Oliveyra, Francis Xavier De

, knight of the military order of Christ, and gentleman of the king of Portugal’s household, was born at Lisbon, May 21, 1702. His father, Joseph de Oliveyra e Souza, held a principal post in the exchequer of Portugal, and was for twenty five years secretary of embassy at the courts of London, the Hague, and Vienna. No expence was spared on the education of his son, whom he procured to be admitted into the exchequer at an early age, and who, in recompense for his own as well as his father’s services, was in Dec. 1729, invested with the order of knighthood. In 1732 he visited Madrid, and was introduced at the Spanish court. On his father’s death, which happened at Vienna in 1734, he was appointed to succeed him as secretary of embassy, and during his residence in this city, first began to perceive the absurdities of the popish superstition, from the difficulty that he found (as he has himself expressed) in defending it from the attacks of some Lutheran friends in occasional conversation.

Soon after this, some disputes between him and count de Tarouca, plenipotentiary at the imperial court from that of Lisbon, induced him to give up his post as secretary. What the nature of these disputes were, we are not informed, but it appears that they exposed him to the hostility of a powerful party of that nobleman’s relations and friends at the court of Lisbon, while his growing attachment to Protestantism making him less guarded in his expressions, the inquisition of Lisbon found a pretence to censure him. Accordingly, when the first volume of the “Memoirs of his Travels” was published at Amsterdam m 1741, though much esteemed by the Portuguese in general, it was soon prohibited by the inquisition; and the three volumes of his “Letters, familiar, historical, political, and critical,” printed at the Hague, in 1741 and | 1742, underwent the same fate. These works being writ-r ten in the Portuguese language, a stop was thus put to the sale of them; but his “Memoires concernant le Portugal,Hague, 1741—1743, 2 vols. 8vo, in the French language, were well received by the public, and gained him great reputation.

After four years residence in Holland, having obtained but a partial redress from the court of Portugal in the matter of his dispute with count de Tarouca, he came in 1744 to London, to avail himself of the interest of the Porttu guese envoy, Mons. de Carvalho, afterwards marquis of Ponabal, but although this gentleman professed to admit the justice of his claims, he did him no substantial service. The chevalier, however* had another affair at this time more at heart, and after carefully weighing all the consequences of the step he was about to take, he determined to sacrifice every thing to the dictates of his conscience, and accordingly in June 1746 he publicly abjured the Roman catholic religion, and embraced that of the church of England. As he was now cut off from all his resources in Portugal, he for socoe time encountered many difficulties; but that Providence in which he always trusted, raised him several friends in this country, and to the interest of some of these it is supposed he owed the pension granted him by the late Frederick, prince of Wales, which was continued by the princess dowager, and after her decease, by the present queen. He also acknowledges his obligations to Dr. Majendie, lord Grantham, lord Townshend, the duchess dowager of Somerset, and the archbishops Seeker and Herring.

His mind becoming easier by degrees, he returned to his favourite studies, and through the course of the year 1751, he published his “Amusements Periodiques,” a monthly publication, in which he entered with great freedom into the controversy between the protestant and Romish churches, and they were therefore soon prohibited both in Portugal and Rome. In 1753 he retired to a house at Kentish town, where he divided his time between the care of a small garden, the pursuit of his studies, and the conversation of several learned friends who frequently visited him. When the news arrived of the dreadful earthquake at Lisbon in December 1755, he published his “Discours Pathetique” early in 1756, addressed to his countrymen, but particularly to the king of Portugal. The rapid sale of several editions of this work, both in French | and English, in the course of a few weeks, was no inconsiderable proof of its merit; but while it made him more known and esteemed in this and other countries, it drew upon him the resentment of some of his countrymen, and particularly of the inquisitors, who now laid a prohibition on all his works in geaeral. Even his brother, Thomas de Aquinas, a Benedictine monk, wrote to exhort him to retract his errors. This occasioned the chevalier to publish a second part, or “Suite de Discours pathetique,1757, in which he not only answered the objections made to the “Discours,” but inserted his brother’s letter, with a suitable answer.

Here the contest between the chevalier and the inquisition seemed to rest, but that tribunal was at the same time proceeding secretly with all its force against him. A discontinuance of the “Acts of Faith,” as that horrid ceremony is impiously palled, for a while prevented theii? proceedings from appearing, but at length, at the “Act of Faith” celebrated at Lisbon in Sept. 1762, he was declared au heretic, and sentenced to be burnt in effigy. As soon as he beard of this he published a small tract entitled “Le. Chevalier D’Oliveyra brule ervefiigie cornrne Heretique, comment et pourquoi? Anecdotes et Reflections sur ee sujet donnes an public par lui meme,” Lond. 1762. In the introduction to this work the chevalier gives some account of his life, and exposes the irregularity of the proceedings of the inquisition against him.

About this time he. removed from Kentish town to Krughtsb ridge, for the convenience of his friends; but time having robbed him of a number of these, he left that situation in 1775 to reside at Hackney, where he continued to pursue his studies, constantly employing the mornings in writing, and the evenings in reading. Besides the works already mentioned, he occasionally published several others, not of less merit, though of less importance to the memoirs of his life. The manuscripts he left vvere very numerous, and their subjects as various. Among them are what he calls “Oliveyrana, ou Memoires historiques, litteraires,” &c. which, in 27 vols. 4to, contain, as he often mentioned, the fruits of his reading and observations for the space of twenty-five years. These were, in 1734, in the possession of his widow, an English lady, whom he married in 1746, and who survived him, but how long we have not discovered. The chevalier died | Oct. 18th, 1783, and was interred in the burial ground of the parish of Hackney, with a privacy suitable to his worldly circumstances, but much below liis merit, virtues, and piety. 1


Gent. Mag, vol. LIV. Lysons’s Environs, vol. II.