Casanova: Priest Lover Actor Spy – Ian Kelly

1 Apr

I wanted to read about Casanova because he’s a famous Venetian and we’re going to Venice.  And because Heath Ledger played him a movie.  I’m only human, folks.  I think that the general impression of Casanova that we have is that he invented notches on bedposts.  It might comfort you to know that you are right in thinking that Casanova got around.  In fact, he got around in ways that you probably didn’t realize or want to know about.  We’ll get to that in moment, I promise.

What Casanova accomplished that you probably didn’t know is an interesting part of this book.  For example, as a child he was thought to be slow to the point that he couldn’t speak.  Someone took an interest in him and asked his mother if he could sponsor the boy’s study in Padua.  At the age of 9, Casonova can’t read.  At the age of 16, Casonova is a lawyer.  Pretty impressive, right?  Next off, he decides that he wants to give his life to the church.  He becomes an abbot.  A promiscuous abbot but an abbot, nonetheless.  Later in his life he would start a national lottery in France, he would spy during the Seven Years’ War and he would write a memoir that uniquely described the mid 1700s.  He assisted in writing part of the libretto for Mozart’s Don Giovanni, too.  In an era when travel took significant time he criss crossed the continent of Europe multiple times.  I’m not saying that he didn’t sleep with a bunch of women while he traveled (sometimes in the coach he was traveling in) but he did travel.

He was very learned and capable.  He was also always on the lookout for a big score.  By that I mean, that he was looking to get rich.  Keep your minds out of the gutter for one last paragraph, please.  Kicked out of Venice for suspect behavior by the Venetian Inquisition, he tried gaining their favor by offering his services as a silk dyer.  He used the cabala to charm a fortune out of the richest woman in Paris, promising her eternal life by allowing her to conceive at the age of 60, therefore giving birth to her own soul.  These are skills, people.

And now for the naughty bits… of the book.  Casanova slept with numerous women.  Among them his niece and his daughter.  And a bunch of nuns.  A whole bunch of nuns.  Granted that sleeping with nuns, back in the day, wasn’t all that uncommon.  Women were sent to convents to prevent them from producing heirs that might threaten the current royal.  Or the future husband may wish that his wife had spent time in a cloister, so off they’d go… right into Casanova’s arms.  Lest you think that he was just a love machine, Casanova was very concerned in something revolutionary.  He actually put enormous effort into the woman’s enjoyment of the sex act.  You could say the guy was a feminist.  He almost always tried to convince himself that he was in love with a woman before sleeping with her.  Maybe he just a big capacity for love?

Anyway, this book was a fun read.  If you like to learn about a period in history through the lens of a historical figure this would be worth a go.  And Casanova is historical.  His memoirs (I think that there are 11 or 12 volumes, in total) serve as both a unique account of traveling and of cuisine during this time period.  And as these are two of my favorite subjects, he is ultimately pretty dang fascinating.


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