1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Macedo, José Agostinho de
MACEDO, JOSÉ AGOSTINHO DE (1761–1831), Portuguese poet and prose writer, was born at Beja of plebeian family, and studied Latin and rhetoric with the Oratorians in Lisbon. He became professed as an Augustinian in 1778, but owing to his turbulent character he spent a great part of his time in prison, and was constantly being transferred from one convent to another, finally giving up the monastic habit to live licentiously in the capital. In 1792 he was unfrocked, but by the aid of powerful friends he obtained a papal brief which secularized him and permitted him to retain his ecclesiastical status. Taking to journalism and preaching he now made for himself a substantial living and a unique position. In a short time he was recognized as the leading pulpit orator of the day, and in 1802 he became one of the royal preachers. Macedo was the first to introduce from abroad and to cultivate didactic and descriptive poetry, the best example of which is his notable transcendental poem Meditation (1813). His colossal egotism made him attempt to supersede Camoens as Portugal’s greatest poet, and in 1814 he produced Oriente, an insipid epic notwithstanding its correct and vigorous verse, dealing with the same subject as the Lusiads—Gama’s discovery of the sea route to India. This amended paraphrase met with a cold reception, whereupon Macedo published his Censura dos Lusiadas, containing a minute examination and virulent indictment of Camoens. Macedo founded and wrote for a large number of journals, and the tone and temper of these and his political pamphlets induced his leading biographer to name him the “chief libeller” of Portugal, though at the time his jocular and satirical style gained him popular favour. An extreme adherent of absolutism, he expended all his brilliant powers of invective against the Constitutionalists, and advocated a general massacre of the opponents of the Miguelite régime. Notwithstanding his priestly office and old age, he continued his aggressive journalistic campaign, until his own party, feeling that he was damaging the cause by his excesses, threatened him with proceedings, which caused him in 1829 to resign the post of censor of books for the Ordinary, to which he had been appointed in 1824. Though his ingratitude was proverbial, and his moral character of the worst, when he died in 1831 he left behind him many friends, a host of admirers, and a great but ephemeral literary reputation. His ambition to rank as the king of letters led to his famous conflict with Bocage (q.v.), whose poem Pena de Talião was perhaps the hardest blow Macedo ever received. His malignity reached its height in a satirical poem in six cantos, Os Burros (1812–1814), in which he pilloried by name men and women of all grades of society, living and dead, with the utmost licence of expression. His translation of the Odes of Horace, and his dramatic attempts, are only of value as evidence of the extraordinary versatility of the man, but his treatise, if his it be, A Demonstration of the Existence of God, at least proves his possession of very high mental powers. As a poet, his odes on Wellington and the emperor Alexander show true inspiration, and the poems of the same nature in his Lyra anacreontica, addressed to his mistress, have considerable merit.
See Memorias para la vida intima de José Agostinho de Macedo (ed. Th. Braga, 1899); Cartas e opusculos (1900); Censuras á diversas obras (1901). (E. Pr.)
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