Machado was born in Morro do Livramento, son of a painter and a washerwoman from Azores. Orphaned of both very early, was created by his stepmother, Maria Inês. In childhood appeared symptoms of his fragile health: complexion nervosa, epilepsy and stuttering, which affect the spaces for life and would give a shape to be reserved and shy. He learned his first words in a public school, where he was taught French and Latin by a priest friend, Sarmento Silveira, but he built his vast literary culture by himself, which included authors like Swift, Sterne and Leopardi. At 16, he entered the National Press as a printer apprentice, at 18, the editor Paula Brito, for whose comic, The Hog, he composed his first verses. Soon after that, he was admitted to writing the Correio Mercantil. Acquainted with some romantic writers like Casimiro de Abreu, Joaquim Manuel de Macedo, Manuel Antonio de Almeida, and Pedro Luis Quintino Bocaiuva. He was introduced, in 1860, in Diário do Rio de Janeiro, for which he have reviewed the debates of the Senate, using sarcastic language, according to an ardent liberalism. At the same time, he writes almost all his comedies and even romantic verses of Crisálidas. At thirty years old, he married a Portuguese lady Dona Carolina, her loving companion to death and that he would inspire the beautiful figure of Dona Carmo, from Memorial de Aires.
Already supported by a bureaucratic career, and first in the Diário Oficial, from 1874, the writer could give himself freely to his vocation as a novelist. From 1870 to 1880 appeared Fluminense''s Tales, Resurrection, Tales of Midnight, The hand and the glove, Helena, Missy Garcia. In Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas the writer reaches full maturity of his probing moral realism that would confirm the following works: Stories without Date, Quincas Borba, Many Stories, Pages Collected, Dom Casmurro, Esau and Jacob. Considered, at the end of the century, the greatest Brazilian novelist, was a founder and first president of the Brazilian Academy. He promoted Parnassians poets and was friend of intellectuals of his time like Verissimo, Nabuco, Taunay and Aranha. The last novel, more diplomatic, Memorial de Aires, was written after the death of Caroline. Machado de Assis died by a cancerous ulcer, at sixty-nine years old. At the Academy, Rui Barbosa did a honorable speech upon his death.