He was born at 39 Fontes Pereira de Melo Avenue the son of José António Pereira de Eça O'Neill (Lisbon, c. 1890 – ?), a bank worker, and wife Maria da Glória Vahia de Barros de Castro (17 March 1905 – aft. October 1989), and paternal grandson of writer, poet, conferencewoman and journalist Maria O'Neill.
In 1948, O'Neill was among the founders of the Lisbon Surrealist Movement, along with Mário Cesariny de Vasconcelos, José-Augusto França and others. His writings soon diverged from Surrealist to form an original style whose poetry reflects a love/hate relationship with his country.
His salient characteristics – a disrespect of conventions, both social and literary, an attitude of permanent revolt, playfulness with language, and the use of parody and black humor – are used to form a body of incisive depictions of what is to be Portuguese and his relation with the country.
Although most of his works have been lost or are missing or in private collections some of his work was displayed in 2002 at an exhibit on the Surrealist movement.
O'Neill was in permanent conflict with Portugal. While other contemporaries wrote poems that protested against national life under Salazar, O'Neill's attack ran deeper. Poems such as Standing at Fearful Attention and Portugal suggested that the dictatorial regime was a symptom (the worst symptom) of graver ills – lack of courage and smallness of vision – woven into the nation's psyche. Other poems, such as Lament of the Man Who Misses Being Blind, seemed to hold religion and mysticism responsible for an obscurantism that made change difficult if not impossible.
A publicist by profession, famed for inventing some of the most ingenious advertising slogans of his time, O'Neill was unusually adept at manipulating words and using them in an efficacious manner, but he refused to put that talent at the service of a lyrically lofty, feel-good sort of poetry (see 'Simply Expressive').
Stridently anti-Romantic, concerned to keep humanity in its place as just one of Earth's species, he did not believe that an especially harmonious world was possible, and he abhorred all attempts to escape the world, whether through mystical or poetical exaltations. His one hope, or consolation, explicitly stated in St. Francis's Empty Sandal, was in the connection (never entirely peaceful) he felt with other members of the species.
Marriages and children
- Alexandre Delgado O'Neill (Lisbon, 23 December 1959 – Lisbon, Portugal, 4 January 1993), a photographer, unmarried and without issue
- Afonso de Gouveia O'Neill (born 28 May 1976), unmarried and without issue
- Las Hurdes aka Las Hurdes, tierra sin pan (Spain: long title) or Tierra sin pan (Spain: short title) or Land Without Bread (International: English title) (1933) .... Himself – Voice
- Dom Roberto (1962) Author of Poems
- Pássaros de Asas Cortadas aka Birds with Clipped Wings (International: English title) (1963) Author of the Dialogue
- Sete Balas Para Selma (1967) Author of Poem
- Águas Vivas (1969) .... Narrator and also Film writer
- A Grande Roda (1970) Film writer
- Sever do Vouga... Uma Experiência (1971) .... Narrator
- Schweik na Segunda Guerra Mundial (1975) (TV) Author of Poems
- Cantigamente (3 episodes, "#1.1", "#1.2" and "#1.3", 1976) Television writer
- Máscaras (1976) .... Narrator
- Nós por cá Todos Bem (1978) Author of Poem "Coro das Criadas de Servir"
- Ninguém (1979) (TV) Television writer
- Lisboa (1979) (TV) Television writer
- Prata da Casa (unknown episodes, 1980) .... Himself as Jury Member
- Raízes e Memórias, Associação Portuguesa de Genealogia, Lisboa
- História da Família Ferreira Pinto Basto, Carlos Lourenço do Carmo da Camara Bobone, Livraria Bizantina, 1.ª Edição, Lisboa, 1997, pg. 403
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