Esculápio (Eduardo Fernandes)
By the end of the 19th century, Esculápio is a rising star. He started his way to fame as a journalist in A Pátria in 1891, where he won the republicans’ respect through his poetic insolence. After this publication closed, the newspaper A Vanguarda hired the reporter.
He signed his journalistic papers under the pseudonym “Esculápio.” Born in 1870, in the central area of Lisbon, in Bica. He fathered many children, among whom is another Eduardo Fernandes, who became a lawyer and films actor. His most prominent roles were the villain Quicas from “A Canção de Lisboa” and the protagonist in “Maria Papoila.”
ABC magazine presented him to the Portuguese people, together with Reinaldo Ferreira “Reporter X”, Guedes de Amorim and many others.
By the end of the 19th century, Esculápio is a rising star. He started his way to fame as a journalist in A Pátria in 1891, where he won the republicans’ respect through his poetic insolence. After this publication closed, the newspaper A Vanguarda hired the reporter. In here, Esculápio had his first great journalistic victory.
CRIME IN MONSANTO
On the 1st of February, 1893, terrible news arrived in Lisbon of a brutal murderer in Monsanto. The victim is an unknown woman.
As an insatiable adventurer, Esculápio runs across Monsanto in that same night, registering testimonies of those who found the mutilated body, and published the report on the next day’s edition. He spent the rest of the morning running around in Lisbon. In the first hours of the morning, Esculápio convinced his colleague from Diário de Notícias, Albino Sarmento, to visit the crime scene.
Intrigued, the reporter went to the courtyard where he had found the victim’s apron. While questioning the residents, he found out that Maria dos Anjos had been missing for four days, and that she was living with a municipal guard soldier.
Esculápio asks the people he interrogated to talk to the police so the body could be identified. The identity of Maria dos Anjos was confirmed, Thomas Ribeiro, the victim’s husband, was arrested after a confession of guilt.
By pure chance, Esculápio unveiled the Monsanto’s murderer, all thanks to a flying apron. The young journalist won the other reporters’ respect in a tough time for republican Journalism.
A SERIOUR CASE OF CORRESPONDENCY VIOLATION
A Vanguarda had had some prosper years. However, salaries were reduced with the promise of later compensation. The salary adjustment never happened, and Esculápio ended up accepting an offer to join O Século.
In the beginning of the 20th century, Silva Graça, O Século’s director, was, unquestionable, the lord of Portuguese press. His newspaper had plenty of profit with sales, becoming the main publication at the time.
In August, 1902, while Silva Graça was on vacation at Vichy’s spas, 12 writers (among which Esculápio) strongly criticised the ideological path of this paper. The next edition was published with the certainty that, after the director’s return, the twelve would be fired.
In three weeks, the group settles in the corner between Travessa da Queimada and Rua da Atalaia, and founded O Diário. In the first issue, the recently-formed editorial room made fun of Silva Graça, who appears on the first page.
The war with Silva Graça did not end here. After no longer than one month, Lisbon respected and recognised this group of journalists. O Século could only play with the only weapon they had, frightening and pensioning the distributors of O Diário.
At the time, Lisbon’s publication shared a mailbox in the Mónaco’s tobacco store. Suggestions, tickets, offenses, and, sometimes useful information could be left there. According to the law of that time, violating correspondence was forbidden. And Esculápio was suspicious about it. Right after the crimes occurred, his rival from O Século always arrived at the same time as him.
Esculápio, having a vast network of informers, decided to try something. With his most important source, Gamboa, he invented an event and wrote a note, informing, on the envelope, that it contained exclusive information for O Diário.
On the next day, while reading O Século’s issue from 4th of July, 1903, they found the made up event reported there, with a huge amount of gritty details.
On the 5th, O Diário published a retraction, exposing that all the details published by O Século weren’t true.
Silva Graça was trapped. Attacking O Diário, would be admitting that he violated his rival’s mailbox. Instead, he prepared a short note explaining that his newspaper received that information as true, and, after all, it wasn’t.
On the 6th of July, Esculápio prepares a pay back and the 12 renegades from O Século had their vengeance. On the next day, the following text is published:
“O Século suffered a just punishment from his unacknowledged processes and from his disloyal way of treating all Lisbon’s newspapers. They opened a letter that hadn’t been sent to them, because it was individually encrypted, with a note to an informant of O Diário”.
O Século’s director received a life lesson that, inexplicably, would later pay off for Esculápio...
In 1906 O Diário closed and Esculápio returned to O Século, still under Silva Graça’s direction. His fame transcended him, and Esculápio ended up as a crime reporter specialist. Being a great writer, Eduardo Fernandes also worked in many theatre plays.
His unmistakable funny and satiric style gave him a legal proceeding for defamation in the summer of 1892. In his literary serials, which had made him famous, Esculápio wrote a verse about the Count Burnay (a very important Portuguese businessman and politician of the 19th century). The Count did not appreciate the joke, and sued the reporter.
In his memories book, the journalist tells the funniest episodes of his career. However, his biography isn’t his only published book. In 1900, Eduardo Fernandes gathered some of his literary serials and published them in Dois Annos de Troça.
Together with Cruz Moreira “Caracoles”, Esculápio’s famous playful tone would promote the re-launch of the humoristic magazine Os Ridículos, in 1905.
Taking advantage of the politic instability right before the Implementation of the Republic, they developed, through political and social critics and satire about the dominant events of the time. Characterised by his eccentricity, Eduardo Fernandes’ way of dressing couldn’t go unnoticed: a large hat of black felt and a lavalière on his neck, he walked the streets of Lisbon carrying a cane.
The acclaimed journalist from the late 19th century and beginnings of 20th century died in 1945. Behind, he left a life full of hilarious episodes, filled with an unconventional career.