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Gonzaga, Thomaz Antonio

GONZAGA, THOMAZ ANTONIO (1744-1809), Portuguese poet, was a native of Oporto and the son of a Brazilian-born judge. He spent a part of his boyhood at Bahia, where his father was disembargador of the appeal court, and returning to Portugal he went to the university of Coimbra and took his law degree at the age of twenty-four. He remained on there for some years and compiled a treatise of natural law on regalist lines, 'dedicating it to Pombal, but the fall of the marquis led him to leave Coimbra and become a candidate for a magistracy, and in 1782 he obtained the posts of ouvidor and provedor of the goods of deceased and absent persons at Villa Rica in the province of Minas Geraes in Brazil. In 1786 he was named disembargador of the appeal court at Bahia, and three years later, as he was about to marry a young lady of position, D. Maria de Seixas Brandao, the Marilia of his verses, he suddenly found himself arrested on the charge of being the principal author of a Republican conspiracy in Minas. Conducted to Rio, he was imprisoned in a fortress and interrogated, but constantly asserted his innocence. However, his friendship with the conspirators compromised him in the eyes of his absolutist judges, who, on the ground that he had known of the plot and not denounced it, sentenced him in April 1792 to perpetual exile in Angola, with the confiscation of his property. Later, this penalty was commuted into one of ten years of exile to Mozambique, with a death sentence if he should return to America. After having spent three years in prison, Gonzaga sailed in May 1792 for Mozambique and shortly after his arrival a violent fever almost ended his life. A wealthy Portuguese gentleman, married to a lady of colour, charitably received him into his house, and when the poet recovered, he married their young daughter who had nursed him through the attack. He lived in exile until his death, practising advocacy at intervals, but his last years were embittered by fits of melancholia, deepening into madness, which were brought on by the remembrance of his misfortunes. His reputation as a poet rests on a little volume of bucolics entitled Marilia, which includes all his published verses and is divided into two parts, corresponding with those of his life. The first extends to his imprisonment and breathes only love and pleasure, while the main theme of the second part, written in prison, is his saudade for Marilia and past happiness. Gonzaga borrowed his forms from the best models, Anacreon and Theocritus, but the matter, except for an occasional imitation of Petrarch, the natural, elegant style and the harmonious metrification, are all his own. The booklet comprises the most celebrated collection of erotic poetry dedicated to a single person in the Portuguese tongue ; indeed its popularity is so great as to exceed its intrinsic merit.

Twenty-nine editions had appeared up to 1854, but the Paris edition of 1862 in 2 vols. is in every way the best, although the authenticity of the verses in its 3rd part, which do not relate to Marilia, is doubtful. A popular edition of the first two parts was published in 1888 (Lisbon, Corazzi). A French version of Marilia by Monglave and Chalas appeared in Paris in 1825, an Italian by Vegezzi Ruscalla at Turin in 1844, a Latin by Dr Castro Lopes at Rio in 1868, and there is a Spanish one by Vedia.

See Innocencio da Silva, Diccionario biblipgraphico porluguez, vol. vii. p. 320, also Dr T. Braga, Filinto Elysio e os Disstdentas da Arcadia (Oporto, 1901). (E. PR.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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