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ANTHERO DE QUENTAL (1842-1891)

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Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 742 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ANTHERO DE QUENTAL (1842-1891), Portuguese poet, was born on the island of St Michael, in the Azores, on the 18th of April 1842. He studied at the university of Coimbra, and soon distinguished himself by unusual talent, as well as turbulence and eccentricity. He began to write poetry at an early age, chiefly, though not entirely, devoting himself to the sonnet. After the publication of one volume of verse, he entered with great warmth into the revolt of the young men which dethroned Castilho, the chief living poet of the elder generation, from his place as dictator over modern Portuguese literature. He then travelled, engaged on his return in political and socialistic agitations, and found his way through a series of disappointments to the mild pessimism, a kind of Western Buddhism, which animates his latest poetical productions. His melancholy was increased by a spinal disease, which after several years of retirement from the world, eventually drove him to suicide in his native island, on the Irth of September 1891. Anthero stands at the head of modern Portuguese poetry after Joao 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 he 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. The great popularity acquired, notwithstanding, by poetry so metaphysical and egotistic is a testimony to the artistic instinct of the Portuguese. As a prose writer Quental displayed high talents, though he wrote little. His most important prose work is the Consideracaes sobre a philosophia da historia literaria Portugueza, but he earned fame by his pamphlets on the Coimbra question, Born 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 turned into most European 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.
End of Article: ANTHERO DE QUENTAL (1842-1891)
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