Andres Bello

Bello, Andres (1781-1865) Venezuelan, scholar, poet, humanist, and educator. He was one of the great figures of nineteenth-century Latin America, often referred to as the intellectual father of the continent. His complete works total twenty-six volumes. Bello studied classical literature, law, and philosophy. His interest in science was stimulated by having known Alexander von Humboldt. He was active in the wars of independence through his political work in Europe, primarily England, where he lived for almost twenty years. There he met Bentham and James Mill and translated Byron. A poet greatly influenced by Spain’s Golden Age writers (Garcilaso, Lope de Vega, and Calderon), in Britain Bello wrote his best-known verses: Alocucion a la poesia (1823; tr in The Odes of Bello, Olmedo, and Heredia, 1920), asserting Latin America’s right to literary independence; and La agricultura de la zona torrida (1826; tr A Georgic of the Tropics, 1954), notable for its description of the plants of America, in which realistic detail is combined with Horatian overtones. Yet, along with Bello’s exaltation of America through nature or culture, there is a sadness and solitude evoked, as well as a bitterness that true liberty had yet to be realized in the newly established republics.

From 1829 to his death he resided in Chile. In 1830 he started the newspaper El Araucano and was its principal editor until 1853. He was founder and first president of the University of Chile (1842), and was the chief architect of the Chilean civil code (1855), also adopted in Ecuador and Colombia. Though a creature of the Enlightenment, Bello was also close to the Romantic movement. Bello’s Gramatica de la lengua castellana (1847). still considered an important grammar, advocated the enrichment of the Spanish language. His vast culture–humanistic, scientific, and legal–was dedicated to writing manuals and other works with a pedagogic purpose, within a liberal humanist tradition. Other works available in English include the Anthology of Andres Bello (1981) and his Filosofia del entendimiendo (1881; tr Philosophy of the Understanding, 1984).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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