Antero de Quental

Antero de Quental bigraphy, stories - Portuguese poet

Antero de Quental : biography

April 18, 1842 – September 11, 1891

Antero Tarquínio de Quental ( old spelling Anthero) (18 April 1842 – 11 September 1891), was a Portuguese poet, philosopher and writer, whose works became a milestone in the Portuguese language, alongside those of Camões or Bocage.


Antero stands at the head of modern Portuguese poetry after João de Deus. His principal defect is monotony: his own self is his solitary theme, and he seldom attempts any other form of composition than the sonnet. On the other hand, few poets who have chiefly devoted themselves to this form have produced so large a proportion of really exquisite work. The comparatively few pieces in which be either forgets his doubts and inward conflicts, or succeeds in giving them an objective form, are among the most beautiful in any literature. The purely introspective sonnets are less attractive, but equally finely wrought, interesting as psychological studies, and impressive from their sincerity. His mental attitude is well described by himself as the effect of Germanism on the unprepared mind of a Southerner. He had learned much, and half-learned more, which he was unable to assimilate, and his mind became a chaos of conflicting ideas, settling down into a condition of gloomy negation, save for the one conviction of the vanity of existence, which ultimately destroyed him. A healthy participation in public affairs might have saved him, but he seemed incapable of entering upon any course that did not lead to delusion and disappointment.

As a prose writer Quental displayed high talents, though he wrote little. His most important prose is the Considerações sobre a philosophia da historia literaria Portugueza, but he earned fame by his pamphlets on the Coimbra question, Bom senso e bom gosto, a letter to Castilho, and A dignidade das lettras e litteraturas officiaes.

His friend Oliveira Martins edited the Sonnets (Oporto, 1886), supplying an introductory essay; and an interesting collection of studies on the poet by the leading Portuguese writers appeared in a volume entitled Anthero de Quental. In Memoriam (Oporto, 1896). The sonnets have been translated into many languages; into English by Edgar Prestage (Anthero de Quental, Sixty-four Sonnets, London, 1894), together with a striking autobiographical letter addressed by Quental to his German translator, Dr. Storck.


Early life and childhood

He was born in Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel, in the Azores, into one of the oldest families of the provincial captaincy system. Antero was baptized on 2 May 1842 (few days after his birth), much to the rejoicing of his mother. His parents, Fernando de Quental (Solar do Ramalho; 10 May 1814 – São Miguel Island, Ponta Delgada, Matriz; 7 March 1873), a veteran from Portuguese Liberal Wars who took part in the Landing of Mindelo and, in his liberal enthusiasmDespite being an aristocrat, Fernando de Quental was supporter of the liberal movement, going so far as chip-away the family coast of arms on the family’s manor house. Fernando was, himself, the son of André da Ponte de Quental da Câmara e Sousa, a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars and also a liberal enthusiast that befriended and found himself locked up with the great poet Manuel Maria Barbosa de Bocage for his political views and wife Ana Guilhermina da Maia (Setúbal, 16 July 1811 – Lisbon 28 November 1876), a devout Roman Catholic. He was also a relative of Frei Bartolomeu de Quental, founder of the Congregation of the Oratory in Portugal.

He began to write poetry at an early age, chiefly, though not entirely, devoting himself to the sonnet. He took French lessons under António Feliciano de Castilho, a leading figure of Portuguese Romantic movement, who resided in Ponta Delgada at the time. Antero was seven when he enrolled in Liçeu Açoriano (a private school), where he received English lessons from a Mr. Rendall, a renowned prospector on the island. In August 1852, he moved with his mother to the Portuguese capital, where he studied at Colégio do Pórtico, whose headmaster was his old tutor Castilho. But the institution closed its doors, and Antero returned to Ponta Delgada in 1853. On writing to his old headmaster, he would say: