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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LUIZ DE SOUSA [MANOEL DE SOUSA COUTINHO] (1555-1632), Portuguese monk and prose-writer, was born at Santarem, a member of the noble family of Sousa Coutinho. In 1576 he broke off his studies at Coimbra University to join the order of Malta, and shortly afterwards was captured at sea by Moorish pirates and taken prisoner to Argel, where he met Cervantes. A year later Manoel de Sousa Coutinho was ransomed, and landing on the coast of Aragon passed through Valencia, where he made the acquaintance of the poet Jaime Falcao, who seems to have inspired him with a taste for study and a quiet life. The national disasters and family troubles increased this desire, which was confirmed when he returned to Portugal after the battle of Alcacer and had the sorrow of witnessing the Spanish invasion and the loss of his country's independence. Between 1584 and 1586 he married a noble lady, D. Magdalena de Vilhena, widow of D. John of Portugal, the son of the poet D. Manoel of Portugal, to whom Camoens had dedicated his seventh ode. Settling at Almada, on the Tagus opposite Lisbon, he divided his time between domestic affairs, literary studies and his military duties as colonel of a regiment. His patriotic dislike of an alien rule grew stronger as he saw Portugal exploited by her powerful partner, and it was ultimately brought to a head in 1599. In that year, to escape the pest that devastated Lisbon, the governors of the kingdom for Philip II. decided to move their quarters to his residence; thereupon, finding his protest against this arbitrary resolution unheeded, he set fire to his house, and to escape the consequences of his courageous act had to leave Portugal. Going to Madrid, he not only escaped any penalty, owing no doubt to his position and influence at the Spanish court, but was able to pursue his literary studies in peace and to publish the works of his friend Jaime Falcao (Madrid, 1600). Nothing is known of how he passed the next thirteen years, though there is a tradition that, at the instance of a brother resident in Panama, who held out the prospect of large commercial gains, he spent some time in America. It is said that fortune was unpropitious, and that this, together with the news of the death of his only child, D. Anna de Noronha, caused his return home about 1604. In 1613 he and his wife agreed to a separation, and he took the Dominican habit in the convent of Bemfica, while D. Magdalena entered the convent of the Sacramento at Alcantara. According to an old writer, the motive for their act was the news, brought by a pilgrim from Palestine that D. Magdalena's first husband had survived the battle of Alcacer, in which he was supposed to have fallen, and still lived; Garrett has immortalized the legend in his play Frei Luiz de Sousa. The story, however, deserves no credit, and a more natural explanation is that the pair took their resolution to leave the world for the cloister from motives of piety, though in the case of Manoel the captivity of his country and the loss of his daughter may have been contributory causes. He made his profession on the 8th of September 1614, and took the name by which he is known as a writer, Frei Luiz de Sousa. In 1616, on the death of Frei Luiz Cacegas, another notable Dominican who had collected materials for a history of the order and for a life of the famous archbishop of Braga, D. Frei Bartholomew of the Martyrs, the task of writing these books was confided to Frei Luiz. The Life of the Archbishop appeared in 1619, and the first part of the Chronicle of St Dominic in 1623, while the second and third parts appeared posthumously in 1662 and 1678; in addition he wrote, by order of the government, the Annals of D. John III., which were published by Herculano in 1846. After a life of about nineteen years spent in religion, he died in 1632, leaving behind him a memory of strict observance and personal holiness.

The Chronicle of St Dominic and the Life of the Archbishop have the defect of most monastic writings - they relate for the most part only the good, and exaggerate it without scruple, and they admit all sorts of prodigies, so long as these tend to increase devotion. Briefly, these books are panegyrics, written for edification, and are not histories at all in the critical sense of the word. Their order and arrangement, however, are admirable, and the lucid, polished style, purity of diction, and simple, vivid descriptions, entitle Frei Luiz de Sousa to rank as a great prose-writer. His metaphors are well chosen, and he employs on appropriate occasions familiar terms and locutions, and makes full use of those charming diminutives in which the Portuguese language is rich. His prose is characterized by elegance, sweetness and strength, and is remarkably free from the affectations and false rhetoric that characterized the age. In addition to his other gifts, Frei Luiz de Sousa was a good Latin poet. There are many editions of the Life of the Archbishop, and it appeared in French (Paris, 1663, 1679 and 1825), in Italian (Rome, 1727-1728), in Spanish (Madrid, 1645 and 1727) and in English (London, 1890). The Historia de S. Domingos may be read in a modern edition (6 vols., Lisbon, 1866).

Authorities. - Obras de D. Francisco Alexandre Lobo, ii. 61171; Innocencio da Silva, Diccionario bibliographico portuguez, v. 327, xvi. 72; Dr Sousa Viterbo, Manoel de Sousa Coutinho (Lisbon, 1902). (E. PR.)

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