Empire in Transition: The Portuguese World in the Time of Camões contains 18 of the 26 papers delivered at the conference, “The Portuguese World in the Time of Camões: Sixteenth-Century Portugal, Brazil, Portuguese Africa and Portuguese Asia,” held at the University of Florida in 1980 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the poet’s death. The editors have conveniently grouped these far-ranging papers into four categories: 1) The Portuguese in Europe; 2) the Portuguese in Brazil; 3) the Portuguese in Africa and Asia; and 4) Camões: A Man for All Centuries.
In the first part, A. H. de Oliveira Marques’s “A View of Portugal in the Time of Camões” brings to light an Italian document he discovered in Hanover, Germany, entitled “Ritratto et Riverso del Regno di Portogallo” (“Portrait and Reverse of the Kingdom of Portugal”). As the title suggests, the account—written about 1580 by an Italian visiting Portugal—discusses Portugal’s good and bad points and is a valuable source for understanding that country on the eve of Hapsburg domination. Peter Fothergill-Payne’s “A Prince of Our Disorder: “Good Kingship’ in Camões, Couto and Manuel de Melo” surveys the writings of these three prominent men of letters, and discusses their comments on kingship itself and the king’s rights and obligations. The section on Portugal concludes with Richard A. Preto-Rodas’s “Uriel-Gabriel da Costa: Heir to the Rationalism of the Portuguese Renaissance,” in which he discusses the New Christian’s journey from Christianity to Judaism to rationalism. Preto-Rodas concludes that the “work of Uriel da Costa can be fully appreciated only when viewed within the larger context of the critical-humanistic tradition as exemplified by a Juan Huarte, a Camões, and a Sá de Miranda” (pp. 28-29).
Part II of Empire in Transition focuses on Brazil. José Honorio Rodrigues contributes a useful overview entitled “The Victory of the Portuguese Language in Colonial Brazil.” He traces the use and influence of the various Indian languages in Brazil, especially the widely-spoken lingua geral, a simplified form of Tupí, later in the 1757 Law of the Directorate called “a truly abominable and diabolical invention” (p. 51). The author also discusses the large number of African languages and their various dialects. José Honório concludes that the victory of the Portuguese language occurred only in the second half of the eighteenth and the first quarter of the nineteenth century after a long and sometimes bitter struggle—a true “linguistic and a cultural war” (p. 59). Irwin Stern’s “An Epic Birth Certificate: Pero Vaz de Caminha’s Carta to Dom Manuel” analyzes the predominant epic tone and influences in the escrivão a bordo’s account. Fred Gillette Sturm’s “‘Estes têm alma como nós?’: Manuel da Nóbrega’s View of the Brazilian Indians” studies the Jesuit leader’s Diálogo sôbre a conversão do gentio. Sturm argues that Nóbrega “was certainly the most articulate voice in the Portuguese world of the time to be raised in favor of a view of the Brazilian Indian as fully human, of equal status in nature to the Portuguese, and therefore possessing the same rights and deserving the same protection. . .” (p. 81). The late Frederick C. H. Garcia in “Estrutura e temas da Prosopopéia de Bento Teixeira” rounds out Part II by discussing the epic poem dedicated to Jorge de Albuquerque Coelho, which praises the courage, faith, and patriotism of the third donatário of Pernambuco.
Gerald M. Moser’s “Grumbling Veterans of an Empire” leads off the third part of this collection by surveying criticism by common soldiers who were upset by their lack of rewards and the poor treatment they were receiving. George Winius in “The Portuguese Asian ‘Decadência,’ Revisited” compares the Portuguese approach to obtaining the wealth of the Far East with that of the later English and Dutch East India Companies. He concludes by agreeing with Charles R. Boxer that “it was not corruption per se, but the Dutch who ruined the Portuguese.” Joseph C. Miller with a play on the title of Gilberto Freyre’s 1940 study, O mundo que o português criou, looks at Angola from an Africanist’s perspective and entitles his contribution “Angola in the Sixteenth Century—Um mundo que o português encontrou.” Miller asserts that “Camões’s compatriots often followed African initiatives and survived only by drawing on recognizable African analogues of their own practices, thereby fitting into, more than modifying, the ongoing world they found” (p. 128).
The final part of the collection centers on Camões, his work and influence. José Sebastião da Silva Dias’s “Camões perante o Portugal do seu tempo” analyzes the intellectual as well as the social ambience of Portugal during Camões’s lifetime. Graça Silva Dias in her “Cultura e sociedade na infancia e adolescência de Camões” primarily studies the autos of Gil Vicente. The history of the word “Lusiad” is traced by Harold V. Livermore in his “On the Title of The Lusiads.” The “laughter and pride” occasioned by Portugal’s early overseas exploits which inspired several of Gil Vicente’s farces in the first quarter of the sixteenth century are compared with the disillusionment found in Camões’s epic poem of 1572 by Jack E. Tomlins in his “Gil Vicente’s Vision of India and Its Ironic Echo in Camões’s Velho do Restelo.’” In “The Theme of Amphitryon in Luís de Camões and Hernán Pérez de Oliva,” René Concepción concludes that “Camões’s borrowings from Pérez de Oliva were indeed numerous but not profound” (p. 178). “The Place of Camões in the European Cultural Conscience” focuses on the nineteenth century, as William Melczer looks at translations and critical studies of Camões, with a special emphasis on France, Italy, Germany, and England. Omitting writers and other specialists, Norwood Andrews, Jr. argues that the belief Americans have ignored Camões is a myth and tries to identify owners and readers of Poems from the Portuguese of Luis de Camoens in his “Camões and Some of His Readers in American Imprints of Lord Strangford’s Translation in the Nineteenth Century.” Part IV ends with an interesting comparison between Camões and Eça de Queiroz in Alberto de Lacerda’s “Os Lusíadas e os Matas: Um binómio português?”