"I was born in Porto and raised in Gaia"
(Almeida Garrett, in the preface to the novel "O Arco de Sant’Ana")
João Baptista da Silva Leitão, the second son of António Bernardo da Silva and Ana Augusta de Almeida Leitão, was born in Porto on 4 February 1799. He was baptised six days later in the parish church of Santo Ildefonso. His godparents were João Baptista da Silva and Antónia Margarida Garrett. From 1818 on, he definitely adopted the surnames Almeida Garrett, for which he was forever known.
In 1804, at the age of 5, he moved to Vila Nova de Gaia, where the family owned several estates. He first lived in Quinta do Castelo, Candal, in the parish of Santa Marinha, close to the ruins of Gaia’s castle. It was here that he first heard the legend of Gaia, which would later be a part of his literary world. He then settled in Quinta do Sardão, in Oliveira do Douro, an impressive rural estate that received its water from the aqueduct of Arcos do Sardão, built by his maternal grandfather.
In 1809, as Napoleon’s troops approached, the family moved to Lisbon, and from here to Angra do Heroísmo, on the island of Terceira. On this Azores Island, João Baptista was raised by D. Frei Alexandre da Sagrada Família, Bishop of Angra and his uncle.
In 1816, he returned to the mainland to study Law in Coimbra. During the time he spent in Coimbra, he devoted himself to literature and experienced new political trends.
After completing his course in 1821, Almeida Garrett sought a career in Lisbon as a civil servant and writer. In the meantime, he married Luísa Midosi. The couple separated in 1836.
The change in regime as a result of the Vila Franca uprising (1823) led him into exile, like many others. First, in England, then in France, where he edited "Camões", a pioneer work of Portuguese romantic literature.
In 1826, he returned to Portugal, but not for long, for he was exiled again. In 1832, he joined the liberal army led by D. Pedro in Terceira Island, Azores, which landed triumphantly on the shore of Mindelo beach. Garrett was a soldier in the famous Academic Battalion.
During the siege of Porto, Almeida Garrett, soldier no. 72, was stationed at the S. Lourenço College (now Nossa Senhora da Conceição Seminary) as a volunteer of the Academic Battalion. At that time, he began writing the historical novel "O Arco de Sant’Ana (Crónica Portuense). Manuscrito achado no convento dos Grilos no Porto, por um soldado do Corpo Académico", published in two volumes between 1845 and 1851.
The victory of the liberals in the civil war gave him the opportunity to hold several political offices, such as the Charge d’Affaires and General Consul in Belgium, Inspector-General of National Theatres and Performing Arts, Member of Parliament and Foreign Affairs Officer. He also received many awards, such as the title of Viscount, and was elected Peer of the Realm.
Almeida Garrett had a troubled love life. He was romantically involved with Adelaide Pastor Deville, who bore him a child, Maria Adelaide, born in 1841, and with the Viscountess of Luz, who inspired many of his poems.
Almeida Garrett left public life at the age of 53. He died shortly after in Lisbon, on 9 December 1854.
A statue by master Salvador Barata Feyo was erected in General Humberto Delgado Square, in Porto, in front of the City Hall, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death.