Jose Agostinho de Macedo
Portuguese controversialist, preacher, and poe, b. 1761; d. 1831
Macedo, JOSE AGOSTINHO DE (1761-1831), Portuguese controversialist, preacher, and poet, was born at Beja and educated by the Oratorians. Entering the Augustinian Order, he made his profession in 1778, but lived in perpetual strife with his superiors and finally abandoned the monastic life and habit. In 1792 he was unfrocked, but appealed against the sentence and obtained a papal Brief which secularized him and conserved his ecclesiastical status. He now laid the foundations of a vast though superficial learning, while, as a means of livelihood, he devoted himself to writing and preaching. He founded, or contributed to, a large number of newspapers and in these, and in political pamphlets, defended the absolute monarchy and the Church against liberalism in politics and religion, though he changed his views more than once in accordance with his interests or sympathies. His fiery zeal was equaled by a brilliancy of invective and mordant satire which gained him bitter foes and warm admirers. From 1824 to 1829 he served as diocesan censor and his critical analyses of the books submitted to him reveal his versatility, though this, and his fecundity, are best seen by the catalogue of his writings which occupies thirty pages in Vol. 4 of the “Diccionario Bibliographico” of Innocencio da Silva. As early as 1802 he became one of the royal preachers and his sonorous voice and discourses seasoned by political allusions made him the most popular pulpit orator of the day. He introduced didactic poetry into Portugal, writing rhetorical poems devoid of inspiration, and sought to rival Camoens by a lifeless epic “Oriente”.
In that decadent period Macedo was able to enthrone himself as dictator of letters, but this involved him in numerous literary duels with rival bards whom he chastised in “Os Burros”, the most libellous poem in the language. His political and erotic odes reach a high level, but he gave the best proof of his rare intellectual powers in the philosophical treatise “A demonstration of the existence of God“, while his tract “On the state of Portugal” (1808) shows a sound perception which is lacking in his later prose work. A man of immense vanity, irregular life, and atrabilious temper, he yet had an affable manner and kindly heart and contributed generously to charities. These qualities and his rare talents earned him a great position and much esteem so that, when he passed away, part of the population mourned his death as a national loss.