1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Herculano de Carvalho e Araujo, Alexandre
HERCULANO DE CARVALHO E ARAUJO, ALEXANDRE (1810–1877), Portuguese historian, was born in Lisbon of humble stock, his grandfather having been a foreman stonemason in the royal employ. He received his early education, comprising Latin, logic and rhetoric, at the Necessidades Monastery, and spent a year at the Royal Marine Academy studying mathematics with the intention of entering on a commercial career. In 1828 Portugal fell under the absolute rule of D. Miguel, and Herculano, becoming involved in the unsuccessful military pronunciamento of August 1831, had to leave Portugal clandestinely and take refuge in England and France. In 1832 he accompanied the Liberal expedition to Terceira as a volunteer, and was one of D. Pedro’s famous army of 7500 men who landed at the Mindello and occupied Oporto. He took part in all the actions of the great siege, and at the same time served as a librarian in the city archives. He published his first volume of verses, A Voz de Propheta, in 1832, and two years later another entitled A Harpa do Crente. Privation had made a man of him, and in these little books he proves himself a poet of deep feeling and considerable power of expression. The stirring incidents in the political emancipation of Portugal inspired his muse, and he describes the bitterness of exile, the adventurous expedition to Terceira, the heroic defence of Oporto, and the final combats of liberty. In 1837 he founded the Panorama in imitation of the English Penny Magazine, and there and in Illustração he published the historical tales which were afterwards collected into Lendas e Narratives; in the same year he became royal librarian at the Ajuda Palace, which enabled him to continue his studies of the past. The Panorama had a large circulation and influence, and Herculano’s biographical sketches of great men and his articles of literary and historical criticism did much to educate the middle class by acquainting them with the story of their nation, and with the progress of knowledge and the state of letters in foreign countries. On entering parliament in 1840 he resigned the editorship to devote himself to history, but he still remained its most important contributor.
Up to the age of twenty-five Herculano had been a poet, but he then abandoned poetry to Garrett, and after several essays in that direction he definitely introduced the historical novel into Portugal in 1844 by a book written in imitation of Walter Scott. Eurico treats of the fall of the Visigothic monarchy and the beginnings of resistance in the Asturias which gave birth to the Christian kingdoms of the Peninsula, while the Monge de Cister, published in 1848, describes the time of King John I., when the middle class and the municipalities first asserted their power and elected a king in opposition to the nobility. From an artistic standpoint, these stories are rather laboured productions, besides being ultra-romantic in tone; but it must be remembered that they were written mainly with an educational object, and, moreover, they deserve high praise for their style. Herculano had greater book learning than Scott, but lacked descriptive talent and skill in dialogue. His touch is heavy, and these novels show no dramatic power, which accounts for his failure as a playwright, but their influence was as great as their followers were many, and they still find readers. These and editions of two old chronicles, the Chronica de D. Sebastião (1839) and the Annaes del rei D. João III (1844), prepared Herculano for his life’s work, and the year 1846 saw the first volume of his History of Portugal from the Beginning of the Monarchy to the end of the Reign of Affonso III., a book written on critical lines and based on documents. The difficulties he encountered in producing it were very great, for the foundations had been ill-prepared by his predecessors, and he was obliged to be artisan and architect at the same time. He had to collect MSS. from all parts of Portugal, decipher, classify and weigh them before he could begin work, and then he found it necessary to break with precedents and destroy traditions. Serious students in Portugal and abroad welcomed the book as an historical work of the first rank, for its evidence of careful research, its able marshalling of facts, its learning and its painful accuracy, while the sculptural simplicity of the style and the correctness of the diction have made it a Portuguese classic. The first volume, however, gave rise to a celebrated controversy, because Herculano had reduced the famous battle of Ourique, which was supposed to have seen the birth of the Portuguese monarchy, to the dimensions of a mere skirmish, and denied the apparition of Christ to King Affonso, a fable first circulated in the 15th century. Herculano was denounced from the pulpit and the press for his lack of patriotism and piety, and after bearing the attack for some time his pride drove him to reply. In a letter to the cardinal patriarch of Lisbon entitled Eu e o Clero (1850), he denounced the fanaticism and ignorance of the clergy in plain terms, and this provoked a fierce pamphlet war marked by much personal abuse. The professor of Arabic in Lisbon intervened to sustain the accepted view of the battle, and charged Herculano and his supporter Gayangos with ignorance of the Arab historians and of their language. The conduct of the controversy, which lasted some years, did credit to none of the contending parties, but Herculano’s statement of the facts is now universally accepted as correct. The second volume of his history appeared in 1847, the third in 1849 and the fourth in 1853. In his youth, the excesses of absolutism had made Herculano a Liberal, and the attacks on his history turned this man, full of sentiment and deep religious conviction, into an anti-clerical who began to distinguish between political Catholicism and Christianity. His History of the Origin and Establishment of the Inquisition (1854–1855), relating the thirty years’ struggle between King John III. and the Jews—he to establish the tribunal and they to prevent him—was compiled, as the preface showed, to stem the Ultramontane reaction, but none the less carried weight because it was a recital of events with little or no comment or evidence of passion in its author. Next to these two books his study, Do Estado das classes servas na Peninsula desde o VII. até o XII. seculo, is Herculano’s most valuable contribution to history. In 1856 he began editing a series of Portugalliae monumenta historica, but personal differences between him and the keeper of the Archive office, which he was forced to frequent, caused him to interrupt his historical studies, and on the death of his friend King Pedro V. he left the Ajuda and retired to a country house near Santarem.
Disillusioned with men and despairing of the future of his country, he spent the rest of his life devoted to agricultural pursuits, and rarely emerged from his retirement; when he did so, it was to fight political and religious reaction. Once he had defended the monastic orders, advocating their reform and not their suppression, supported the rural clergy and idealized the village priest in his Parocho da Aldeia, after the manner of Goldsmith in the Vicar of Wakefield. Unfortunately, however, the brilliant epoch of the alliance of Liberalism and Catholicism, represented on its literary side by Chateaubriand and by Lamartine, to whose poetic school Herculano had belonged, was past, and fanatical attacks and the progress of events drove this former champion of the Church into conflict with the ecclesiastical authorities. His protest against the Concordat of the 21st of February 1857 between Portugal and the Holy See, regulating the Portuguese Padroado in the East, his successful opposition to the entry of foreign religious orders, and his advocacy of civil marriage, were the chief landmarks in his battle with Ultra-montanism, and his Estudos sobre o Casamento Civil were put on the Index. Finally in 1871 he attacked the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and papal infallibility, and fell into line with the Old Catholics. In the domain of letters he remained until his death a veritable pontiff, and an article or book of his was an event celebrated from one end of Portugal to the other. The nation continued to look up to him for mental leadership, but, in his later years, lacking hope himself, he could not stimulate others or use to advantage the powers conferred upon him. In politics he remained a constitutional Liberal of the old type, and for him the people were the middle classes in opposition to the lower, which he saw to have been the supporters of tyranny in all ages, while he considered Radicalism to mean a return via anarchy to absolutism. However, though he conducted a political propaganda in the newspaper press in his early days, Herculano never exercised much influence in politics. Grave as most of his writings are, they include a short description of a crossing from Jersey to Granville, in which he satirizes English character and customs, and reveals an unexpected sense of humour. A rare capacity for tedious work, a dour Catonian rectitude, a passion for truth, pride, irritability at criticism and independence of character, are the marks of Herculano as a man. He could be broken but never bent, and his rude frankness accorded with his hard, sombre face, and alienated men’s sympathies though it did not lose him their respect. His lyrism is vigorous, feeling, austere and almost entirely subjective and personal, while his pamphlets are distinguished by energy of conviction, strength of affirmation, and contempt for weaker and more ignorant opponents. His History of Portugal is a great but incomplete monument. A lack of imagination and of the philosophic spirit prevented him from penetrating or drawing characters, but his analytical gift, joined to persevering toil and honesty of purpose enabled him to present a faithful account of ascertained facts and a satisfactory and lucid explanation of political and economic events. His remains lie in a majestic tomb in the Jeronymos at Belem, near Lisbon, which was raised by public subscription to the greatest modern historian of Portugal and of the Peninsula. His more important works have gone through many editions and his name is still one to conjure with.
Authorities.—Antonio de Serpa Pimentel, Alexandre Herculano e o seu tempo (Lisbon, 1881); A. Romero Ortiz, La Litteratura Portuguesa en el siglo XIX. (Madrid, 1869); Moniz Barreto, Revista de Portugal (July 1889). (E. Pr.)