Giacomo Casanova uses the Kabbala, horoscopes, medecine and all sorts of divinations to earn money. Because the Century of Light, of rationalism, and of atheism remains strangely sensitive to the irrational, and to superstitions.
The Kabbala, which only needs a bit of mental agility, and in no way requires the intervention of infernal powers, will have him hunted out of Venice. In Europe, and particularly in France, it will give him bloated glory in the domains of prophecy in society and salon divination. Madame d’Urfe gives him her unlimited confidence for the realisation of her life’s dream: hypostasis or transplantation of her soul into the body of a young boy.
The strangest thing about all this is that our magician is often so amazed at the result of his predictions, due only to hazard, astuce and cheek, that he is often ready to believe himself to be a real magician. Thanks to his false Kabbala, he makes a prophecy to Prince Medini, which is received by him with sarcasm. The young Dalmatian even provokes Casanova to a duel. Casanova pierces his shoulder with his sword, and announces that he will not return from England. A prophecy which comes true because, ten years later, the prince will die in a London gaol.
Cagliostro was told that Rome would witness his death. And Cagliostro will end his days in a prison of the Holy See.
But he does even better: during a stay in Grenoble, he makes the acquaintance of a good middle-class family, the Morins. They have a niece, Anne Roman, as ravishing as she is virtuous. The seductor tries all of his tricks, spends enormous amounts of money on balls and gifts. She resists.
To impress her, he does her horoscope which announces that she will become the mistress of Louis XV, and that she will have a son who will become a prince. The Morins are wild with joy at this marvellous prediction. Casanova adds that it will only come true if Anne goes to Paris before the age of eighteen. She is almost eighteen, and Giacomo will be happy to accompany her.
But she will go to Paris with her chaperon and will reside with her sister. By a string of extraordinary circumstances, the young lady is presented to the King at Versailles, lodged at Passy, and not in the Parc aux Cerfs like the rest of the royal harem, becomes a mother and a baronness and, even more remarkable, the King accepts that the child be baptised with the mention “Son of Louis Bourbon”.
Kabbala divination is of course not responsible. But this piece of luck is sufficiently mysterious to give Giacomo even more assurance and confidence in himself. He needs a lot of it to heal the acne of the Duchess de Chartres, mother of the future Louis-Philippe, who convokes Casanova to the Palais-Royal to hear his oracles. She is twenty-six years old, lives an agitated life, has a pretty face, but it it constellated with pimples, which discourage the best French doctors. The fake oracles prescribe, for three hours, a detailed diet. At the end of a week, the devouring acne of the charming duchess is perfectly healed.
It is uncontestable that he possesses an innate occult gift which he develops through contact with his numerous frequentations. When one of his prophecies comes true, he appears astonished, and seized with superstitious fear. It doesn’t last because he is above all a sceptic, an agnostic, a materialist. It is for this reason that he shows a lot of disdain for all kinds of magicians, including Cagliostro and the Count of Saint-Germain, who make him laugh.
Throughout his life, people keep wondering how it will all finish. It finishes with Venice, at the end of the XVIIIth Century, when the Most Serene ceases to be free, after more than a thousand years of political and artistic supremacy. It is a year, almost to the day, after the dissolution in 1797 of the Grand Council, which will put an end to the free Republic, that Casanova, librarian of the Count de Waldstein, dies at Dux Castle, in Bohemia.
But his real death was long before. It dates from a visit to London in 1763 when, at 38, he is ridiculed by a courtisan of unequalled skill and perversity: La Charpillon. She comes from Switzerland and, at 17, it can already be said that she is a beautiful, ageing animal, with a pedigree rich in three generations of gallantry. He, the experienced seductor, the sexual predator, falls in adoration before her and treats her like a young fiance, in love for the first time. He says of this abominable tart:
“Her face, sweet and open, indicated a soul that delicacy of sentiments distinguished by that air of nobility which, ordinarily, depends on birth”.
She will treat him so badly with false promises, blackmail and diverse infidelities, that one day, he goes to her place to break everything. She becomes ill because of it and her mother says she is dying. Our hero, full of remorse, seriously considers suicide. That same evening, he catches sight of her at a public ball wearing a dress that he has just given her. He feels so excessively ridiculous, that it breaks the spell. He will get his own back by teaching a parrot, which he later sells back to the merchant who sold it to him, the phrase:
“Miss Charpillon is a greater whore than her mother”.
The whole of London gossips about this wise bird. Giacomo has his revenge, but something in him is irremediably broken. Is he feeling old? Does he realise the vanity of all these love affairs accumulated over twenty-five years and which are no more than “ashes in the wind”? All his biographers agree that after this stay in London, he is not the same man. Almost nothing will succeed for him, because he no longer has confidence in himself. And what is a magician without confidence?
To be continued.