Lover Come Back
When history recalls great lovers one name is synonymous with erotic exploits. In the 18th century Giacomo Girolamo Casanova literally made women swoon through his the ability to charm. Even Webster's dictionary defines Casanova as a man who is amorously and gallantly attentive to women. Another meaning for Casanova is a promiscuous man; a philanderer. In either case here was a man who most historians regard as a most influential and intellectual man during the 18th century. The last years of his life was devoted to writing his memoir. It is this memoir that was hidden away for over two hundred years now has achieved the status of a rare French artifact.
But, who actually was Casanova and how could he possibly seduce so many women and gain financial fortunes in the process only to wind up in his last years penniless? He was after all one of Europe's most fascinating and really misunderstood figures. In his lifetime he was a soldier, spy, diplomat, writer, and adventurer. But, it is from his autobiography which brings to life the richness and the true expanse of a life filled with attributes keenly displaying much more than sexual exploits: but, was a true renaissance man. It is this autobiography which has established his reputation as the most famous erotic hero. Casanova's memoirs are a fascinating and gripping tale of his adventures with over one hundred wome. His exploits as an adventurer provide an intimate portrait of the manners and life in the 18th century. His countless projects, employments, and initiatives took him through practically all the courts of Europe. In Paris he was employed to do some espionage work by Louis XV and from London he tried to sell the secret of a cotton red dye to his own country. This quote from his memoir sums up a life filled not with regret but with a passion for love and life. itself. "I saw that everything in the world that is famous and beautiful." Fame and fortune came quite easily for Casanova. When everything is said and done he was far more of an intellectual than any one of his contemporaries, even by today's standards. He lived to the age of 73 which is remarkable considering the life expectancy in the 18th century was around 40. Casanova was after all a true enlightenment polymath. Erotic exploits are only a part of the story behind the man. His memoir is an astonishing self portrayal that opens up the window onto human nature. It is this memoir that was just recently uncovered is just as astonishing as Casanova's life itself. Casanova took over ten years writing this magnificent manuscript and on his deathbed bequeathed it to his nephew, whose descendents sold it some 20 years later to a German publisher,Fredrich Arnold Brockhaus. For over 140 years the Brackhaus family kept the original copy under lock and key. It wasn't until after World War II that the Buckhaus family finally released the first uncensored edition just in time for the 1960's sexual revolution. And as they say the rest is history because the fascination with the life and times of Casanova has only grown.
Giacomo Guacamole Casanova was born in Venice in 1725. His father, Gaetano Casanova was an actor, who married in 1724 to Giovanna Maria (Zanetta) Farussi, also an actor. Shortly after Casanova was born his parents left him with his grand mother. In his childhood Casanova suffered from nose bleeds. For the first eight years of his life Casanova never uttered a word. It wasn't until his grandmother took him to a local witch who promised a miraculous cure. It worked and shortly there after Casanova began to speak and within a months time became so literate that he excelled in all his studies. It is through this early childhood cure that Casanova developed a lifelong interest in black magic and the occult.
Casanova received a good education, and showed extreme intellectual abilities. In 1734 Casanova was sent to live with Doctor Gozzi in Padua. He studied at the University of Padua and at the seminary of St. Cyprian but was expelled for scandalous conduct. Drinking and love affairs ended his plans to become a priest, but he never gave up his belief in the existence of an immortal God. Another quote from his autobiography: "What assumes me that I have never doubted Him is that I have always counted on His providence, turning to Him through the medium of prayer in all my moments of distress, and finding my entreaties always answered." Casanova served in the army for some time, played violin, but not very successfully, and worked for the lawyer Manzoni. In 1742 he received his doctorate from Padua. A few years later he became a secretary to Cardinal Acquaviva of Rome, but a scandal again forced Casanova to leave the city and he traveled in Naples, Corfu, and Constantinople. Eventually he settled in Venice, where he had a love affair with Signora F. In 1746 he was a violinist in the San Samuel theater.
Casanova even after a life filled with adventure he enjoyed good health until the last years of his life. His physical features were well suited to the life he led all the way unitl he reached middle age. It was his fascination with black majic that he learned the rudiments of medicine and when sick he recovered by following a strict diet of nitrate water and other minerals. In all of his affairs he truly loved each woman and always made sure each one was better off financially. It was in 1749 that Casanova finally met the one true love of his life. A young and mysterious Frenchwoman, Henriette, in Cesena. "People who believe that a woman is not enough to make a man equally happy all the twenty-four hours of a day have never known an Henriette." When Henriette left him Casanova recounts it in his memoir as one of the saddest moments in his life. "What is love?" he asked, and compared love to an incurable illness and divine monster. He went to Lyons, where he was received as a Freemason. By 1750 he had worked as a clergyman, secretary, soldier, and violinist in several countries.
Suspected by the Inquisition, Casanova traveled from to Paris, Dresden, Prague, and Vienna, and then to Venice. In Dresden he traslated the opera Zoroastre into Italian and his mother had the role of Erinice in the play. With François Prévost d'Exiles he wrote a play, LesThessaliennes, which had four performances at the Comédie-Italienne in Paris in 1752. His parody of Racine's The Thébaïde, was performed in Dresden in 1753. In those years Casanova continued to display remarkable literary skills in the wriing and plays that he wrote.
Casanova's freedom ended in 1755 for a year. He was arrested, his manuscripts, books, and his works on magic were all seized. Casanova was denounced as a magician and sentenced for five years in lead chambers under the roof of the Doge's Pala. He managed to escape with his friend, Father Balbi. From an excerpt in hs memoir "I then turned and looked at the entire length of the beautiful canal, and, seeing not a single boat, admired the most beautiful day one could hope for, the first rays of a magnificent sun rising above the horizon." Casanova made his way to Paris, where his escape made him a celebrity. Like Dostoevsky later on, Casanova was a gambler and in 1757 he introduced the lottery. This invention made him a millionaire. He also established a workshop for manufacturing printed silk, hiring twenty young girls to do the work. From the marquise D'Urfé he cheated huge sums of money.
During his years in exile Casanova came in contact with such luminaries as Louis XV, Rousseau, and Mme. Pompadour. In 1760 he fled from his creditors and traveled across Europe. Casanova continues his adventures in Naples, England, Germany, and Spain. From Ausburg he wrote a letter to Prince Charles of Courlande on the subject of fabricating cold. For Pietro Rossi's troupe of actors in Genoa he translated Voltaire's Le Café oul'Ecossaise. Originally the comedy had been published in 1760 as a translation from the English of a "M. Hume". Voltaire did not like Casanova's achievement. "My self-esteem was so wounded by this," Casanova said in his memoirs, "that I became the sworn enemy of the great Voltaire." 1772 he wrote, in Italian, the well-documented History of Unrest in Poland. Between 1774 and 1782 he worked as a spy for the Venetian inquisitors of state. His literary efforts did not meet with much success though. In 1787 Casanova met Mozart in Prague, and attended the first performance of the opera Don Giovanni. The libretto was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte, but Casanova had earlier told the composer some episodes of his life. In one text Casanova sees that women are responsible for Don Giovanni's evil deeds:
Casanova wrote seven issues of Opuscoli miscellenei, ten of Le Messager De Thalie, one of Talia, an adaptation of a novel by Mme de Tencin, and The Siege of Calais. His novel, Nè amori nè donne: ovvero, La stalla ripulita, sent him into a second exile. In Prague he published Le soliloque d'un penseur, a denunciation of Cagliostro and Saint-Germain. The history of his flight from "The Leads" came out in 1788. "The subject in itself is captivating," wrote the German Litteratur-Zeitung, "all prisoners awake our compassion, particularly when they are enclosed in a severe prison and are possibly innocent." Through-out his life Casanova continued to excel in his literary talents
Now destitute in 1785 Casanova managed to become a librarian in the service of the Count of Waldstein in the castle of Dux, Bohemia (now Duchcov, Czech Republic). It is these last years now toothless Casanova concentrated on his memoirs "to keep from going mad or dying of grief". Casanova finished the twelfth volume in 1792. He also tried to find a solution to the famous old problem of the duplication of the cube. His physician, James Columb O'Reilly, had adviced him: "For several moths you must give up gloomy studies which tire the brain, and sex; for the time being you must be lazy, and, as a kind of relief, you might review the happy days spent in Venice and other parts of the world." The Memoirs written in French, tell the story of Casanova's life until 1744. They give a colorful picture of the culture of the 18th century Europe. The original manuscript was sold by Casanova's family to the German firm of F.A. Brockhaus in 1821, but, wasn't released until 1960.
Casanova died on June 4, 1798. But he is best remembered for not only his escapades but for his literary works that showcase the life and times of the worlds greatest lover, writer, schemer, rouge and scoundrel. It may be Casanova's greatest achievement, his autobiography, first published in complete form in the 1960s. He also published a satirical pamphlet on Venetian aristocracy, and an utopic novel L'Icosameron, where brother and sister spend 81 years inside the Earth, meet strange creatures called Mégamigres, and mate in the new Eden. The novel, dedicated to Count Waldstein, occupies 5 volumes, and was probably influenced by Voltaire's Micromégas and Ludvig Holberg'sNicolaii Klimii Iter Subterraneum (A Journey to the World Underground).
Casanova's unpublished works include Essai de critique sur les moeurs, sur les sciences et sur les arts (Critical Essay on Morals, Sciences, and Arts); Lucubration sur l'Usure (Lucubration on Usury); and Reverie sur la Mesure moyenne de notre Année, selon la Réformation Grégoire (Reflections on the Common Reckoning of Our Year According to the Gregorian Reform). At his death he left behind some 8,000 pages of other manuscripts. Today, Casanova through the writings he left now more people will come to know him as a man whose life was filled with riches without regrets.