Complete Memoirs of Casanova HTML version
Russia And Poland
My Stay at Riga--Campioni St. Heleine--D'Asagon--Arrival of the Empress--I Leave
Riga and Go to St. Petersburg--I See Society--I Buy Zaira
Prince Charles de Biron, the younger son of the Duke of Courland, Major-General in the
Russian service, Knight of the Order of St. Alexander Newski, gave me a distinguished
reception after reading his father's letter. He was thirty-six years of age, pleasant-looking
without being handsome, and polite and well-mannered, and he spoke French extremely
well. In a few sentences he let me know what he could do for me if I intended to spend
some time at Riga. His table, his friends, his pleasures, his horses, his advice, and his
purse, all these were at my service, and he offered them with the frankness of the soldier
and the geniality of the prince.
"I cannot offer you a lodging," he said, "because I have hardly enough room for myself,
but I will see that you get a comfortable apartment somewhere."
The apartment was soon found, and I was taken to it by one of the prince's aides-de-
camp. I was scarcely established when the prince came to see me, and made me dine with
him just as I was. It was an unceremonious dinner, and I was pleased to meet Campioni,
of whom I have spoken several times in these Memoirs. He was a dancer, but very
superior to his fellows, and fit for the best company polite, witty, intelligent, and a
libertine in a gentlemanly way. He was devoid of prejudices, and fond of women, good
cheer, and heavy play, and knew how to keep an even mind both in good and evil fortune.
We were mutually pleased to see each other again.
Another guest, a certain Baron de St. Heleine from Savoy, had a pretty but very
insignificant wife. The baron, a fat man, was a gamester, a gourmand, and a lover of
wine; add that he was a past master in the art of getting into debt and lulling his creditors
into a state of false security, and you have all his capacities, for in all other respects he
was a fool in the fullest sense of the word. An aide-decamp and the prince's mistress also
dined with us. This mistress, who was pale, thin, and dreamy-looking, but also pretty,
might be twenty years old. She hardly ate anything, saying that she was ill and did not
like anything on the table. Discontent shewed itself on her every feature. The prince
endeavoured, but all in vain, to make her eat and drink, she refused everything
disdainfully. The prince laughed good-humouredly at her in such a manner as not to
wound her feelings.
We spent two hours pleasantly enough at table, and after coffee had been served, the
prince, who had business, shook me by the hand and left me with Campioni, telling me
always to regard his table as my last resource.