Giacomo Casanova

If Giacomo Casanova is always ready to separate a fool from his money, he often does it to endow poor young girls.  Or, of course, to dilapidate it with a beautiful woman.  Few tales of misery leave him cold.  Few pretty faces either.  Whatever the dangers he must face:  rivals, husbands, police from the Holy Office…

The ladies will be his only real weakness because, for them, he puts up with the inconvenience of all the others.  All, except one:  to tie his destiny definitively to only one woman.  We can see this with Henrietta, that mysterious woman, full of charm and wit with whom he falls in love, as soon as he leaves the little Javotte.  Disguised as a man, she is fleeing an abusive husband, and pours waves of pure love into Giacomo’s heart, over a period of three months.  She will leave, like all the others, without too much sadness, for she understands, like all those who have forgiven him his infidelities, that he is a man of an instant.

She senses that, even if the instant lasts, if it gives incomparable voluptuousness, it dies from the need of the freedom that our hero appears to love sometimes more than life.  As it happens, it is to reconquer his liberty that he achieves a “first”, absolutely unique in the history of Venice prisons.

In 1756, he manages to escape from the “leads”, the terrifying gaols which are just beside the Venice ducal palace.  Party boy, free thinker, swindler, magician, but, above all, plebian, Casanova, in spite of his protectors, was unable to durably escape the Grand Inquisitor, always ready to close his eyes, on the other hand, on the indiscretions of the patricians.

His unlimited light-heartedness does not frustrate him, either, of a rapid fortune which he picks up in Paris, where, as in other European capitals, his flight has made him famous.  He hopes one day to return to Venice, his country, and never leave it again.  He will return, but at the price of his honour.  For, to obtain his pardon, he is left no other choice but to become an informer.  Before being chased away again at the age of fifty-eight, definitively this time.

For the moment, here he is “in this Paris, unique in the world”, determined to catch up on the fifteen months spent under the “leads”.  He arrives, in fact, on the day that Damien tries to assassinate Louis XV.  From an open carriage, he witnesses the end of the regicide, horribly executed on the Place de Greve.  A couple seated opposite him does not share his repugnance.  On the contrary, the spectacle seems to excite them a lot, as their gestures indicate.  Giacomo is learning more and more about strange human nature, and its secret workings.

He, the man with no fortune and no talent, is in great need of protectors.  He goes to Monsieur de Bernis, former French Ambassador to Venice.  The gentleman is happy to help him, in memory of the very particular parties organised for him by the seductor in Venice.  He presents him to the famous financier Paris-Duverney “one of the best heads in France”.  This gentleman needs 20 million to finish the construction of the Ecole Militaire, a project that is greatly encouraged by Madame de Pompadour.

Armed with the agility of his mind, used to rapid calculations, and remembering that he had been a banker in different gambling houses in Venice, Casanova announces that he has a project which could bring one hundred million into the royal purse every year.  Duverney is not an idiot.  He has saved France from the bankruptcy into which Law had plunged it a few decades before.  He says that he knows what Casanova is thinking, and is impressed by his assurance.

Invited to dinner in the company of financiers, Duverney presents him to a certain Calsabigi, author, with his brothers, of a lottery project.  He hands him the notebook in which he has written down the principles of his game and Casanova, without blinking, says that, indeed, that was his own project.  Duverney thinks that the system is good, but wants to know how to constitute a sum to convince people to play and, possibly, win.  Casanova says that that is child’s play.  It only needs a decree from the Royal Council.  The nation needs to know that the King is able to pay one hundred million.  Duverney finds the sum rather large.  Casanova insists that it must dazzle.

The financiers present at the meeting with Duverney think about it for a few days but, faithful to a tactic which had many times succeeded for him with women, Giacomo pretends not to be in a hurry.  Meanwhile he assimilates the principles of the discovery of the Calsabigi brothers, whose only fault is not to have enough cheek to impose their system.  They beg him to accept an association.  Casanova makes them beg for a long time

“for the powerful reason that I couldn’t do it without them”,

he says with cynical amusement.

In three hours, the next day, he demonstrates brilliantly the qualities and the safety of this lottery, even convincing d’Alembert, who has taken a seat at the conference to judge the project.  Casanova then obtains a pension on the lottery and the right to exploit six receiving offices.  He writes:

“In all the houses where I went and in theatre foyers, everyone gave me money, begging me to play for them, as I wanted to, because they understood nothing!  Paris is a city where everything is judged on appearance.  There is no country in the world where it is easier to impose oneself!”

He then has a fortune.  He will lose it in 2 years through imprudence.  He launches himself into the silk industry without having done a “market study”, as we say today.  For workers, he only employs beauties, which he uses, and continues to pay for their needs, even when they have ceased to please him.  Ruined, he swears never to try to earn his living honestly again.

To be continued.