Eça de Queiroz

His name is written in the history of Portuguese Literature, but Eça de Queiroz also stands out as a journalist. From Distrito de Évora to Diário de Notícias, his texts leave a mark on the Journalism of the 19th century

José Maria Eça de Queiroz was born on the 25th of November, 1845, in Póvoa de Varzim.

He was registered as the on of an anonymous mother, since, at the time, their parents, magistrate José Maria de Almeida Teixeira de Queiroz and Carolina Augusta Pereira de Eça, weren't married.

He attended Colégio da Lapa, in Oporto, where he studied.

In 1861, he enrolled in Faculdade de Direito da Universidade de Coimbra (Law School), where he met intellectuals like Teófilo de Braga and Antero de Quental.

After getting his Law degree, he installed, in 1866, in Lisbon, and started to write for the capital's newspapers.

Still in 1886, Eça began publishing literary serials in the newspaper Gazeta de Portugal, where he met Jaime Batalha Reis.

Late 1866 brought a news challenge: Eça, then 21 years old, left to Évora, where he founded and coordinated the opposition newspaper Distrito de Évora.

Among the newspaper editorials there was the Kingdom's political and literary correspondence, an analysis of the economic circumstsances, the chronicle of customs, international correspondence, Literature and Art critic, criticising "modern readings", press review and the production of his own fiction.


In the first issue, published on the 1st of January, 1867, Eça passionately wrote about his conception of Journalism.

"It's the great duty of Journalism to make the 

“It's the great duty of Journalism to make the state of public things known, to teach people about their rights and the guarantees of their safety, to be aware of the international politics’ actions, to be with fair violence against acts that are guilty, slack, harmful, to look after the inside power of the homeland, the moral intellectual and material greatness, in the presence of other nations, for the progress that the spirits make, for the conservation of justice, for the respect for the law, the family, the work, for the improvement of the unfortunate classes”.

In July 1867, he left the project and returned to Lisbon, writing for Gazeta de Portugal again.


Cenáculo comes alive

In the end of that year, O Cenáculo is created, a group of intellectuals composed by Antero de Quental, Salomão Saragga, Jaime Batalha Reis, Augusto Fuschini, Ramalho Ortigão, Oliveira Martins and José Fontana.

Among his companions of Cenáculo, Eça shared the will to awake the Portuguese society, particularly in a political and social way.

A desire that had already spread in the bohemian environment of Coimbra were the group of young intellectuals discussed Portuguese political, cultural and social life.

Disappointed with the country’s state and defending changes, they even got in a literary conflict with Ultra-Romantics, known as “questão coimbrã”.

Cosmopolitans, liberals, progressives, the youngsters that were part of “Geração 70” (“70s Generation”) arrived at the capital willing to revolutionise literature and the Portuguese cultural society of that time.

The press was seen as one of the primordial ways to instigate changes.

In 1869, Eça created, joined with Antero de Quental and Jaime Batalha Reis, the “poeta satanic” (“satanic poet”) Carlos Fradique Mendes.

This collective heteronym published many verses at the Revolução de Setembro newspaper.


At the end of the year, Eça travelled to Palestine, Syria and Egypt with Conde de Resende, his future brother-in-law.

On the way back to Lisbon, he was challenged by Eduardo Coelho, founder of Diário de Notícias, to publish his opinion about the opening of Suez Canal.

Eça said he’d make a “trivial narration, the boring report about the parties of Port Said, Ismailia and Suez”, but, instead, the readers could enjoy a text where his intelligence and scathing writing are notorious, marking the beginning of his very own style that turned him an immortal name in Portuguese literature.

 On the 18th of January, 1870, two months after that event, the first of four literary serials was published titled “De Port-Said a Suez” (“From Port-Said to Suez”).

“The Egyptian police had forgotten that three hundred guests, though they do not have the same corpulence as the Pashas and the Viziers, cannot fit in twenty wagon seats, narrow as docks. That is why there was an eager crowd around the carriages, as eager as on the attack of a city.”

After returning to Portugal, he became administrator of Leiria’s Council.

This city was the stage of the novel O Crime do Padre Amaro.

The first version of the novel was published un Revista Ocidental, directed by Antero de Quental and Jaime Batalha Reis, in 1875.

It is one of the many books that saw the light of day on the pages of periodical publications and literary series pages, a common point of his career as writer and a journalist.

In 1870, O Mistério da Estrada de Sintra was published in Diário de Notícias, with the collaboration of Ramalho Ortigão.

Singularidades de Uma Rapariga Loura was released in 1874, as a gift for the Diário de Notícias’ subscribers of 1873.

The novel O Mandarim was published in the literary serials of Diário de Notícias, in 1880.

Os Maias was also posted, in 1888, in O Reporter, with the title Os Maias (um passeio a Sintra).

Some Cartas de Fradique Mendes were compiled in the same publication.

Many of his stories appeared, over the decades, in newspapers such as Diário de Portugal, O Atlântico, O Reporter, Gazeta de Notícias and Revista Moderna.

The descriptive realism and the social criticism can be seen in his books, marked by fertile and very own style and language.

A kind of spirit that was common to his contemporaries who integrated Cenáculo.

They state to “refuse that Portugal continues deaf to the new ideas that are moving around Europe” and intended to “open a tribune that gives voice to the ideas and the works that characterise this century’s movement”.

In 1871, the group organised Conferências Democráticas do Casino Lisbonense, a reflection about the Portuguese society and the promotion of debates about the great issues of the time.

Eça de Queiroz presented the communication “A nova Literatura ou O Realismo como Expressão de Arte” (“New Literature or Realism as Art Expression”).

This initiative was interrupted after five conferences, because of a governmental prohibition.

Also in 1871, the first number of As Farpas was published, a magazine founded by Ramalho Ortigão and Eça de Queiroz.

This title appeared from the will of the coordinators to “make society move”.

The magazine, published in monthly editions until 1882 (only with Ramalho Ortigão, because Eça left the project in 1872), was a milestone in Portuguese literature and culture, creating an innovative concept of critical Journalism and ideas.

“We are at the same stage as Greece: same poverty, same politic indignation, same economic mess, same decrease of characters, same spirit decadence,” wrote Eça. His words were reused, more than one century later, by many journalists and internet users, noticing how similar they were to  current Portuguese politics and economic environment.

The Diplomat

Portugal was too small for Eça.

In 1870, he took a test to become 1st class consul in the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Two years later he left for Havana, Cuba.

During his consul years, he travelled to Canada, United States of America and Central America, learning new social, cultural and political realities.

His international career brought him back to Europe in 1874, to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in England.

In 1878, he was transferred to Bristol, also in England.

In 1888, he was nominated Consul in Paris, France, were he lived until the end of his life.

In 1877, we wrote from Newcastle to Oporto’s newspaper A Actualidade. His “Cartas de Inglaterra” (“Letters from England”) were publish regularly until 1878.

In 1878, his work arrives to the other side of the Atlantic, writing for the newspaper Gazeta de Notícias, in Rio de Janeiro. This collaboration only ended on 1897.

In 1886, Eça married Emília de Castro Pamplona (Resende), who he had known since his youth as his childhood friend’s sister.

The couple had four children: Maria (1887), José Maria (1888), António (1889) and Alberto (1894).

In 1888, the disappointment about the unsuccessful modernization process of “Geração de 70” led to the foundation of “Vencidos da Vida” (“Life’s Losers”).

Even living in Paris, Portugal was still in the mind of the novelist.

Eça founded Revista de Portugal, that he managed from the French capital.

“Portugal is currently the only country in Europe that doesn’t have a MAGAZINE – a publication where, besides showing the creations of imagination in Romance and Poetry, results of researches in Science and History, works of literary and artistic critics, should also be studied, with progress and right competence, matters that are generically related to Politics, Economy, Institutions, Costumes and all manifestations of a social organism”.

In the summer or 1900, echoes of Eça de Queiroz’s disease start arriving to Portugal.

The worst scenario had been confirmed; the writer dies on the 16th of August, 1900, in Neully, France.

Tributes started soon. In the next month his body was brought to Portugal.

Many of his works only saw the light of the day posthumously.

Shortly before his death, Eça was getting ready to publish three novels: A correspondência de Fradique mendes, A Cidade e as Serras and A Ilustre Casa de Ramires.

In 1903, Lisbon, the city that had welcomed Eça forty years before, honoured the writer with the statue “A Verdade”.

Number 26 from the Praça D. Pedro IV, the building where Eça de Queiroz lived, is marked with a commemorative plate.

More than a century after, his work continues up-to-date and relevant.

From theatre plays to films, even in soap operas, the work of Eça de Queiroz served as inspiration to many cultural representations.