Doomed Love (A Family Memoir)

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Doomed Love (A Family Memoir)

by Camilo Castelo Branco


A novel set in northern Portugal in the first decade of the nineteenth century; published in Portuguese (as Amorde Perdição) in 1862, in English in 2000.


The fates of a pair of star-crossed lovers unfold against the outdated views of an aristocatic society whose heyday has passed. In a fresh twist to this Romeo and Juliet-type tale, the hero relies on an intelligent, strong-willed peasant girl who helps him endure his tragic circumstances to the death.

Events in History at the Time the Novel Takes Place

The Novel in Focus

Events in History at the Time the Novel Was Written

For More Information

Born in Lisbon in 1825, Camilo Castelo Branco was the illegitimate son of a lesser aristocrat from northern Portugal. At age 10, after both his parents died, he was sent north to live with relatives. The boy received an education from country priests, under whose guidance he studied Portuguese, French, and classical and ecclesiastical literatures, meanwhile coming to know a segment of the population that would later furnish material for his stories. In early adulthood, Castelo Branco moved to Oporto, where he insinuated himself into the city’s bohemian and literary circles and found a ready outlet in journalism for his early political essays and for his fiction in serial form. From about 1848 to 1886, he wrote prolifically in a wide range of genres: poetry, drama, the short story, literary criticism, history, genealogy, translation, and the novel, the genre that would win him renown as one of the country’s most popular writers. Meanwhile, his personal life became as public as his writing. Well before his move to Oporto, Castelo Branco became embroiled in a series of love affairs (including a short-lived marriage at the age of 16) that shaped both his life and reputation. Most notorious was his love for Ana Plácido, wife of a well-known businessman. The relationship led to the 1860 arrest of the transgressors on charges of adultery and, more happily, to Doomed love (A Family Memoir), which Castelo Branco wrote in jail. Exonerated and released after a year, the lovers remained together, only to suffer many more trials—the mental deterioration of a son, the deaths of other children, and the author’s increasing blindness. In 1890 a despairing Castelo Branco committed suicide, bringing to an abrupt halt his vigorous post-prison outpouring of prose, poetry, plays, and novels. Despite the release of subsequent fiction (e.g., The Fall of an Angel (1866) and Tales from the Minho Region (1875–77), Doomed Love remains Castelo Branco’s best-known work. The novel straddles transitional periods in Portuguese society and literature. Its story unfolds as a new money-oriented upper class gains ground over the hereditary aristocracy and as constitutional government starts taking precedence over the monarchy. At the time of publication, Romanticism had begun to give way to realism, with both literary movements resonating in Castelo Branco’s novel.

Events in History at the Time the Novel Takes Place

The marquis of Pombal and the dawn of modernization

The earthquake that devastated three quarters of Lisbon in 1755 destroyed more than a physical space. It served as a catalyst for another transformation that, for some, would be equally devastating. Along with the rebuilding of the city came social, political and economic reforms, with repercussions that resounded well into the nineteenth century. Portugal had been plagued for some time by a faltering economy, one that was overly dependent on gold, diamonds, and other imports from Brazil and Portugal’s other colonies. On the throne was an ineffectual monarch, José I (1750–77), a king ill equipped to deal with the daunting challenge of addressing a financial situation that demanded restructuring the economy to ground it more firmly in domestic wealth. Fortunately for Portugal, the 1755 earthquake brought to the fore a leader poised to take on the problematic economy as well as a city in ruins. He was José I’s most trusted and able minister, Sebastiáo José de Carvalho e Melo, the future marquis of Pombal.

Most immediately, Pombal faced the task of rebuilding the devastated city. He planned not to just restore the now nonexistent infrastructure but to create an entirely new Lisbon. To this end, Pombal enlisted the aid of prominent architects to work out the details of his vision. The result was a graceful, efficient urban space, one well suited to the managed society that he also envisioned and that would be the focus of his life for the next two decades.

The marquis of Pombal was well traveled and well read in economic theory. He understood the social realities of his country, its centuries-old trade relations with England, the power of the nobility and the clergy, and the poverty of the lower class, and he resolved to bring the country more into line with a more modernized Europe. Pombal abolished slavery and ended the long-institutionalized persecution of the Jews, with a view toward incorporating the group into a more productive economic scheme. He centralized and developed commerce and industry to promote the growth of the middle class and of a new profit- and merit-based aristocracy. Also he defused potential opposition to change by mercilessly undercutting the traditional loci of power, the nobility and the clergy, imprisoning, exiling, and even executing many of the former and attacking the clergy through the abolition of its most powerful arm, the Jesuit order. Meanwhile, Pombal shrewdly ensured ideological support for his new society, reorganizing education to better emphasize modern philosophy, science, and mathematics. Some of his reforms proved short-lived, however, because of a reversal in fortune; upon the death of José I in 1777 and the accession of Maria I to the throne, the marquis was deposed and the old society resumed. This inaugurated a pattern that was to continue through the nineteenth century, with conservative and liberal governments assuming control in Portugal, one after the other. The main difference from the pre-Pombal era was the presence of a now firmly established middle class and a new aristocracy; both would continue to grow (and claim power), providing the domestic economic base that Pombal had sought.

The reign of Maria I (1777–1816)

The accession of Maria I to the throne did not entirely negate the notion of reform. There was a reversal of policy, but only in certain regards: Pombal’s political prisoners were released, and those exiled under his tenure were permitted to return. Many of Pombal’s old enemies regained positions in the government, and Pombal himself was put on trial. Found guilty of the abuse of power, he was banished permanently to his country estate. The devout queen allowed the Church to regain influence, but she stopped short of embracing the Jesuits. Economically, her reign did away with Pombal’s commercial and industrial monopolies and allowed business to respond to market demand. The upper middle class grew stronger, and the most powerful among them were accepted into the titled nobility, but the nobility itself lost a privilege. In 1790 Portugal modified its judicial system, abolishing the separate seigneurial justice that had given the nobility special legal privilege. Reform continued in education too, making it more relevant to a changing socioeconomic reality. Also communications improved; a road was built between Lisbon and Oporto, the country’s two largest cities. Stagecoach service began on the road in 1798, a sorely needed improvement, since until then travel between the two cities had been undertaken almost exclusively by sea.

Meanwhile, the monarch suffered a grave setback. Maria I’s reign was prematurely shortened by a decline in her mental powers. The death of her husband in 1786 threw her into a profound depression from which she never entirely recovered. She was declared incompetent to rule in 1792, and her son, the future João VI, assumed her duties as monarch. It was under his guidance that the country progressed so noticeably. The final years of the eighteenth century witnessed the new entrepreneurs extending their reach from the city into the rural areas to the north and south of Lisbon. “The indigenous trading class had grown to 80,000 strong and had begun to invest in neglected lands in the Estremadura and Alentejo provinces. … Craftsmen began to prosper … [without] being predominantly tied to aristocratic and religious patrons” (Birmingham, p. 94). João was officially declared regent in 1799.

The Napoleonic invasion and its aftermath

Under the regency of João VI, Portugal did all that it could to remain free of the turmoil created in Europe in the wake of the French Revolution and its ideology. But Portugal fell victim to that turmoil when France and England became embroiled in open warfare. In 1807 Portugal failed to close its ports to England as expeditiously as Napoleon demanded, and the French invaded the country. The royal family, along with others positioned to do so, fled to Brazil, literally sailing out of Lisbon just as the invaders entered the city. A regency made up of five people under the leadership of the marquis of Abrantes was left behind to govern, but it soon fell to the French occupation forces, which set up a new government under the leadership of the French general and France’s former ambassador to Portugal, Andoche Junot. French troops proceeded to devastate the countryside and antagonize the Portuguese to the point of rebellion. A resistance movement, organized in Oporto and throughout the North, stood ready when the British came to the rescue under the command of the future duke of Wellington. Wellington defeated the French in a series of battles, the most notable in 1811 near Torres Vedras, a strategically significant rural town, well protected by a series of fortresses manned by the Portuguese. The French were routed and pursued by Wellington into Spain and eventually back to France.

The French invasions and occupation (1807–11) had lingering consequences for the country. Not only did the looting and costly warfare destroy agricultural, industrial, and cultural resources in Portugal, but the royal family had remained in Brazil because of the French at a time when an independence movement was gaining strength in that colony:

Four years of war had left the country in poor condition. … [Portugal became] both an English protectorate and a Brazilian colony. The government was in Rio; in Portugal there was only a regency. … The regency kept intact the old methods of governing, showing no disposition whatsoever to adjust to modern ideas. A ferocious persecution of all liberals took place. Throughout the country discontent against the king, the English, and the regency were accompanied by a deplorable economic and financial situation. Revolutionary ferment was everywhere and would soon lead to open rebellion.

(Marques, p. 87)

Upper-versus lower-class standards for women

The experience of women in early-nineteenth-century Portugal varied from class to class. However, the law of the land, the Ordenações Filipinas (1603; Philipine Laws), in effect until the Civil Code of 1867, did not distinguish among the classes in most respects. Book Four, Article 88, for example, asserts a father’s prerogative in arranging a daughter’s marriage. According to this article, if a daughter under the age of 25 sleeps with a man or marries without her father’s consent, or, if she has no father, without her mother’s consent, her family will disinherit her. This will happen, says the law, unless she weds a well-known man and has married better and more honorably than her father or mother would be able to marry her, in which case she will not be disinherited. Men are likewise regulated in this respect. Book Five, Article 22, states that a man who gets married without due permission to a widow under the age of 25 and in the custody of her father, mother, grandfather, or guardian will forfeit all his property (to the custodial party) and be exiled to Africa for a year. These laws pertained regardless of social class. On the other hand, social class figures in the case of adultery. Book Five, Article 25, sets death as the penalty for adultery for either a male or a female transgressor unless the adulterer is of a higher class than the woman’s husband, especially if the adulterer is of the aristocracy and the husband is a peasant. In these cases, the matter is to be submitted to the king for adjudication.

Class differences manifested themselves not so much in law but in custom. Personal letters and travel accounts show that, up to the early eighteenth century, upper-class Portuguese women were more cloistered in the home than in the cloisters themselves, as families sought to impede heterosexual contacts that might imperil valuable marital alliances. Indeed it was a matter debated openly by the aristocracy. According to a letter dated 1708 (Lopes, p. 49), the Count of Ericeira headed a group that argued for a more open society; the Count of Vimioso championed the old order. The posture of the reactionary element is best understood in relation to the decline of the nobility and the rise of the wealthy bourgeoisie. Both for the most part chose to perpetuate women’s seclusion as an emblem of status. For the nobility it was an assertion that they were holding fast to the status quo; for the nouveaux riches it was an indication that they had achieved equal footing with the old guard.

There is some evidence in travelers’ accounts that the newcomers were even more rigid than the old nobility. Some set up chapels in their own houses so that women would not even have to leave home to worship. In either case—that of the nobility or that of the nouveaux riches—women were virtually prisoners in their own homes until society slowly relaxed its hold. In the latter half of the eighteenth century, Brazilian gold created unprecedented affluence. The desire to display that affluence in the home gave impetus to a change in women’s daily lives as they became an integral part of that display. Though it can be argued that women remained commodities in the service of their family’s social and political status, the change nevertheless benefitted them. Now to be shown off in addition to being advantageously married off, young women were encouraged by their families to become better educated, if only to develop the conversational and musical skills needed to dazzle their privileged guests.

The situation of lower-class women differed considerably, largely because of their need to work. Whether in rural or urban settings, work required mobility and, more often than not, exposure to a broader public than the immediate household. These working women were subject to the same laws as the economically privileged, and they generally lived and raised their children within the bounds of traditional matrimony. But statistics indicate that there was a certain amount of deviance from the norm. Birth records for 1860, for example, reveal that 18.8 percent of births in the country were illegitimate; by 1862, the figure had risen to 20.3 percent (Serrão, pp. 174, 180). Since upper- and middle-class women were so carefully guarded, it follows that the largest share of the rise can probably be attributed to relationships involving lower-class women. Society seems to have been more tolerant of their transgressions. The reasons for the rise in those transgressions, however, is not easy to establish. Certainly it cannot be casually attributed to a greater acceptance of love matches as the basis for family units.

The Novel in Focus

Plot summary

Camilo Castelo Branco begins his novel with an introduction that makes the following declaration:

Leafing through the old record books of the prison in Oporto, in a volume listing prisoners incarcerated between 1803 and 1805, I read the following: Simão António Botelho, who attested that such was his name, that he was single, a student at the University of Coimbra, a native of the city of Lisbon and a resident at the time of his imprisonment of the city of Vizeu, son of Domingos José Correia Botelho and Rita Preciosa Caldeirão Castelo Branco. … In the left margin of this entry is written: He went to India, March 17, 1807.

(Branco, Doomed Love, p. 23)

The author uses this information, along with family lore, to attach a semblance of truth to a fictional account of his young uncle’s tragic love.

The first chapter paints a satirical portrait of Simão Botelho’s (and the author’s own) family, members of the old hereditary aristocracy whose antiquated sense of honor will thwart the happiness and fulfillment of the young lovers. The family patriarch, Simão’s paternal grandfather, is a member of the lesser nobility from the northern mountain province of Tras-os-Montes. Allegedly well regarded by Pombal, he is depicted nonetheless in images that speak more of decadence than of progressive vitality:

Before getting into her husband’s ancestral litter [Rita Preciosa] asked, with the most feigned seriousness, if it was not risky to travel in that antique. Fernão Botelho assured his daughter-in-law that his litter was not yet a hundred years old and the horses no more than thirty.

(Doomed Love, pp. 26–27)

Fernão Botelho’s son and Simão’s father, Domingos José Correia Botelho de Mesquita e Meneses, reads for the law in Lisbon and becomes a less-than-impressive magistrate known at Maria I’s court as the “wind-bag doctor.” His mother is a woman whose high-sounding name, Rita Teresa Margarida Preciosa da Veiga Caldeirão Castelo Branco, belies the reality of her condition: she lacks a dowry. A haughty and attractive lady-in-waiting to Maria I, Rita Preciosa is the daughter of one horse captain, the granddaughter of another. She descends from a general who “died fried in a cauldron” in some unknown Moorish land, “in truth a rather burning glory but so lofty that the fried general’s descendants came to call themselves Caldeirões (Cauldrons)” (Doomed Love, p. 26). Domingos José and Rita Preciosa become the parents of three daughters and two sons, the younger of the two being Simão Botelho. They reside in the small but distinguished ancient city of Viseu.

In 1801 Simão is 15 years old, arrogant, irreverent with respect to his ancestry, and given to unbridled delinquent behavior. At the time the story begins, he is a student in the humanities at the University of Coimbra, where political unrest is rampant. The students there are “sympathetic to confused theories of freedom,” affected only vaguely by the French Revolution, and rancorous towards England (Doomed Love, p. 31). In Simão’s view, “Portugal should regenerate itself in a baptism of blood to ensure that the hydra of tyrants would never again raise a single one of its heads under the club of the popular Hercules” (Doomed Love, p. 32). He sacrifices a school year to his advocacy of violent change, including regicide, until the authorities send him home. After three months in Viseu, Simão undergoes a remarkable transformation that ends in his forsaking all violence and seeking only solitude and serenity. The explanation for the about-face is that Simão Botelho has found love. “That is the magic word, the explanation for the apparently absurd change at the age of sixteen” (Doomed Love, p. 33). He showers his love on the attractive young Teresa de Albuquerque, 15-year-old daughter of next-door neighbor Tadeu de Albuquerque. Like Simão’s family, the latter is a member of the rural aristocracy and, unfortunately for the lovers, a man who despises the magistrate, Simão’s father, “because of litigation in which Domingos Botelho had passed sentence against him” (Doomed Love, p. 33). The stage is set for a tragic love story in the tradition of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Teresa’s father discovers the girl’s secret relationship with Simão and, enraged, takes immediate steps to destroy it. His first solution is marriage to another. She will become the wife of his nephew Baltasar Coutinho, the master of an estate in Castro-d’Aire and a man whose nobility is parallel to Teresa’s in her father’s eyes. But Teresa, who has a mind of her own, rejects Baltasar’s proposal. Next Albuquerque threatens her with the convent, the common repository for recalcitrant daughters in the nineteenth century. Teresa prefers this alternative, and without mentioning Baltasar Coutinho, she informs Simão of her predicament in the first of many letters that will henceforth be the lovers’ sole means of communication. “My father says that he is going to shut me in a convent because of you. … Don’t you forget me” (Doomed Love, p. 34). An elderly beggar woman serves as their go-between.

Simão returns to the university, a model student now, unrecognizable as the former delinquent and terrorist. “He studied feverishly like one who was already setting the bases for future renown and for the position he merited, sufficient to support a wife in comfort” (Doomed Love, p. 34).


While convents are by definition communities of women devoted to the service of God and have functioned in that capacity throughout Portuguese history, they have also been used by the country’s paternalistic society to exercise control over women. Up to the early nineteenth century, upper class women unable to marry advantageously were sent to the convent. Women would also be secluded in convents for thwarting their father’s plans for them and for perceived political rebellion. Unsurprisingly, these women, cloistered for reasons other than religious fervor, chose, within limits, to cultivate secular activities: theatrical performances, poetry readings and concerts, and musical events. They were even known to entertain suitors at the convents’ gates. In Spain, where a similar situation existed, such suitors became known as galanes de monjas (suitors of nuns). In Portugal they were called freiráticos. The first of the two convents in Doomed Love is a satirical recreation of the lax atmosphere found in some of the convents in Castelo Branco’s day.

Albuquerque presses his plans for Teresa’s marriage. When the girl finally informs Simão of this, his tranquility now shattered, he leaves the university to visit her in secret and to confront the threat to their love. Fearing discovery, he arranges to stay with a blacksmith, João da Cruz, outside the city and in time accepts the aid of this blacksmith and his brother-in-law in the dangerous enterprise. Simão finds a soul mate in the blacksmith’s beautiful daughter Mariana, who comes to love him selflessly, asking no more than to be by his side. When he is wounded in an ambush by Baltasar Coutinho’s servants, who are then killed by the blacksmith, Mariana nurses him and, despite her own feelings, serves eventually as an intermediary between Simão and Teresa. In the meantime, in the face of Teresa’s continued recalcitrance, Albuquerque follows through on his threat to banish her to a convent.

Albuquerque decides to put distance between the lovers and to thwart any plans they might have for a reunion by transferring his daughter to a convent in Oporto (not insignificantly a convent with a Mother Superior who happens to be a relative). On the day of her projected departure for Oporto, at the door of the convent and in her presence, an altercation breaks out between her two suitors. Simão kills Baltasar Coutinho, then makes no attempt to flee. The authorities arrest Simão and charge him with murder. His magistrate father, to preserve his own honor and because he too opposes the lovers’ union, refuses to help his son. Simão in turn, also for reasons of honor, refuses even the meager help his mother offers him and repudiates his family forever. Ironically both lovers end up in Oporto, Teresa languishing in the convent and Simão in prison. Mariana follows Simão to the city and nurtures him in prison, as she had in her own home. (At that time, prisoners were forced to provide for their own needs: food, clothing, and furnishings.) The three remain in Oporto for a couple of years, the two lovers finding some measure of spiritual and emotional solace in their faith and in the letters they continue to exchange. Finally Simão’s case is resolved. He is saved from the gallows but, in keeping with a common practice of the time, exiled for ten years to Goa, Portugal’s colony in India. As Simão sails off into exile with Mariana still at his side, all the principles find liberation in death—Teresa by wasting away from an at least partly psychosomatic illness; Simão by fever, and Mariana by faithful suicide.

Class distinctions, personal worth

In this otherwise traditional story of tragic love, Camilo Castelo Branco inserts an element that not only adds dimension to his exploration of love but highlights, by contrast, the perversity and decadence of the upper class. In many respects, the blacksmith João da Cruz and his daughter Mariana serve as an illuminating counterpoint to the two aristocratic families—Tadeu de Albuquerque and his daughter, and Domingos Botelho and his son. Without idealizing the blacksmith (he has apparent defects), the novel creates in João da Cruz a vigorous, principled man of valor and intelligence, who understands the distinctions between right and wrong and acts on the basis of loyalty, honor, and love. His allegiance to Simão, at first an act of gratitude to the magistrate Domingos Botelho for having saved him from the gallows once, is wholly transferred to the son in recognition of the younger man’s greater merit. Also the blacksmith’s love for his daughter and devotion to his wife’s memory are limitless. Unlike the two aristocratic fathers who willingly sacrifice family to a senseless and effete hereditary honor, João da Cruz gambles his very life in the service of love, personal honor, and right. He is fully aware, for example, of the danger posed by the enmity of Baltasar Coutinho, who had previously attempted to engage him to kill Simão. Simão Botelho, for whom honor and valor are also important, finds in João da Cruz the model father he never had.

João da Cruz’s daughter, Mariana, is one of the most complex and memorable of Castelo Branco’s characters. Like her father, a person of intelligence and vitality, she gives direction to his life as well as her own. She is also a woman of striking beauty (some say more beautiful than Teresa), yet does not let this affect her sense of place. The peasant girl knows full well her role in the social order. She is aware that because of her class her love for Simão can never be consummated in marriage (people of whatever economic means normally married within their class) and will never carry equal weight to that of Teresa’s in Simão’s eyes. Still, she devotes her life to a platonic relationship with him. Her love demands no more or less than the opportunity to do so. Simão, even in his delirium, recognizes her, along with Teresa, as the ultimate sustaining force in his life.

By juxtaposing the two classes in this fashion—the decadent and pretentious remnants of an old aristocracy against the vibrant and productive energy of the common folk—the author challenges what remains of a traditional value system. His position anticipates in some measure the one that will be taken in the following decade by the Generation of 1870.

Sources and literary context

The scholar Jacinto do Prado Coelho remarks that authorial claims to historical truth are liberally dispersed throughout the author’s work. However, he questions the veracity of those claims and wonders whether they might not be simply a convention common in Romantic fiction. More exactly, Prado Coelho provides information on Doomed Love that confirms the historicity of some of the novel’s details but challenges others. Domingos Botelho, for example, as historical documentation reveals, was a man of even worse character than the author suggests. Simão Botelho was indeed imprisoned in the same jail that later held the author, but there is no evidence that there was a love story behind the real Simão’s imprisonment. There is evidence that, contrary to his fate in the novel, he reached the Indian port of Goa in November 1807. There is no known documentation to support the existence of Teresa and Mariana or of their respective fathers.

The historical foundations of Camilo Castelo Branco’s fiction may be approached from a direction more fruitful than documented models of character and plot. Its elements are steeped in material drawn from the reality of northern Portugal. The novelist employs “figures, dramas, cases, happenings, tied to the old world of firstborns, of commanders, of litters, of powdered wigs, the world of petty lords or of liberals bound by ignorance or pride, abbots more or less educated but rooted in archaic customs, connoisseurs of the heart and the life of their sheep” (Eduardo Lourenço in Doomed Love, p. xiii). It is primarily in the overall recreation of this way of life that Doomed Love can claim to be drawn from history.

The individuals who comprise the society that Castelo Branco recreates emanate from a variety of sources. The robust and determined peasants are drawn not descriptively but dramatically through word and deed. It is in fact their language, with its colloquial expressions, proverbs, and terms common to the religious experience of their class, that makes João da Cruz and Mariana so vivid and lifelike to the Portuguese reader. For the aristocratic figures, Castelo Branco employs a technique more consonant with his intended ideological and institutional satire, a single-minded ridiculing distortion often verging on caricature. For Simão and Teresa, the author reserves a third register: the lyrical written expression of their anguished love. Castelo Branco’s novel is not simply a product of the author’s youthful observations; it is also informed by the literary and aesthetic currents of his day.

When Castelo Branco began to write, the last vestiges of eighteenth-century Neoclassicism were still in place but would soon be edged out by the Romanticism that reached Portugal from England and other continental European countries in the 1820s and 1830s. The new aesthetic was characterized in part by an interest in the past, recent or distant, and even more by a cult of the individual. The latter manifested itself in political anarchy and in the critique of institutions but also in a sentimentalism and a lyricism with a degree of intensity heretofore unseen. The preferred literary genres were the historical novel and theater, social and political theory, and historiography. Journalism also experienced an unprecedented growth in response to an increasing readership, literate but literarily unsophisticated. The principal representatives of the new movement in Portugal were Almeida Garrett (1799–1854; see Travels in My Homeland , also in WLAIT 5: Spanish and Portuguese Literatures and Their Times) and Alexandre Herculano (1810–77), the first a moderate liberal, the second a champion of the new aristocracy who described himself as liberal but antidemocratic. Herculano was the primary theorist of Romanticism in Portugal, notably in articles appearing in the journals Repositorio Literário and Panorama between 1834 and 1840. A second wave of Romantics included Camilo Castelo Branco and Antánio Feliciano Castilho (1800–1875), a writer whose Romanticism retained a Neoclassical overlay. Castilho became the center of an admiring group of younger writers.

By the mid-1860s, another literary movement was coming into focus under the leadership of two young writers at the University of Coimbra: the poets Antero Quental and Teófilo Braga (Braga would later, on two occasions, be President of Portugal). The Romantic veteran Castilho took it upon himself to publicly censure the younger men, to which Quental responded with the pamphlet Good Sense and Good Taste (1865), in which he defined the new writers’ mission: they would be the conduits of revolutionary thought, militant but with a moral conscience. It was the beginning of a debate that would last for years and would follow the group to Lisbon. Here, joined by other gifted writers and intellectuals (Eça de Queirós, Jaime Batalha Reis, Oliveira Martins, Ramalho Ortigáo, and Guerra Junqueiro), the innovators would gain distinction as the Generation of 1870, the group that inaugurated realism. The Generation organized a series of lectures to be presented at the Lisbon Casino in 1871. Delivering one of the lectures, Eça de Queirós, author of The Maias (also in WLAIT 5: Spanish and Portuguese Literatures and Their Times), discussed realism as the new expression in art. Officials outlawed the series of lectures before it could be completed, fearing a subversive intent, but the ideas unleashed were not so easily squelched. Eça de Queirós’s lecture “Realism as the New Expression in Art” became the foundation for the next major literary movement.

Castelo Branco, who defended Castilho in the debate with the younger writers, wrote his own works primarily under the influence of Romanticism. However, he was not altogether impervious to the realist aesthetic. Doomed Love is clearly a Romantic piece. Romanticism governs its exploration of ideal love, its fatalism and preoccupation with death, the nature of its characters, and even the novel’s diction in the lovers’ letters to each other. Teresa, the quintessential image of Romantic purity, shares with Simão Botelho an anguished love and welcomes the death that becomes for both of them not only the price of rebellion but a liberation and transcendence. Similarly, the lower-class characters João da Cruz and his daughter Mariana might be construed as part of a Romantic idealization of the common folk. Yet Castelo Branco does not idealize them. They are flesh and blood human beings, as real as the concerns with money, food, and social practices he disperses through the novel, which link him to the realist aesthetic in Portuguese literature at the time.

Events in History at the Time the Novel Was Written

Mid-century political turmoil

After the expulsion of the French from the Iberian Peninsula in 1811, Portuguese history remained tumultuous throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. The old regime, says David Birmingham, came to an end in three phases in Portugal:

  • A revolt in 1820 … led to the ending of the British occupation, the drafting of a democratic constitution and the reluctant recognition of Brazilian independence.
  • Ten years later, following the European liberal revolution of 1830, Portugal made a second attempt at fundamental political reform, expelled a royal pretender with absolutist aspirations, confiscated the crown lands and dissolved the monasteries.
  • Finally in 1851, in the wake of the 1848 revolution in Europe, a parliamentary regime was established. … Thereafter Portugal once again embarked on a modest programme of industrialisation and was brought into closer contact with Europe by the railway age.

(Birmingham, p. 103)

The anticipation and consequences of Brazilian independence added to the economic stagnation and unrest already created by the peninsular war against Napoleon, cutting off a major source of Portugal’s revenues. There was an obvious need for socioeconomic and political change; the catalyst finally arrived in the form of an uprising in Oporto on August 24, 1820, that soon spread south to Lisbon. The revolt came to an end a month later, on September 28, and its liberal leaders set about reorganizing the country. John VI returned from Brazil with his court in 1821 (leaving his son Pedro behind as regent), but even before he arrived the liberals had begun to achieve their goal, driving out the British occupiers and regaining independence after years of foreign occupation. In time they held an election for an assembly that would draw up plans for a constitutional government in a liberalized Portugal. Adopted in 1822, the constitution established a hereditary monarchy responsible to a unicameral parliament to be elected by all literate males. João VI swore to uphold the constitution but his wife, the calculating Carlota-Joaquina, refused to do so and was banished to a convent near Lisbon. João VI’s son, Prince Miguel, the queen’s favorite, also refused to swear allegiance and was sent into exile. In the face of this inauspicious beginning and lacking the support of a strong middle class able to sustain a constitutional government in opposition to the old aristocratic interests targeted in Doomed Love, the constitution failed. Illiteracy was still too widespread and industrial development too moderate to produce a solid power base among the masses. The constitution lost João VI’s support, and he abolished it in 1823.

Civil war

The next significant event in this tumultuous century was the civil war brought on by João VI’s death in 1826. Dom Pedro, the rightful heir to the crown, was now emperor of an independent Brazil. Rather than reuniting the two countries, Pedro chose to abdicate the Portuguese crown in favor of his seven-year-old daughter, Maria. She would marry Prince Miguel, who would serve as regent until she came of age. Pedro submitted to Portugal a Constitutional Charter, like that of Brazil, on which to base the new government. But after Miguel swore allegiance to the Charter, he promptly nullified it, dissolving the Chamber of Deputies. On her way from Brazil to Portugal at the time, the young Maria found herself rerouted to England for her own safety. Miguel assumed power as head of an absolutist government persecuting the liberals, winning support from the old order and having himself declared king. Many liberals fled to the Azores, where they began to organize a countercoup. In the interest of mounting it, they summoned Pedro from Brazil. Pedro abdicated his Brazilian throne in favor of his son and reasserted his legitimacy as king of Portugal, reestablishing the Charter of 1826 (the foundation of constitutional monarchy in Portugal), and supporting his daughter’s claim to Portugal’s throne. From the Azores, the liberals invaded the mainland at Oporto in 1832. With help from England, they beat off Miguel’s forces in the North and then, instead of continuing south to Lisbon as the miguelistas expected, they moved north on Lisbon from the southernmost region of the Algarve. They received assistance from an uprising in Lisbon itself, the war ending with the Treaty of Evoramonte in 1834. Maria II, brought from England to join her father in Lisbon, restored the Charter, and ejected Miguel’s supporters. To pay off the civil war debt, the new government abolished all monasteries and convents, confiscated their properties, and sold them to Pedro’s supporters. The middle and peasant classes benefitted little from the change, a failing that would prompt the next revolt, the Septembrist revolt of 1836.

The reigns of Maria II and her immediate successors

In sad economic straits and with a political leadership splintered into three distinct ideological groups—the royal absolutists, the conservatives, and the progressives—Portugal remained unstable. Several revolutions followed: the Septembrist revolt of 1836, which restored the constitution (revised in 1838); the restoration of the Charter of 1826 in 1842, followed by a period of fiscal, judicial, and educational reform; and finally, in 1846, the unprecedented Maria da Fonte revolution, begun by the women of northern Portugal. Women had become a powerful economic and political force in the Minho region, having had to manage household property and agriculture in the absence of their emigrating husbands. In 1846, they found themselves in opposition to what they perceived as the intrusion of government into local affairs when it established a land registry program.

Despite the upheaval, much was accomplished during Maria’s reign. Libraries and museums were opened to receive books and artworks from the closed monasteries. Civil registries for births, marriages, and deaths replaced the ecclesiastical ones. Most importantly, under the direction of the well-educated and well-traveled engineer António Maria de Fontes Pereira de Melo, the regime initiated an important public works program in 1851. Some of its achievements were a modern postal system, a telegraph system, roads, bridges, and railroads. Portugal now had an infrastructure in place for modernization based on the free movement of people and goods throughout the country.

Maria II died in childbirth at the age of 34, leaving eight children. The oldest, Pedro V, was 16 when he became king in 1853. He and two brothers died of typhoid fever in 1861, whereupon a surviving brother, 23-year-old Luis I, took over the monarchy and reigned until 1889. Despite these trials, the brother benefitted from a new stability associated with 1) the modernization of the infrastructure and of education, which led to the expansion of the middle class and 2) a new system of government based on the alternation of conservative and liberal parties in power. Camilo Castelo Branco, a resident of the politically active North, participated in these social and political movements, serving as a journalist and pamphleteer as well as a novelist. As suggested, he did not join the Generation of 1870 in their support for modernization. Instead, Castelo Branco made the fading old world the subject of his fiction, meanwhile acknowledging the dawning of the emerging new world, even dedicating Doomed Love to the engineer of modernization, Fontes Pereira de Melo.


In the preface to the second edition of Doomed Love (1863), Castelo Branco testifies to the unanticipated success of the work:

This book … had a reception greater than that accorded all its brothers. I had doubts because it was sad with no moments of laughter. … In honor and praise of the people who admired the book, I must confess with pleasure that I thought ill of them. I do not approve of their judgment but critical writings agreed with the majority.

(Doomed Love, p. 21)

The author’s response to the book’s success was obviously ambivalent. While he did not share his readers’ judgment of the quality of that work, he did value their praise. In the preface to the fifth edition (1879), with the new realism now in full swing in Portuguese literature, the author speaks again of the book’s “phenomenal and extra-Portuguese success” and criticizes it as a “Romantic novel, declamatory, and with lyric blunders and perverse ideas that verge on the excesses of sentimentalism. … I will never cease to criticize this novel,” he states (Doomed Love, p. 19).

It was not just the unsophisticated public that responded so enthusiastically; it is significant that although the members of the Generation of 1870 rejected the Romantic postures of Castelo Branco’s generation, they did not reject the author’s novels. Indeed, they, like the bulk of Castelo Branco’s readers since the author’s day, referred to him simply and admiringly as Camilo. No more was necessary as an identifier. Since Camilo’s death, Doomed Love has been frequently republished and adapted into both film and opera; it has inspired Portuguese novelists from Aquilino Ribeiro to Miguel Torga and Agustina Bessa-Luis. Perhaps the greatest tribute of all, however, came from outside Portugal, from Spain’s Miguel de Unamuno (see Mist , also in WLAIT 5: Spanish and Portuguese Literatures and Their Times), who deemed Doomed Love “the most intense and most profound love story ever written in the Iberian Peninsula” (Unamuno, p. 19).

—Alice Clemente

For More Information

Anderson, James M. The History of Portugal. West-port, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Birmingham, David. A Concise History of Portugal Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Branco, Camilo Castelo. Doomed Love (A Family Memoir). Trans. Alice R. Clemente. Providence, R.I.: Gávea Brown, 2000.

Cabral, Alexandre. Dicionário de Camilo Castelo Branco. Lisbon: Caminho, 1988.

Coelho, Jacinto do Prado. Introdução ao Estudo da Novela Camiliana. 2 vols. Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional—Casa da Moeda, 1982.

In Memoriam: Camilo. Centenário da Morte. Oporto: Comissão Nacionall das Comemorações Camil-ianas, 1992.

Lopes, Maria Antónia. Mulheres, Espaço e Sociabili-dade. A Transformação dos papéis femininos em Portugal a luz de fontes literárias (segunda metade do século XVIII). Lisbon: Livros Horizonte, 1989.

Lourenço, Eduardo. “Situação de Camilo,” in O Canto do SignoExistência e Literatura (1957–1993). Lisbon: Editorial Presenga, 1993.

Marques, A. H. de Oliveira. History of Portuguese Culture. Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional—Casa da Moeda, 1991.

Proceedings of the Camilo Castelo Branco International Colloquium. Ed. João Camilo dos Santos. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Center for Portuguese Studies, University of California, 1995.

Saraiva, José Hermano. Portugal: a Companion History. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1997.

Serrão, Joel. Fontes de Demografia Portuguesa1800–1862. Lisbon: Livros Horizonte, 1973.

Unamuno, Miguel de. Por tierras de Portugal y de España. Buenos Aires: Col. Austral, Espasa Calpe Argentina, 1944.

Vicente, Ana. As Mulheress Portuguesas Vistas por Vi-ajantes Estrangeiros (Séculos XVIII, XIX e XX). Lisbon: Gótica, 2001.