Статья о жизни и творчестве поэтессы (на английском языыке)

By Vanda Anastácio, University of Lisbon and Foundation Casas de Fronteira and Alorna

The Marquise of Alorna has played an important role in the Portuguese society of the Eighteenth Century. She spent most of her childhood and youth in a convent and lived in Vienna, the South of France and London for almost two decades. She has exchanged poems and correspondence with such relevant contemporary personalities as the musician and poet Pietro Metastasio, the Austrian emperor Joseph II, the philosopher Moses Mendelsohn, and the Abbot Correia da Serra. While in Vienna, she was a friend of Maria Wilhelmine von Thun, attended Mozart’s concerts and was acquainted with the Counts Kaunitz and Zinzendorf. In Paris, she visited the salon of Mr. and Madame Necker, met Marmontel and the Abbot Raynal. When she lived in London, she moved in the circles of refugee aristocrats fleeing Napoleon, met the future Louis XVIII and Madame de Stäel. She was a wide reader and a poet, and translated from Latin, German, Italian, English and French into Portuguese. Her literary and cultural influence upon Portuguese intellectuals of various generations has been celebrated by Alexandre Herculano (1810-1877) who called her ‘the Portuguese Stäel’.

D. Leonor de Almeida Portugal Lorena e Lencastre was born in Lisbon, on the 31st of October 1750 and died in the same city on the 11th October 1839. She was the eldest daughter of D. João de Almeida Portugal, 4th Count of Assumar and 2nd Marquis of Alorna, and of D. Leonor de Lorena e Távora. D. Leonor was the grand-daughter of the Marquis and Marquise of Távora publicly executed in 1759 under the accusation of having participated in the attempt on the life of King Joseph the I . As a consequence of this event, she has been confined, together with her mother and her sister to the monastery of Saint Felix in Chelas, Lisbon. At the same time, her father, the 2nd Marquis of Alorna, D. João, was sent to prison. With the exception of Alcipe’s younger brother, D. Pedro, who was put under the tutorship of the Marquis of Pombal, the members of the Alorna family stayed in prison for 18 years. They were released in 1777, after the death of King D. José and the deposition of his Prime Minister.

Due to the insistence of D. João de Almeida Portugal on the revision of the charges of his involvement with the Távora’s process, the new queen D. Maria I has issued a decree (on the 17th of May 1777) declaring the innocence of the Marquis of Alorna, and giving back the old privileges to the family. Growing up in a monastery left profound marks in the personality and in the works of D. Leonor de Almeida, who experienced the separation from her father and her brother D. Pedro in a dramatic way. In her poetical works she represents herself as a sad person, haunted by unhappiness, as a victim of Despotism and Tyranny.

Sometime after the family had been incarcerated, around 1763, a secret correspondence was established between D. João and his wife, later extended to the daughters, and finally to the son. These letters are the main primary sources for the knowledge of D. Leonor’s youth. They testify the way in which the future Marquise of Alorna was building her personality, guided by her father’s advice but, most of all, by a thirst of knowledge which took her to dedicate herself intensely to reading, studying languages (French, Italian, English, Latin and Arabic), as well as to learning music and painting. A live document of the way books (including books forbidden by the Inquisition and Real Mesa Censória) circulated amongst the members of Portuguese high aristocracy at the time, this correspondence witnesses the remarkable diffusion the works and ideas of the philosophers of the French Enlightenment had in Portugal in the decades of 1760 and 1770. D. Leonor took an early interest in poetry. Already at the time she lived in the convent, rumors about her poetical skills were spread in the city of Lisbon, stimulated by stories about the innocent young lady prisoner, and by the circulation of manuscript copies of her texts among the circles of intellectuals and men of letters who used to visit her at São Felix.

In 1777, the Alorna family was included in the general pardon accorded to the political prisoners by queen Mary I, and was released. D. Leonor became a welcome guest in Lisbon literary circles for a while, but in 1778 she decided to marry Count Karl August von Oeynhausen (1739-1793), a German officer from the house of Shaumburg-Lippe on duty in the Portuguese army. The decision to marry a foreigner, who was also a Lutheran and was in a financially uncertain situation, was made against the will of her father, but with the support of the queen, who presided a public ceremony where Count Oeynhausen abjured the protestant faith and was baptized having for godparents the queen and king themselves. D. Leonor and Karl August married a year later and moved to Oporto, where Oeynhausen was granted a military post of command until 1780.

Thanks to the interference of the young D. Leonor, Count Oeynhausen was given the charge of Plenipotentiary Minister in Vienna, where the couple arrived in September 1780. The presence of D. Leonor at the Court of Vienna was agreeably noticed: she established an amiable relationship with Emperor Joseph II, who decorated her, with the Pope Pius VI, who visited the city in 1782 and wrote to her twice afterwards, as well as with the famous poet and libretto author Pietro Metastasio, the philosopher Moses Mendelsohn and the Portuguese musician Antonio da Costa who mentions her with appreciation in his letters. The letters exchanged by D. Leonor with her friend Countess of Vimieiro during these years are testimony of the encounter of the future Marquise of Alorna with the opera singer Luisa Todi, her friendship with Maria Wilhelmine de Uhlfeld, Countess of Thun-Hohenstein (1744-1800) and her integration in the Viennese social life. Proof of this integration is the fact that the name of Count Oyenhausen is included by Mozart in the list of subscribers of his Viennese concerts of 1784.

In spite of her social acceptance in Vienna and her interest in German language and literature, Alcipe did not stay in Austria for a long time. The family left Vienna for Avignon in October 1784 and stayed in the South of France for the next six years. They returned to Portugal in 1790, where Count Oeynhausen was given the position of Governor of the Algarve. He never took this post, for he died on the 3rd of March 1793. D. Leonor’s biographers usually say that after the death of her husband she has retired to the family properties of Almeirim and Almada, where she would have dedicated herself to the education of her six children, to charities and to teaching young girls of the region. However, she seems to have started a literary friendship with D. Catarina de Lencastre, 1st Vicountesse of Balsemão (1749-1824) during this period, and between 1793 and 1802 D. Leonor maintained literary exchanges with some of the poets of Academia de Belas Letras founded in 1789 (also known as Nova Arcádia). Dating from the same period is the literary relationship with Manuel Maria Barbosa du Bocage (1765-1805) confirmed by the exchange of poems between the two, as well as by the fact that the name of the Countess of Oeynhausen is included on the list of subscribers of the II volume of Bocage’s Rimas in 1799 and that Manuel Maria dedicated to her the III volume, printed in 1804.

In her first years as a widow, the Countess of Oeynhausen seems to have enjoyed some favor at the Court, although queen D. Maria I had been removed from power by then. In 1801, by a decree (Alvará) of the 9th of November, D. Leonor was appointed Maid of Honor of the future queen D. Carlota Joaquina. In the following year she was formally invited to suggest the themes for the decoration of the Royal Palace of Ajuda. But in October 1802, for a reason not yet completely clear, but which seems to be connected to the creation of a secret society named Sociedade da Rosa, Alcipe left the country. She was to spend the years 1803 to 1814 in exile, first in Spain (until 1804) and afterwards in Great Britain, apparently involved in political activities against Napoleon Bonaparte. During this period, she met a number of French political exiles, as well as Madame de Staël and the Duke of Palmela, who was the Portuguese Ambassador in London, whom she will designate in her poetry by the name of ‘Holstenio’.

D. Leonor returned to Portugal on the 1st of July 1814, after her brother’s death (on the 2nd of January 1813, in Königsberg) and during the next ten years dedicated all her energy to the rehabilitation of her brother’s memory, who had been charged with treason (Inconfidencia) for having been the Commander of the Portuguese Legion integrated in the Napolean Army. Thanks to her efforts, the sentence of treason was revised and the titles of Marquis of Alorna and Count of Assumar were given back to the family in 1823. Since her sister in law and her nephews were already dead by that time, D. Leonor inherited these titles.

It was mainly after her return from England that Alcipe played a central role in Lisbon’s intellectual life. In spite of the financial difficulties she was fighting with until she died at the age of 89 (on the 11th of October 1839), she opened her salons at the various residences she had in this city to poets, politicians, philosophers and intellectuals who also visited her during her stays in the countryside in Almada and at her grandson’s home in the Fronteira Palace in São Domingos de Benfica. Judging from the opinions of the contemporaries who met her at the time, D. Leonor had by then become a central figure in the intellectual milieu of the capital, acting as a mediator between poets of different generations, who saw the admittance to her circle as a sign of prestige, recognition and legitimization of talent.

D. Leonor de Almeida did not publish her poetry during her lifetime: it was published by her daughters Frederica and Henriqueta in 1844, in 6 volumes, five years after her death. The edition includes original poetry along with her translations of Claudian, Gray, Goethe, Bürger, Cronek, Metastasio, Milton, Thompson, Goldsmith, Lamartine, Klopstock, Wieland and the pseudo-Ossian.

D. Leonor de Almeida can be considered in many ways a “daughter of the Enlightenment”, for she understood poetry as an activity both morally useful and didactic. It is in this line of thought that one can understand the numerous allusions to the progress of Science disseminated throughout her works, the concern to demonstrate the compatibility between the Catholic Faith and the Laws of Nature (as in her Epistle to Godofredo, or in her poem Recreações Botânicas), the translations of Horace’s Poetics, of Pope’s Essay on Criticism, the verse paraphrases of the complete Psalter, and even the two translations of political and theological texts: by Chateaubriand’s De Bonaparte e dos Bourbons (“About Bonaparte and the House of Bourbon”) published in 1814, and by Lamennais, Ensaio sobre a Indiferença em Matéria de Religião (“Essay on the Indifference in Matters of Religion”) published in 1820.

Together with these themes we can find in Alcipe’s work an expression of the sensibility characteristic of the European XVIIIth Century, a particular taste for description and mise-en-scène of emotions escaping or resisting the regulating power of reason. This is how we can understand the pungent self-portraits in which the author represents herself as persecuted by disgrace, or ill fortune, the descriptions of Nature in melancholic or dark terms, the celebration or mise-en-scène of Death, Night, Illness, Pain and Tears, that are so frequent in Alcipe’s poetry that she has been classified, in the years 1960 and 1970 as a pre-romanticist. However, an overview of her textual production shows that the taste for classical rules, themes and motives, as well as the manifestations of sensibility that can be found in her poems are subordinated to a world view oriented by the civic parameters of the Enlightenment, which take reason and virtue as entities regulating the emotions, and poetry as an activity at the service of the pedagogical ideal of people’s education for citizenship. As a prolific writer, translator and cultural mediator between intellectuals at international as well as national levels, D. Leonor is an important figure to the COST Action.


Key works

Poética de Horácio e Ensaio sobre a Crítica de Alexandre Pope por uma portugueza, Londres, T. Harper, 1812.
Paraphrase dos Psalmos, tomo I, Lisboa, Imprensa Régia, 1833
Obras Poeticas de D. Leonor d’Almeida Portugal Lorena e Lencastre, Marqueza d’Alorna, Condessa d’Assumar e d’Oeynhausen, conhecida entre os poetas portuguezes pello nome de Alcipe, 6 vols., Lisboa, Na Imprensa Nacional, 1844.

Twentieth and twenty-first century editions

Sonetos da Marquesa de Alorna, ed. by Vanda Anastácio (Rio de Janeiro: Editora 7Letras, 2008).
Cartas de Lília e Tirse (1771-1777), ed. by Vanda Anastácio with introductory essays by Teresa Almeida, Vanda Anastácio and Raquel Bello Vazquez and annotation by Teresa Almeida, Vanda Anastácio, Manuella Delille, João Almeida Flor, Tiago Miranda, Raquel Bello Vazquez, Nuno Monteiro, (Lisbon: Fundação das Casas de Fronteira e Alorna-Colibri, 2007).


Vanda Anastácio, A Marquesa de Alorna (1750-1839) (Lisbon: Prefácio, 2009).


Maria Amália Vaz de Carvalho, Cenas do Seculo XVIII em Portugal (Lisbon: Portugal-Brasil Limitada, 1920)
Hernâni Cidade, A Marquesa de Alorna, sua vida e Obras. Reprodução de Algumas Cartas Inéditas (Oporto: Companhia Portuguesa Editora, 1930).
Olga Morais Sarmento da Silveira, A Marqueza d’Alorna. (Sua influência na Sociedade Portuguesa) 1750-1839 (Lisbon: Livraria Ferreira, 1907).

Criticism and Comparative analysis

Teresa Sousa de Almeida, «La grille et la fenêtre» Arquivos do Centro Cultural Português, vol. XLIX, (Paris: Fundação Gulbenkian, 2005, pp. 47-52).
Teresa Sousa de Almeida and Vanda Anastácio, «Le poids d’un Nom» Quadrant, nº 22, Centre de recherche en littérature de langue portugaise (Montpellier : ETILAL, Université Paul-Valéry, Montpellier III, 2005, pp. 53-62).
Vanda Anastácio, «La Marquise d’Alorna (1750-1839): une femme de lettres du siècle des Lumières», Quadrant, (Montpellier : ETILAL, Université Paul-Valéry, Montpellier III, nº 25/26, 2008/2009, pp. 213-222).
Vanda Anastácio, « Cherchez la femme» (À propos d’une forme de sociabilité littéraire à Lisbonne à la fin du XVIIIe siècle) Arquivos do Centro Cultural Português, vol. XLIX (Sociabilités intellectuelles XVI-XX siècle) (Paris : Centre Culturel C. Gulbenkian, 2005, pp. 93-101).
Vanda Anastácio, «La personne la plus dangereuse parmi les ennemis de Bonaparte»: une lettre oubliée de D. Leonor de Almeida Portugal», Lettres de Versailles, (Oporto : Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto, Núcleo de Estudos Literários, 2005, pp. 95-107).
Palmira Fontes da Costa, “Women and the Popularisation of Botany in Early Nineteenth-Century Portugal: The Marquesa de Alorna´s Botanical Recreations”, in Faidra Papanelopoulou, Agustí Nieto-Galan and Enrique Perdiguero (eds.), Popularisation of Science and Technology in the European Periphery (Ashgate, 2009, pp. 43-63).
Maria Luísa Cusati, «Due Eleonore: D. Leonor de Almeida Portugal Lorena e Lancastre (1750-1839), D. Leonor de Fonseca Pimentel (1752-1799)» Estudos Italianos em Portugal, Nova Série, nº 3, (Lisbon: Instituto Italiano de Cultura de Lisboa, 2008, pp. 133-149).
Maria Manuela Gouveia Delille, «Zu den Anfangen der Staël-Rezeption in der portugiesischen Litteratur» in: Udo Schöning e Frank Seemann (coord.), Madame de Staël und die Internationalität der europäischen Romantik. Fallstudien sur interculturellen Vernetzung, (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2003, pp. 51-73).
Marion Ehrart, «Die Marquesa de Alorna und die deutsche Literatur» Aufsätze zur portugiesieschen Kulturgeschichte, 10 band 1970, Hrsg. Von Hans Flasche (Portugiesischen Forschungen der Görresgesellschaft, Erste Reihe) (Münster: Aschendorff, 1970, pp. 89-97).
Elias Torres Feijó, «Ad maiorem gloriam…feminae. Enlightened Women and the Introduction of Models in Portugal during the second half of the Eighteenth Century» Portuguese Studies, vol. 20, 2004, pp. 73-88.
Raquel Bello Vázquez, «Lisbon and Vienna: the correspondence of the Countess of Vimieiro and her circle» Portuguese Studies, vol. 20, 2004, pp. 89-107.

AsK November 2010