|Joaquim Guilherme Gomes Coelho
Doctor, writer and teacher
Joaquim Guilherme Gomes Coelho, better known by his pseudonym Júlio Dinis, was born in Porto on 14 November 1839 and four days later was baptized in S. Nicolau church, in the same city. His father, José Joaquim Gomes Coelho, from Ovar, was a surgeon who trained at the Medical-Surgical School of Porto. He married Ana Constança Potter Pereira, from Porto, who was of British ancestry. They had nine children. When he was about six years old, his mother died of a disease which was later to become the most unfortunate legacy of the family– tuberculosis – which killed his eight brothers and , later, Júlio Dinis himself.
Little is known about his childhood and adolescent years. Apparently, he attended primary school in the parish of Miragaia. In 1853, after completing the preparatory course at high school, en enrolled in the Polytechnic Academy of Porto. Having studied Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, Botany and Zoology with good school achievement, he enrolled at the Porto Medical-Surgical School in the academic year 1856-57.
In 1861, at this school, he presented his dissertation entitled Da Importância dos Estudos Meteorológicos para a Medicina e Especialmente de Suas Aplicações no Ramo Cirúrgico [The importance of Meteorological Studies for Medicine and in particular its Applications in the Surgical Field]. He chose this theme due to the very close relation he had with the disease that had already killed his mother and brothers. After completing the course, he considered a teaching career because he believed that the medical profession required great responsibilities and was somewhat inhumane. He competed for the position of demonstrator at the school.
His career was interrupted several times due to his illness, which forced him to move to rural environments, such as Ovar and Funchal. In Ovar, where he stayed for a change of air, in 1863, he became attracted to a type of novel which was different from the one he had been used to writing – the rural novel. Until then, his works were lyrical, novelist and of a city novel in nature. He used the pseudonym Júlio Dinis for the first time in 1860 when he sent some poems to the magazine Grinalda. No-one knew who Júlio Dinis was, but everyone liked his poems. He also used the pseudonym "Diana de Aveleda" in some texts he sent to the newspaper Jornal do Porto.
His most important books, all signed under the pseudonym Júlio Dinis, are: As Pupilas do Senhor Reitor (1867), A Morgadinha dos Canaviais (1868), Uma Família Inglesa (1868), Serões da Província (1870), Os Fidalgos da Casa Mourisca (1871), Poesias (1873), Inéditos e Esparsos (1910), Teatro Inédito (1946-47). The only city novel was Uma Família Inglesa, based on English literature. The books As Pupilas do Senhor Reitor and A Morgadinha dos Canaviais were both practically written in Ovar; the books Serões da Província and Os Fidalgos da Casa Mourisca were written in Funchal. This last book was not fully reviewed by the author due to his untimely death; one of his cousins helped him in this task, and completed it.
Given the period in which Júlio Dinis lived, it would be quite natural to place him within the ultra-Romanticism style. However, his literary works must not be included in this trend since Júlio Diniz had a far more real and true view than the ultra-Romanticists due to his father’s influence, as a doctor, and to his scientific education. Yet, we can not classify his works as falling within the Realism-Naturalism trend, which began with the Casino Conferences of Geração de 70, led by Eça de Queirós. We can, however, say that he was the forerunner of this literary trend in our country, which led to him being called the inaugurator of the Naturalist school.
Joaquim Guilherme Gomes Coelho died in the early hours of 12 September 1871, at the home of some cousins in Costa Cabral Street, accompanied by Custódio de Passos, his cousin and loyal friend with whom he exchanged many letters, to which we still have access today. He had been bedridden for some time and could hardly walk. According to Eça, he "lived lightly, wrote lightly and died lightly".
(Texto de Ana Sofia Silva Barroso, 2008)