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Hilário

(07 January, 1864 - 03 April, 1896)

Augusto Hilário Alves da Costa was born in January 1864 in Viseu, at Rua Nova. The date of his birth is still unknown, because the christening record states that he was “abandoned at the wheel of this city by five in the morning of the seventh day of the said month and year” and christened on the 15th, with the name Lázaro Augusto. On the day of his chrism, the 26 May 1877, he changed his name to Augusto Hilário.

Any doubts that might crop up in connection with his parents were clarified after the discovery of his death certificate, which states that Augusto Hilário was the legitimate son of António Alves and Ana de Jesus Mouta. It is therefore believable that Hilário was the child of a pre-matrimonial relationship, being abandoned at the Wheel and subsequently recognised by his parents.

He did his high school studies in Viseu in order to be admitted to the Higher School of Philosophy, but years went by and he never succeeded in his Philosophy exam.

He registered at Coimbra, but his results were not good there as well. He then became a passionate fan of the Coimbra bohemian life, being a remarkable fado singer and Portuguese guitar player. His fados were sung all over Portugal and Fado Hilário became immortal.

In 1889-1990 he was examined at the Coimbra high school and was approved with a high score. He then registered in the first year of the Medical School, while joining the Royal Navy for lack of resources and received a subsidy from the State.

His activity as fado singer and minstrel was known in the whole country, especially in the Coimbra Academy, where they called him the “King of Joy”. His impeccable manners and cordial personality made him the pivotal vitaliser of all academic evening events. In his fado songs, he sang poems by Guerra Junqueiro, António Nobre, Fausto Guedes Teixeira and his own.

A peak in his life as a fado singer was his participation in the tribute to the great poet João de Deus, held in Lisbon at Teatro D. Maria II, on the 9 March 1895. The Coimbra Academy marked his presence, as well as other personalities like Professor Egas Moniz. During the show, after his presentation and in the face of the public’s huge applause, he threw his guitar into the middle of the crowd and no-one ever knew what happened to it. On the 2 June 1895 the Ateneu Comercial de Lisboa offered him what would be his last guitar, currently owned by the Museu Académico de Coimbra, by donation of his family.

As a poet he wrote dozens of quatrains, which became immortal through his fado songs. Special reference should be made to Fado Hilário (36 quatrains); Novos fados do Hilário, a collection of a considerable number of quatrains; Carteira de um Boémio, a collection of handwritten verses whose whereabouts are unknown.

He had remarkable improvising skills, which made him a popular sublime figure for those who listened to him in Viseu, Coimbra, Lisboa, Espinho and Figueira da Foz, among other places.

All the country mourned for him on the day of his death, the 3 April 1896, by 9 pm. He died of “grave hyperthermal jaundice”, at his home in Rua Nova, when he was only 32 years-old. He was at the 3rd year of Medical School at the Coimbra University and a midshipman at the Navy School.

He had a big funeral, attended by a huge crowd that wished to see him to his last address at the cemetery of the city of Viseu, where he was buried in his family’s tomb. In a letter of condolences dated 5 April 1896, addressed from Mangualde to his mother by his colleagues, a synthesis is made of the academic sentiment of the time: “The Portuguese youth is in mourning!”

Mourned by fans, friends and acquaintances, mourned by plain fado lovers, Hilário forever marked the Coimbra academy, as he added to its roots the soul they lacked – i.e. fado. People of his time admired him so much that his name was given to a newspaper founded in Viseu shortly after his death. On the 12 June 1896, newspaper “Hylário” was first published, with the figure of the fado singer on page one, featuring his guitar as ex-libris. An “impartial newspaper, free of any partisanship”, so was its homonym artist.

In 1967, his family, by the hand of Mrs. Maria Alice Trindade de Figueiredo, donated to the Museu Académico de Coimbra one of the guitars that her grand-uncle had fingered on many occasions, offered to him by Ateneu Comercial de Lisboa when he performed there.

On the 30 June 1979 the Viseu Town Council promoted a great tribute to the poet, shared by the entire population of the city and the Coimbra academy. His name was given to a street in the city and a stone tablet placed on the wall of the house where he lived.

After his death, there were several tributes to the creator of “Fado Hilário”, of which we highlight: on June 30, 1979, an event under the responsibility of the Municipality of Viseu, in which his name was attributed to a street in the city and a commemorative plaque unveiled in the house where he was born; on December 1, 1987, the Academic Association of Coimbra paid him a great tribute, on the occasion of the 1st Centenary of the Academy: a leaflet was published with an article published on the Students’ Newspaper of the 1 May 1896, a few days after his death. It is another evidence of the grief caused by the singer’s death to the heart of all students, “futricas” and “tricanas” of Coimbra. Finally, in 1996, the Municipality of Viseu marked the 100th anniversary of the singer's death.

 

Source:

Carvalho, Anjos de; Rebelo, Murta (1998) “Evocação de Hylário na Coimbra do seu tempo”, Edição da Sociedade Histórica da Independência de Portugal;

Niza, José (1999), “Fados de Coimbra II”, Col. “Um Século de Fado”, Lisboa, Ediclube.

 

 

  • Fado do Hilário António Menano (António Menano)