedro I's lover. That same year, in November, Queirós and Luís de Castro Pamplona, fifth Earl of Resende, visited Egypt for the inauguration of the Suez Canal. Pamplona was a notable man, with a great sense of justice and dignity. He was also, however, a great spendthrift. Although his fortune was not as great as when he had received his inheritance, he financed Queirós's trip in luxurious style. They stayed at the exclusive Shepherd's Hotel in Cairo. When they returned to Lisbon on 3 January 1870, Queirós was dressed in fine clothes and wore a monocle on his right eye. He published the reports of the trip under the title "De Port-Said a Suez" (From Port Said to the Suez) in the newspaper Diário de Notícias.

On 21 July 1870 Queirós was named Administrator of the Council of Leiria, probably because of his father's influence. A short time before leaving for Leiria, he and Ramalho Ortigão drafted the fantastic and melodramatic story O mistério da estrada de Sintra (The Mystery on the Highway to Sintra) in the form of anonymous letters. They published these in the Diário de Notícias from July to September 1870. The work, which is the first example of the police novel in Portuguese literature, is a blend of mystery and romance. The story deals with an accidental crime of passion, focusing on adultery as a product of the tedium of leisure. There are certain thematic similarities between the work and Queirós's later novel O primo Basílio (1878; translated as Cousin Bazilio, 1953), and the adulterous female character in both works has the name Luísa. The authors play with the concept of verisimilitude, using the last letter to explain finally to the reader that all the letters were fictitious.

Queirós probably sketched out the first chapters of his first great novel, O crime do padre Amaro (1876; translated as The Sin of Father Amaro, 1963) during his days in Leiria. At the time, Europe was devastated by the Franco-Prussian War, which had begun on 19 July 1870. Queirós followed the military actions in the newspapers with great interest. Later, in a letter to Reis and Quental, he expressed his joy at Napoleon III's defeat.

In September 1870 Queirós competed for a diplomatic position and came in first; the person who came in second, however, got the job. Disillusioned, the writer left Lisbon for Leiria and threw himself into the life of the local high society. He began a love affair with the baroness of Salgueiro, but it ended when they were caught in her bedroom during a party at the Salgueiro home.

In 1871 Queirós and Ramalho Ortigão began to publish a regular series of supplements titled As Farpas (The Barbs) in which they criticized various aspects of Portuguese society. At the same time, the meetings of the Cenáculo led them to the project of the "democratic conferences," whose program of May 1871 was planned and organized by Quental and signed by Quental, Queirós, Martins, Fuschini, Braga, Reis, Sáraga, Adolfo Coelho, Augusto Soromenho, Germane Vieira de Meireles, Guilherme de Azevedo, and Manuel de Arriaga. The conferences aimed at the modernization of Portugal, using more-advanced nations as a model, and at a transformation in Portuguese politics, economy, and religion. The conferences took place in the Casino Lisbonense on Praça da Abegoaria, at 9:00 P.M. on Mondays. The public had to pay an admission fee to help cover general costs. At the first conference, which took place on 22 May, Quental explained the purpose of the project. On Saturday, 27 May, he discussed "the reasons for the decadence in the peninsula during the last three centuries."

Soromenho gave the third conference, on Portuguese literature, on 5 June. An elegantly dressed Queirós gave the fourth one on 12 June; his topic was the "New Literature," which, as he explained in As Farpas, was a statement on realism as the new expression of art. This manifesto, based mainly on Proudhon's Du principe de l'art et de sa destination sociale (The Prince of Art and His Social Destination, 1865), proposes an art "perfectly connected with its time," based on daily life and with science as the basis of experience, temper, and character.

Adolfo Coelho, brother of Eduardo Coelho (director of the Diário de Notícias), held the fifth conference, titled "The Question of Teaching," on 19 June. Coelho violently attacked the educational system of the country, which so displeased the authorities that they prohibited the next conference, scheduled for 26 June. The Jewish scholar Sáraga was scheduled to speak on critical histories of Jesus. The government accused the speakers of presenting and defending ideas that attacked religion and the state. Writers Alexandre Herculano and Quental responded, and Pinheiro Chagas, in turn, declared that all the speakers were subversives.

On 6 June, before the conference, Queirós had resigned his post on the Council of Leiria. On the same day he had asked to have his name removed from the membership of the Internacional Socialista. This action shows his lack of esteem for political militancy. In a letter to Ramalho Ortigão in 1871 Queirós expressed concerns about his health. He decided to take the sea baths prescribed by his physician for nerves, anemia, and eyesight. At the time, Queirós was slim and prone to colds and frequent intestinal problems inherited from his father's family. He avoided extreme temperatures of heat and cold, but his bohemian lifestyle and insatiable appetite undermined his health.

In September 1871 the government fell, and Queirós denounced in As Farpas the injustice he had suffered in his bid for consul. On 16 March 1872 he was named first class consul to the Spanish Antilles. Later, however, when he was gathering his writings from As Farpas into the volumes titled Uma campanha alegre (A Happy Campaign, 1890, 1891), he did not include the article in which he had made his complaint.

At the end of 1872 Queirós assumed the office in Havana for a period of two years. During that time he concerned himself with combating the exploitation of Chinese workers from Macao. Because of his delicate health, he got permission to leave Cuba to escape the heat and fevers of the summer. On 30 May 1873 he left for a long trip of five and a half months to Canada, the United States, and Central America. In an undated letter to Raul Brandão, Queirós's son revealed that his father had gone to the United States to pursue Mollie Bidwell, a beautiful American woman who was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist from Pittsburgh. He had been seriously involved with her, but she refused to marry him. In Havana he had a platonic relationship with another American, Anna Conover, who was already married and a religious person.

In the memoirs of his trip described by José Calvet Magalhães, Queirós says that he adored Chicago but both loved and hated New York City. He disliked the brutality of the metropolis but admired its great avenues and parks, the Gothic churches, the countless theaters, the incomparable schools, and the beautiful women. Before returning to Cuba he stayed three months in New York City and then visited Montreal. After arriving in Havana on 15 November 1873, he became bored, finding the city ugly and dirty, with rude and ill-mannered people. He continued to work on O crime do padre Amaro, which he had begun in Leiria, and he wrote Singularidades de uma rapariga loira (Singularities of a Blonde Girl, 1874), published as a "gift to subscribers of the Diário de Notícias of 1873." The work focuses on the kleptomania of a man's fiancée, who steals a diamond ring. Once she is exposed for her crime, she loses her future husband, who is the narrator of the story.

With the help of influential friends in Lisbon, Queirós left Havana again in May 1874 to await a new assignment as attaché in the administration of the consular division. He finished the first version of O crime do padre Amaro. In spite of the imperfections he saw in the work, he published it in serialized form in the Revista Oriental from 15 February to 15 May 1875. The Revista Oriental was a respectable journal founded by Martins and directed by Reis and Quental. The publication, however, done without his revisions taken into account, upset Queirós; he accused Quental of suppressing the passages he considered too realistic.

In 1874 Queirós was designated consul in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. His literary production there was prolific, despite the various official reports he had to write on the conflicts between the coal miners of the area and their employers. While there he wrote O primo Basílio, fifteen articles for the Porto newspaper A Actualidade, and a revision of O crime do padre Amaro. He also launched a project of a series of short novels called Cenas da vida real (Scenes of Real Life) or Cenas portuguesas (Portuguese Scenes); the works A tragédia da Rua das Flores (1980; translated as The Tragedy of the Street of Flowers, 2000), A capital (1925; translated as To the Capital, 1995), O Conde de Abranhos (1925), and Alves & C (1925; translated as The Yellow Sofa, 1993) were part of the project. This intense literary activity was a way to compensate for the lack of intellectual companionship and a way to escape the gloomy atmosphere of the city.

In July of 1876 Queirós published the first book edition of O crime do padre Amaro in Porto. His father helped to subsidize the costs of publication. Although totally rewritten, the novel was not a great success and did not receive favorable reviews from the critics. Antonio José da Silva Pinto, a well-known critic and admirer of novelists Camilo Castelo Branco and Honoré de Balzac, considered Queirós's book to be ideologically linked to Balzac's psychological realism in its focus on the inner man, and to the works of Gustave Flaubert. Queirós, who considered Balzac one of his masters and Flaubert to be an important contemporary writer, was pleased with this evaluation. Quental welcomed the new version of the work, considering Queirós to be above all schools and masters.

The novel focuses on a man driven to the priesthood by external pressures. He seduces a young girl who becomes pregnant, has the baby, and then commits suicide. The baby boy is delivered to a "fazedora de anjos," a woman who specializes in killing unwanted babies. Hypocrisy is an important theme of this work and others by Queirós. In a piece on Queirós's O primo Basílio in the Jornal do Comércio (13 August 1878), the great Brazilian novelist Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis accused him of imitating the French novelists. In the foreword to the second edition of O crime do padre Amaro, totally recast and published in 1880, Queirós responds to accusations that he copied Emile Zola in the work. Several changes were made between the first and second editions of the book: the first edition analyzes feelings and represents the tragedy of prohibited love; the second criticizes ecclesiastical tradition and focuses on Amaro's callousness. Although there are some similarities between Queirós's novel and Zola's La faute de l'Abbé Mouret (The Transgression of Abbé Mouret, 1875), there are basic differences: Zola's priest possesses a true gift for the priesthood. He gives up the profession, however, when he becomes seriously ill and loses his memory.

In 1877 Queirós published Cartas inglesas (English Letters) in A Actualidade, on which he collaborated until 1878. He also established contact with Chardron, the publisher to whom he presented the twelve-volume project of Cenas da vida portuguesa, and he finished O primo Basílio , which he had started in 1876. Critic Ramalho Ortigão attacked the novel, but the reading public appreciated it. The first edition of three thousand copies, released in February 1878, sold out within three months. The author revised and republished the novel that same year. Most of the critics were positive in their reviews. Machado de Assis, however, criticized the work for slavishly following the tenets of realism. He found the characters to be superficial and too strictly governed by the laws of determinism. Luísa, the protagonist, is easily seduced by an old boyfriend while her husband is away. She contrasts strongly with her maid and blackmailer Juliana, whom Machado de Assis considered "the most true and complete character in the work."

Queirós stated that his novel was an attack on the bourgeois families of Lisbon, through their more representative symbols: the poorly educated wife, who is idle, lustful, nervous, and negatively influenced by her reading and her libertine friends; the unscrupulous lover; the envious maid; and the faithful friend. The work is an expression of realist art that explores the weakness of a society on the brink of ruin.

In 1878 Queirós was transferred to the consulate in Bristol, where he lived for the next eight years. He continued his intense literary activity, and he traveled extensively through England, France, and Portugal. He rewrote O primo Basílio and worked on the manuscripts of A catástrofe (The Catastrophe, 1925) and A tragédia da Rua das Flores.

A tragédia da Rua das Flores is the sketch of a novel that was conceived from 1877 to 1878 in Newcastle. The work was left among Queirós's manuscripts for almost a century and finally published in 1980. A. Campos Matos, in his 1987 study, posited that the Queirós family was not interested in publishing the novel because the author never really finished it, and possibly also because of some rather crude passages and the theme of involuntary incest between mother and son. Queirós had stated that he wanted the work to be a part of a series of novels titled "As crônicas da vida" (Chronicles of Life). He did not think, however, that it should be the initial piece for the series, deciding instead on the more generic A capital.

In 1879, as a part of the project Cenas da vida real, Queirós wrote the novel O Conde de Abranhos, a short political satire that was not published until twenty-five years after his death. His son José Maria made extensive modifications in the manuscript before allowing it to appear in print. Also in 1879 Queirós began his collaboration with the Gazeta de Notícias, a newspaper in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He wrote for the paper until 1897, publishing many of his stories in its pages.

The second edition of O crime do padre Amaro appeared in 1880. Queirós also published in O Atlantico the short stories "Um poeta lírico" (A Lyric Poet) and "No moinho" (In the Mill). In the first, he deals with the question of literary aesthetics disguised in the story of an impossible love affair. In "No moinho" he presents a plot similar to that of O primo Basílio as he focuses on the process of the degradation of the female character, caused by the books she reads. The protagonist goes from being a woman totally dedicated to her family to being an adulteress.

Queirós also published O mandarim (The Mandarin, 1880) in serial form in the Diário de Portugal. He wrote this work during his vacations in Angers as a substitute for Os Maias (1888; translated as The Maias, 1965), which he had promised to the paper but had not completed yet. Teodoro, the narrator, works for the Ministério do Reino and inherits a huge fortune--which does not bring him happiness. Tedium and excessive leisure dominate his life. António Coimbra Martins, in his 1967 volume, sees Teodoro as a metaphor for the dominant West, and the character Ti-Chin-Fu as a metaphor for the exploited East. The antithesis captured in the theme of the confrontation of East and West also appears in some of Queirós's other works.

In 1883 Queirós was elected corresponding member of the Royal Academy of Sciences, and he rewrote O mistério da estrada de Sintra. Published in 1885, the revision includes a prologue by Queirós and notes by the editors based on a study of José Sampaio Bruno in which he identifies contributions from Queirós and Ramalho Ortigão. He probably wrote Alves & C around this time. The work, however, was not published until 1925. The work narrates another story of adultery. In this case, however, the husband, Godofred, a bourgeois merchant who catches his wife, Lulu, in the act in their home, forgives her. Rather than being tragic, the narrative includes much humor, and the concern with honor is replaced by the pragmatic interests of comfort and profit in the bourgeois world.

The second edition of O mistério da estrada de Sintra appeared in late 1884 (dated 1885), and several important events occurred in the writer's love life that year. He traveled to the north of Portugal and visited Costa Nova in the company of the countess of Resende and her daughters Emília and Benedita. He wanted to court Emília, but she had turned him down because she was engaged to someone else. After that relationship ended, Emília's brother Manuel interceded on Queirós's behalf, and she accepted his offer of marriage in 1885.

On his return to Bristol from Portugal in 1885, Queirós stopped in Paris with the founder and director of the magazine A Ilustração (The Illustration), Mariano Pina, to visit Zola. That same year he published "Outro amável milagre" (Another Pleasant Miracle) in the volume Um feixe de penas (A Handful of Feathers), organized for charity purposes by Maria Amália Vaz of Carvalho. He returned to Lisbon on 2 November 1885 to finish the preparations for the wedding. To avoid Queirós's embarrassment over having been born illegitimate, the writer's parents signed a document on 23 December declaring him legitimate.

On 10 February 1886 Queirós married Emília de Castro Pamplona Resende in the private chapel of Quinta de Santo Ovídio in Porto. They left by train the same day for Madrid and went on to Paris, where they spent their honeymoon. They arrived in Bristol in the middle of March and started their married life in Stoke Bishop, on the outskirts of the city. There, they hosted many friends and their families. In 1886 Queirós wrote the prefaces for Azulejos (Wall Tiles), by Conde de Arnoso, and O brasileiro Soares (The Brazilian Soares), by Luiz de Magalhães.

On 16 January 1887 Queirós's daughter Maria was born. He finished A relíquia (1887; translated as The Relic , 1930) and entered it in the contest for the D. Luís Prize offered by the Royal Academy of Sciences. Henrique Lopes of Mendonça, however, won the prize with his book O Duque de Viseu (The Duke of Viseu). Queirós published A relíquia initially in serial form in the Gazeta de Notícias in Rio de Janeiro from 24 April to 10 June 1887. It also appeared as a book that year in Porto.

A relíquia is narrated in the first person by the protagonist, Teodorico Raposo, nicknamed "Raposão" (Big Fox). The word "raposo" means fox and refers to the cunning character of the picaresque hero. Teodorico's mother died when he was born, and his father died when he was seven. His maternal aunt raised him and saw to his education. She is the "Titi," Maria do Patrocínio, a fanatic bigot who has an exaggerated fear of sexuality. When Raposão goes to the University of Coimbra to study law, he leads a bohemian lifestyle. He deceives his aunt, however, making her think that he is a fervently religious person, because he wants to inherit her fortune. After graduation he leaves on a trip to Palestine in the company of the scholar Topsius. In Alexandria he has a love affair with a woman named Mary, who gives him her nightgown as a present. In Jerusalem he has a dream of Jesus Christ's last days on earth, which takes up a large portion of the work. He acquires a false crown of thorns of Christ as a gift for his aunt, hoping to curry her favor. When he returns to Lisbon, the package with the crown of thorns and the one containing Mary's nightgown get switched, and he gives the nightgown to his aunt. She immediately understands that her nephew is not the religious person he has claimed to be, and she orders him out of the house. Raposão lives for some time from the sale of false relics from the Holy Land. After a while, however, he becomes convinced of the uselessness of his hypocrisy and asks an old schoolmate to arrange a job for him. He ends up marrying the sister of this friend, living without financial problems and perfectly integrated into family and social life. He seems to be a totally different person until he learns that a priest, who was an old friend of his aunt, had inherited her property. The reader sees that he has not changed as he laments not having told his aunt that the nightgown had belonged to Mary Magdalene.

Around the end of 1887 Queirós joined a newly formed group in Lisbon called the Vencidos na Vida (Defeated in Life). Whenever he was in Lisbon he participated in this association of friends, which had as its members some of the outstanding writers and politicians of the day, including Ramalho Ortigão, Martins, Mayer, Guerra Junqueiro, António Cândido, Luís Soveral, Carlos Ávila Wolf, and Conde de Ficalho. The objective of the group was the conviviality of similar mentalities at dinners and banquets. The air of snobbery that surrounded the group provoked the antipathy of other intellectuals such as Chagas, Fialho de Almeida, and Abel Botelho. The "dining group," as Queirós defined it, lasted until 1894. Its dissolution was possibly caused by the political division provoked by King Luís's death. In his 1969 study, Ernesto Guerra da Cal points out that the meetings were not just aristocratic dinners; on the contrary, they captured the ideals of the Generation of 1870, which opposed constitutionalism and "demagogic plebeism."

On 26 February 1888 the Queiróses' son, José Maria, was born. On 28 August, Queirós was named consul to Paris, taking the place of the Viscount Augusto de Faria, who had had a disagreement with his superior and was dismissed. Queirós obtained the position with the help of Martins, who was a close friend of the minister of foreign affairs, Barros Gomes. In October, Queirós moved his family to Paris.

Queirós had an argument with Chagas, who had ignored the publication of A relíquia, concerning the awarding of the D. Luís Prize. He published in the Reporter, a paper run by Martins, some of his "Cartas de Fradique Mendes," which also appeared in the Gazeta de Notícias in Rio de Janeiro and, the following year, in Revista de Portugal. The character, originally created by Reis, Quental, and Queirós, became from this point on the work of Queirós. Fradique Mendes is a "satanic poet" and resident of Paris, where he had met Baudelaire, Charles-Marie-René Leconte de Lisle, Théodore de Banville, and all of the poets of the new French generation. He was destined to modernize the outdated ideas that were still in force in Portugal. His letters, published from 1888 to 1900, were presented as posthumous. They are directed to different readers and deal with several subjects. Queirós, in a letter to Martins (10 October 1885), characterizes Mendes as a "man, poet, traveler, and philosopher in the spare time." He appears as a rich aristocrat, a participant in heroic campaigns, a polyglot, a Cartesian, and a dandy. Some critics pointed out Mendes's superficiality and the lack of verisimilitude. Through this character, however, Queirós was able to make interesting social and cultural observations on his time and capture the general skepticism of his generation.

In 1888 Queirós published his masterpiece, Os Maias , on which he had worked since 1881. He had completed two volumes in 1882 but took the next six years to finish and polish the work. There were various interruptions during these years, including the time he took to write A relíquia.

The novel is the tragic story of the Maia family. Afonso da Maia, a nobleman, opposes his son Pedro's marriage to Maria Monforte, the daughter of a slave merchant. Pedro is a weak man, the product of a doting mother. His father's opposition to the marriage is based not only on the woman's origins but also on his premonitions of the bad fortune she could bring his son. Maria betrays Pedro and leaves him for a Neapolitan, taking their daughter, Maria Eduarda, but leaving behind their son, Carlos Eduardo. Pedro da Maia commits suicide, and Afonso raises his grandson, Carlos. Afonso believes that Maria Eduarda has died. Years later, however, brother and sister meet in Lisbon, where Maria Eduarda has come with her Brazilian husband, the rich Castro Gomes. They fall in love, not knowing that they are brother and sister. Afonso opposes their union, once again based on his premonitions. When Carlos learns the truth through documents given to him by an old friend of Maria Monforte, he has one last sexual encounter with his sister, who is still ignorant of their relationship. When the truth comes out, Afonso dies, and Maria Eduarda leaves for France, after having her family rights recognized.

Queirós criticizes the idle and futile lifestyle of Lisbon high society of his time through some of its most representative types among the supporting characters: the ridiculous romantic poet (Alencar); the mediocre politician (the conde de Gouvarinho); the slanderer, who is a product of a devout and provincial education (Eusebiozinho); the corrupt journalist (Palma Cavalão); and the misunderstood conductor (Cruges). In spite of the English-style education his grandfather gave him to make his character strong, Carlos is a physician who lives like a parasite. His friend João da Ega, who mercilessly comments on the mediocrity of Portuguese society, is also a useless idler. In Os Maias Queirós combines psychological elements and social criticism in his portrayal of the saga of a traditional Portuguese family.

In 1889 Queirós wrote the preface for João Dinis's Aquarelas (Water Colors). He also launched the first number of the Revista de Portugal, and his son António was born on 28 December. On 11 January 1890 the English government sent an ultimatum to the Portuguese government to withdraw its troops from the area between Angola and Mozambique in Africa. The occupation of this zone was part of a project dating back to the fourteenth century, when Portugal began to acquire a vast colonial empire. Recently crowned King Carlos had to accept England's demands to avoid a threatened naval attack. The Republican Party took advantage of the protests of indignity that occurred throughout Portugal, which dealt a mortal blow to the monarchy.

Queirós followed this crisis with great concern, and he wrote about it in one of Fradique Mendes's letters. He considered it "the most severe, maybe the most decisive" event of his time. In a letter to Martins, however, he referred with skepticism and irony to the purposeless excess of patriotism in Portugal. That same year he published the first volume of Uma campanha alegre, made up of several texts from As Farpas. He also finished the publication of Fradique Mendes's letters in the Revista de Portugal.

In 1891 Queirós translated H. Rider Haggard's novel King Solomon's Mines (1885), and his fourth child, Alberto, was born. Quental committed suicide on 11 September 1891, in São Miguel; his friend's death had a great impact on Queirós and other intellectuals of his generation.

Queirós published the tale "Civilização" (Civilization) in the Gazeta de Notícias in Rio de Janeiro in 1891. This story and "Um dia de chuva" (A Rainy Day), which was left unpublished and undated by the author, became the embryo of the naturalist novel A cidade e as serras (1901; translated as The City and the Mountains, 1955). The novel, however, goes beyond the tenets of realist-naturalist art with the ambiguity that comes from the narrative focus, given through the perspective of narrator and character Zé Fernandes.

Gazeta de Notícias in Rio de Janeiro published the story "A aia" (The Nursemaid, 1893), set in a medieval atmosphere. The work explores the theme of everlasting loyalty, represented by a humble maid. In 1894 Queirós's good friend Martins died. That same year he published in the Gazeta de Notícias the short story "O tesouro" (The Treasure), which takes place in the medieval kingdom of Asturias, Spain. The work is based on the proverb that "Greed is the origin of all evils." The story "Frei Genebro" appeared in the same issue and focuses on one of the followers of St. Francis and the exercise of compassion.

In 1895 Queirós, José Sarmiento, and Henrique Marques organized the 1896 version of the Almanaque Enciclopédico. In 1896 the same collaborators organized the 1897 version, in which Queirós included the story "Adão e Eva no paraíso" (Adam and Eve in Paradise). Also in 1896 he contributed the text "Um génio que era um santo" (A Genius Who Was a Saint) to Antero de Quental, In Memoriam, organized in memory of Quental. Gazeta de Notícias also ran his "O Defunto" (The Corpse), a story set in the Middle Ages and based on the themes of jealousy and the intervention of the supernatural in defense of innocent worshipers of the Virgin. Queirós also finished the novel A ilustre casa de Ramires (1900; translated as The Illustrious House of Ramires, 1968) in 1896.

Queirós started the publication of the Revista Moderna in Paris in 1897. In the first two numbers he published the stories "A perfeição" (Perfection) and "José Matias." The November issue was dedicated to Queirós and carried the first installment of the serialization of A ilustre casa de Ramires. Part of this novel appeared in twenty numbers of Revista Moderna, from 20 November 1897 to 29 March 1899. The complete work came out in one volume in Porto in 1900, the year of Queirós's death.

A ilustre casa de Ramires presents two parallel narratives. One focuses on Portugal at the end of the nineteenth century, with an impoverished nobleman, Gonçalo Mendes Ramires, as the protagonist. Ramires is a graduate in law from the University of Coimbra and has political aspirations. The other narrative focuses on Ramires's writing of a history based on the life of one of his ancestors, Tructesindo Mendes Ramires, a faithful vassal of Sancho I and the Infantas Teresa and Sancha. Queirós's work, which took seven years to complete, is based on extensive research of the medieval world. Queirós's research on the Middle Ages is also documented in his writings published by his daughter in Folhas soltas (Various Papers, 1966). Ramires's ancestor is characterized not only by his honesty and courage but also by cruelty, pride, foolishness, and lack of compassion. These characteristics contrast with those of Ramires, who is dominated by cowardice, inertia, and a lack of scruples. By the end of the narrative, however, he is redeemed by his generosity. He is seen as a metaphor of Portugal, as he leaves his country to explore Africa, where he becomes rich.

In 1898 Queirós published in the Revista Moderna the story "O suave milagre," in which he talks about Jesus' preference for the simple and the humble and his objection to the rich and powerful. This story was a revision of "Outro amável milagre," which had first been revised in 1897 and published in Revista Cor de Rosa under the title "O milagre." The story not only had various published versions but also had an adaptation by Arnoso for the theater, published in 1902. Arnoso adapted the work with the title O suave milagre; it was billed as a mystery in four acts and six scenes. Alberto de Oliveira wrote the lyrics, and Óscar Silva composed the music. The first performance of the play took place on 28 December 1901 in the Teatro D. Maria in Lisbon. The royal family attended the opening to raise funds to subsidize a monument for Eça by Teixeira Lopes.

Queirós died on 16 August 1900 in Paris after a long illness, identified by some biographers as intestinal tuberculosis. In September his body was sent to Portugal for the funeral, which took place in the Alto de São João cemetery in Lisbon. Some of his books were published after his death, including A correspondência de Fradique Mendes and A ilustre casa de Ramires. Among his posthumous publications, Últimas páginas (Last Pages, 1912) stands out; it focuses on legends of the saints but includes some letters and the article "O Francesismo" (Francesism). In this work he deals with the saints to whom he was devoted in the final years of his life. He had started writing the life of St. Frei Gil in 1891, but he never completed it. He also wrote the life of St. Onofre and that of St. Christopher, in which he condemns asceticism in favor of religious practices that were more effective. The legend of St. Christopher is placed in fourteenth-century France, during the farmers' revolution. The gigantic saint takes the side of the oppressed farmers, but without embracing violence in the conflict. After the group is defeated, he begins to transport people from one side of the river to the other, as in the original story. This work advocates charity, humility, and work, and it marks the end of Queirós's works in which he combats idle leisure, boredom, opulence, arrogance, and hypocrisy.

Eça de Queirós's works, according to most critics, have guaranteed him the position of one of Portugal's greatest writers. He has reached a vast public in Portugal with his many novels and stories and the adaptations of these to theater, cinema, and television. He has also reached a larger international audience through the many translations of his works into other languages.


From: Maleval, Maria do Amparo Tavares. "Eca de Queiros." Portuguese Writers, edited by Monica Rector and Fred M. Clark, Gale, 2004. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 287.


  • Further Reading


    • João Gaspar Simões, Vida e obra de Eça de Queirós (Lisbon: Bertrand, 1980).
    • José Calvet Magalhães, Eça de Queirós: A vida privada (Lisbon: Bizâncio, 2000).



    • Jacinto do Prado Coelho, "Para a compreensão d' Os Maias como um todo orgânico," in his Ao contrário de Penélope (Lisbon: Bertrand, 1976), pp. 167-188.
    • Sérgio Nazar David, "O paradoxo do desejo: O masoquismo moral nas literaturas portuguesa e brasileira (1829-1899)," dissertation, Universidade Federal de Rio de Janeiro, 2001.
    • Ernesto Guerra da Cal, Língua e estilo de Eça de Queirós, translated by Estella Glatt (São Paulo: EDUSP / Rio de Janeiro: Tempo Brasileiro, 1969).
    • Valery Larbaud, "Jaune bleu blanc," in his Oeuvres (Paris: Gallimard, 1970), pp. 1272-1274.
    • Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, "Literatura realista. O primo Basílio, romance de Eça de Queirós," Jornal do Comércio, 13 August 1878.
    • Maria do Amparo Tavares Maleval, "Eça, leitor de exempla medievos," Boletim do Centro de Estudos Portugueses da Faculdade de Letras da UFMG, 14, no. 18 (1994): 91-98.
    • Maleval, "A Idade Média na obra de Eça de Queirós," in Atas da IV Semana de Estudos Medievais (Rio de Janeiro: IFCS/UFRJ, 2001), pp. 22-33.
    • António Coimbra Martins, Ensaios queirosianos (Lisbon: Europa-América, 1967).
    • A. Campos Matos, Imagens do Portugal queirosiano, second edition, revised and augmented (Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda, 1987).
    • Matos, ed., Dicionário de Eça de Queirós (Lisbon: Caminho, 1993).
    • Matos, ed., Suplemento ao dicionário de Eça de Queirós (Lisbon: Caminho, 2000).
    • João Medina, E.Q. e o seu tempo (Lisbon: Livros Horizonte, 1972).
    • Maria Filomena Mónica, Vida e obra de José Maria Eça de Queirós (Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2001).
    • Isabel Pires de Lima, As máscaras do desengano: Para uma abordagem sociológica de Os Maias (Lisbon: Caminho, 1987).
    • Carlos Reis, ed., Eça de Queirós: A escrita do mundo (Lisbon: Biblioteca Nacional/Edições Inapa, 2000).
    • Alberto Machado da Rosa, "Nova interpretação d' Os Maias," in his Eça, discípulo de Machado? (Lisbon: Presença, 1964).
    • António José Saraiva, As idéias de Eça de Queirós (Lisbon: Gradiva, 2000).
    • António Sérgio, "Notas sobre a imaginação, a fantasia e o problema psicológico-moral da novelística de Queirós," in Eça de Queirós, Obra completa, vol. 1 (Rio de Janeiro: Aguilar, 1970), pp. 47-87.
    • Frank F. Sousa, O segredo de Eça: Ideologia e ambigüidade em A cidade e as serras (Lisbon: Cosmos, 1996).
    • Miguel Torga, Diário I (Coimbra: Privately printed, 1941).