Complete Memoirs of Casanova HTML version

An Unpublished Chapter of History, By Arthur Symons
The Memoirs of Casanova, though they have enjoyed the popularity of a bad reputation,
have never had justice done to them by serious students of literature, of life, and of
history. One English writer, indeed, Mr. Havelock Ellis, has realised that 'there are few
more delightful books in the world,' and he has analysed them in an essay on Casanova,
published in Affirmations, with extreme care and remarkable subtlety. But this essay
stands alone, at all events in English, as an attempt to take Casanova seriously, to show
him in his relation to his time, and in his relation to human problems. And yet these
Memoirs are perhaps the most valuable document which we possess on the society of the
eighteenth century; they are the history of a unique life, a unique personality, one of the
greatest of autobiographies; as a record of adventures, they are more entertaining than Gil
Blas, or Monte Cristo, or any of the imaginary travels, and escapes, and masquerades in
life, which have been written in imitation of them. They tell the story of a man who loved
life passionately for its own sake: one to whom woman was, indeed, the most important
thing in the world, but to whom nothing in the world was indifferent. The bust which
gives us the most lively notion of him shows us a great, vivid, intellectual face, full of
fiery energy and calm resource, the face of a thinker and a fighter in one. A scholar, an
adventurer, perhaps a Cabalist, a busy stirrer in politics, a gamester, one 'born for the
fairer sex,' as he tells us, and born also to be a vagabond; this man, who is remembered
now for his written account of his own life, was that rarest kind of autobiographer, one
who did not live to write, but wrote because he had lived, and when he could live no
And his Memoirs take one all over Europe, giving sidelights, all the more valuable in
being almost accidental, upon many of the affairs and people most interesting to us
during two-thirds of the eighteenth century. Giacomo Casanova was born in Venice, of
Spanish and Italian parentage, on April 2, 1725; he died at the Chateau of Dux, in
Bohemia, on June 4, 1798. In that lifetime of seventy-three years he travelled, as his
Memoirs show us, in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, England, Switzerland, Belgium,
Russia, Poland, Spain, Holland, Turkey; he met Voltaire at Ferney, Rousseau at
Montmorency, Fontenelle, d'Alembert and Crebillon at Paris, George III. in London,
Louis XV. at Fontainebleau, Catherine the Great at St. Petersburg, Benedict XII. at