Giacomo of the Week: Giacomo Cassanova

[This content recycled from my now mothballed website, www.excitablemedia.com.]

This Giacomo's adolescence was interrupted by frequent nosebleeds, and his parents feared for his very life until his mother, Zanetta, both beautiful and headstrong, entrusted him to the care of an aged crone, a witch doctor famed for healing the many ailments of youth. The plan worked perfectly and young Giacomo would go on to lead a fruit filled life, though some speculate that it was our Giacomo's early memories of bloodied hankies that inspired the grand theatrics of the Industrial espionage scheme of 1749, where he attempted unsuccessfully to sell "the secrets of British red dye" to a group Viennese merchants…
[A canal.]

Yes, we're talking about Giacomo Casanova, born in Venice, though nobody knows quite when. His father a theater impresario, his mother a breathtaking actress, his childhood was marked by the presence of strong women, whose clothes he occasionally donned. So, too, Casanova was blessed with a quick wit, much sharper than yours or mine, and he put it to good use during his education at the hands of Doctor Gozzi, Padua's most prominent leech practitioner and a man whose good word had long reach, so long in fact that Casanova was first accepted at the University of Padua and subsequently the Seminary of Saint Cyprian, from which he was expelled after the scandal.

What scandal? I don't know… for Casanova was only five foot nine, and olive-skinned.

But in 1749 he met Henriette, a Frenchwoman, his one true love, next to whom all others paled, though she soon left him. He was then accepted into the Lyons chapter of the Freemasons, became a theater violinist, practiced law with The Great Manzoni, lost his teeth, contracted gonorrhea, soldiered in more than one armed conflict, taught himself rudimentary medical practices such as the "nitrate water diet," became the personal secretary of Cardinal Acquaviva of Rome, served in the clergy, contracted "Celtic Humors," translated the opera Zoroastre from German to Italian, conned the Marquise D'Urfé out of a small fortune, fled from the inquisition, was imprisoned by the Doge, became a silk magnate, met Mozart in Prague, co-authored a play with François Prévost, conducted state-sanctioned espionage for the Venetian Inquisitors, worked as a librarian for Count Waldstein of Bohemia, escaped from prison, invented a lucrative lottery system, wrote an academic work titled The History of Unrest in Poland, and contracted "pox," though not necessarily in that order.

[Casanova sneaking into or out of...]

But none of that was what made Giacomo famous. Rather, his reputation grew from a book he wrote in 1745 called The History of My Life, an autobiography in which he described, in detail, the fantastic seduction of 122 different noblewomen. He died in 1798, and is wholly responsible for the behavior of Italian men since.

1 comment:

theexilesclan said...

Quite worthwhile material, thanks for your post.