Alexandre Herculano: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alexandre Herculano

Born Alexandre Herculano de Carvalho e Araújo
March 28, 1810(1810-03-28)
Lisbon, Portugal
Died September 13, 1877 (aged 67)
Santarém, Portugal
Occupation Novel writer, poet, journalist, historian, politician
Genres Historical novel, Romantic poetry
Literary movement Romanticism
Notable work(s) Eurico, o Presbítero, O Monge de Cister

Alexandre Herculano de Carvalho e Araújo (March 28, 1810 Lisbon – September 13, 1877 Santarém), Portuguese historian, was born in Lisbon of humble stock, his grandfather having been a foreman stonemason in the royal employ.


Early life

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 Island as a volunteer, and was one of D. Pedro's famous army of 7500 men who landed at the Mindelo 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 Illustraco he published the historical tales which were afterwards collected into Lendas e Narrativas; 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.


In 1844, with 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 Iberian Peninsula. A second book, Monge de Cister, published in 1848, describes the time of King João I, when the middle class and the municipalities first asserted their power and elected a king who stood 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.


Chronicles and Histories

These and editions of two old chronicles, the "Chronicle of Dom Sebastião" (1839) and the "Annals of king 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 Alfonso 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 manuscripts 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 scholarship and its painful accuracy, while the sculptural simplicity of the style and the correctness of the diction have made it a Portuguese classic.

Historiographic controversy

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 Alfonso, a fable first circulated in the 15th century.

Herculano was denounced from the pulpit and by 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. A professor of Arabic in Lisbon intervened to sustain the accepted view of the battle, and charged Herculano and his supporter, Pascual de 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.

History of the Inquisition

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 nonetheless 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 ("History of Portugal from the beginning of the monarchy to the end of the reign of Afonso III" and "History of the origin and establishment of the Inquisition"), his study, "Condition of the working classes on the peninsula from the seventh to the twelfth century" ("Do Estado des classes servas na Peninsula desde o VII. ate 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 Santarém.

Disillusioned with mankind 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 reactionaries. Once, he defended the monastic orders, advocating their reform and not their suppression; he supported the rural clergy and idealized the village priest in his Parochio da Aldeia, an imitation, unconscious or otherwise, of Oliver Goldsmith's "The Vicar of Wakefield".

Unfortunately, however, the brilliant epoch of the alliance of Liberalism and Catholicism, represented, in terms of literature, by Chateaubriand and by Lamartine, to whose poetic school Herculano had belonged, was past. Fanatical attacks and the progress of events drove Herculano, a former champion of the Church, into conflict with ecclesiastical authorities.

His protest against the Concordat of February 21, 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 Ultramontanism, and his "Studies on Civil Marriage" ("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, in doing so, he fell into line with the Old Catholics.

Political legacy

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 intellecual 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 political propaganda campaigns in the 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 he reveals an unexpected sense of humour. A rare capacity for tedious work, a dour Catonian rectitude, a passion for truth, pride, irritation when criticized, 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 he often alienated men's sympathies though he seldom lost their respect. His lyricism is vigorous, feeling but 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 a deficit 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 satisfactorily lucid explanation of political and economic events.

His remains lie in a majestic tomb in the Jerónimos Monastery at Belem, near Lisbon, which was raised by public subscription to the greatest modern historian of Portugal and of the Iberia peninsula. His more important works have gone through many editions, and his name is still one to conjure with.

Family life

He was the son of Teodoro Cândido de Araújo (b. Lisbon, São José, 11 September 1770) and wife (m. 1802) Maria do Carmo de São Boaventura (b. ca 1780), paternal grandson of José Simões de Araújo (b. Lisbon, Benfica, son of Manuel Simões and wife Isabel Maria) and wife Ana Tomásia de Castro (b. Lisbon, Santa Justa, daughter of Francisco Miguel and wife Maria Madalena), and maternal grandson of Jorge Rodrigues de Carvalho and wife Genoveva dos Anjos Alexandrina.

In 1866, he married an old love of his, Mariana Hermínia de Meira, born about 1830, with whom he had no children.

His two nephews, sons of his sister, Maria da Assunção de Carvalho e Araújo (born around 1808) and husband Joaquim António Rodrigues Galhardo, were:

  • Eduardo Augusto Rodrigues Galhardo (Lisbon, 25 June 1845 - 8 February 1908), who was the 70th Governor of Macau, appointed on 12 March 1897, 11th Governor of Portuguese India between 1900 and 1905, and 660th Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Our Lady of the Concepcion of Vila Viçosa in 1902; he married Carlota Cândida Waddington de Brito and had a daughter Maria Eduarda de Brito Rodrigues Galhardo, unmarried and without issue
  • Joaquim Herculano Rodrigues Galhardo (born 26 October 1838), who, like his more-accomplished brother, was a decorated officer in the Portuguese Army who served in the Wars in Africa; unmarried and without issue

Principal works


  • The Voice of the Prophet (A Voz do Profeta) 1836
  • The Believer’s Harp (A Harpa do Crente) 1838
  • Poems (Poesias) - 1850


  • The Frontier of Africa, or Three Nights of Heartburn (O Fronteiro de África ou três noites aziagas) A drama based on Portuguese history, in three acts, staged in Lisbon, in 1838, at the Salitre Theatre, revived in Rio de Janeiro in 1862
  • The Princes in Ceuta (Os Infantes em Ceuta) 1842


  • The Vicar of Aldeia (O Pároco de Aldeia) 1851
  • The Galician: Life, Sayings, and Deeds of Lázaro Tomé (O Galego: Vida, ditos e feitos de Lázaro Tomé)

Historical romances

  • The Fool (O Bobo) 1828-1843
  • The Monastic (‘’O Monasticon’’)
  • The Eunuch, the Presbytery: The Visigoth Era (Eurico, o Presbítero: Época Visigótica) 1844
  • The Monk at the Cistern; in the time of João I (O Monge de Cister; Época de D. João I) 1848
  • Legends and stories, Volume 1 (Lendas e narrativas, 1.º tomo) 1851
    • The mayor of Santarém (O Alcaide de Santarém 950-961)
    • (Arras por Foro de Espanha 1371-2)
    • The Castle of Faria (O Castelo de Faria 1373)
    • The Vaulted Ceiling (A Abóbada 1401)
  • Legends and stories, Volume 2 (Lendas e narrativas, 2.º tomo) 1851
    • Breaking the Halo: Spanish Tales of the Eighth Century (Destruição de Áuria: Lendas Espanholas (século VIII))
    • The Black Bishop (O Bispo Negro 1130)
    • The Death of the Reader (A Morte do Lidador 1170)
    • The Emprazado: Chronicle of Spain (O Emprazado: Crónica de Espanha 1312)
    • The Assassinated Master: Chronicle of the Templars (O Mestre Assassinado: Crónica dos Templários 1320)
    • Master Gil: A Chronicle of the Fifteenth Century (Mestre Gil: Crónica (Século XV))
    • Three Months in Calcutta: First Account of the Indian States, 1498 (Três Meses em Calecut: Primeira Crónica dos Estados da Índia, 1498)
    • The Chronicler: To live and believe in another time (O Cronista: Viver e Crer de Outro Tempo)


  • "History of Portugal from the beginning of the monarchy to the end of the reign of Afonso III" (História de Portugal: 1.ª época, desde a origem da monarquia até D. Afonso III) 1846-1853
  • "History of the origin and establishment of the Inquisition" (História das Origens e Estabelecimento da Inquisição em Portugal) 1854-1859
  • Historical Monuments of Portugal (Portugaliae Monumenta Historica) 1856-1873


  • Pamphlets: Public Questions, Volume 1 (Opúsculos: Questões Públicas, Tomo I)
    • The Voice of the Prophet (A Voz do Profeta) 1837
    • Theatre, Ethics, Censorship (Teatro, Moral, Censura) 1841
    • The Exits (Os Egressos) 1842
    • On the Economic System (Da Instituição das Caixas Económicas) 1844
    • The Nuns of Lorvão (As Freiras de Lorvão) 1853
    • The Condition of the Church’s Records of the Kingdom (Do Estado dos Arquivos Eclesiásticos do Reino) 1857
    • The Suppression of Lectures in the Barracks (A Supressão das Conferências do Casino) 1871
  • Pamphlets: Public Questions, Volume 2 (Opúsculos: Questões Públicas, Tomo II)
    • Patriotic Monuments (Monumentos Pátrios) 1838
    • On Intellectual Property (Da Propriedade Literária) 1851-1852
    • Letter to the Academy of Sciences (Carta à Academia das Ciências) 1856
    • Mousinho da Silveira 1856
    • Letter to the Members of the Cintra Club (Carta aos Eleitores do Círculo de Cintra) 1858
    • Manifest of the Popular Association for the Advancement of Education of Women (Manifesto da Associação Popular Promotora da Educação do Sexo Feminino) 1858
  • Pamphlets: Controversies and Historical Studies, Volume 1 (Opúsculos: Controvérsias e Estudos Históricos, Tomo I)
    • The Battle of Ourique (A Batalha de Ourique):
      • I. Me and the Clergy (Eu e o Clero) 1850
      • II. Peaceful Considerations (Considerações Pacificas) 1850
      • III. Solemn Words (Solemnia Verba) 1850
      • IV. Solemn Words (Solemnia Verba) 1850
      • V. The Science of an Arab Academic (A Ciência Arábico-Académica) 1851
    • "Condition of the working classes on the peninsula from the seventh to the twelfth century" (Do estado das classes servas na Península, desde o VIII até o XII Século) 1858
  • Pamphlets: Public Questions, Volume 3 (Opúsculos: Questões Públicas, Tomo III)
    • The Ties that Bind (Os Vínculos) 1856
    • Immigration (A Emigração) 1870-1875
  • Pamphlets: Controversies and Historical Studies, Volume 2 (Opúsculos: Controvérsias e Estudos Históricos, Tomo II)
    • Portuguese historians (Historiadores portugueses) 1839-1840:
      • Fernão Lopes
      • Gomes Eanes de Azurara
      • Vasco Fernandes de Lucena and Rui de Pina
      • Garcia de Resende
    • Letters about the History of Portugal (Cartas Sobre a História de Portugal) 1842
    • Answer to the Criticisms of Vilhena Saldanha (Resposta às Censuras de Vilhena Saldanha) 1846
    • Letter to the Editor of the Universal Review (Carta ao Redactor da Revista Universal)
    • On the Existence and non-Existence of Feudalism in Portugal (Da Existência e não Existência do Feudalismo em Portugal) 1875-1877
    • Explanations (Esclarecimentos):
      • A. Gothic Destinies (Sortes Góticas)
      • B. Feudalism (Feudo)
  • Pamphlets: Controversies and Historical Studies, Volume 4 (Opúsculos: Controvérsias e Estudos Históricos, Tomo IV)
    • An Old Newtown (Uma Vila-Nova Antiga)
    • Random Thoughts about an Obscure Man (Cogitações Soltas de um Homem Obscuro)
    • Portuguese Archeology (Arqueologia Portuguesa):
      • The Adventure of Cardinal Alexandrino (Viagem de Cardeal Alexandrino);
      • Characteristic of Lisbon (Aspecto de Lisboa);
      • The Adventure of Two Knights (Viagem dos Cavaleiros Tron e Lippomani)
    • A Little Light in the Thick Darkness (Pouca luz em muitas trevas)
    • Notes on the History of Royal Virtue (Apontamentos para a historia dos bens da coroa)
  • Pamphlets: Public Questions, Volume 4 (Opúsculos: Questões Públicas, Tomo IV)
    • Two Eras and Two Monuments, or the Royal Farm at Mafra (Duas Épocas e Dois Monumentos ou a Granja Real de Mafra)
    • Brief Thoughts on Some Aspects of the Farm Economy (Breves Reflexões Sobre Alguns Pontos de Economia Agrícola)
    • The Farm of Calhariz (A Granja do Calhariz)
    • A Legal Project (Projecto de Decreto)
    • Peace and the National Interest (O País e a Nação)
    • Representation of Belém City Hall to the National Government (Representação da Câmara Municipal de Belém ao Governo)
    • Representation of Belém City Hall to Parliament (Representação da Câmara Municipal de Belém ao Parlamento)
    • Agricultural Subsidy Project (Projecto de Caixa de Socorros Agrícolas)
    • On the Question of Forais (Sobre a Questão dos Forais)
  • Pamphlets on Literature:
    • What is the condition of our literature? What path will it take? (Qual é o Estado da Nossa Literatura? Qual é o Trilho que Ela Hoje Tem a Seguir?)
    • Poetry: Imitation, Beauty, Unity (Poesia: Imitação--Belo—Unidade)
    • Origins of Modern Theatre: Portuguese Theatre up to the End of the Sixteenth Century (Origens do Teatro Moderno: Teatro Português até aos Fins do Século XVI)
    • Accounts of Portuguese Chivalry (Novelas de Cavalaria Portuguesas)
    • History of Modern Theatre: Spanish Theatre (Historia do Teatro Moderno: Teatro Espanhol)
    • Popular Portuguese Beliefs or Popular Superstitions (Crenças Populares Portuguesas ou Superstições Populares)
    • The House of Gonzalo, a Comedy in Five Acts: An Opinion (A Casa de Gonçalo, Comédia em Cinco Actos: Parecer)
    • Historic Praise for Sebastian Xavier Botelho (Elogio Histórico de Sebastião Xavier Botelho)
    • Lady Maria Teles, a Drama in Five Acts: An Opinion (D. Maria Teles, Drama em Cinco Actos: Parecer)
    • Lady Leonor de Almeida, Marquess of Alorna (D. Leonor de Almeida, Marquesa de Alorna)

Other works

From the Isle of Jersey to Granville (De Jersey a Granville) 1831


  • Antonio de Serpa Pimentel, Alexandre Herculano e seu tempo (Lisbon, 1881)
  • A Romero Ortiz, La Litteratura Portuguesa en el siglo XIX. (Madrid, 1869)
  • Moniz Barreto, Revssi de Portugal (July 1889).

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

External links

This article incorporates text from the public-domain Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913.


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address