ELEONORA AND JOSEPH: Passion, Tragedy, and Revolution in the Age of Enlightenment

Julieta Almeida Rodrigues
The Spring, 2020
196 Pages
ISBN 978-1-7348659-1-2 Paperback

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About the Author

Julieta Almeida Rodrigues is a writer, professor, scholar, and interpreter. Born and raised in Portugal, she earned a Ph.D. at Columbia University. She is the author of two collections of short fiction, The Rogue and Other Portuguese Stories and On the Way to Red Square. The latter is a fictionalized account of her life in the diplomatic circles of Moscow in the 1980s (New Academia Publishing, Washington DC). She published a narrative work about Sintra, Portugal, entitled Hora Crepuscular/Drawing Dusk/La Hora Crepuscular (Agir, Execução Gráfica). She is a member of the Pen Club of Portugal, the Fulbright Commission Team of Evaluators in Portugal (2014 Prize for International Cooperation, the Prince of Asturias Foundation), and of CLEPUL, Center for Lusophone and European Literatures and Cultures, Faculty of Humanities, the University of Lisbon. She has taught at the University of Lisbon and at Georgetown University, and has been a Visiting Scholar at the New School (twice). She has spoken at the Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State, The Chawton House Library in the United Kingdom, The International Conference on the Short Story, The American Portuguese Studies Association, and the Historical Writers of America, among other locations. She is a member of the Steering Committee of the Historical Novel Society New York City Chapter and runs, with a colleague, its Guest Speaker Program at the Jefferson Market Library. She divides her time between Manhattan and Sintra, Portugal.


“Novelist Julieta Almeida Rodrigues has lived a life of broad and varied adventures that positions her well to write this story. Following the strong tradition of Portuguese female writers, she brings to her novel Eleonora and Joseph her experience of both the 1974 revolution in Portugal and her life in diplomatic circles around the world. Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel’s narration from prison is a striking frame from which to foreground issues of passion, patriarchy, inequality, slavery, and struggles for female independence. A must read of imaginary lives in European and American intellectual circles at the turn of the 18th century.”        —Kenneth David Jackson, Professor of Portuguese, Yale University

“As the Cultural Counselor at the Embassy of Portugal in Washington, DC, I became aware of Joseph Correia da Serra’s towering figure in Portuguese-American relations soon after my arrival. As an ambassador, Correia da Serra embodied the vast and influential Luzo-Brazilian Empire from 1816 to 1820 in the United States. For us, he had always been part of a domestic and engaging cult. That Correia da Serra finds in Thomas Jefferson’s library Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel’s memoir written from prison before she dies in 1799, stands as a credible and ingenious literary device. Concomitantly, Rodrigues brings to light the astonishing friendship between Correia da Serra and Thomas Jefferson with Monticello as background. Like Plutarch, Rodrigues gives us a book tuned into two voices. The social and moral issues that fall under scrutiny in this historical novel are well worth contemplating, and debating, in the twenty-first century.”      —José Sasportes, Portuguese Writer and Former Minister of Culture of Portugal

“Two distinct lives with parallel destinies, plunge us into Les Lumières, the French Revolution, and the apocalyptic events that followed. Unknown to us if Eleonora and Joseph ever met, let alone fell in love, it is plausible that their lives crossed paths during the 1770s, when both lived with their families in urbane Naples. This novel’s evocation of a past world is exceptionally well-plotted. Eleonora, the Jacobin Marquise, fought noble causes despite an array of adverse circumstances that led, inevitably, to a tragic fate. Joseph, scientist and citizen of the world, cultivated knowledge and scholarship in Lisbon, London, and Paris, ending up his academic life between Philadelphia and Monticello—fortunate to enjoy the advantages of a close friendship with Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson gives this well-conceived story its beginning and its end. It is also Jefferson who introduces us to the lure of a century that glorified freedom without abolishing slavery, that proclaimed equality without eliminating privilege. Remarkably, it is also a story about human nature and the unchanging ways of the world that Julieta Almeida Rodrigues examines between the lines of two destinies that so provocatively cross each other.” —José Luís Cardoso. Research Professor, Institute of Social Sciences, The University of Lisbon and Fellow, Lisbon Academy of Sciences.

“With a historian’s gift for dogged research and a writer’s eye for detail, Julieta Almeida Rodrigues brings to life the trajectories of two colorful eighteenth century characters, Eleanora Fonseca Pimentel and Joseph Correia de Serra. Lovers of historical fiction will enjoy their separate but entwined stories as they play out against the crumbling Neapolitan Republic.” —Novelist Helene Stapinski. Author of Murder in Matera: A True Story of    Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy

“Eleanora and Joseph is an imaginative novel of the intersecting narratives of two intriguing historical figures whose lives span the Old World and the New, and the Age of Enlightenment as it explodes into the Age of Revolution. Novelist and scholar Julieta Almeida Rodrigues draws on her own wide-ranging background in Europe and America to draw a sympathetic portrait of two brilliant Portuguese characters. The personal and intellectual drama of Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel and Joseph Correia da Serra plays out amidst the revolutions sweeping Europe at the end of the eighteenth century and the intellectual oasis of Jefferson’s Monticello whose master’s own internal contradictions presage the war that would later engulf America as well. An absorbing tale of passion, clashing ideals, guilt and devotion.” —Ambassador Laura Kennedy

“This historical novel uses three keys to open one door, a door that offers readers access to a world of cultural treasures and political contradictions at the turn of the eightieth century in both Europe and America. Julieta Almeida Rodrigues juxtaposes opposites in this story of passion and revolution: beauty and ugliness, wealth and poverty, refinement and ignorance, liberalism and despotism. Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel, a gifted aristocrat, becomes a leading revolutionary in Naples, an unusual role for a woman in her day. Joseph Correia da Serra, a diplomat and internationally recognized naturalist, struggles with ambition and what is right. Rodrigues’s erudition steers the reader through the conflicts of the past that currently inform our present.

There is a jewel in this novel, delicate and stoic at the same time. It is the Madre Superiore, the Reverend Mother, in charge of the female section of the Vicaria prison where Eleonora becomes imprisoned for her political activity. A feminist avant la lettre, she professes a gender ideology before her times. Compassionate, she touches the reader in tantalizing ways. Rodrigues’s novel is a page turner—I was glued to the pages from beginning to end.” —Amadeu Lopes Sabino, Portuguese writer

“Eleonora and Joseph. An enticing take on the Enlightenment set in eighteenth century Naples and the newly minted United States, as seen through the lens of two powerful historical figures: doomed revolutionary poet, Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel and Abbe Joseph Correia da Serra, artfully re-imagined as star-crossed lovers. Thomas Jefferson, debating ideas with Correia in Monticello, is a wonderful part of this story.” —Novelist Hope C. Tarr w/a Hope Carey

“Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel was in no way inferior to the two eminent male characters in this story: Joseph Correia da Serra and Thomas Jefferson. With a masterful literary approach, Rodrigues opens our horizons to the contrasting and diverging feminine and masculine worlds of the era. Parallel to Eleanora and Joseph’s story is a passionate portrait of Thomas Jefferson’s way of life. Here, the author details not only Jefferson’s family’s domestic life on the Monticello plantation, but also his illicit relationship with a younger black slave with whom he fathered a number of children. Eleonora and Joseph is a compelling read for both European and American audiences, the story’s action taking place on both continents. The distant eighteenth century comes up close for our enjoyment and serves as an omen of the gender issues and achievements of the future.” —Zília Osório de Castro, Professor (ret), Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, The New University of Lisbon, member of the Portuguese Academy of History, and Founder and Director of the literary magazineFaces of Eva