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Tobias Barreto

Date Born.:

Jurist, poet, philosopher


Tobias Barreto

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Last update: 19/03/2020

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

Tobias Barreto de Meneses was born in Campos, Sergipe on 7 June 1839 to Pedro Barreto de Meneses, registrar of orphans and abandoned children in the city, and Emerenciana de Meneses.

In 1846 he enrolled in the primary school of teacher Manuel Joaquim de Oliveira Campos in the city he was born and, in 1851, he was taken to the city of Estância to learn Latin with Father Domingos Quirino. He dedicated himself so much and had such good results that in 1857 he was appointed to the chair of latin in the town of Itabaiana.

From 1854 to 1865 he was a private teacher in various subjects. He attempted the public exam for the chair in Latin at the Ginásio Pernambucano in Recife, but did not achieve it.

In 1861 he travelled to Bahia to pursue an ecclesiastical career, but could not handle the strict discipline and without a firm vocation, he left the seminary.

He sat the preparatory exams required to enter tertiary education in Salvador.

He moved to Recife and in 1864 enrolled in the Recife Faculty of Law, where he was one of the most important figures in the intellectual movement known as the Recife School, graduating in 1869.

During his time at the Faculty he contributed to the newspapers O Acadêmico (1865); A Luta (1867); A Regeneração (1868); O Vesúvio (1869); and Correio Pernambucano (1869), where philosophy articles were published. The Diario de Pernambuco also printed several of his poems and the Jornal do Recife, A Província and Correio do Norte published articles of various natures.

He married in 1868 the daughter of a colonel, owner of sugarcane plantations in the municipality of Escada, Pernambuco, and before finishing the Law course he already had a young son.

In 1870 he lived in Recife, where he ran the newspaper Americano and in 1871 he settled in the city of Escada, Pernambuco, where he practiced law and dedicated himself to studying German by self-teaching.

As the owner of a small printers in Escada he published the following periodicals: Um Sinal dos Tempos (A Sign of the Times) (ten editions, 1874); A Comarca da Escada (The District of Escada) (five editions, 1875); Desabuso (Disabuse) (five editions, 1875); Aqui pra Nós (Here for Us) (two editions, 1875); O Povo da Escada (The People of Escada) (three editions, 1876); A Igualdade (Equality) (one edition, 1877) and Contra a Hipocrisia (Against Hypocrisy) (sixteen editions, 1879)

He ran and published in German the newspapers Deutscher Kaempfer, (The German Fighter), Brasilien wie est ist (1876) and Ein Brief na die deutsche Presse (1878).

In the poetry field he competed with the Bahia poet Antônio de Castro Alves from a cultural point of view.

At 43 he moved from Escada to Recife where, in 1882, through a public exam, he earned a chair at the Recife Faculty of Law. From then on he was dedicated exclusively to teaching Law and studying Philosophy.

Health and financial problems developed to impede him from leaving his home. He tried to go to Europe to treat his health, but was unable to for financial reasons.

He died in Recife on 26 July 1889 at the age of fifty. His remains were transported to the city of Aracaju, Sergipe, and placed in a bronze urn under a statue erected in his honour.

His complete works, published by the National Book Institute, include the following titles: Ensaios e estudos de filosofia e crítica (Essays and Studies in Philosophy and Criticism), 1975; Brasilien, wie es ist, 1876; Ensaio de pré-história da literatura alemã (Essay on the Pre-history of German Literature), Filosofia e crítica (Philosophy and Criticism), Estudos alemãs (German Studies), 1879; Dias e noites (Days and Nights), 1881; Menores e loucos (Minors and Crazies), 1884; Discursos (Speeches), 1887 and Polêmicas (Polemics), 1901.

Recife, 17 July 2003.
(Updated on 8 September 2009.)
Translated by Peter Leamy, March 2011.

sources consulted

ACADEMIA Brasileira de Letras. Disponível em:< >. Acesso em: 18 jun. 2002.
BEVILAQUA, Clovis. História da Faculdade de Direito do Recife. 2.ed. Brasília: INL; Conselho Federal de Cultura, 1977. p. 348-349.
FRANCOVICH, Guillermo. Filósofos brasileiros. Rio de Janeiro: Presença, 1979. p.39-51.
MONT’ALEGRE, Omer. Tobias Barreto. Rio de Janeiro: Vecchi, 1939.

TOBIAS Barreto. [Foto neste texto]. Acervo Fundação Joaquim Nabuco.

how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Tobias Barreto. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.