Giacomo Casanova

It is curious to note that, in spite of excesses of all kinds, Giacomo Casanova always attaches great importance to his health.  We know that he is a Colossus with uncommon strength and physical health.  But as soon as he feels tired, he rests for a long time, fasts and then follows a diet.  It is his commonsense recipes that cure the Duchess of Chartres, who is just as much a victim of the burlesque treatments of the medicine of the time, than of the food commonly eaten in good society, which was particularly rich in sugar, meat, and various excitants such as teas, chocolates, coffees and spices.

However, he is careful not to say that it is the diet that triumphs over the dreadful pimples of the duchess.  He says that it is the Kabbala which supplied the secrets of healing.  In this way, his prestige as an occasional doctor is reinforced by that of magician.

***

Casanova uses the name of the Kabbala to trick people.  Numbers are asked to reveal the future, but only by the following trick:  his dupes ask him a question which he then addresses to the “spirit” who inspires him.  He starts by translating the letters of the question into numbers:  A = 1; C = 3; M = 13, etc.  Then he arranges these numbers in the form of a pyramid.  It is at this moment of the operation that the ruse becomes particularly transparent.  He asks the person to choose a certain number in the third line of the pyramid and to multiply it or to add it to another in the sixth.

As he knows the letter which corresponds to a given number, he is able to ask the question and provoke the suitable reply.  This process is rather stupidly transparent but it succeeds, because the victim is absorbed in his calculations, which Casanova complicates as much as he wants by introducing extra “keys” like zeros or double columns.  So, from start to finish of the “magical” operation, the dupe is guided by Casanova, who is, however, endowed with a marvellous agility of mind, of serious mathematical knowledge, and a lot of cheek.

But, as always with Casanova, truth and lies are tightly intertwined, and it is not certain that he didn’t believe in the supernatural virtues of his Kabbala.  We see this when, not long before his death, disabused with everything and having no further motive for cheating, he continues to affirm in a letter to Madame Eva Frank that his method is both rational and supernatural and that it gives him the gift of prophecy.

***

One constant thing about Casanova is that he never acts badly with his women, and he is never brutal.  He obtains pleasure and profit from them, but, in the end, he does them more good than bad.

A young English girl emphatically refuses his advances.  Her name is Justinienne Wyne.  She tells him that she is pregnant, and she wants him to magically abort the pregnancy.  He makes her believe that he possesses a Paracelsus powder, but that this powder must be placed in the maternity passage, in the way that can be imagined.  He prescribes three doses per day for five days, of a medication which can also be imagined.  These pleasures distract the young lady from the abortion, and she will give birth secretly in a convent, will later make a rich marriage, and at the end of her life, will write treatises on morality.

***

Casanova’s predictions greatly contribute to his celebrity.  He has a lot of intuition and psychology, which allows him to take calculated risks.  For example, when he makes that extraordinary prediction to Mademoiselle Roman, he uses a process which has already brought him success.

Louis le Bien-Aime makes a fairly big consumption of pretty young women.  And not only marquises.  A few years before, Casanova had already succeeded in throwing into the royal bed “a little kitchen maid”, lovely, aged fifteen, named Louison O’Morphi.  He had the nymphette painted naked, in a pornographic posture, and had the little painting introduced into the royal entourage, thanks to one of his friends who was a lawyer.  It is on a “catalogue” of this kind that Louis XV makes his choices.

The enterprise perfectly succeeded because O’Morphi reigned for three years over the Parc aux Cerfs.  The poor thing fell into disgrace after a disloyal manoeuvre on the part of a courtisan, who told her to ask the king how he treated his old wife.  Thinking she was invincible, she asked the king the question.  He glared at her, and never saw her again.

The brilliant prophecy about the destiny of Mademoiselle Roman can therefore be explained by rational deduction.  What is more difficult is to announce that she would have a son who would bear the Bourbon name.  This is where our gambler gambles.  He has the gift of a sort of sixth sense which he seems to possess in the highest degree, founded in part on his experience, his intelligence and the unlimited confidence that he places in himself.

***

 

Advertisements