Portrait of Pessoa, 1914.
|Born||Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa|
13 June 1888
|Died||30 November 1935 (aged 47)|
|Pen name||Alberto Caeiro, Álvaro de Campos, Ricardo Reis, Bernardo Soares, etc.|
|Occupation||Poet, writer, translator and philosopher|
|Genre||Poetry, essay, fiction|
|Notable works||Mensagem (1934)|
Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa (Portuguese:
Pessoa was a prolific writer, and not only under his own name, for he dreamed up approximately seventy-five others. He did not call them pseudonyms because he felt that did not capture their true independent intellectual life and instead called them
Pessoa was born in
After the second marriage of his mother, Maria Magdalena Pinheiro Nogueira, proxy wedding to João Miguel dos Santos Rosa, Fernando sailed with his mother for South Africa in the beginning of 1896, to join his stepfather, a military officer appointed Portuguese
There is only one event in the past which has both the definiteness and the importance required for rectification by direction; this is my father's death, which took place on 13th July, 1893. My mother's second marriage (which took place on 30th December, 1895) is another date which I can give with preciseness and it is important for me, not in itself, but in one of its results – the circumstance that, my stepfather becoming Portuguese Consul in Durban (Natal), I was educated there, this English education being a factor of supreme importance in my life, and, whatever my fate be, indubitably shaping it.
The dates of the voyages related to the above event are (as nearly as possible):
1st. voyage to Africa – left Lisbon beginning January 1896.
Return – left Durban in the afternoon of 1st. August 1901.
2nd. voyage to Africa – left Lisbon about 20th. September 1902.
Return – left Durban about 20th. August 1905.
The young Pessoa received his early education at St. Joseph Convent School, a Catholic grammar school run by Irish and French nuns. He moved to the
Meanwhile, Pessoa started writing short stories in English, some under the name of David Merrick, many of which he left unfinished. At the age of sixteen,
In the preface to The Book of Disquiet, Pessoa wrote about himself:
Nothing had ever obliged him to do anything. He had spent his childhood alone. He never joined any group. He never pursued a course of study. He never belonged to a crowd. The circumstances of his life were marked by that strange but rather common phenomenon – perhaps, in fact, it’s true for all lives – of being tailored to the image and likeness of his instincts, which tended towards inertia and withdrawal.
The young Pessoa was described by a schoolfellow as follows:
I cannot tell you exactly how long I knew him, but the period during which I received most of my impressions of him was the whole of the year 1904 when we were at school together. How old he was at this time I don’t know, but judge him to have 15 or 16. [...]
He was pale and thin and appeared physically to be very imperfectly developed. He had a narrow and contracted chest and was inclined to stoop. He had a peculiar walk and some defect in his eyesight gave to his eyes also a peculiar appearance, the lids seemed to drop over the eyes. [...]
He was regarded as a brilliant clever boy as, in spite of the fact that he had not spoken English in his early years, he had learned it so rapidly and so well that he had a splendid style in that language. Although younger than his schoolfellows of the same class he appeared to have no difficulty in keeping up with and surpassing them in work. For one of his age, he thought much and deeply and in a letter to me once complained of "spiritual and material encumbrances of most especial adverseness". [...]
He took no part in athletic sports of any kind and I think his spare time was spent on reading. We generally considered that he worked far too much and that he would ruin his health by so doing.
Ten years after his arrival, he sailed for