Part 1 out of 3
This etext was produced by David Widger
MEMOIRS OF JACQUES CASANOVA de SEINGALT 1725-1798
VENETIAN YEARS, Volume 1c--MILITARY CAREER
THE RARE UNABRIDGED LONDON EDITION OF 1894 TRANSLATED BY ARTHUR
MACHEN TO WHICH HAS BEEN ADDED THE CHAPTERS DISCOVERED
BY ARTHUR SYMONS.
I Renounce the Clerical Profession, and Enter the Military Service--
Therese Leaves for Naples, and I Go to Venice--I Am Appointed Ensign
in the Army of My Native Country--I Embark for Corfu, and Land at
Orsera to Take a Walk
I had been careful, on my arrival in Bologna, to take up my quarters
at a small inn, so as not to attract any notice, and as soon as I had
dispatched my letters to Therese and the French officer, I thought of
purchasing some linen, as it was at least doubtful whether I should
ever get my trunk. I deemed it expedient to order some clothes
likewise. I was thus ruminating, when it suddenly struck me that I
was not likely now to succeed in the Church, but feeling great
uncertainty as to the profession I ought to adopt, I took a fancy to
transform myself into an officer, as it was evident that I had not to
account to anyone for my actions. It was a very natural fancy at my
age, for I had just passed through two armies in which I had seen no
respect paid to any garb but to the military uniform, and I did not
see why I should not cause myself to be respected likewise. Besides,
I was thinking of returning to Venice, and felt great delight at the
idea of shewing myself there in the garb of honour, for I had been
rather ill-treated in that of religion.
I enquired for a good tailor: death was brought to me, for the tailor
sent to me was named Morte. I explained to him how I wanted my
uniform made, I chose the cloth, he took my measure, and the next day
I was transformed into a follower of Mars. I procured a long sword,
and with my fine cane in hand, with a well-brushed hat ornamented
with a black cockade, and wearing a long false pigtail, I sallied
forth and walked all over the city.
I bethought myself that the importance of my new calling required a
better and more showy lodging than the one I had secured on my
arrival, and I moved to the best inn. I like even now to recollect
the pleasing impression I felt when I was able to admire myself full
length in a large mirror. I was highly pleased with my own person!
I thought myself made by nature to wear and to honour the military
costume, which I had adopted through the most fortunate impulse.
Certain that nobody knew me, I enjoyed by anticipation all the
conjectures which people would indulge in respecting me, when I made
my first appearance in the most fashionable cafe of the town.
My uniform was white, the vest blue, a gold and silver shoulder-knot,
and a sword-knot of the same material. Very well pleased with my
grand appearance, I went to the coffee-room, and, taking some
chocolate, began to read the newspapers, quite at my ease, and
delighted to see that everybody was puzzled. A bold individual, in
the hope of getting me into conversation, came to me and addressed
me; I answered him with a monosyllable, and I observed that everyone
was at a loss what to make of me. When I had sufficiently enjoyed
public admiration in the coffee-room, I promenaded in the busiest
thoroughfares of the city, and returned to the inn, where I had
dinner by myself.
I had just concluded my repast when my landlord presented himself
with the travellers' book, in which he wanted to register my name.
"Your profession, if you please, sir?"
"In which service?"
"Your native place?"
"Where do you come from?"
"That is no business of yours."
This answer, which I thought was in keeping with my external
appearance, had the desired effect: the landlord bowed himself out,
and I felt highly pleased with myself, for I knew that I should enjoy
perfect freedom in Bologna, and I was certain that mine host had
visited me at the instance of some curious person eager to know who I
The next day I called on M. Orsi, the banker, to cash my bill of
exchange, and took another for six hundred sequins on Venice, and one
hundred sequins in gold after which I again exhibited myself in the
public places. Two days afterwards, whilst I was taking my coffee
after dinner, the banker Orsi was announced. I desired him to be
shewn in, and he made his appearance accompanied my Monsignor
Cornaro, whom I feigned not to know. M. Orsi remarked that he had
called to offer me his services for my letters of exchange, and
introduced the prelate. I rose and expressed my gratification at
making his acquaintance. "But we have met before," he replied, "at
Venice and Rome." Assuming an air of blank surprise, I told him he
must certainly be mistaken. The prelate, thinking he could guess the
reason of my reserve, did not insist, and apologized. I offered him
a cup of coffee, which he accepted, and, on leaving me, he begged the
honour of my company to breakfast the next day.
I made up my mind to persist in my denials, and called upon the
prelate, who gave me a polite welcome. He was then apostolic
prothonotary in Bologna. Breakfast was served, and as we were
sipping our chocolate, he told me that I had most likely some good
reasons to warrant my reserve, but that I was wrong not to trust him,
the more so that the affair in question did me great honour. "I do
not know," said I, "what affair you are alluding to." He then handed
me a newspaper, telling me to read a paragraph which he pointed out.
My astonishment may be imagined when I read the following
correspondence from Pesaro: "M. de Casanova, an officer in the
service of the queen, has deserted after having killed his captain in
a duel; the circumstances of the duel are not known; all that has
been ascertained is that M. de Casanova has taken the road to Rimini,
riding the horse belonging to the captain, who was killed on the
In spite of my surprise, and of the difficulty I had in keeping my
gravity at the reading of the paragraph, in which so much untruth was
blended with so little that was real, I managed to keep a serious
countenance, and I told the prelate that the Casanova spoken of in
the newspaper must be another man.
"That may be, but you are certainly the Casanova I knew a month ago
at Cardinal Acquaviva's, and two years ago at the house of my sister,
Madame Lovedan, in Venice. Besides the Ancona banker speaks of you
as an ecclesiastic in his letter of advice to M. Orsi:"
"Very well, monsignor; your excellency compels me to agree to my
being the same Casanova, but I entreat you not to ask me any more
questions as I am bound in honour to observe the strictest reserve."
"That is enough for me, and I am satisfied. Let us talk of something
I was amused at the false reports which were being circulated about
me, and, I became from that moment a thorough sceptic on the subject
of historical truth. I enjoyed, however, very great pleasure in
thinking that my reserve had fed the belief of my being the Casanova
mentioned in the newspaper. I felt certain that the prelate would
write the whole affair to Venice, where it would do me great honour,
at least until the truth should be known, and in that case my reserve
would be justified, besides, I should then most likely be far away.
I made up my mind to go to Venice as soon as I heard from Therese, as
I thought that I could wait for her there more comfortably than in
Bologna, and in my native place there was nothing to hinder me from
marrying her openly. In the mean time the fable from Pesaro amused
me a good deal, and I expected every day to see it denied in some
newspaper. The real officer Casanova must have laughed at the
accusation brought against him of having run away with the horse, as
much as I laughed at the caprice which had metamorphosed me into an
officer in Bologna, just as if I had done it for the very purpose of
giving to the affair every appearance of truth.
On the fourth day of my stay in Bologna, I received by express a long
letter from Therese. She informed me that, on the day after my
escape from Rimini, Baron Vais had presented to her the Duke de
Castropignano, who, having heard her sing, had offered her one
thousand ounces a year, and all travelling expenses paid, if she
would accept an engagement as prima-donna at the San Carlo Theatre,
at Naples, where she would have to go immediately after her Rimini
engagement. She had requested and obtained a week to come to a
decision. She enclosed two documents, the first was the written
memorandum of the duke's proposals, which she sent in order that I
should peruse it, as she did not wish to sign it without my consent;
the second was a formal engagement, written by herself, to remain all
her life devoted to me and at my service. She added in her letter
that, if I wished to accompany her to Naples, she would meet me
anywhere I might appoint, but that, if I had any objection to return
to that city, she would immediately refuse the brilliant offer, for
her only happiness was to please me in all things.
For the first time in my life I found myself in need of thoughtful
consideration before I could make up my mind. Therese's letter had
entirely upset all my ideas, and, feeling that I could not answer it
a once, I told the messenger to call the next day.
Two motives of equal weight kept the balance wavering; self-love and
love for Therese. I felt that I ought not to require Therese to give
up such prospects of fortune; but I could not take upon myself either
to let her go to Naples without me, or to accompany her there. On
one side, I shuddered at the idea that my love might ruin Therese's
prospects; on the other side, the idea of the blow inflicted on my
self-love, on my pride, if I went to Naples with her, sickened me.
How could I make up my mind to reappear in that city, in the guise of
a cowardly fellow living at the expense of his mistress or his wife?
What would my cousin Antonio, Don Polo and his dear son, Don Lelio
Caraffa, and all the patricians who knew me, have said? The thought
of Lucrezia and of her husband sent a cold shiver through me. I
considered that, in spite of my love for Therese, I should become
very miserable if everyone despised me. Linked to her destiny as a
lover or as a husband, I would be a degraded, humbled, and mean
sycophant. Then came the thought, Is this to be the end of all my
hopes? The die was cast, my head had conquered my heart. I fancied
that I had hit upon an excellent expedient, which at all events made
me gain time, and I resolved to act upon it. I wrote to Therese,
advising her to accept the engagement for Naples, where she might
expect me to join her in the month of July, or after my return from
Constantinople. I cautioned her to engage an honest-looking waiting-
woman, so as to appear respectably in the world, and, to lead such a
life as would permit me to make her my wife, on my return, without
being ashamed of myself. I foresaw that her success would be insured
by her beauty even more than by her talent, and, with my nature, I
knew that I could never assume the character of an easy-going lover
or of a compliant husband.
Had I received Therese's letter one week sooner, it is certain that
she would not have gone to Naples, for my love would then have proved
stronger than my reason; but in matters of love, as well as in all
others, Time is a great teacher.
I told Therese to direct her answer to Bologna, and, three days
after, I received from her a letter loving, and at the same time sad,
in which she informed me that she had signed the engagement. She had
secured the services of a woman whom she could present as her mother;
she would reach Naples towards the middle of May, and she would wait
for me there till she heard from me that I no longer wanted her.
Four days after the receipt of that letter, the last but one that
Therese wrote me, I left Bologna for Venice. Before my departure I
had received an answer form the French officer, advising me that my
passport had reached Pesaro, and that he was ready to forward it to
me with my trunk, if I would pay M. Marcello Birna, the proveditore
of the Spanish army, whose address he enclosed, the sum of fifty
doubloons for the horse which I had run away with, or which had run
away with me. I repaired at once to the house of the proveditore,
well pleased to settle that affair, and I received my trunk and my
passport a few hours before leaving Bologna. But as my paying for
the horse was known all over the town, Monsignor Cornaro was
confirmed in his belief that I had killed my captain in a duel.
To go to Venice, it was necessary to submit to a quarantine, which
had been adhered to only because the two governments had fallen out.
The Venetians wanted the Pope to be the first in giving free passage
through his frontiers, and the Pope insisted that the Venetians
should take the initiative. The result of this trifling pique
between the two governments was great hindrance to commerce, but very
often that which bears only upon the private interest of the people
is lightly treated by the rulers. I did not wish to be quarantined,
and determined on evading it. It was rather a delicate undertaking,
for in Venice the sanitary laws are very strict, but in those days I
delighted in doing, if not everything that was forbidden, at least
everything which offered real difficulties.
I knew that between the state of Mantua and that of Venice the
passage was free, and I knew likewise that there was no restriction
in the communication between Mantua and Modena; if I could therefore
penetrate into the state of Mantua by stating that I was coming from
Modena, my success would be certain, because I could then cross the
Po and go straight to Venice. I got a carrier to drive me to Revero,
a city situated on the river Po, and belonging to the state of
The driver told me that, if he took the crossroads, he could go to
Revero, and say that we came from Mantua, and that the only
difficulty would be in the absence of the sanitary certificate which
is delivered in Mantua, and which was certain to be asked for in
Revero. I suggested that the best way to manage would be for him to
say that he had lost it, and a little money removed every objection
on his part.
When we reached the gates of Revero, I represented myself as a
Spanish officer going to Venice to meet the Duke of Modena (whom I
knew to be there) on business of the greatest importance. The
sanitary certificate was not even demanded, military honours were
duly paid to me, and I was most civilly treated. A certificate was
immediately delivered to me, setting forth that I was travelling from
Revero, and with it I crossed the Po, without any difficulty, at
Ostiglia, from which place I proceeded to Legnago. There I left my
carrier as much pleased with my generosity as with the good luck
which had attended our journey, and, taking post-horses, I reached
Venice in the evening. I remarked that it was the and of April,
1744, the anniversary of my birth, which, ten times during my life,
has been marked by some important event.
The very next morning I went to the exchange in order to procure a
passage to Constantinople, but I could not find any passenger ship
sailing before two or three months, and I engaged a berth in a
Venetian ship called, Our Lady of the Rosary, Commander Zane, which
was to sail for Corfu in the course of the month.
Having thus prepared myself to obey my destiny, which, according to
my superstitious feelings, called me imperiously to Constantinople, I
went to St: Mark's Square in order to see and to be seen, enjoying by
anticipation the surprise of my acquaintances at not finding me any
longer an abbe. I must not forget to state that at Revero I had
decorated my hat with a red cockade.
I thought that my first visit was, by right, due to the Abbe Grimani.
The moment he saw me he raised a perfect shriek of astonishment, for
he thought I was still with Cardinal Acquaviva, on the road to a
political career, and he saw standing before him a son of Mars. He
had just left the dinner-table as I entered, and he had company. I
observed amongst the guests an officer wearing the Spanish uniform,
but I was not put out of countenance. I told the Abbe Grimani that I
was only passing through Venice, and that I had felt it a duty and a
pleasure to pay my respects to him.
"I did not expect to see you in such a costume."
"I have resolved to throw off the garb which could not procure me a
fortune likely to satisfy my ambition."
"Where are you going?"
"To Constantinople; and I hope to find a quick passage to Corfu, as I
have dispatches from Cardinal Acquaviva."
"Where do you come from now?"
"From the Spanish army, which I left ten days ago."
These words were hardly spoken, when I heard the voice of a young
"That is not true."
"The profession to which I belong," I said to him with great
animation, "does not permit me to let anyone give me the lie."
And upon that, bowing all round, I went away, without taking any
notice of those who were calling me back.
I wore an uniform; it seemed to me that I was right in showing that
sensitive and haughty pride which forms one of the characteristics of
military men. I was no longer a priest: I could not bear being given
the lie, especially when it had been given to me in so public a
I called upon Madame Manzoni, whom I was longing to see. She was
very happy to see me, and did not fail to remind me of her
prediction. I told her my history, which amused her much; but she
said that if I went to Constantinople I should most likely never see
After my visit to Madame Manzoni I went to the house of Madame Orio,
where I found worthy M. Rosa, Nanette, and Marton. They were all
greatly surprised, indeed petrified at seeing me. The two lovely
sisters looked more beautiful than ever, but I did not think it
necessary to tell them the history of my nine months absence, for it
would not have edified the aunt or pleased the nieces. I satisfied
myself with telling them as much as I thought fit, and amused them
for three hours. Seeing that the good old lady was carried away by
her enthusiasm, I told her that I should be very happy to pass under
her roof the four or five weeks of my stay in Venice, if she could
give me a room and supper, but on condition that I should not prove a
burden to her or to her charming nieces.
"I should be only too happy," she answered, "to have you so long, but
I have no room to offer you."
"Yes, you have one, my dear," exclaimed M. Rosa, "and I undertake to
put it to rights within two hours."
It was the room adjoining the chamber of the two sisters. Nanette
said immediately that she would come downstairs with her sister, but
Madame Orio answered that it was unnecessary, as they could lock
themselves in their room.
"There would be no need for them to do that, madam," I said, with a
serious and modest air; "and if I am likely to occasion the slightest
disturbance, I can remain at the inn."
"There will be no disturbance whatever; but forgive my nieces, they
are young prudes, and have a very high opinion of themselves:"
Everything being satisfactorily arranged, I forced upon Madame Orio a
payment of fifteen sequins in advance, assuring her that I was rich,
and that I had made a very good bargain, as I should spend a great
deal more if I kept my room at the inn. I added that I would send my
luggage, and take up my quarters in her house on the following day.
During the whole of the conversation, I could see the eyes of my two
dear little wives sparkling with pleasure, and they reconquered all
their influence over my heart in spite of my love for Therese, whose
image was, all the same, brilliant in my soul: this was a passing
infidelity, but not inconstancy.
On the following day I called at the war office, but, to avoid every
chance of unpleasantness, I took care to remove my cockade. I found
in the office Major Pelodoro, who could not control his joy when he
saw me in a military uniform, and hugged me with delight. As soon as
I had explained to him that I wanted to go to Constantinople, and
that, although in uniform, I was free, he advised me earnestly to
seek the favour of going to Turkey with the bailo, who intended to
leave within two months, and even to try to obtain service in the
His advice suited me exactly, and the secretary of war, who had known
me the year before, happening to see me, summoned me to him. He told
me that he had received letters from Bologna which had informed him
of a certain adventure entirely to my honour, adding that he knew
that I would not acknowledge it. He then asked me if I had received
my discharge before leaving the Spanish army.
"I could not receive my discharge, as I was never in the service."
"And how did you manage to come to Venice without performing
"Persons coming from Mantua are not subject to it."
"True; but I advise you to enter the Venetian service like Major
As I was leaving the ducal palace, I met the Abbe Grimani who told me
that the abrupt manner in which I had left his house had displeased
"Even the Spanish officer?"
"No, for he remarked that, if you had truly been with the army, you
could not act differently, and he has himself assured me that you
were there, and to prove what he asserted he made me read an article
in the newspaper, in which it is stated that you killed your captain
in a duel. Of course it is only a fable?"
"How do you know that it is not a fact?"
"Is it true, then?"
"I do not say so, but it may be true, quite as true as my having been
with the Spanish army ten days ago."
"But that is impossible, unless you have broken through the
"I have broken nothing. I have openly crossed the Po at Revero, and
here I am. I am sorry not to be able to present myself at your
excellency's palace, but I cannot do so until I have received the
most complete satisfaction from the person who has given me the lie.
I could put up with an insult when I wore the livery of humility, but
I cannot bear one now that I wear the garb of honour."
"You are wrong to take it in such a high tone. The person who
attacked your veracity is M. Valmarana, the proveditore of the
sanitary department, and he contends that, as nobody can pass through
the cordon, it would be impossible for you to be here. Satisfaction,
indeed! Have you forgotten who you are?"
"No, I know who I am; and I know likewise that, if I was taken for a
coward before leaving Venice, now that I have returned no one shall
insult me without repenting it."
"Come and dine with me."
"No, because the Spanish officer would know it."
"He would even see you, for he dines with me every day."
"Very well, then I will go, and I will let him be the judge of my
quarrel with M. Valmarana."
I dined that day with Major Pelodoro and several other officers, who
agreed in advising me to enter the service of the Republic, and I
resolved to do so. "I am acquainted," said the major, "with a young
lieutenant whose health is not sufficiently strong to allow him to go
to the East, and who would be glad to sell his commission, for which
he wants one hundred sequins. But it would be necessary to obtain
the consent of the secretary of war." "Mention the matter to him," I
replied, "the one hundred sequins are ready." The major undertook
In the evening I went to Madame Orio, and I found myself very
comfortably lodged. After supper, the aunt told her nieces to shew
me, to my room, and, as may well be supposed, we spent a most
delightful night. After that they took the agreeable duty by turns,
and in order to avoid any surprise in case the aunt should take it
into her head to pay them a visit, we skilfully displaced a part of
the partition, which allowed them to come in and out of my room
without opening the door. But the good lady believed us three living
specimens of virtue, and never thought of putting us to the test.
Two or three days afterwards, M. Grimani contrived an interview
between me and M. Valmarana, who told me that, if he had been aware
that the sanitary line could be eluded, he would never have impugned
my veracity, and thanked me for the information I had given him. The
affair was thus agreeably arranged, and until my departure I honoured
M. Grimani's excellent dinner with my presence every day.
Towards the end of the month I entered the service of the Republic in
the capacity of ensign in the Bala regiment, then at Corfu; the young
man who had left the regiment through the magical virtue of my one
hundred sequins was lieutenant, but the secretary of war objected to
my having that rank for reasons to which I had to submit, if I wished
to enter the army; but he promised me that, at the end of the year, I
would be promoted to the grade of lieutenant, and he granted me a
furlough to go to Constantinople. I accepted, for I was determined
to serve in the army.
M. Pierre Vendramin, an illustrious senator, obtained me the favour
of a passage to Constantinople with the Chevalier Venier, who was
proceeding to that city in the quality of bailo, but as he would
arrive in Corfu a month after me, the chevalier very kindly promised
to take me as he called at Corfu.
A few days before my departure, I received a letter from Therese, who
informed me that the Duke de Castropignano escorted her everywhere.
"The duke is old," she wrote, "but even if he were young, you would
have no cause for uneasiness on my account. Should you ever want any
money, draw upon me from any place where you may happen to be, and be
quite certain that your letters of exchange will be paid, even if I
had to sell everything I possess to honour your signature."
There was to be another passenger on board the ship of the line on
which I had engaged my passage, namely, a noble Venetian, who was
going to Zante in the quality of counsellor, with a numerous and
brilliant retinue. The captain of the ship told me that, if I was
obliged to take my meals alone, I was not likely to fare very well,
and he advised me to obtain an introduction to the nobleman, who
would not fail to invite me to share his table. His name was Antonio
Dolfin, and he had been nicknamed Bucentoro, in consequence of his
air of grandeur and the elegance of his toilet. Fortunately I did
not require to beg an introduction, for M. Grimani offered, of his
own accord, to present me to the magnificent councillor, who received
me in the kindest manner, and invited me at once to take my meals at
his table. He expressed a desire that I should make the acquaintance
of his wife, who was to accompany him in the journey. I called upon
her the next day, and I found a lady perfect in manners, but already
of a certain age and completely deaf. I had therefore but little
pleasure to expect from her conversation. She had a very charming
young daughter whom she left in a convent. She became celebrated
afterwards, and she is still alive, I believe, the widow of
Procurator Iron, whose family is extinct.
I have seldom seen a finer-looking man, or a man of more imposing
appearance than M. Dolfin. He was eminently distinguished for his
wit and politeness. He was eloquent, always cheerful when he lost at
cards, the favourite of ladies, whom he endeavoured to please in
everything, always courageous, and of an equal temper, whether in
good or in adverse fortune.
He had ventured on travelling without permission, and had entered a
foreign service, which had brought him into disgrace with the
government, for a noble son of Venice cannot be guilty of a greater
crime. For this offence he had been imprisoned in the Leads--a
favour which destiny kept also in reserve for me.
Highly gifted, generous, but not wealthy, M. Dolfin had been
compelled to solicit from the Grand Council a lucrative governorship,
and had been appointed to Zante; but he started with such a splendid
suite that he was not likely to save much out of his salary. Such a
man as I have just portrayed could not make a fortune in Venice,
because an aristocratic government can not obtain a state of lasting,
steady peace at home unless equality is maintained amongst the
nobility, and equality, either moral or physical, cannot be
appreciated in any other way than by appearances. The result is that
the man who does not want to lay himself open to persecution, and who
happens to be superior or inferior to the others, must endeavour to
conceal it by all possible means. If he is ambitious, he must feign
great contempt for dignities; if he seeks employment, he must not
appear to want any; if his features are handsome, he must be careless
of his physical appearance; he must dress badly, wear nothing in good
taste, ridicule every foreign importation, make his bow without
grace, be careless in his manner; care nothing for the fine arts,
conceal his good breeding, have no foreign cook, wear an uncombed
wig, and look rather dirty. M. Dolfin was not endowed with any of
those eminent qualities, and therefore he had no hope of a great
fortune in his native country.
The day before my departure from Venice I did not go out; I devoted
the whole of the day to friendship. Madame Orio and her lovely
nieces shed many tears, and I joined them in that delightful
employment. During the last night that I spent with both of them,
the sisters repeated over and over, in the midst of the raptures of
love, that they never would see me again. They guessed rightly; but
if they had happened to see me again they would have guessed wrongly.
Observe how wonderful prophets are!
I went on board, on the 5th of May, with a good supply of clothing,
jewels, and ready cash. Our ship carried twenty-four guns and two
hundred Sclavonian soldiers. We sailed from Malamacca to the shores
of Istria during the night, and we came to anchor in the harbour of
Orsera to take ballast. I landed with several others to take a
stroll through the wretched place where I had spent three days nine
months before, a recollection which caused me a pleasant sensation
when I compared my present position to what it was at that time.
What a difference in everything--health, social condition, and money!
I felt quite certain that in the splendid uniform I was now wearing
nobody would recognize the miserable-looking abbe who, but for Friar
Stephano, would have become--God knows what!
An Amusing Meeting in Orsera--Journey to Corfu--My Stay in
Constantinople--Bonneval--My Return to Corfu--Madame F.--The False
Prince--I Run Away from Corfu--My Frolics at Casopo--I Surrender My
self a Prisoner--My Speedy Release and Triumph--My Success with
I affirm that a stupid servant is more dangerous than a bad one, and
a much greater plague, for one can be on one's guard against a wicked
person, but never against a fool. You can punish wickedness but not
stupidity, unless you send away the fool, male or female, who is
guilty of it, and if you do so you generally find out that the change
has only thrown you out of the frying-pan into the fire.
This chapter and the two following ones were written; they gave at
full length all the particulars which I must now abridge, for my
silly servant has taken the three chapters for her own purposes. She
pleaded as an excuse that the sheets of paper were old, written upon,
covered with scribbling and erasures, and that she had taken them in
preference to nice, clean paper, thinking that I would care much more
for the last than for the first. I flew into a violent passion, but
I was wrong, for the poor girl had acted with a good intent; her
judgment alone had misled her. It is well known that the first
result of anger is to deprive the angry man of the faculty of reason,
for anger and reason do not belong to the same family. Luckily,
passion does not keep me long under its sway: 'Irasci, celerem tamen
et placabilem esse'. After I had wasted my time in hurling at her
bitter reproaches, the force of which did not strike her, and in
proving to her that she was a stupid fool, she refuted all my
arguments by the most complete silence. There was nothing to do but
to resign myself, and, although not yet in the best of tempers, I
went to work. What I am going to write will probably not be so good
as what I had composed when I felt in the proper humour, but my
readers must be satisfied with it they will, like the engineer, gain
in time what they lose in strength.
I landed at Orsera while our ship was taking ballast, as a ship
cannot sail well when she is too light, and I was walking about when
I remarked a man who was looking at me very attentively. As I had no
dread of any creditor, I thought that he was interested by my fine
appearance; I could not find fault with such a feeling, and kept
walking on, but as I passed him, he addressed me:
"Might I presume to enquire whether this is your first visit to
"No, sir, it is my second visit to this city."
"Were you not here last year?"
"But you were not in uniform then?"
"True again; but your questions begin to sound rather indiscreet."
"Be good enough to forgive me, sir, for my curiosity is the offspring
of gratitude. I am indebted to you for the greatest benefits, and I
trust that Providence has brought you here again only to give me the
opportunity of making greater still my debt of gratitude to you."
"What on earth have I done, and what can I do for you? I am at a
loss to guess your meaning."
"Will you be so kind as to come and breakfast with me? My house is
near at hand; my refosco is delicious, please to taste it, and I will
convince you in a few words that you are truly my benefactor, and
that I have a right to expect that you have returned Orsera to load
me with fresh benefits."
I could not suspect the man of insanity; but, as I could not make him
out, I fancied that he wanted to make me purchase some of his
refosco, and I accepted his invitation. We went up to his room, and
he left me for a few moments to order breakfast. I observed several
surgical instruments, which made me suppose that he was a surgeon,
and I asked him when he returned.
"Yes, captain; I have been practising surgery in this place for
twenty years, and in a very poor way, for I had nothing to do, except
a few cases of bleeding, of cupping, and occasionally some slight
excoriation to dress or a sprained ankle to put to rights. I did not
earn even the poorest living. But since last year a great change has
taken place; I have made a good deal of money, I have laid it out
advantageously, and it is to you, captain, to you (may God bless
you!) that I am indebted for my present comforts."
"But how so?"
"In this way, captain. You had a connection with Don Jerome's
housekeeper, and you left her, when you went away, a certain souvenir
which she communicated to a friend of hers, who, in perfect good
faith, made a present of it to his wife. This lady did not wish, I
suppose, to be selfish, and she gave the souvenir to a libertine who,
in his turn, was so generous with it that, in less than a month, I
had about fifty clients. The following months were not less
fruitful, and I gave the benefit of my attendance to everybody, of
course, for a consideration. There are a few patients still under my
care, but in a short time there will be no more, as the souvenir left
by you has now lost all its virtue. You can easily realize now the
joy I felt when I saw you; you are a bird of good omen. May I hope
that your visit will last long enough to enable you to renew the
source of my fortune?"
I laughed heartily, but he was grieved to hear that I was in
excellent health. He remarked, however, that I was not likely to be
so well off on my return, because, in the country to which I was
going, there was abundance of damaged goods, but that no one knew
better than he did how to root out the venom left by the use of such
bad merchandise. He begged that I would depend upon him, and not
trust myself in the hands of quacks, who would be sure to palm their
remedies upon me. I promised him everything, and, taking leave of
him with many thanks, I returned to the ship. I related the whole
affair to M. Dolfin, who was highly amused. We sailed on the
following day, but on the fourth day, on the other side of Curzola,
we were visited by a storm which very nearly cost me my life. This
is how it happened:
The chaplain of the ship was a Sclavonian priest, very ignorant,
insolent and coarse-mannered, and, as I turned him into ridicule
whenever the opportunity offered, he had naturally become my sworn
enemy. 'Tant de fiel entre-t-il dans l'ame d'un devot!' When the
storm was at its height, he posted himself on the quarter-deck, and,
with book in hand, proceeded to exorcise all the spirits of hell whom
he thought he could see in the clouds, and to whom he pointed for the
benefit of the sailors who, believing themselves lost, were crying,
howling, and giving way to despair, instead of attending to the
working of the ship, then in great danger on account of the rocks and
of the breakers which surrounded us.
Seeing the peril of our position, and the evil effect of his stupid,
incantations upon the minds of the sailors whom the ignorant priest
was throwing into the apathy of despair, instead of keeping up their
courage, I thought it prudent to interfere. I went up the rigging,
calling upon the sailors to do their duty cheerfully, telling them
that there were no devils, and that the priest who pretended to see
them was a fool. But it was in vain that I spoke in the most
forcible manner, in vain that I went to work myself, and shewed that
safety was only to be insured by active means, I could not prevent
the priest declaring that I was an Atheist, and he managed to rouse
against me the anger of the greatest part of the crew. The wind
continued to lash the sea into fury for the two following days, and
the knave contrived to persuade the sailors who listened to him that
the hurricane would not abate as long as I was on board. Imbued with
that conviction, one of the men, thinking he had found a good
opportunity of fulfilling the wishes of the priest, came up to me as
I was standing at the extreme end of the forecastle, and pushed me so
roughly that I was thrown over. I should have been irretrievably
lost, but the sharp point of an anchor, hanging along the side of the
ship, catching in my clothes, prevented me from falling in the sea,
and proved truly my sheet-anchor. Some men came to my assistance,
and I was saved. A corporal then pointed out to me the sailor who
had tried to murder me, and taking a stout stick I treated the
scoundrel to a sound thrashing; but the sailors, headed by the
furious priest, rushed towards us when they heard his screams, and I
should have been killed if the soldiers had not taken my part. The
commander and M. Dolfin then came on deck, but they were compelled to
listen to the chaplain, and to promise, in order to pacify the vile
rabble, that they would land me at the first opportunity. But even
this was not enough; the priest demanded that I should give up to him
a certain parchment that I had purchased from a Greek at Malamocco
just before sailing. I had no recollection of it, but it was true.
I laughed, and gave it to M. Dolfin; he handed it to the fanatic
chaplain, who, exulting in his victory, called for a large pan of
live coals from the cook's galley, and made an auto-da-fe of the
document. The unlucky parchment, before it was entirely consumed,
kept writhing on the fire for half an hour, and the priest did not
fail to represent those contortions as a miracle, and all the sailors
were sure that it was an infernal manuscript given to me by the
devil. The virtue claimed for that piece of parchment by the man who
had sold it to me was that it insured its lucky possessor the love of
all women, but I trust my readers will do me the justice to believe
that I had no faith whatever in amorous philtres, talismans, or
amulets of any kind: I had purchased it only for a joke.
You can find throughout Italy, in Greece, and generally in every
country the inhabitants of which are yet wrapped up in primitive
ignorance, a tribe of Greeks, of Jews, of astronomers, and of
exorcists, who sell their dupes rags and toys to which they
boastingly attach wonderful virtues and properties; amulets which
render invulnerable, scraps of cloth which defend from witchcraft,
small bags filled with drugs to keep away goblins, and a thousand
gewgaws of the same description. These wonderful goods have no
marketable value whatever in France, in England, in Germany, and
throughout the north of Europe generally, but, in revenge, the
inhabitants of those countries indulge in knavish practices of a much
The storm abated just as the innocent parchment was writhing on the
fire, and the sailors, believing that the spirits of hell had been
exorcised, thought no more of getting rid of my person, and after a
prosperous voyage of a week we cast anchor at Corfu. As soon as I
had found a comfortable lodging I took my letters to his eminence the
proveditore-generale, and to all the naval commanders to whom I was
recommended; and after paying my respects to my colonel, and making
the acquaintance of the officers of my regiment, I prepared to enjoy
myself until the arrival of the Chevalier Venier, who had promised to
take me to Constantinople. He arrived towards the middle of June,
but in the mean time I had been playing basset, and had lost all my
money, and sold or pledged all my jewellery.
Such must be the fate awaiting every man who has a taste for
gambling, unless he should know how to fix fickle fortune by playing
with a real advantage derived from calculation or from adroitness,
which defies chance. I think that a cool and prudent player can
manage both without exposing himself to censure, or deserving to be
called a cheat.
During the month that I spent in Corfu, waiting for the arrival of M.
Venier, I did not devote any time to the study, either moral or
physical, of the country, for, excepting the days on which I was on
duty, I passed my life at the coffee-house, intent upon the game, and
sinking, as a matter of course, under the adverse fortune which I
braved with obstinacy. I never won, and I had not the moral strength
to stop till all my means were gone. The only comfort I had, and a
sorry one truly, was to hear the banker himself call me--perhaps
sarcastically--a fine player, every time I lost a large stake. My
misery was at its height, when new life was infused in me by the
booming of the guns fired in honour of the arrival of the bailo. He
was on board the Europa, a frigate of seventy-two guns, and he had
taken only eight days to sail from Venice to Corfu. The moment he
cast anchor, the bailo hoisted his flag of captain-general of the
Venetian navy, and the proveditore hauled down his own colours. The
Republic of Venice has not on the sea any authority greater than that
of Bailo to the Porte. The Chevalier Venier had with him a
distinguished and brilliant suite; Count Annibal Gambera, Count
Charles Zenobio, both Venetian noblemen of the first class, and the
Marquis d'Anchotti of Bressan, accompanied him to Constantinople for
their own amusement. The bailo remained a week in Corfu, and all the
naval authorities entertained him and his suite in turn, so that
there was a constant succession of balls and suppers. When I
presented myself to his excellency, he informed me that he had
already spoken to the proveditore, who had granted me a furlough of
six months to enable me to accompany him to Constantinople as his
adjutant; and as soon as the official document for my furlough had
been delivered to me, I sent my small stock of worldly goods on board
the Europa, and we weighed anchor early the next day.
We sailed with a favourable wind which remained steady and brought us
in six days to Cerigo, where we stopped to take in some water.
Feeling some curiosity to visit the ancient Cythera, I went on shore
with the sailors on duty, but it would have been better for me if I
had remained on board, for in Cerigo I made a bad acquaintance. I
was accompanied by the captain of marines.
The moment we set foot on shore, two men, very poorly dressed and of
unprepossessing appearance, came to us and begged for assistance. I
asked them who they were, and one, quicker than the other, answered;
"We are sentenced to live, and perhaps to die, in this island by the
despotism of the Council of Ten. There are forty others as
unfortunate as ourselves, and we are all born subjects of the
"The crime of which we have been accused, which is not considered a
crime anywhere, is that we were in the habit of living with our
mistresses, without being jealous of our friends, when, finding our
ladies handsome, they obtained their favours with our ready consent.
As we were not rich, we felt no remorse in availing ourselves of the
generosity of our friends in such cases, but it was said that we were
carrying on an illicit trade, and we have been sent to this place,
where we receive every day ten sous in 'moneta lunga'. We are called
'mangia-mayroni', and are worse off than galley slaves, for we are
dying of ennui, and we are often starving without knowing how to stay
our hunger. My name is Don Antonio Pocchini, I am of a noble Paduan
family, and my mother belongs to the illustrious family of Campo San-
We gave them some money, and went about the island, returning to the
ship after we had visited the fortress. I shall have to speak of
that Pocchini in a few years.
The wind continued in our favour, and we reached the Dardanelles in
eight or ten days; the Turkish barges met us there to carry us to
Constantinople. The sight offered by that city at the distance of a
league is truly wonderful; and I believe that a more magnificent
panorama cannot be found in any part of the world. It was that
splendid view which was the cause of the fall of the Roman, and of
the rise of the Greek empire. Constantine the Great, arriving at
Byzantium by sea, was so much struck with the wonderful beauty of its
position, that he exclaimed, "Here is the proper seat of the empire
of the whole world!" and in order to secure the fulfilment of his
prediction, he left Rome for Byzantium. If he had known the prophecy
of Horace, or rather if he had believed in it, he would not have been
guilty of such folly. The poet had said that the, downfall of the
Roman empire would begin only when one of the successors of Augustus
bethought him removing the capital of the empire to where it had
originated. The Troad is not far distant from Thrace.
We arrived at the Venetian Embassy in Pera towards the middle of
July, and, for a wonder, there was no talk of the plague in
Constantinople just then. We were all provided with very comfortable
lodgings, but the intensity of the heat induced the baili to seek for
a little coolness in a country mansion which had been hired by the
Bailo Dona. It was situated at Bouyoudere. The very first order
laid upon me was never to go out unknown to the bailo, and without
being escorted by a janissary, and this order I obeyed to the letter.
In those days the Russians had not tamed the insolence of the Turkish
people. I am told that foreigners can now go about as much as they
please in perfect security.
The day after our arrival, I took a janissary to accompany me to
Osman Pacha, of Caramania, the name assumed by Count de Bonneval ever
since he had adopted the turban. I sent in my letter, and was
immediately shewn into an apartment on the ground floor, furnished in
the French fashion, where I saw a stout elderly gentleman, dressed
like a Frenchman, who, as I entered the room, rose, came to meet me
with a smiling countenance, and asked me how he could serve the
'protege' of a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, which he could
no longer call his mother. I gave him all the particulars of the
circumstances which, in a moment of despair, had induced me to ask
the cardinal for letters of introduction for Constantinople, and I
added that, the letters once in my possession, my superstitious
feelings had made me believe that I was bound to deliver them in
"Then, without this letter," he said, "you never would have come to
Constantinople, and you have no need of me?"
"True, but I consider myself fortunate in having thus made the
acquaintance of a man who has attracted the attention of the whole of
Europe, and who still commands that attention."
His excellency made some remark respecting the happiness of young men
who, like me, without care, without any fixed purpose, abandon
themselves to fortune with that confidence which knows no fear, and
telling me that the cardinal's letter made it desirable that he
should do something for me, he promised to introduce me to three or
four of his Turkish friends who deserved to be known. He invited me
to dine with him every Thursday, and undertook to send me a janissary
who would protect me from the insults of the rabble and shew me
everything worth seeing.
The cardinal's letter representing me as a literary man, the pacha
observed that I ought to see his library. I followed him through the
garden, and we entered a room furnished with grated cupboards;
curtains could be seen behind the wirework; the books were most
likely behind the curtains.
Taking a key out of his pocket, he opened one of the cupboards, and,
instead of folios, I saw long rows of bottles of the finest wines.
We both laughed heartily.
"Here are," said the pacha. "my library and my harem. I am old,
women would only shorten my life but good wine will prolong it, or
at least, make it more agreeable.
"I imagine your excellency has obtained a dispensation from the
"You are mistaken, for the Pope of the Turks is very far from
enjoying as great a power as the Christian Pope. He cannot in any
case permit what is forbidden by the Koran; but everyone is at
liberty to work out his own damnation if he likes. The Turkish
devotees pity the libertines, but they do not persecute them; there
is no inquisition in Turkey. Those who do not know the precepts of
religion, say the Turks, will suffer enough in the life to come;
there is no need to make them suffer in this life. The only
dispensation I have asked and obtained, has been respecting
circumcision, although it can hardly be called so, because, at my
age, it might have proved dangerous. That ceremony is generally
performed, but it is not compulsory."
During the two hours that we spent together, the pacha enquired after
several of his friends in Venice, and particularly after Marc Antonio
Dieto. I told him that his friends were still faithful to their
affection for him, and did not find fault with his apostasy. He
answered that he was a Mahometan as he had been a Christian, and that
he was not better acquainted with the Koran than he had been with the
Gospel. "I am certain," he added, "that I shall die-calmer and much
happier than Prince Eugene. I have had to say that God is God, and
that Mahomet is the prophet. I have said it, and the Turks care very
little whether I believe it or not. I wear the turban as the soldier
wears the uniform. I was nothing but a military man; I could not
have turned my hand to any other profession, and I made up my mind to
become lieutenant-general of the Grand Turk only when I found myself
entirely at a loss how to earn my living. When I left Venice, the
pitcher had gone too often to the well, it was broken at last, and if
the Jews had offered me the command of an army of fifty thousand men,
I would have gone and besieged Jerusalem."
Bonneval was handsome, but too stout. He had received a sabre-cut in
the lower part of the abdomen, which compelled him to wear constantly
a bandage supported by a silver plate. He had been exiled to Asia,
but only for a short time, for, as he told me, the cabals are not so
tenacious in Turkey as they are in Europe, and particularly at the
court of Vienna. As I was taking leave of him, he was kind enough to
say that, since his arrival in Turkey, he had never passed two hours
as pleasantly as those he had just spent with me, and that he would
compliment the bailo about me.
The Bailo Dona, who had known him intimately in Venice, desired me to
be the bearer of all his friendly compliments for him, and M. Venier
expressed his deep regret at not being able to make his acquaintance.
The second day after my first visit to him being a Thursday, the
pacha did not forget to send a janissary according to his promise.
It was about eleven in the morning when the janissary called for me,
I followed him, and this time I found Bonneval dressed in the Turkish
style. His guests soon arrived, and we sat down to dinner, eight of
us, all well disposed to be cheerful and happy. The dinner was
entirely French, in cooking and service; his steward and his cook
were both worthy French renegades.
He had taken care to introduce me to all his guests and at the same
time to let me know who they were, but he did not give me an
opportunity of speaking before dinner was nearly over. The
conversation was entirely kept up in Italian, and I remarked that the
Turks did not utter a single word in their own language, even to say
the most ordinary thing. Each guest had near him a bottle which
might have contained either white wine or hydromel; all I know is
that I drank, as well as M. de Bonneval, next to whom I was seated,
some excellent white Burgundy.
The guests got me on the subject of Venice, and particularly of Rome,
and the conversation very naturally fell upon religion, but not upon
dogmatic questions; the discipline of religion and liturgical
questions were alone discussed.
One of the guests, who was addressed as effendi, because he had been
secretary for foreign affairs, said that the ambassador from Venice
to Rome was a friend of his, and he spoke of him in the highest
manner. I told him that I shared his admiration for that ambassador,
who had given me a letter of introduction for a Turkish nobleman,
whom he had represented as an intimate friend. He enquired for the
name of the person to whom the letter was addressed, but I could not
recollect it, and took the letter out of my pocket-book. The effendi
was delighted when he found that the letter was for himself. He
begged leave to read it at once, and after he had perused it, he
kissed the signature and came to embrace me. This scene pleased M.
de Bonneval and all his friends. The effendi, whose name was Ismail,
entreated the pacha to come to dine with him, and to bring me;
Bonneval accepted, and fixed a day.
Notwithstanding all the politeness of the effendi, I was particularly
interested during our charming dinner in a fine elderly man of about
sixty, whose countenance breathed at the same time the greatest
sagacity and the most perfect kindness. Two years afterwards I found
again the same features on the handsome face of M. de Bragadin, a
Venetian senator of whom I shall have to speak at length when we come
to that period of my life. That elderly gentleman had listened to me
with the greatest attention, but without uttering one word. In
society, a man whose face and general appearance excite your
interest, stimulates strongly your curiosity if he remains silent.
When we left the dining-room I enquired from de Bonneval who he was;
he answered that he was wealthy, a philosopher, a man of acknowledged
merit, of great purity of morals, and strongly attached to his
religion. He advised me to cultivate his acquaintance if he made any
advances to me.
I was pleased with his advice, and when, after a walk under the shady
trees of the garden, we returned to a drawing-room furnished in the
Turkish fashion, I purposely took a seat near Yusuf Ali. Such was
the name of the Turk for whom I felt so much sympathy. He offered me
his pipe in a very graceful manner; I refused it politely, and took
one brought to me by one of M. de Bonneval's servants. Whenever I
have been amongst smokers I have smoked or left the room; otherwise I
would have fancied that I was swallowing the smoke of the others, and
that idea which is true and unpleasant, disgusted me. I have never
been able to understand how in Germany the ladies, otherwise so
polite and delicate, could inhale the suffocating fumes of a crowd of
Yusuf, pleased to have me near him, at once led the conversation to
subjects similar to those which had been discussed at table, and
particularly to the reasons which had induced me to give up the
peaceful profession of the Church and to choose a military life; and
in order to gratify his curiosity without losing his good opinion, I
gave him, but with proper caution, some of the particulars of my
life, for I wanted him to be satisfied that, if I had at first
entered the career of the holy priesthood, it had not been through
any vocation of mine. He seemed pleased with my recital, spoke of
natural vocations as a Stoic philosopher, and I saw that he was a
fatalist; but as I was careful not to attack his system openly, he
did not dislike my objections, most likely because he thought himself
strong enough to overthrow them.
I must have inspired the honest Mussulman with very great esteem, for
he thought me worthy of becoming his disciple; it was not likely that
he could entertain the idea of becoming himself the disciple of a
young man of nineteen, lost, as he thought, in a false religion.
After spending an hour in examining me, in listening to my
principles, he said that he believed me fit to know the real truth,
because he saw that I was seeking for it, and that I was not certain
of having obtained it so far. He invited me to come and spend a
whole day with him, naming the days when I would be certain to find
him at home, but he advised me to consult the Pacha Osman before
accepting his invitation. I told him that the pacha had already
mentioned him to me and had spoken very highly of his character; he
seemed much pleased. I fixed a day for my visit, and left him.
I informed M. de Bonneval of all that had occurred; he was delighted,
and promised that his janissary would be every day at the Venetian
palace, ready to execute my orders.
I received the congratulations of the baili upon the excellent
acquaintances I had already made, and M. Venier advised me not to
neglect such friends in a country where weariness of life was more
deadly to foreigners than the plague.
On the day appointed, I went early to Yusuf's palace, but he was out.
His gardener, who had received his instructions, shewed me every
attention, and entertained me very agreeably for two hours in doing
the honours of his master's splendid garden, where I found the most
beautiful flowers. This gardener was a Neapolitan, and had belonged
to Yusuf for thirty years. His manners made me suspect that he was
well born and well educated, but he told me frankly that he had never
been taught even to read, that he was a sailor when he, was taken in
slavery, and that he was so happy in the service of Yusuf that
liberty would be a punishment to him. Of course I did not venture to
address him any questions about his master, for his reserve might
have put my curiosity to the blush.
Yusuf had gone out on horseback; he returned, and, after the usual
compliments, we dined alone in a summerhouse, from which we had a
fine view of the sea, and in which the heat was cooled by a
delightful breeze, which blows regularly at the same hour every day
from the north-west; and is called the mistral. We had a good
dinner; there was no prepared dish except the cauroman, a peculiar
delicacy of the Turks. I drank water and hydromel, and I told Yusuf
that I preferred the last to wine, of which I never took much at that
time. "Your hydromel," I said, "is very good, and the Mussulmans who
offend against the law by drinking wine do not deserve any
indulgence; I believe they drink wine only because it is forbidden."
"Many of the true believers," he answered. "think that they can take
it as a medicine. The Grand Turk's physician has brought it into
vogue as a medicine, and it has been the cause of his fortune, for he
has captivated the favour of his master who is in reality constantly
ill, because he is always in a state of intoxication." I told Yusuf
that in my country drunkards were scarce, and that drunkenness was a
vice to be found only among the lowest people; he was much
astonished. "I cannot understand," he said, "why wine is allowed by
all religions, when its use deprives man of his reason."--"All
religions," I answered, "forbid excess in drinking wine, and the
crime is only in the abuse." I proved him the truth of what I had
said by telling him that opium produced the same results as wine, but
more powerfully, and consequently Mahomet ought to have forbidden the
use of it. He observed that he had never taken either wine or opium
in the course of his life.
After dinner, pipes were brought in and we filled them ourselves. I
was smoking with pleasure, but, at the same time, was expectorating.
Yusuf, who smoked like a Turk, that is to say, without spitting,
"The tobacco you are now smoking is of a very fine quality, and you
ought to swallow its balsam which is mixed with the saliva."
"I suppose you are right; smoking cannot be truly enjoyed without the
"That is true to a certain extent, but the enjoyment found in smoking
good tobacco is not the principal pleasure, because it only pleases
our senses; true enjoyment is that which works upon the soul, and is
completely independent of the senses."
"I cannot realize pleasures enjoyed by the soul without the
instrumentality of the senses."
"Listen to me. When you fill your pipe do you feel any pleasure?"
"Whence does that pleasure arise, if it is not from your soul? Let
us go further. Do you not feel pleased when you give up your pipe
after having smoked all the tobacco in it--when you see that nothing
is left but some ashes?"
"It is true."
"Well, there are two pleasures in which your senses have certainly
nothing to do, but I want you to guess the third, and the most
"The most essential? It is the perfume."
"No; that is a pleasure of the organ of smelling--a sensual
"Then I do not know."
"Listen. The principal pleasure derived from tobacco smoking is the
sight of a smoke itself. You must never see it go out of the bowl of
your pipe,--but only from the corner o your mouth, at regular
intervals which must not be too frequent. It is so truly the greatest
pleasure connected with the pipe, that you cannot find anywhere a
blind man who smokes. Try yourself the experiment of smoking a pipe
in your room, at night and without a light; you will soon lay the
"It is all perfectly true; yet you must forgive me if I give the
preference to several pleasures, in which my senses are interested,
over those which afford enjoyment only to my soul."
"Forty years ago I was of the same opinion, and in forty years, if
you succeed in acquiring wisdom, you will think like me. Pleasures
which give activity to our senses, my dear son, disturb the repose of
our soul--a proof that they do not deserve the name of real
"But if I feel them to be real enjoyments, it is enough to prove that
they are truly so."
"Granted; but if you would take the trouble of analyzing them after
you have tasted them, you would not find them unalloyed."
"It may be so, but why should I take a trouble which would only
lessen my enjoyment."
"A time will come when you will feel pleasure in that very trouble."
"It strikes me, dear father, that you prefer mature age to youth."
"You may boldly say old age."
"You surprise me. Must I believe that your early life has been
"Far from it. It was always fortunate in good health, and the master
of my own passions; but all I saw in my equals was for me a good
school in which I have acquired the knowledge of man, and learned the
real road to happiness. The happiest of men is not the most
voluptuous, but the one who knows how to choose the highest standards
of voluptuousness, which can be found, I say again, not in the
pleasures which excite our senses, but in those which give greater
repose to the soul."
"That is the voluptuousness which you consider unalloyed."
"Yes, and such is the sight of a vast prairie all covered with grass.
The green colour, so strongly recommended by our divine prophet,
strikes my eyes, and at the same moment I feel that my soul is
wrapped up in a calm so delightful that I fancy myself nearer the
Creator. I enjoy the same peace, the same repose, when I am seated
on the banks of a river, when I look upon the water so quiet, yet
always moving, which flows constantly, yet never disappears from my
sight, never loses any of its clearness in spite of its constant
motion. It strikes me as the image of my own existence, and of the
calm which I require for my life in order to reach, like the water I
am gazing upon, the goal which I do not see, and which can only be
found at the other end of the journey."
Thus did the Turk reason, and we passed four hours in this sort of
conversation. He had buried two wives, and he had two sons and one
daughter. The eldest son, having received his patrimony, had
established himself in the city of Salonica, where he was a wealthy
merchant; the other was in the seraglio, in the service of the Grand
Turk and his fortune was in the hands of a trustee. His daughter,
Zelmi, then fifteen years of age, was to inherit all his remaining
property. He had given her all the accomplishments which could
minister to the happiness of the man whom heaven had destined for her
husband. We shall hear more of that daughter anon. The mother of
the three children was dead, and five years previous to the time of
my visit, Yusuf had taken another wife, a native of Scio, young and
very beautiful, but he told me himself that he was now too old, and
could not hope to have any child by her. Yet he was only sixty years
of age. Before I left, he made me promise to spend at least one day
every week with him.
At supper, I told the baili how pleasantly the day had passed.
"We envy you," they said, "the prospect you have before you of
spending agreeably three or four months in this country, while, in
our quality of ministers, we must pine away with melancholy."
A few days afterwards, M. de Bonneval took me with him to dine at
Ismail's house, where I saw Asiatic luxury on a grand scale, but
there were a great many guests, and the conversation was held almost
entirely in the Turkish language--a circumstance which annoyed me and
M. de Bonneval also. Ismail saw it, and he invited me to breakfast
whenever I felt disposed, assuring me that he would have much
pleasure in receiving me. I accepted the invitation, and I went ten
or twelve days afterwards. When we reach that period my readers must
kindly accompany me to the breakfast. For the present I must return
to Yusuf who, during my second visit, displayed a character which
inspired, me with the greatest esteem and the warmest affection.
We had dined alone as before, and, conversation happening to turn
upon the fine arts, I gave my opinion upon one of the precepts in the
Koran, by which the Mahometans are deprived of the innocent enjoyment
of paintings and statues. He told me that Mahomet, a very sagacious
legislator, had been right in removing all images from the sight of
the followers of Islam.
"Recollect, my son, that the nations to which the prophet brought the
knowledge of the true God were all idolators. Men are weak; if the
disciples of the prophet had continued to see the same objects, they
might have fallen back into their former errors."
"No one ever worshipped an image as an image; the deity of which the
image is a representation is what is worshipped."
"I may grant that, but God cannot be matter, and it is right to
remove from the thoughts of the vulgar the idea of a material
divinity. You are the only men, you Christians, who believe that you
"It is true, we are sure of it, but observe that faith alone gives us
"I know it; but you are idolators, for you see nothing but a material
representation, and yet you have a complete certainty that you see
God, unless you should tell me that faith disaffirms it."
"God forbid I should tell you such a thing! Faith, on the contrary,
affirms our certainty."
"We thank God that we have no need of such self-delusion, and there
is not one philosopher in the world who could prove to me that you
"That would not be the province of philosophy, dear father, but of
theology--a very superior science."
"You are now speaking the language of our theologians, who differ
from yours only in this; they use their science to make clearer the
truths we ought to know, whilst your theologians try to render those
truths more obscure."
"Recollect, dear father, that they are mysteries."
"The existence of God is a sufficiently important mystery to prevent
men from daring to add anything to it. God can only be simple; any
kind of combination would destroy His essence; such is the God
announced by our prophet, who must be the same for all men and in all
times. Agree with me that we can add nothing to the simplicity of
God. We say that God is one; that is the image of simplicity. You
say that He is one and three at the same time, and such a definition
strikes us as contradictory, absurd, and impious."
"It is a mystery."
"Do you mean God or the definition? I am speaking only of the
definition, which ought not to be a mystery or absurd. Common sense,
my son, must consider as absurd an assertion which substantiallv
nonsensical. Prove to me that three is not a compound, that it
cannot be a compound and I will become a Christian at once."
"My religion tells me to believe without arguing, and I shudder, my
dear Yusuf, when I think that, through some specious reasoning, I
might be led to renounce the creed of my fathers. I first must be
convinced that they lived in error. Tell me whether, respecting my
father's memory, I ought to have such a good opinion of myself as to
sit in judgement over him, with the intention of giving my sentence
My lively remonstrance moved Yusuf deeply, but after a few instants
of silence he said to me,--
"With such feelings, my son, you are sure to find grace in the eyes
of God, and you are, therefore, one of the elect. If you are in
error, God alone can convince you of it, for no just man on earth can
refute the sentiment you have just given expression to."
We spoke of many other things in a friendly manner, and in the
evening we parted with the often repeated assurance of the warmest
affection and of the most perfect devotion.
But my mind was full of our conversation, and as I went on pondering
over the matter, I thought that Yusuf might be right in his opinion
as to the essence of God, for it seemed evident that the Creator of
all beings ought to be perfectly simple; but I thought at the same
time how impossible it would be for me, because the Christian
religion had made a mistake, to accept the Turkish creed, which might
perhaps have just a conception of God, but which caused me to smile
when I recollected that the man who had given birth to it had been an
arrant imposter. I had not the slightest idea, however, that Yusuf
wished to make a convert of me.
The third time I dined with him religion was again the subject of
"Do you believe, dear father, that the religion of Mahomet is the
only one in which salvation can be secured?"
"No, my dear son, I am not certain of it, and no man can have such a
certainty; but I am sure that the Christian religion is not the true
one, because it cannot be universal."
"Because there is neither bread nor wine to be found in three-fourths
of the world. Observe that the precepts of the Koran can be followed
I did not know how to answer, and I would not equivocate.
"If God cannot be matter," I said, "then He must be a spirit?"
"We know what He is not but we do not know what He is: man cannot
affirm that God is a spirit, because he can only realize the idea in
an abstract manner. God immaterial; that is the extent of our
knowledge and it can never be greater."
I was reminded of Plato, who had said exactly the same an most
certainly Yusuf never read Plato.
He added that the existence of God could be useful only to those who
did not entertain a doubt of that existence, and that, as a natural
consequence, Atheists must be the most miserable of men. God has
made in man His own image in order that, amongst all the animals
created by Him, there should be one that can understand and confess
the existence of the Creator. Without man, God would have no witness
of His own glory, and man must therefore understand that his first
and highest duty is to glorify God by practising justice and trusting
to His providence.
"Observe, my son, that God never abandons the man who, in the midst
of misfortunes, falls down in prayer before Him, and that He often
allows the wretch who has no faith in prayer to die miserably."
"Yet we meet with Atheists who are fortunate and happy."
"True; but, in spite of their tranquillity, I pity them because they
have no hope beyond this life, and are on a level with animals.
Besides, if they are philosophers, they must linger in dark
ignorance, and, if they never think, they have no consolation, no
resource, when adversity reaches them. God has made man in such a
manner that he cannot be happy unless he entertains no doubt of the
existence of his Divine Creator; in all stations of life man is
naturally prone to believe in that existence, otherwise man would
never have admitted one God, Creator of all beings and of all
"I should like to know why Atheism has only existed in the systems of
the learned, and never as a national creed."
"Because the poor feel their wants much more than the rich, There are
amongst us a great many impious men who deride the true believers
because they have faith in the pilgrimage to Mecca. Wretches that
they are, they ought to respect the ancient customs which, exciting
the devotion of fervent souls, feed religious principles, and impart
courage under all misfortunes. Without such consolation, people
would give way to all the excess of despair."
Much pleased with the attention I gave to all he said, Yusuf would
thus yield to the inclination he felt to instruct me, and, on my
side, feeling myself drawn towards him by the charm which amiable
goodness exerts upon all hearts, I would often go and spend the day
with him, even without any previous invitation, and Yusuf's
friendship soon became one of my most precious treasures.
One morning, I told my janissary to take me to the palace of Ismail
Effendi, in order to fulfil my promise to breakfast with him. He
gave me the most friendly welcome, and after an excellent breakfast
he invited me to take a walk in his garden. We found there a pretty
summer-house which we entered, and Ismail attempted some liberties
which were not at all to my taste, and which I resented by rising in
a very abrupt manner. Seeing that I was angry, the Turk affected to
approve my reserve, and said that he had only been joking. I left
him after a few minutes, with the intention of not visiting him
again, but I was compelled to do so, as I will explain by-and-by.
When I saw M. de Bonneval I told him what had happened and he said
that, according to Turkish manners, Ismail had intended to give me a
great proof of his friendship, but that I need not be afraid of the
offence being repeated. He added that politeness required that I
should visit him again, and that Ismail was, in spite of his failing,
a perfect gentleman, who had at his disposal the most beautiful
female slaves in Turkey.
Five or six weeks after the commencement of our intimacy, Yusuf asked
me one day whether I was married. I answered that I was not; the
conversation turned upon several moral questions, and at last fell
upon chastity, which, in his opinion, could be accounted a virtue
only if considered from one point of view, namely, that of total
abstinence, but he added that it could not be acceptable to God;
because it transgressed against the very first precept He had given
"I would like to know, for instance," he said, "what name can be
given to the chastity of your knights of Malta. They take a vow of
chastity, but it does not mean that they will renounce women
altogether, they renounce marriage only. Their chastity, and
therefore chastity in general, is violated only by marriage; yet I
observe that marriage is one of your sacraments. Therefore, those
knights of Malta promise not to give way to lustful incontinence in
the only case in which God might forgive it, but they reserve the
license of being lustful unlawfully as often as they please, and
whenever an opportunity may offer itself; and that immoral, illicit
license is granted to them to such an extent, that they are allowed
to acknowledge legally a child which can be born to them only through
a double crime! The most revolting part of it all is that these
children of crime, who are of course perfectly innocent themselves,
are called natural children, as if children born in wedlock came into
the world in an unnatural manner! In one word, my dear son, the vow
of chastity is so much opposed to Divine precepts and to human nature
that it can be agreeable neither to God nor to society, nor to those
who pledge themselves to keep it, and being in such opposition to
every divine and human law, it must be a crime."
He enquired for the second time whether I was married; I replied in
the negative, and added that I had no idea of ever getting married.
"What!" he exclaimed; "I must then believe that you are not a perfect
man, or that you intend to work out your own damnation; unless you
should tell me that you are a Christian only outwardly."
"I am a man in the very strongest sense of the word, and I am a true
Christian. I must even confess that I adore women, and that I have
not the slightest idea of depriving myself of the most delightful of
"According to your religion, damnation awaits you."
"I feel certain of the contrary, because, when we confess our sins,
our priests are compelled to give us absolution."
"I know it, but you must agree with me that it is absurd to suppose
that God will forgive a crime which you would, perhaps, not commit,
if you did not think that, after confession, a priest, a man like
you, will give you absolution. God forgives only the repenting
"No doubt of it, and confession supposes repentance; without it,
absolution has no effect."
"Is onanism a crime amongst you?"
"Yes, even greater than lustful and illegitimate copulation."
"I was aware of it, and it has always caused me great surprise, for
the legislator who enacts a law, the execution of which is
impossible, is a fool. A man in good health, if he cannot have a
woman, must necessarily have recourse to onanism, whenever imperious
nature demands it, and the man who, from fear of polluting his soul,
would abstain from it, would only draw upon himself a mortal
"We believe exactly the reverse; we think that young people destroy
their constitutions, and shorten their lives through self-abuse. In
several communities they are closely watched, and are as much as
possible deprived of every opportunity of indulging in that crime."
"Those who watch them are ignorant fools, and those who pay the
watchers for such a service are even more stupid, because prohibition
must excite the wish to break through such a tyrannical law, to set
at nought an interdiction so contrary to nature."
"Yet it seems to me that self-abuse in excess must be injurious to
health, for it must weaken and enervate."
"Certainly, because excess in everything is prejudicial and
pernicious; but all such excess is the result of our severe
prohibition. If girls are not interfered with in the matter of self-
abuse, I do not see why boys should be."
"Because girls are very far from running the same risk; they do not
lose a great deal in the action of self-abuse, and what they lose
does not come from the same source whence flows the germinal liquid
"I do not know, but we have some physicians who say that chlorosis in
girls is the result of that pleasure indulged in to excess."
After many such conversations, in which he seemed to consider me as
endowed with reason and talent, even when I was not of his opinion,
Yusuf Ali surprised me greatly one day by the following proposition:
"I have two sons and a daughter. I no longer think of my sons,
because they have received their share of my fortune. As far as my
daughter is concerned she will, after my death, inherit all my
possessions, and I am, besides, in a position while I am alive to
promote the fortune of the man who may marry her. Five years ago I
took a young wife, but she has not given me any progeny, and I know
to a certainty that no offspring will bless our union. My daughter,
whose name is Zelmi, is now fifteen; she is handsome, her eyes are
black and lovely like her mother's, her hair is of the colour of the
raven's wing, her complexion is animated alabaster; she is tall, well
made, and of a sweet disposition; I have given her an education which
would make her worthy of our master, the Sultan. She speaks Greek
and Italian fluently, she sings delightfully, and accompanies herself
on the harp; she can draw and embroider, and is always contented and
cheerful. No living man can boast of having seen her features, and
she loves me so dearly that my will is hers. My daughter is a
treasure, and I offer her to you if you will consent to go for one
year to Adrianople to reside with a relative of mine, who will teach
you our religion, our language, and our manners. You will return at
the end of one year, and as soon as you have become a Mussulman my
daughter shall be your wife. You will find a house ready furnished,
slaves of your own, and an income which will enable you to live in
comfort. I have no more to say at present. I do not wish you to
answer me either to-day, or to-morrow, or on any fixed day. You will
give me your decision whenever you feel yourself called upon by your
genius to give it, and you need not give me any answer unless you
accept my offer, for, should you refuse it, it is not necessary that
the subject should be again mentioned. I do not ask you to give full
consideration to my proposal, for now that I have thrown the seed in
your soul it must fructify. Without hurry, without delay, without
anxiety, you can but obey the decrees of God and follow the immutable
decision of fate. Such as I know you, I believe that you only
require the possession of Zelmi to be competely happy, and that you
will become one of the pillars of the Ottoman Empire."
Saying those words, Yusuf pressed me affectionately in his arms, and
left me by myself to avoid any answer I might be inclined to make. I
went away in such wonder at all I had just heard, that I found myself
at the Venetian Embassy without knowing how I had reached it. The
baili thought me very pensive, and asked whether anything was the
matter with me, but I did not feel disposed to gratify their
curiosity. I found that Yusuf had indeed spoken truly: his proposal
was of such importance that it was my duty, not only not to mention
it to anyone, but even to abstain from thinking it over, until my
mind had recovered its calm sufficiently to give me the assurance
that no external consideration would weigh in the balance and
influence my decision. I had to silence all my passions; prejudices,
principles already formed, love, and even self-interest were to
remain in a state of complete inaction.
When I awoke the next morning I began to think the matter over, and I
soon discovered that, if I wanted to come to a decision, I ought not
to ponder over it, as the more I considered the less likely I should
be to decide. This was truly a case for the 'sequere Deum' of the
I did not visit Yusuf for four days, and when I called on him on the
fifth day, we talked cheerfully without once mentioning his proposal,
although it was very evident that we were both thinking of it. We
remained thus for a fortnight, without ever alluding to the matter
which engrossed all our thoughts, but our silence was not caused by
dissimulation, or by any feeling contrary to our mutual esteem and
friendship; and one day Yusuf suggested that very likely I had
communicated his proposal to some wise friend, in order to obtain
good advice. I immediately assured him it was not so, and that in a
matter of so delicate a nature I thought I ought not to ask anybody's
"I have abandoned myself to God, dear Yusuf, and, full of confidence
in Him, I feel certain that I shall decide for the best, whether I
make up my mind to become your son, or believe that I ought to remain
what I am now. In the mean time, my mind ponders over it day and
night, whenever I am quiet and feel myself composed and collected.
When I come to a decision, I will impart it to you alone, and from
that moment you shall have over me the authority of a father."
At these words the worthy Yusuf, his eyes wet with tears, placed his
left hand over my head, and the first two fingers of the right hand
on my forehead, saying:
"Continue to act in that way, my dear son, and be certain that you
can never act wrongly."
"But," I said to him, "one thing might happen, Zelmi might not accept
"Have no anxiety about that. My daughter loves you; she, as well as
my wife and her nurse, sees you every time that we dine together, and
she listens to you with pleasure."
"Does she know that you are thinking of giving her to me as my wife?"
"She knows that I ardently wish you to become a true believer, so as
to enable me to link her destiny to yours."
"I am glad that your habits do not permit you to let me see her,
because she might dazzle me with her beauty, and then passion would
soon have too much weight in the scale; I could no longer flatter
myself that my decision had been taken in all the unbiased, purity of
Yusuf was highly delighted at hearing me speak in that manner, and I
spoke in perfect good faith. The mere idea of seeing Zelmi caused me
to shudder. I felt that, if I had fallen in love with her, I would
have become a Mussulman in order to possess her, and that I might
soon have repented such a step, for the religion of Mahomet presented
to my eyes and to my mind nothing but a disagreeable picture, as well
for this life as for a future one. As for wealth, I did not think it
deserved the immense sacrifice demanded from me. I could find equal
wealth in Europe, without stamping my forehead with the shameful
brand of apostasy. I cared deeply for the esteem of the persons of
distinction who knew me, and did not want to render myself unworthy
of it. Besides, I felt an immense desire to obtain fame amongst
civilized and polite nations, either in the fine arts or in
literature, or in any other honourable profession, and I could not
reconcile myself to the idea of abandoning to my equals the triumph
which I might win if I lived amongst them. It seemed to me, and I am
still of the same opinion, that the decision of wearing the turban
befits only a Christian despairing of himself and at the end of his
wits, and fortunately I was lost not in that predicament. My
greatest objection was to spend a year in Adrianople to learn a
language for which I did not feel any liking, and which I should
therefore have learned but imperfectly. How could I, at my age,
renounce the prerogative, so pleasant to my vanity, of being reputed
a fine talker? and I had secured that reputation wherever I was
known. Then I would often think that Zelmi, the eighth wonder of
creation in the eyes of her father might not appear such in my eyes,
and it would have been enough to make me miserable, for Yusuf was
likely to live twenty years longer, and I felt that gratitude, as
well as respect, would never have permitted me to give that excellent
man any cause for unhappiness by ceasing to shew myself a devoted and
faithful husband to his daughter. Such were my thoughts, and, as
Yusuf could not guess them, it was useless to make a confidant of
A few days afterwards, I dined with the Pacha Osman and met my
Effendi Ismail. He was very friendly to me, and I reciprocated his
attentions, though I paid no attention to the reproaches he addressed
to me for not having come to breakfast with him for such a long time.
I could not refuse to dine at his house with Bonneval, and he treated
me to a very pleasing sight; Neapolitan slaves, men and women,
performed a pantomime and some Calabrian dances. M. de Bonneval
happened to mention the dance called forlana, and Ismail expressing a
great wish to know it, I told him that I could give him that pleasure
if I had a Venetian woman to dance with and a fiddler who knew the
time. I took a violin, and played the forlana, but, even if the
partner had been found, I could not play and dance at the same time.
Ismail whispered a few words to one of his eunuchs, who went out of
the room and returned soon with some message that he delivered to
him. The effendi told me that he had found the partner I wanted, and
I answered that the musician could be had easily, if he would send a
note to the Venetian Embassy, which was done at once. The Bailo Dona
sent one of his men who played the violin well enough for dancing
purposes. As soon as the musician was ready, a door was thrown open,
and a fine looking woman came in, her face covered with a black
velvet mask, such as we call moretta in Venice. The appearance of
that beautiful masked woman surprised and delighted every one of the
guests, for it was impossible to imagine a more interesting object,
not only on account of the beauty of that part of the face which the
mask left exposed, but also for the elegance of her shape, the
perfection of her figure, and the exquisite taste displayed in her
costume. The nymph took her place, I did the same, and we danced the
forlana six times without stopping.
I was in perspiration and out of breath, for the foylana is the most
violent of our national dances; but my beautiful partner stood near
me without betraying the slightest fatigue, and seemed to challenge
me to a new performance. At the round of the dance, which is the
most difficult step, she seemed to have wings. I was astounded, for
I had never seen anyone, even in Venice, dance the forlana so
splendidly. After a few minutes rest, rather ashamed of my feeling
tired, I went up to her, and said, 'Ancora sei, a poi basta, se non
volete vedermi a morire.' She would have answered me if she had been
able, but she wore one of those cruel masks which forbid speech. But
a pressure of her hand which nobody could see made me guess all I
wanted to know. The moment we finished dancing the eunuch opened the
door, and my lovely partner disappeared.
Ismail could not thank me enough, but it was I who owed him my
thanks, for it was the only real pleasure which I enjoyed in
Constantinople. I asked him whether the lady was from Venice, but he
only answered by a significant smile.
"The worthy Ismail," said M. de Bonneval to me, as we were leaving
the house late in the evening, "has been to-day the dupe of his
vanity, and I have no doubt that he is sorry already for what he has
done. To bring out his beautiful slave to dance with you! According
to the prejudices of this country it is injurious to his dignity, for
you are sure to have kindled an amorous flame in the poor girl's
breast. I would advise you to be careful and to keep on your guard,
because she will try to get up some intrigue with you; but be
prudent, for intrigues are always dangerous in Turkey."
I promised to be prudent, but I did not keep my promise; for, three
or four days afterwards, an old slave woman met me in the street, and
offered to sell me for one piaster a tobacco-bag embroidered in gold;
and as she put it in my hand she contrived to make me feel that there
was a letter in the bag.
I observed that she tried to avoid the eyes of the janissary who was
walking behind me; I gave her one piaster, she left me, and I
proceeded toward Yusuf's house. He was not at home, and I went to
his garden to read the letter with perfect freedom. It was sealed
and without any address, and the slave might have made a mistake; but
my curiosity was excited to the highest pitch; I broke the seal, and
found the following note written in good enough Italian:
"Should you wish to see the person with whom you danced the forlana,
take a walk towards evening in the garden beyond the fountain, and
contrive to become acquainted with the old servant of the gardener by
asking her for some lemonade. You may perchance manage to see your
partner in the forlana without running any risk, even if you should
happen to meet Ismail; she is a native of Venice. Be careful not to
mention this invitation to any human being."
"I am not such a fool, my lovely countrywoman," I exclaimed, as if
she had been present, and put the letter in my pocket. But at that
very moment, a fine-looking elderly woman came out of a thicket,
pronounced my name, and enquired what I wanted and how I had seen
her. I answered that I had been speaking to the wind, not supposing
that anyone could hear me, and without any more preparation, she
abruptly told me that she was very glad of the opportunity of
speaking with me, that she was from Rome, that she had brought up
Zelmi, and had taught her to sing and to play the harp. She then
praised highly the beauty and the excellent qualities of her pupil,
saying that, if I saw her, I would certainly fall in love with her,
and expressing how much she regretted that the law should not allow
"She sees us at this very moment," she added, "from behind that green
window-blind, and we love you ever since Yusuf has informed us that
you may, perhaps, become Zelmi's husband."
"May I mention our conversation to Yusuf ?" I enquired.
Her answering in the negative made me understand that, if I had
pressed her a little, she would have allowed me to see her lovely
pupil, and perhaps it was with that intention that she had contrived
to speak to me, but I felt great reluctance to do anything to
displease my worthy host. I had another reason of even greater
importance: I was afraid of entering an intricate maze in which the
sight of a turban hovering over me made me shudder.
Yusuf came home, and far from being angry when he saw me with the
woman, he remarked that I must have found much pleasure in conversing
with a native of Rome, and he congratulated me upon the delight I
must have felt in dancing with one of the beauties from the harem of
the voluptuous Ismail.
"Then it must be a pleasure seldom enjoyed, if it is so much talked
"Very seldom indeed, for there is amongst us an invincible prejudice
against exposing our lovely women to the eyes of other men; but
everyone may do as he pleases in his own house: Ismail is a very
worthy and a very intelligent man."
"Is the lady with whom I danced known?"
"I believe not. She wore a mask, and everybody knows that Ismail
possesses half a dozen slaves of surpassing beauty."
I spent a pleasant day with Yusuf, and when I left him, I ordered my
janissary to take me to Ismail's. As I was known by his servants,
they allowed me to go in, and I proceeded to the spot described in
the letter. The eunuch came to me, informed me that his master was
out, but that he would be delighted to hear of my having taken a walk
in the garden. I told him that I would like a glass of lemonade, and
he took me to the summerhouse, where I recognized the old woman who
had sold me the tobacco-pouch. The eunuch told her to give me a
glass of some liquid which I found delicious, and would not allow me
to give her any money. We then walked together towards the fountain,
but he told me abruptly that we were to go back, as he saw three
ladies to whom he pointed, adding that, for the sake of decency, it
was necessary to avoid them. I thanked him for his attentions, left
my compliments for Ismail, and went away not dissatisfied with my
first attempt, and with the hope of being more fortunate another
The next morning I received a letter from Ismail inviting me to go
fishing with him on the following day, and stating that he intended
to enjoy the sport by moonlight. I immediately gave way to my
suppositions, and I went so far as to fancy that Ismail might be
capable of arranging an interview between me and the lovely Venetian.
I did not mind his being present. I begged permission of Chevalier
Venier to stop out of the palace for one night, but he granted it
with the greatest difficulty, because he was afraid of some love
affair and of the results it might have. I took care to calm his
anxiety as much as I could, but without acquainting him with all the
circumstances of the case, for I thought I was wise in being
I was exact to the appointed time, and Ismail received me with the
utmost cordiality, but I was surprised when I found myself alone with
him in the boat. We had two rowers and a man to steer; we took some
fish, fried in oil, and ate it in the summer-house. The moon shone
brightly, and the night was delightful. Alone with Ismail, and
knowing his unnatural tastes, I did not feel very comfortable for, in
spite of what M. de Bonneval had told me, I was afraid lest the Turk
should take a fancy to give me too great a proof of his friendship,
and I did not relish our tete-a-tete. But my fears were groundless.
"Let us leave this place quietly," said Ismail, "I have just heard a
slight noise which heralds something that will amuse us."
He dismissed his attendants, and took my hand, saying,
"Let us go to a small room, the key of which I luckily have with me,
but let us be careful not to make any noise. That room has a window
overlooking the fountain where I think that two or three of my
beauties have just gone to bathe. We will see them and enjoy a very
pleasing sight, for they do not imagine that anyone is looking at
them. They know that the place is forbidden to everybody except me."
We entered the room, we went to the window, and, the moon shining
right over the basin of the fountain, we saw three nymphs who, now
swimming, now standing or sitting on the marble steps, offered
themselves to our eyes in every possible position, and in all the
attitudes of graceful voluptuousness. Dear reader, I must not paint
in too vivid colours the details of that beautiful picture, but if
nature has endowed you with an ardent imagination and with equally
ardent senses, you will easily imagine the fearful havoc which that
unique, wonderful, and enchanting sight must have made upon my poor
A few days after that delightful fishing and bathing party by
moonlight, I called upon Yusuf early in the morning; as it was
raining, I could not go to the garden, and I went into the dining-
room, in which I had never seen anyone. The moment I entered the
room, a charming female form rose, covering her features with a thick
veil which fell to the feet. A slave was sitting near the window,
doing some tambour-work, but she did not move. I apologized, and
turned to leave the room, but the lady stopped me, observing, with a
sweet voice, that Yusuf had commanded her to entertain me before
going out. She invited me to be seated, pointing to a rich cushion
placed upon two larger ones, and I obeyed, while, crossing her legs,
she sat down upon another cushion opposite to me. I thought I was
looking upon Zelmi, and fancied that Yusuf had made up his mind to
shew me that he was not less courageous than Ismail. Yet I was
surprised, for, by such a proceeding, he strongly contradicted his
maxims, and ran the risk of impairing the unbiased purity of my
consent by throwing love in the balance. But I had no fear of that,
because, to become enamoured, I should have required to see her face.
"I suppose," said the veiled beauty, "that you do not know who I am?"
"I could not guess, if I tried."
"I have been for the last five years the wife of your friend, and I
am a native of Scio. I was thirteen years of age when I became his
I was greatly astonished to find that my Mussulman philosopher had
gone so far as to allow me to converse with his wife, but I felt more
at ease after I had received that information, and fancied that I
might carry the adventure further, but it would be necessary to see
the lady's face, for a finely-dressed body, the head of which is not
seen, excites but feeble desires. The fire lighted by amorous
desires is like a fire of straw; the moment it burns up it is near
its end. I had before me a magnificent appearance, but I could not
see the soul of the image, for a thick gauze concealed it from my
hungry gaze. I could see arms as white as alabaster, and hands like
those of Alcina, 'dove ne nodo appasisce ne vena accede', and my
active imagination fancied that all the rest was in harmony with
those beautiful specimens, for the graceful folds of the muslin,
leaving the outline all its perfection, hid from me only the living
satin of the surface; there was no doubt that everything was lovely,
but I wanted to see, in the expression of her eyes, that all that my
imagination created had life and was endowed with feeling. The
Oriental costume is a beautiful varnish placed upon a porcelain vase
to protect from the touch the colours of the flowers and of the
design, without lessening the pleasure of the eyes. Yusuf's wife was
not dressed like a sultana; she wore the costume of Scio, with a
short skirt which concealed neither the perfection of the leg nor the
round form of the thigh, nor the voluptuous plump fall of the hips,
nor the slender, well-made waist encompassed in a splendid band
embroidered in silver and covered with arabesques. Above all those
beauties, I could see the shape of two globes which Apelles would
have taken for the model of those of his lovely Venus, and the rapid,
inequal movement of which proved to me that those ravishing hillocks
were animated. The small valley left between them, and which my eyes
greedily feasted upon, seemed to me a lake of nectar, in which my
burning lips longed to quench their thirst with more ardour than they
would have drunk from the cup of the gods.
Enraptured, unable to control myself, I thrust my arm forward by a
movement almost independent of my will, and my hand, too audacious,
was on the point of lifting the hateful veil, but she prevented me by
raising herself quickly on tiptoe, upbraiding me at the same time for
my perfidious boldness, with a voice as commanding as her attitude.
"Dost thou deserve," she said, "Yusuf's friendship, when thou abusest
the sacred laws of hospitality by insulting his wife?"
"Madam, you must kindly forgive me, for I never had any intention to
insult you. In my country the lowest of men may fix his eyes upon
the face of a queen."
"Yes, but he cannot tear off her veil, if she chooses to wear it.
Yusuf shall avenge me."
The threat, and the tone in which it was pronounced, frightened me.
I threw myself at her feet, and succeeded in calming her anger.
"Take a seat," she said.
And she sat down herself, crossing her legs with so much freedom that
I caught a glimpse of charms which would have caused me to lose all
control over myself if the delightful sight had remained one moment
longer exposed to my eyes. I then saw that I had gone the wrong way
to work, and I felt vexed with myself; but it was too late.
"Art thou excited?" she said.
"How could I be otherwise," I answered, "when thou art scorching me
with an ardent fire?"
I had become more prudent, and I seized her hand without thinking any
more of her face.
"Here is my husband," she said, and Yusuf came into the room. We
rose, Yusuf embraced me, I complimented him, the slave left the room.
Yusuf thanked his wife for having entertained me, and offered her his
arm to take her to her own apartment. She took it, but when she
reached the door, she raised her veil, and kissing her husband she
allowed me to see her lovely face as if it had been done unwittingly.