First editions of Eça de Queirós at Cambridge University Library

A portrait by Antonio Carneiro, from Alves & Cia. (F192.d.12.2)

The University Library has recently acquired twelve original first editions of Eça de Queirós, one of the greatest novelists in Portuguese and a leading figure of the “Generation of 1870.”

Most of these first editions were published by Livraria Chardron, Léllo & Irmão, one of the oldest and most beautiful bookstores in Portugal, dating back to 1906 and still standing at 144, Rua das Carmelitas, in Porto. Eight out of the twelve editions were published posthumously, often at the initiative of Eça’s son, Jose María Eça de Queirós. They have all been catalogued and can be consulted in the Library’s Rare Books Room.

Eça de Queirós was born in Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal, in 1846 and died in Paris in 1900. He studied Law at the University of Coimbra and spent most of his life working as a diplomat in Havana, Bristol and Paris. His work is characterized by its ironic tone and social criticism and he is widely acknowledged to have introduced realism and naturalism in Portuguese literature. He had over seventy heteronyms, each with a different biography and a completely different way of writing, some fully developed, others less so. Best known are: Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis and Álvaro de Campos.

In 1869 and 1870, Eça travelled to Egypt with his friend the Conde de Rezende to attend the opening of the Suez Canal. In a trip that lasted seventy two days, they visited Egypt, Palestine and Syria. The journey inspired several of Eça’s works, including A reliquia (1887, classmark 8000.d.1257). A reliquia caused great controversy when it was published. The novel was heavily influenced by Petruccelli della Gattina’s Memorie di Giuda, and Eça was accused of plagiarism. His trip notes were published posthumoustly in 1926 in O Egypto (classmark F192.d.12.3).

Eça was stationed at Newcastle upon Tyne from late 1874 until April 1879. He wrote occasional “London letters” for the daily newspaper Diário de Notícias, some of which were later published in Cartas de Inglaterra (1905, classmark F190.d.12.2). Many others were published in 1877 in the Porto newspaper A actualidade (Eça continued his contributions to this newspaper until 1878). Cartas de Inglaterra could have been written today. His observations are remarkably modern and, amongst other things, they demonstrate his deep knowledge of world politics.

O crime do padre Amaro (classmark 8000.d.1256) was first published in 1875 in Revista Ocidental, directed by Antero de Quental and Jaime Batalha Reis. The second edition, in book form, was published in 1880. The novel denounces the corruption of priests who manipulate the population in favour of the elite. Its publication generated controversy, scandal and outrage, especially in ecclesiastical media and high society. Our copy contains numerous manuscript notes and newspaper cuttings, including some sections of literary supplements from Diario de Lisboa.

In the 1880s, Eça moved to Bristol, where his masterpiece, Os Maias (1888, 8000.d.1254-1255), was largely written. The novel reflects the monarchy’s decline in Portugal in the late nineteenth century. In Os Maias, Queirós draws a faithful picture of nineteenth century Portuguese society. Os Maias is Queirós’ best novel and one of the greatest works of literature of all time.

A illustre casa de Ramires (F190.d.12.3) was the last book that Eça wrote. Published in 1900, it is one of his most political works, where he questions the relationship of nineteenth century Portugal with its historic past.

Echos de Pariz (F190.d.12.4) was published posthumously (1905). It contains essays written from Bristol and Paris between 1880 and 1893 and was originally published in the Gazeta de notícias of Rio de Janeiro.

A capital (F192.d.12.1), was written at the end of his life. The work remained unpublished for twenty five years. It focuses on Lisbon’s society and, as is typical in Eça’s works, society is portrayed cruelly, with a great deal of irony.

From O conde d’Abranhos e A catastrophe (F192.d.12.4)

O conde d’Abranhos e A catastrophe (1925, F192.d.12.4) is a satire of Portuguese society, one of the most controversial works by Queirós. The novel features an imaginary political figure who meets the faults of politicians of all time. Our copy contains an interesting facsimile reprint of a letter by Queirós.

Notas contemporâneas (1909, F190.d.12.1) gathers collaborations of Eça in several journals, including Diário de Noticias, Renascença, Atlantico, Gazeta de Notícias and Revista Moderna.

Ultimas páginas (1912, F191.d.12.1) contains fictionalized biographies of saints and various other unpublished writings.

Alves & Cia. (1925, F192.d.12.2) is one of the least known works of the great master of Portuguese realism. The novel focuses on the issue of adultery. Our copy contains a portrait of Queirós signed by António Carneiro (1872-1930), a painter, perhaps the most innovative from the second naturalist generation.

Sonia Morcillo-García

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