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Silvio Romero

Date Born.:

Literary critic, Professor, Philosopher

Legal Sciences 

Silvio Romero

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 16/10/2013

By: Virginia Barbosa - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

[...] Continue, continue, poets and novelists, to study provincials habits; reproduce in your songs and in your novels the good feeling of the people either from North or South; emphasise differences and links between these peoples, which are the arm and the heart of Brazil (Silvio Romero, in the História da literatura brasileira (History of Brazilian Literature).

Folklorist, literary critic, professor, philosopher and politician Silvio Romero, son of Andrew Ramos Romero and Maria Vasconcelos da Silveira Ramos, was born on 21 April 1851, in the hinterland village of Lagarto, in the province of Sergipe. From his childhood until the age of twenty-two, when he graduated, he used to sign Silvio Vasconcelos da Silveira Ramos. “To abbreviate his name,” according to the folklorist, he went on to sign Silvio Silveira Ramos, and “then only Silvio Romero, to shorten it even further [...].” The surname Romero, according to Silvio Rabelo, was not from the family and his father, André Ramos, National Guard officer, had adopted it without knowing how.

He was only six weeks old when a yellow fever outbreak gripped Lagarto and other villages. Silvio was taken to the Moreira sugarcane plantation, belonging to his maternal grandparents and located fifteen miles from his hometown.

He returned to Lagarto at the age of five due to a cholera epidemic that swept the Moreira sugarcane plantation, and remained there until 1863.

His early studies were in the village where he was born, and his secondary schooling at the Fluminense Athenaeum in Rio de Janeiro from 1863 to 1867. He returned to Lagarto in January 1868. The following month, he went to Recife, where he entered the Recife Faculty of Law, graduating in Legal Sciences in 1873. The city of Recife was a necessary step in a writing career, and Silvio Romero linked himself forever to this city.

At the end of 1869, Silvio began to appear in the Recife press, encouraged by Tobias Barreto and the controversy between the priest Pinto de Campos and General Abreu e Lima over counterfeit bibles. His first contribution to the press was the monograph A poesia contemporânea e a sua intuição naturalista (Contemporary Poetry and Its Naturalist Intuition), and later with verses or with a series of articles opposing the romanticism and poetry of the time.

Silvio Romero is considered the central figure in the second phase (1875-1878) of the School of Recife, or the 1871 Generation. The School of Recife was a sociological and cultural movement formed on the premises of the Recife Faculty of Law and which contributed to the Brazilian intellectual development in sociology, anthropology, literary criticism and aesthetics.

Between 1873 and 1874, he served as prosecutor in the county of Estancia, Sergipe, and was elected Provincial Representative for this State. At 25 years of age, he married Pernambuco-born Clarinda Diamantina Correia de Araújo, and in November of the same year, went the town of Parati, Rio de Janeiro, where he was appointed judge. During his stay of two and a half years in Parati he didn’t publish anything. This period was used to organise his, up to that point, dispersed production. From this work emerged the idea of the series entitled Oito Anos de Jornalismo (Eight Years of Journalism), which he wrote in eight volumes.

He was married three times: to Clarinda Diamantina, Maria Liberato and Petronilla Barreto.

He settled in Rio de Janeiro on 16 May 1879. He began writing for the newspaper O Repórter, owned by Lopes Trovão – who was a Silvio’s colleague at the time of preparatory exams. On the 19 May, he published a parliamentary criticism under the pseudonym of Feuerbach. Soon after, on May 27, articles appeared attacking the head figures of parliament, including: José Bonifácio, Joaquim Nabuco, Visconde do Rio Branco, and João Alfredo, among others. The newspaper O Repórter had a very short life. When it closed in August 1879, Silvio Romero spent some time not writing. Shortly afterwards, he was invited by Franklin Távora to be effective contributor to the magazine Revista Brasileira. In this journal, Silvio wrote articles about various themes: folklore, folk poetry, literature. The positive criticism confirmed his reputation. However, as he had always been critical of romanticism, Silvio was not afraid to go even further to publish his fourth book: A literatura brasileira e a crítica moderna (Brazilian Literature and Modern Criticism). In it, among many other opinions and criticisms, Silvio Romero writes:

Brazilian spiritual life is poor and mean, without concepts and banal for those who can think under the light of new principles. [...] We are presenting the spectacle of a people who do not think and does not produce for themselves. [...] Consider, for now, this century’s romantic renewal with its favourite spot – Indianism. In the great nations of Europe, like England and Germany, romanticism was in part a return to popular sentiments, a resurrection of the past in which it had more use. [...] They say one of the merits of the Romantic movement in Europe is to have contributed to this fruitful renewal. In Brazil, things went differently. Brazilian romanticism had the prestige of falsifying and obscuring the study of our origins and drawing darkness over the first three centuries of our existence.

After this publication, the chances to participate in any literary circle in Rio de Janeiro were minimal. The choice was to run for the Professor of Philosophy position at the D. Pedro II Imperial College, which occurred on 22 December 1879. On 13 March 1880, the decree appointing him was published, and he took office on the 30th, which consolidated Silvio’s prestige in Rio de Janeiro.

On 20 July 1897, as a founding member, Silvio Romero inaugurated the Brazilian Academy of Letters, and occupied the chair whose patron was Hipólito da Costa.

He was invited to inaugurate a course on Brazilian ethnography at the Faculty of Arts of Paris, but did not accept due to illness.

Silvio Romero died at age 63, on 18 July 1914.

He wrote articles for various periodicals like the academic journal Crença (1870), which he ran with Celso de Magalhães, Americano (1870), Correio Pernambucano (1871), Diario de Pernambuco (1871), Movimento (1872), Jornal do Recife (1872), A República (1873), O Liberal (1873), O Trabalho, Tribuna do Povo, O Repórter, under the pseudonym Feuerbach (1879), Revista Brasileira (1880).

Among the numerous works are:

Books: A poesia contemporânea e a sua intuição naturalista (Contemporary Poetry and its Naturalist Intuition) (1869); Se a Economia Política é uma ciência (If Political Economy is a Science) (1873), Discurso na Assembléia Provincial de Sergipe (Speech at the Provincial Assembly of Sergipe) (1874); Etnologia selvagem (Wild Ethnology) (1875), Contos do fim do século (Tales of the End of the Century) (1878), A filosofia no Brasil (Philosophy in Brazil) (1878), A literatura brasileira e a crítica moderna (Brazilian Literature and Modern Criticism) (1880), Da interpretação filosófica na interpretação dos fatos históricos (The Philosophical Interpretation of the Interpretation of Historical Events) (1880, thesis), O Naturalismo em literatura (Naturalism in Literature) (1882), Introdução à História da Literatura Brasileira (Introduction to the History of Brazilian Literature) (1882); Últimos Harpejos (Latest Arpeggios) (1883), Ensaios de crítica parlamentar (Essays of Parliamentary Criticism) (1883), Contos populares do Brasil (Folk Tales from Brazil) (1883), Lucros e perdas, crônica mensal dos acontecimentos (Profit and Loss, Monthly Chronicle of Events) (1883); Valentim Magalhães, estudos (Valentim Magalhães, Studies) (1884), Estudos de literatura contemporânea, páginas de crítica (Studies on Contemporary Literature, Critical Pages) (1885), Uma esperteza (An Artifice), Os cantos e contos populares do Brasil e o Sr. Teófilo Braga (The Songs and Popular Tales of Brazil and Mr Teófilo Braga) (1888), Etnografia brasileira, estudos críticos (Brazilian Ethnography, Critical Studies) (1888), História da literatura brasileira (History of Brazilian Literature), 2v. (1888).

Articles: A poesia de Harpejos Poéticos (The Poetry of Poetic Arpeggios) (1870), O que entendemos por poesia crítica (What We Mean by Poetry Criticism) (1870), Cartas a Manoel Quintiliano da Silva (Letters to Manoel Quintiliano da Silva) (1870), A poesia das Phalenas (The Poetry from Phalenas) (1870), A poesia das Espumas Flutuantes (The Poetry from the Floating Foam) (1870), Ainda a poesia das “Espumas Flutuantes” (More Poetry from the “Floating Foam”) (1870); Sistema das contradições poéticas (System of Poetic Contradictions) (1871), A poesia e os nossos poetas I (Poetry and Our Poets 1) (1871), A propósito de um livro (About a Book) (1871), O caráter nacional e as origens do povo brasileiro (The National Character and the Origins of the Brazilian People) (1871), Uma página sobre Literatura Nacional (A Page on National Literature) (1872), Realismo e Idealismo (Realism and Idealism) (1872), As legendas e as epopéias (Legends and Epics) (1872), A poesia e a religião (Poetry and Religion) (1872), A poesia e a ciência (Poetry and Science) (1872), Camões e os Lusíadas (Camões and Lusíadas) (1872); A rotina literária (The Literary Routine) (1872), As cartas de Sempronio e Cincinato contra Senio (The Letters of Sempronius and Cincinnatus against Senio) (1872); Uns versos de moça (Some Verses by a Young Woman) (1872), A crítica literária (Literary Criticism) (1873); A poesia de hoje (Poetry Today) (1873), O romantismo no Brasil – seu ponto de partida; seu desenvolvimento; o romance e o drama (Romanticism in Brazil - its point of departure; development, romance and drama) (1873), O romantismo no Brasil e em Portugal – o nacionalismo literário (Romanticism in Brazil and Portugal - The Literary Nationalism) (1873), O problema histórico das raças (The Historical Problem of Races) (1874), O indianismo e o sentimento nacional na literatura (Indianism and Nationalism Sentiment in Literature) (1874), Síntese do movimento literário brasileiro atual (Synthesis of Current Brazilian Literary Movement) (1874, a series of three articles); Um etnólogo brasileiro: Couto de Magalhães (A Brazilian Ethnologist: Couto de Magalhães) (1874), A poesia popular no Brasil (Popular Poetry in Brazil) (1880) A questão do dia, a emancipação dos escravos (The Question of the Day, the Emancipation of Slaves) (1881), O martírio de Tobias Barreto (The Martyrdom of Tobias Barreto) (1890), Compêndio da História da Literatura Brasileira (Compendium of the History of Brazilian Literature) (1906).


Recife, 26 November 2010.
Translated by Peter Leamy, March 2012


sources consulted

MENDONÇA, Carlos Süssekind de. Silvio Romero: sua formação intelectual 1851-1880. São Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1938. (Brasiliana, série 5, v. 114).

RABELLO, Sylvio. Itinerário de Sylvio Romero. Rio de Janeiro: José Olympio, 1944. (Coleção Documentos Brasileiros, 43).


how to quote this text

Source: BARBOSA, Virgínia. Silvio Romero. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009