Few books have created as much of a furor in Brazil as this revisionist approach to Rui Barbosa. The columns of the national and local newspapers were filled for weeks with irate protests against such sacrilegious attacks on this Brazilian hero. In April 1965 government agencies proposed that federal universities create a Rui Barbosa Chair to deal with his life and work, thus “forestalling attempts to destroy and becloud the personality of the great Brazilian, as has recently been done.” This emotional outburst is a natural outcome of the current enthronement of certain Brazilian attitudes—from (occasional) laissez-faire to the (qualified) rule of law—and the persistent veneration of European and American models, a worshipful stance that allows Brazil credit only to the extent that it conforms to foreign values. Barbosa was a leading spokesman for and example of these attitudes, and a merciless exposure of their contradictory nature and mundane base is hardly calculated to calm highly sensitized professional and business groups.

Magalhães Júnior has produced such an exposé, correctly perceiving Rui Barbosa as a pharisee who never admitted even to himself that his self-righteousness was groundless and hypocritical. Full of pride, self-centered, and unable to understand the point of view of anyone who disagreed with him, Rui was neither a warm person nor an able politician. On the other hand, Barbosa’s virtues, his erudition, his fiery idealism, his sharply critical insights into his own country’s condition, his contribution to the end of slavery, his protests against oppression, have all been ignored in the present work. The author argues, perhaps with reason, that enough praise has been heaped upon Rui Barbosa to justify a less than balanced presentation.

What cannot be justified is the lack of historical perspective with which Rui is examined. Being a Social Darwinist or viewing the labor movement with suspicion are hardly valid grounds for criticizing a man who flourished in the three decades after 1880. To attack as political chicanery the appointment in 1891 of those who were known to be loyal to the Republic is to forget the storm through which the young nation was then thought to be sailing. This charge is an especially surprising one, since in other places Magalhães Júnior, who places exaggerated emphasis on Rui’s alleged inconsistencies, manages nevertheless to criticize him for disloyalty to his party (cf. pp. 65 and 107).

Nor is it defensible to base a major thrust against Rui Barbosa on a mistranslation. One of Rui’s genuine achievements was to improve Brazil’s “image” at the time of the 1907 Hague Peace Conference. The widespread effect of this performance was especially due to the publicity which he received from the pen of William T. Stead. Magalhães Júnior makes a major point of showing that Stead was paid to puff up the “Eagle of the Hague.” It is true that in a glossy supplement to the Review of Reviews Stead published a paean of praise for Rui and that there is a recipt made out to Barbosa for 9,600 florins. But since Stead founded, owned, edited, and used the Review of Reviews to advance the cause of international peace, it remains unclear whether this amount was to meet the cost of publication or the cost of Stead’s opinions. Magalhães Júnior, however, translates the phrase “special supplement as per my letter” as “como compensação especial por minha correspondência” (p. 284). Since he is a journalist and publicist who has had extensive experience at translating English, one may question his good faith toward Rui and his professional fairness towards Stead whom he characterizes as an insignificant second-rate newspaperman.

A new look at Rui Barbosa is certainly required. It is unfortunate that a more defensible case was not presented at this time.