Gonzaga, Tomás Antônio (1744–1810)

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Gonzaga, Tomás Antônio (1744–1810)

Tomás Antônio Gonzaga (b. 1744; d. 1810), Brazilian poet. Born in Portugal to a Brazilian father from Rio de Janeiro and a mother of English background, Gonzaga went to Brazil as a child, where he studied in the Jesuit school in Bahia. After completing his law degree at Coimbra, Portugal, in 1768, he became a magistrate in Beja, Portugal, and later in gold-driven Vila Rica, in Minas Gerais province in Brazil. There, as both a reinol (that is, one born in Portugal and living in colonial Brazil) and a poet, he became involved in political and intellectual societies. Cláudio Manuel da Costa (1729–1789) and Inácio José de Alvarenga Peixoto (1744–1793) were among his closest friends and conspirators in the failed Inconfidência Mineira, the Mineiran Conspiracy of 1789. Gonzaga's judicial career in Brazil suffered because of a bitter political feud with the governor of Minas Gerais, Luís da Cunha e Meneses, who accused him of opportunism and corruption. Tried as a participant in the Mineiran Conspiracy, Gonzaga was sent into exile in Mozambique, where he married a rich widow, gradually regained his official position, and, at his death, was the Mozambican customs magistrate.

Gonzaga's poetry belongs to the Arcadian school, which flourished in late-eighteenth-century Minas Gerais. Using the name "Dirceu," he dedicated his lyrics to his beloved Marília, a sixteen-year-old girl he had intended to marry. He continued to write love poems throughout his exile in Mozambique, even when all hope of this marriage had already been dashed. Because his work was published on two continents and in several volumes (1792, 1799, 1812), the exact corpus of his poetry, published under the title Marília de Dirceu, has yet to be definitively established.

Perhaps more significant than his poems are the Cartas chilenas (1863), now attributed to Gonzaga. A veiled attack on Cunha e Meneses's government, these thirteen free-verse satirical letters offer a fascinating view of life in colonial Minas, in particular of the societal conflicts that surfaced among government officials, nobles, merchants, gold prospectors, and slaves.

Gonzaga's life and writings have inspired works by many other Brazilian writers down to the present, including Casimiro de Abreu, Castro Alves, and Drummond de Andrade.

See alsoInconfidência Mineira; Minas Gerais.


Wilson Martins, História da inteligência brasileira (1976–1983).

Additional Bibliography

Gonçalves, Adelto. Gonzaga, um poeta do iluminismo. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Nova Fronteira, 1999.

Polito, Ronald. Um coração maior que o mundo: Tomás Antônio Gonzaga e o horizonte luso-colonial. São Paulo: Editora Globo, 2003.

                                          Irwin Stern

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Gonzaga, Tomás Antônio (1744–1810)

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Gonzaga, Tomás Antônio (1744–1810)