Georgian Celebrities – Casanova, Histoire de Ma Vie
I will begin with this confession: whatever I have done in the course of my life, whether it be good or evil, has been done freely; I am a free agent.
In my last post about Giovanni Giacomo Casanova
we saw the free-spirited charmer forced to flee Venice after he dug up a corpse as a prank and was accused of rape.
Casanova then commenced a wanderer’s life as he travelled across Europe to Paris, Prague, Vienna and Dresden, earning his living in any way he could. He worked as a violinist and became a Mason returning to Venice to start a new career as a magician, alchemist and general occultist.
He was found guilty of witchcraft in 1755, and sentenced to serve 5 years in prison. In October of 1756 he escaped and fled to Paris. There, an account of his amorous exploits appeared in a pamphlet, and Casanova was instantly famous. Calling himself Jacques Casanova, Chevalier de Seingalt, he found further success as a gambler.
During this period, Casanova travelled extensively, using his considerable charm and gambling winnings to support himself. His financial resources didn’t last long. In an effort to escape his growing number of creditors, Casanova fled from Paris in 1760, traveling as the Chevalier de Seingalt. He was constantly on the move, from Germany to Switzerland, to southern France and on to Florence and Rome.
He was finally allowed to return to Venice in the early 1770s, where he acted as a spy for the Venetian inquisitors of state from 1774 to 1782.
From 1785 to 1798, Casanova lived in Bohemia, working as a librarian in the chateau of Dux, where he died aged 73. He ensured his legacy would be remembered by writing his autobiography, Histoire de Ma Vie. The book is a highly acclaimed portrait of the Enlightenment society in continental European and a vivid account of Casanova’s encounters with the celebrities of his time, including Pope Clement XIII, Voltaire, Rousseau and Mozart. It also details Casanova’s endless erotic exploits.
There is no doubt that Casanova led a dissolute lifestyle. His was a free-spirited existence filled with wild adventure and scandal. He flirted with the truth in the same way he flirted with women. His name is synonymous with libertine and womaniser. Yet he continues to win hearts and fascinate today. Somehow I think that the man who said ‘Economy in pleasure is not to my taste’ would be happy with his legacy.