Castello Branco, Camillo
CASTELLO BRANCO, CAMILLO, Visconde de Correia Botelho (1825-1890), Portuguese novelist, was born out of wedlock and lost his parents in infancy. He spent his early years in a village in Traz-os-Montes. He learnt to love poetry from Camoens and Bocage, while Mendes Pinto gave him a lust for adventure, but he dreamed more than he read, and grew up undisciplined and proud. He studied in Oporto and Coimbra with much irregularity, and since his disdain for the intrigues and miseries of politics in Portugal debarred him from the chance of a government post, he entered the career of letters to gain a livelihood. After a spell of journalistic work in Oporto and Lisbon he proceeded to the Episcopal seminary in the former city with a view of studying for the priesthood, and during this period wrote a number of religious works and translated Chateaubriand. He actually took minor orders, but his restless nature prevented him from following one course for long and he soon returned to the world, and henceforth kept up a feverish literary activity to the end. He was created a viscount in 1885 in recognition of his services to letters, and when his health finally broke down and he could no longer use his pen, parliament gave him a pension for life. When, having lost his sight, and suffering from chronic nervous disease, he died by his own hand in 1890, it was generally recognized that Portugal had lost the most national of her modern writers.
Apart from his plays and verses, Castello Branco's works may be divided into three sections. The first comprises his romances of the imagination, of which Os mysterios de Lisboa, in the style of Victor Hugo, is a fair example. The second includes his novels of manners, a style of which he was the creator and remained the chief exponent until the appearance of O Crime de Padre Amaro of Eça de Queiroz. In these he is partly idealist and partly realist, and describes to perfection the domestic and social life of Portugal in the early part of the 19th century. The third division embraces his writings in the domain of history, biography and literary criticism. Among these may be cited Noites de Lamego, Cousas leves e pesadas, Cavar em ruinas, Memorias do Bispo do Grão Para and Bohemia do Espirito.
In all, his publications number about two hundred and sixty, belonging to many departments of letters, but he owes his great and lasting reputation to his romances. Notwithstanding the fact that his slender means obliged him to produce very rapidly to the order of publishers, who only paid him from £30 to £60 a book, he never lost his individuality under the pressure. Knowing the life of the people by experience and not from books, he was able to fix in his pages a succession of strongly marked and national types, such as the brazileiro, the old fidalgo of the north, and the Minho priest, while his lack of personal acquaintance with foreign countries and his relative ignorance of their literatures preserved him from the temptation, so dangerous to a Portuguese, of imitating the classical writers of the larger nations. Among the most notable of his romances are O Romance de un Homem Rico, his favourite, Retrato de Ricardina, Amor de Perdição, and the magnificent series entitled Novellas do Minho. Many of his novels are autobiographical, like Onde está a felicidade, Memorias do Carcere and Vingança. Castello Branco is an admirable story-teller, largely because he was a brilliant improvisatore, but he does not attempt character study. Nothing can exceed the richness of his vocabulary, and no other Portuguese author has shown so profound a knowledge of the popular language. Though nature had endowed him with the poetic temperament, his verses are mediocre, but his best plays are cast in bold lines and contain really dramatic situations, while his comedies are a triumph of the grotesque, with a mordant vein running through them that recalls Gil Vicente.
The collected works of Camillo Castello Branco are published by the Companhia Editora of Lisbon, and his most esteemed books have had several editions. The Diccionario Bibliographico Portuguez, vol. ix. p. 7 et seq., contains a lengthy but incomplete list of his publications. See Romance do Romancista, by A. Pimentel, a badly put together but informing biography; also a study on the novelist by J. Pereira de Sampaio in A Geração Nova (Oporto, 1886); Dr Theophilo Braga, As Modernas Ideias na litteratura Portugueza (Oporto, 1892); Padre Senna Freitas, Perfil de Camillo Castello Branco (S. Paulo, 1887); and Paulo Osorio, Camillo, a sua vida, o seu genio, a sua obra (Oporto, 1908).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)