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A majestic marquis

Republication recovers brilliance of the biography of Pombal

Nine years after coming back from Pará, where he had lived since graduating, with great success, and had started a career of a man of letters, João Lúcio de Azevedo published in Lisbon O Marquês de Pombal e a sua época [The Marquis of Pombal and his Epoch]. A preliminary two-page note clarified that one is dealing with a work averse to polemics. From an analysis of original documents, added to later with testimony of the Marquis himself, in private letters and notes, it is presented as a version “sometime perchance” diverse from the “facts that came to pass”, although, surely, committed to truth. “Historical truth, which is really critical truth”.

Another regime was then in formation. And as Pombal for long had imposed himself amongst the examples of republicans, the book published enjoyed noteworthy sales. Thirteen years later, commenting with Capistrano the twists and turns of the new edition, João Lúcio himself revealed that, besides the one he had given to Antônio Sérgio, as a matrix, he only owned the copy he was using. In case of need, it would be very difficult to arrange a third one, as the stock at the bookshop of A. M. Teixeira had sold out, and no other copy was to be found in the second-hand bookstores.

The new edition ended up coming out in Rio de Janeiro in mid-August 1922. With sponsorship from Seara Nova and Renascença. At this point of time, its author was also known for a series of other works, almost all classics right from birth, like Evolução do sebastianismo [Evolution of Sebastianism], História de Antônio Vieira [History of Antonio Vieira] and História dos cristãos-novos [History of the New Christians]. Joined to these were several erudite articles, in various magazines, of which worth highlighting is the Bulletin of the 2nd Class of the Lisbon Academy of Sciences. Years after, there came out Épocas de Portugal económico [Epochs of Economic Portugal], for some his greatest masterpiece.

An ambitious project is now emerging in São Paulo of republishing all the autonomous titles of this noteworthy representative of Portuguese historiography, or, more properly, of Luso-Brazilian historiography. And Marquês de Pombal e a sua época is the volume that marks the take-off of the venture. Existing behind this choice there are institutional reasons, connected with the academic programming of an entity currently maintained with the cooperation of the Camões Institute, of Portugal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: the Jaime Cortesão Chair.

From the middle of the month of November, both at the University of São Paulo (USP) and at the State Art Gallery and the Ipiranga Museum, debates and exhibitions are going to be held about the new role that the government of el-rei d. José recognized for São Paulo, above all following the government of Morgado de Mateus. Even today, though, continuing to be a sort of obligatory point of reference amongst specialists in the 18th century, and having proven interest for readers from other areas or even simple lovers of good prose, O Marquês de Pombal e a sua época is hardly a risky bet. In this new volume, all the work denotes care and very good taste. The text block of the pages is agreeable, and the size adopted is an invitation for taking to read in the palm of the hand.

The personage that serves as its theme arises on the cover with the brothers that helped him to make a fortune: Paulo de Carvalho e Ataíde, a priest of the Patriarchal Church, and Francisco Xavier de Mendonça Furtado, a Secretary of State for Ultramarine Affairs. They are embraced in a figure of eight on its back – a sign for the infinite -, as if to represent the great virtues of the union. Another engraving of note is to be found in the course of the work, as a counterpoint to this portrait ordered for the future: The Expulsion of the Jesuits, by Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro – where on the shoulders of the majestic marquis rests the head of John Doe. A close friend of Columbano, perhaps João Lúcio was amused with this satire. To our eyes, it also recalls the lasting effectiveness of his work in dismantling ready-made ideas.

Tiago C. P. dos Reis Miranda is a doctor in Social History from the University of São Paulo (USP) and a researcher at the History of Culture Center of the New University of Lisbon

O Marquês de Pombal e a sua época [The Marquis of Pombal and his Epoch]
João Lúcio de Azevedo
Alameda / Jaime Cortesão Chair
400 pages / R$ 54.00