Part 24 out of 70
"Jacques Casanova, writing in the bitterness of his heart, knows that
he may have the ill luck to be recaptured before he succeeds in
leaving the Venetian territory and escaping to a friendly state; but
if so, he appeals to the humanity of the judges not to add to the
misery of the condition from which, yielding to the voice of nature,
he is endeavouring to escape. He begs them, if he be taken, to
return him whatever may be in his cell, but if he succeed he gives
the whole to Francis Soradaci, who is still a captive for want of
courage to escape, not like me preferring liberty to life. Casanova
entreats their excellencies not to refuse the poor wretch this gift.
Dated an hour before midnight, in the cell of Count Asquin, on
October 31st, 1756."
I warned Soradaci not to give this letter to Lawrence, but to the
secretary in person, who, no doubt, would interrogate him if he did
not go himself to the cell, which was the more likely course. The
count said my letter was perfect, but that he would give me back all
my books if I returned. The fool said he wished to see me again to
prove that he would return everything gladly.
But our time was come. The moon had set. I hung the half of the
ropes by Father Balbi's neck on one side and his clothes on the
other. I did the same to myself, and with our hats on and our coats
off we went to the opening.
E quindi uscimmo a rimirar le stelle.--DANTE.
The Escape I Nearly Lose My Life on the Roof I Get out of the Ducal
Palace, Take a Boat, and Reach the Mainland--Danger to Which I Am
Exposed by Father Balbi--My Scheme for Ridding Myself of Him
I got out the first, and Father Balbi followed me. Soradaci who had
come as far as the opening, had orders to put the plate of lead back
in its place, and then to go and pray to St. Francis for us. Keeping
on my hands and knees, and grasping my pike firmly I pushed it
obliquely between the joining of the plates of lead, and then holding
the side of the plate which I had lifted I succeeded in drawing
myself up to the summit of the roof. The monk had taken hold of my
waistband to follow me, and thus I was like a beast of burden who has
to carry and draw along at the same time; and this on a steep and
When we were half-way up the monk asked me to stop, as one of his
packets had slipped off, and he hoped it had not gone further than
the gutter. My first thought was to give him a kick and to send him
after his packet, but, praised be to God! I had sufficient self-
control not to yield to it, and indeed the punishment would have been
too heavy for both of us, as I should have had no chance of escaping
by myself. I asked him if it were the bundle of rope, and on his
replying that it was a small packet of his own containing manuscript
he had found in one of the garrets under the Leads, I told him he
must bear it patiently, as a single step might be our destruction.
The poor monk gave a sigh, and he still clinging to my waist we
After having surmounted with the greatest difficulty fifteen or
sixteen plates we got to the top, on which I sat astride, Father
Balbi imitating my example. Our backs were towards the little island
of St. George the Greater, and about two hundred paces in front of us
were the numerous cupolas of St. Mark's Church, which forms part of
the ducal palace, for St. Mark's is really the Doge's private chapel,
and no monarch in the world can boast of having a finer. My first
step was to take off my bundle, and I told my companion to do the
same. He put the rope as best he could upon his thighs, but wishing
to take off his hat, which was in his way, he took hold of it
awkwardly, and it was soon dancing from plate to plate to join the
packet of linen in the gutter. My poor companion was in despair.
"A bad omen," he exclaimed; "our task is but begun and here am I
deprived of shirt, hat, and a precious manuscript, containing a
curious account of the festivals of the palace."
I felt calmer now that I was no longer crawling on hands and knees,
and I told him quietly that the two accidents which had happened to
him had nothing extraordinary in them, and that not even a
superstitious person would call them omens, that I did not consider
them in that light, and that they were far from damping my spirits.
"They ought rather," said I, "to warn you to be prudent, and to
remind you that God is certainly watching over us, for if your hat
had fallen to the left instead of to the right, we should have been
undone; as in that case it would have fallen into the palace court,
where it would have caught the attention of the guards, and have let
them know that there was someone on the roof; and in a few minutes we
should have been retaken."
After looking about me for some time I told the monk to stay still
till I came back, and I set out, my pike in my hand, sitting astride
the roof and moving along without any difficulty. For nearly an hour
I went to this side and that, keeping a sharp look-out, but in vain;
for I could see nothing to which the rope could be fastened, and I
was in the greatest perplexity as to what was to be done. It was of
no use thinking of getting down on the canal side or by the court of
the palace, and the church offered only precipices which led to
nothing. To get to the other side of the church towards the
Canonica, I should have had to climb roofs so steep that I saw no
prospect of success. The situation called for hardihood, but not the
smallest piece of rashness.
It was necessary, however, either to escape, or to reenter the
prison, perhaps never again to leave it, or to throw myself into the
canal. In such a dilemma it was necessary to leave a good deal to
chance, and to make a start of some kind. My eye caught a window on
the canal sides, and two-thirds of the distance from the gutter to
the summit of the roof. It was a good distance from the spot I had
set out from, so I concluded that the garret lighted by it did not
form part of the prison I had just broken. It could only light a
loft, inhabited or uninhabited, above some rooms in the palace, the
doors of which would probably be opened by day-break. I was morally
sure that if the palace servants saw us they would help us to escape,
and not deliver us over to the Inquisitors, even if they recognized
us as criminals of the deepest dye; so heartily was the State
Inquisition hated by everyone.
It was thus necessary for me to get in front of the window, and
letting myself slide softly down in a straight line I soon found
myself astride on top of the dormer-roof. Then grasping the sides I
stretched my head over, and succeeded in seeing and touching a small
grating, behind which was a window of square panes of glass joined
with thin strips of lead. I did not trouble myself about the window,
but the grating, small as it was, appeared an insurmountable
difficulty, failing a file, and I had only my pike.
I was thoroughly perplexed, and was beginning to lose courage, when
an incident of the simplest and most natural kind came to my aid and
fortified my resolution.
Philosophic reader, if you will place yourself for a moment in my
position, if you will share the sufferings which for fifteen months
had been my lot, if you think of my danger on the top of a roof,
where the slightest step in a wrong direction would have cost me my
life, if you consider the few hours at my disposal to overcome
difficulties which might spring up at any moment, the candid
confession I am about to make will not lower me in your esteem; at
any rate, if you do not forget that a man in an anxious and dangerous
position is in reality only half himself.
It was the clock of St. Mark's striking midnight, which, by a
violent shock, drew me out of the state of perplexity I had fallen
into. The clock reminded me that the day just beginning was All
Saints' Day--the day of my patron saint (at least if I had one)--and
the prophecy of my confessor came into my mind. But I confess that
what chiefly strengthened me, both bodily and mentally, was the
profane oracle of my beloved Ariosto: 'Fra il fin d'ottobre, a il
capo di novembre'.
The chime seemed to me a speaking talisman, commanding me to be up
and doing,--and--promising me the victory. Lying on my belly I
stretched my head down towards the grating, and pushing my pike into
the sash which held it I resolved to take it out in a piece. In a
quarter of an hour I succeeded, and held the whole grate in my hands,
--and putting it on one side I easily broke the glass window, though
wounding my left hand.
With the aid of my pike, using it as I had done before, I regained
the ridge of the roof, and went back to the spot where I had left
Balbi. I found him enraged and despairing, and he abused me heartily
for having left him for so long. He assured me that he was only
waiting for it to get light to return to the prison.
"What did you think had become of me?"
"I thought you must have fallen over."
"And you can find no better way than abuse to express the joy you
ought to feel at seeing me again?"
"What have you been doing all this time?"
"Follow me, and you shall see."
I took up my packets again and made my way towards the window. As
soon as were opposite to it I told Balbi what I had done, and asked
him if he could think of any way of getting into the loft. For one
it was easy enough, for the other could lower him by the rope; but I
could not discover how the second of us was to get down afterwards,
as there was nothing to which the rope could be fastened. If I let
myself fall I might break my arms and legs, for I did not know the
distance between the window and the floor of the room. To this chain
of reasoning uttered in the friendliest possible tone, the brute
"You let me down, and when I have got to the bottom you will have
plenty of time to think how you are going to follow me."
I confess that my first indignant impulse was to drive my pike into
his throat. My good genius stayed my arm, and I uttered not a word
in reproach of his base selfishness. On the contrary, I straightway
untied my bundle of rope and bound him strongly under the elbows, and
making him lie flat down I lowered him feet foremost on to the roof
of the dormer-window. When he got there I told him to lower himself
into the window as far as his hips, supporting himself by holding his
elbows against the sides of the window. As soon as he had done so, I
slid down the roof as before, and lying down on the dormer-roof with
a firm grasp of the rope I told the monk not to be afraid but to let
himself go. When he reached the floor of the loft he untied himself,
and on drawing the rope back I found the fall was one of fifty feet-
too dangerous a jump to be risked. The monk who for two hours had
been a prey to terror; seated in a position which I confess was not a
very reassuring one, was not quite cool, and called out to me to
throw him the ropes for him to take care of--a piece of advice you
may be sure I took care not to follow.
Not knowing what to do next, and waiting for some fortunate idea, I
made my way back to the ridge of the roof, and from there spied out a
corner near a cupola; which I had not visited. I went towards it and
found a flat roof, with a large window closed with two shutters. At
hand was a tubful of plaster, a trowel, and ladder which I thought
long enough for my purpose. This was enough, and tying my rope to
the first round I dragged this troublesome burden after me to the
window. My next task was to get the end of the ladder (which was
twelve fathoms long) into the opening, and the difficulties I
encountered made me sorry that I had deprived myself of the aid of
the monk. [The unit of measure:'fathoms' describing the ladder and
earlier the 100 fathoms of rope, is likely a translation error:
Casanova might have manufactured 100 feet of rope and might have
dragged a 12 foot ladder up the steep roof, but not a longer. D.W.]
I had set the ladder in such a way that one end touched the window,
and the other went below the gutter. I next slid down to the roof of
the window, and drawing the ladder towards me I fastened the end of
my rope to the eighth round, and then let it go again till it was
parallel with the window. I then strove to get it in, but I could
not insert it farther than the fifth round, for the end of the ladder
being stopped by the inside roof of the window no force on earth
could have pushed it any further without breaking either the ladder
or the ceiling. There was nothing to be done but to lift it by the
other end; it would then slip down by its own weight. I might, it is
true, have placed the ladder across the window, and have fastened the
rope to it, in which manner I might have let myself down into the
loft without any risk; but the ladder would have been left outside to
shew Lawrence and the guards where to look for us and possibly to
find us in the morning.
I did not care to risk by a piece of imprudence the fruit of so much
toil and danger, and to destroy all traces of our whereabouts the
ladder must be drawn in. Having no one to give me a helping hand, I
resolved to go myself to the parapet to lift the ladder and attain
the end I had in view. I did so, but at such a hazard as had almost
cost me my life. I could let go the ladder while I slackened the
rope without any fear of its falling over, as it had caught to the
parapet by the third rung. Then, my pike in my hand, I slid down
beside the ladder to the parapet, which held up the points of my
feet, as I was lying on my belly. In this position I pushed the
ladder forward, and was able to get it into the window to the length
of a foot, and that diminished by a good deal its weight. I now only
had to push it in another two feet, as I was sure that I could get it
in altogether by means of the rope from the roof of the window. To
impel the ladder to the extent required I got on my knees, but the
effort I had to use made me slip, and in an instant I was over the
parapet as far as my chest, sustained by my elbows.
I shudder still when I think of this awful moment, which cannot be
conceived in all its horror. My natural instinct made me almost
unconsciously strain every nerve to regain the parapet, and--I had
nearly said miraculously--I succeeded. Taking care not to let myself
slip back an inch I struggled upwards with my hands and arms, while
my belly was resting on the edge of the parapet. Fortunately the
ladder was safe, for with that unlucky effort which had nearly cost
me so dearly I had pushed it in more than three feet, and there it
Finding myself resting on my groin on the parapet, I saw that I had
only to lift up my right leg and to put up first one knee and then
the other to be absolutely out of danger; but I had not yet got to
the end of my trouble. The effort I made gave me so severe a spasm
that I became cramped and unable to use my limbs. However, I did not
lose my head, but kept quiet till the pain had gone off, knowing by
experience that keeping still is the best cure for the false cramp.
It was a dreadful moment! In two minutes I made another effort, and
had the good fortune to get my two knees on to the parapet, and as
soon as I had taken breath I cautiously hoisted the ladder and pushed
it half-way through the window. I then took my pike, and crawling up
as I had done before I reached the window, where my knowledge of the
laws of equilibrium and leverage aided me to insert the ladder to its
full length, my companion receiving the end of it. I then threw into
the loft the bundles and the fragments that I had broken off the
window, and I stepped down to the monk, who welcomed me heartily and
drew in the ladder. Arm in arm, we proceeded to inspect the gloomy
retreat in which we found ourselves, and judged it to be about thirty
paces long by twenty wide.
At one end were folding-doors barred with iron. This looked bad, but
putting my hand to the latch in the middle it yielded to the
pressure, and the door opened. The first thing we did was to make
the tour of the room, and crossing it we stumbled against a large
table surrounded by stools and armchairs. Returning to the part
where we had seen windows, we opened the shutters of one of them, and
the light of the stars only shewed us: the cupolas and the depths
beneath them. I did not think for a moment of lowering myself down,
as I wished to know where I was going, and I did not recognize our
surroundings. I shut the window up, and we returned to the place
where we had left our packages. Quite exhausted I let myself fall on
the floor, and placing a bundle of rope under my head a sweet sleep
came to my, relief. I abandoned myself to it without resistance, and
indeed, I believe if death were to have been the result, I should
have slept all the same, and I still remember how I enjoyed that
It lasted for three and a half hours, and I was awakened by the
monk's calling out and shaking me. He told me that it had just
struck five. He said it was inconceivable to him how I could sleep
in the situation we were in. But that which was inconceivable to him
was not so to me. I had not fallen asleep on purpose, but had only
yielded to the demands of exhausted nature, and, if I may say so, to
the extremity of my need. In my exhaustion there was nothing to
wonder at, since I had neither eaten nor slept for two days, and the
efforts I had made--efforts almost beyond the limits of mortal
endurance--might well have exhausted any man. In my sleep my
activity had come back to me, and I was delighted to see the darkness
disappearing, so that we should be able to proceed with more
certainty and quickness.
Casting a rapid glance around, I said to myself, "This is not a
prison, there ought, therefore, be some easy exit from it." We
addressed ourselves to the end opposite to the folding-doors, and in
a narrow recess I thought I made out a doorway. I felt it over and
touched a lock, into which I thrust my pike, and opened it with three
or four heaves. We then found ourselves in a small room, and I
discovered a key on a table, which I tried on a door opposite to us,
which, however, proved to be unlocked. I told the monk to go for our
bundles, and replacing the key we passed out and came into a gallery
containing presses full of papers. They were the state archives. I
came across a short flight of stone stairs, which I descended, then
another, which I descended also, and found a glass door at the end,
on opening which I entered a hall well known to me: we were in the
ducal chancery. I opened a window and could have got down easily,
but the result would have been that we should have been trapped in
the maze of little courts around St. Mark's Church. I saw on a desk
an iron instrument, of which I took possession; it had a rounded
point and a wooden handle, being used by the clerks of the chancery
to pierce parchments for the purpose of affixing the leaden seals.
On opening the desk I saw the copy of a letter advising the
Proveditore of Corfu of a grant of three thousand sequins for the
restoration of the old fortress. I searched for the sequins but they
were not there. God knows how gladly I would have taken them, and
how I would have laughed the monk to scorn if he had accused me of
theft! I should have received the money as a gift from Heaven, and
should have regarded myself as its master by conquest.
Going to the door of the chancery, I put my bar in the keyhole, but
finding immediately that I could not break it open, I resolved on
making a hole in the door. I took care to choose the side where the
wood had fewest knots, and working with all speed I struck as hard
and as cleaving strokes as I was able. The monk, who helped me as
well as he could with the punch I had taken from the desk, trembled
at the echoing clamour of my pike which must have been audible at
some distance. I felt the danger myself, but it had to be risked.
In half an hour the hole was large enough--a fortunate circumstance,
for I should have had much trouble in making it any larger without
the aid of a saw. I was afraid when I looked at the edges of the
hole, for they bristled with jagged pieces of wood which seemed made
for tearing clothes and flesh together. The hole was at a height of
five feet from the ground. We placed beneath it two stools, one
beside the other, and when we had stepped upon them the monk with
arms crossed and head foremost began to make his way through the
hole, and taking him by the thighs, and afterwards by the legs, I
succeeded in pushing him through, and though it was dark I felt quite
secure, as I knew the surroundings. As soon as my companion had
reached the other side I threw him my belongings, with the exception
of the ropes, which I left behind, and placing a third stool on the
two others, I climbed up, and got through as far as my middle, though
with much difficulty, owing to the extreme narrowness of the hole.
Then, having nothing to grasp with my hands, nor anyone to push me as
I had pushed the monk, I asked him to take me, and draw me gently and
by slow degrees towards him. He did so, and I endured silently the
fearful torture I had to undergo, as my thighs and legs were torn by
the splinters of wood.
As soon as I got through I made haste to pick up my bundle of linen,
and going down two flights of stairs I opened without difficulty the
door leading into the passage whence opens the chief door to the
grand staircase, and in another the door of the closet of the 'Savio
alla scrittura'. The chief door was locked, and I saw at once that,
failing a catapult or a mine of gunpowder, I could not possibly get
through. The bar I still held seemed to say, "Hic fines posuit. My
use is ended and you can lay me down." It was dear to me as the
instrument of freedom, and was worthy of being hung as an 'ex voto'
on the altar of liberty.
I sat down with the utmost tranquillity, and told the monk to do the
"My work is done," I said, "the rest must be left to God and fortune.
"Abbia chi regge il ciel cura del resto,
O la fortuna se non tocca a lui.
"I do not know whether those who sweep out the palace will come here
to-day, which is All Saints' Day, or tomorrow, All Souls' Day. If
anyone comes, I shall run out as soon as the door opens, and do you
follow after me; but if nobody comes, I do not budge a step, and if I
die of hunger so much the worse for me."
At this speech of mine he became beside himself. He called me a
madman, seducer, deceiver, and a liar. I let him talk, and took no
notice. It struck six; only an hour had passed since I had my
awakening in the loft.
My first task was to change my clothes. Father Balbi looked like a
peasant, but he was in better condition than I, his clothes were not
torn to shreds or covered with blood, his red flannel waistcoat and
purple breeches were intact, while my figure could only inspire pity
or terror, so bloodstained and tattered was I. I took off my
stockings, and the blood gushed out of two wounds I had given myself
on the parapet, while the splinters in the hole in the door had torn
my waistcoat, shirt, breeches, legs and thighs. I was dreadfully
wounded all over my body. I made bandages of handkerchiefs, and
dressed my wounds as best I could, and then put on my fine suit,
which on a winter's day would look odd enough. Having tied up my
hair, I put on white stockings, a laced shirt, failing any other, and
two others over it, and then stowing away some stockings and
handkerchiefs in my pockets, I threw everything else into a corner of
the room. I flung my fine cloak over the monk, and the fellow looked
as if he had stolen it. I must have looked like a man who has been
to a dance and has spent the rest of the night in a disorderly house,
though the only foil to my reasonable elegance of attire was the
bandages round my knees.
In this guise, with my exquisite hat trimmed with Spanish lace and
adorned with a white feather on my head, I opened a window. I was
immediately remarked by some lounger in the palace court, who, not
understanding what anyone of my appearance was doing there at such an
early hour, went to tell the door-keeper of the circumstance. He,
thinking he must have locked somebody in the night before, went for
his keys and came towards us. I was sorry to have let myself be seen
at the window, not knowing that therein chance was working for our
escape, and was sitting down listening to the idle talk of the monk,
when I heard the jingling of keys. Much perturbed I got up and put
my eye to a chink in the door, and saw a man with a great bunch of
keys in his hand mounting leisurely up the stairs. I told the monk
not to open his mouth, to keep well behind me, and to follow my
steps. I took my pike, and concealing it in my right sleeve I got
into a corner by the door, whence I could get out as soon as it was
opened and run down the stairs. I prayed that the man might make no
resistance, as if he did I should be obliged to fell him to the
earth, and I determined to do so.
The door opened; and the poor man as soon as he saw me seemed turned
to a stone. Without an instant's delay and in dead silence, I made
haste to descend the stairs, the monk following me. Avoiding the
appearance of a fugitive, but walking fast, I went by the giants'
Stairs, taking no notice of Father Balbi, who kept cabling: out "To
the church! to the church!"
The church door was only about twenty paces from the stairs, but the
churches were no longer sanctuaries in Venice; and no one ever took
refuge in them. The monk knew this, but fright had deprived him of
his faculties. He told me afterwards that the motive which impelled
him to go to the church was the voice of religion bidding him seek
the horns of the altar.
"Why didn't you go by yourself?" said I.
"I did not, like to abandon you," but he should rather have said, "I
did not like to lose the comfort of your company."
The safety I sought was beyond the borders of the Republic, and
thitherward I began to bend my steps. Already there in spirit, I
must needs be there in body also. I went straight towards the chief
door of the palace, and looking at no one that might be tempted to
look at me I got to the canal and entered the first gondola that I
came across, shouting to the boatman on the poop,
"I want to go to Fusina; be quick and, call another gondolier."
This was soon done, and while the gondola was being got off I sat
down on the seat in the middle, and Balbi at the side. The odd
appearance of the monk, without a hat and with a fine cloak on his
shoulders, with my unseasonable attire, was enough to make people
take us for an astrologer and his man.
As soon as we had passed the custom-house, the gondoliers began to
row with a will along the Giudecca Canal, by which we must pass to go
to Fusina or to Mestre, which latter place was really our
destination. When we had traversed half the length of the canal I
put my head out, and said to the waterman on the poop,
"When do you think we shall get to Mestre?"
"But you told me to go to Fusina."
"You must be mad; I said Mestre."
The other boatman said that I was mistaken, and the fool of a monk,
in his capacity of zealous Christian and friend of truth, took care
to tell me that I was wrong. I wanted to give him a hearty kick as a
punishment for his stupidity, but reflecting that common sense comes
not by wishing for it I burst into a peal of laughter, and agreed
that I might have made a mistake, but that my real intention was to
go to Mestre. To that they answered nothing, but a minute after the
master boatman said he was ready to take me to England if I liked.
"Bravely spoken," said I, "and now for Mestre, ho!" "We shall be
there in three quarters of an hour, as the wind and tide are in our
Well pleased I looked at the canal behind us, and thought it had
never seemed so fair, especially as there was not a single boat
coming our way. It was a glorious morning, the air was clear and
glowing with the first rays of the sun, and my two young watermen
rowed easily and well; and as I thought over the night of sorrow, the
dangers I had escaped, the abode where I had been fast bound the day
before, all the chances which had been in my favour, and the liberty
of which I now began to taste the sweets, I was so moved in my heart
and grateful to my God that, well nigh choked with emotion, I burst
My nice companion who had hitherto only spoken to back up the
gondoliers, thought himself bound to offer me his consolations. He
did not understand why I was weeping, and the tone he took made me
pass from sweet affliction to a strange mirthfulness which made him
go astray once more, as he thought I had got mad. The poor monk, as
I have said, was a fool, and whatever was bad about him was the
result of his folly. I had been under the sad necessity of turning
him to account, but though without intending to do so he had almost
been my ruin. It was no use trying to make him believe that I had
told the gondoliers to go to Fusina whilst I intended to go to
Mestre; he said I could not have thought of that till I got on to the
In due course we reached Mestre. There were no horses to ride post,
but I found men with coaches who did as well, and I agreed with one
of them to take me to Trevisa in an hour and a quarter. The horses
were put in in three minutes, and with the idea that Father Balbi was
behind me I turned round to say "Get up," but lie was not there. I
told an ostler to go and look for him, with the intention of
reprimanding him sharply, even if he had gone for a necessary
occasion, for we had no time to waste, not even thus. The man came
back saying he could not find' him, to my great rage and indignation.
I was tempted to abandon him, but a feeling of humanity restrained
me. I made enquiries all round; everybody had seen him, but not a
soul knew where he was. I walked along the High Street, and some
instinct prompting me to put my head in at the window of a cafe.
I saw the wretched man standing at the bar drinking chocolate and
making love to the girl. Catching sight of me, he pointed to the
girl and said--
"She's charming," and then invited me to take a cup of chocolate,
saying that I must pay, as he hadn't a penny. I kept back my wrath
"I don't want any, and do you make haste!" and caught hold of his arm
in such sort that he turned white with pain. I paid the money and we
went out. I trembled with anger. We got into our coach, but we had
scarcely gone ten paces before I recognised: an inhabitant, of Mestre
named Balbi Tommasi, a good sort of man; but reported to be one of
the familiars of the Holy Office. He knew me, too, and coming up
"I am delighted to see you here. I suppose you have just escaped.
How did you do it?"
"I have not escaped, but have been set at liberty."
"No, no, that's not possible, as I was at M. Grimani's yesterday
evening, and I should have heard of it."
It will be easier for the reader to imagine my state of mind than for
me to describe it. I was discovered by a man whom I believed to be a
hired agent of the Government, who only had to give a glance to one
of the sbirri with whom Mestre swarmed to have me arrested. I told
him to speak softly, and getting down I asked him to come to one
side. I took him behind a house, and seeing that there was nobody in
sight, a ditch in front, beyond which the open country extended, I
grasped my pike and took him by the neck. At this: he gave a
struggle, slipped out of my hands, leapt over the ditch, and without
turning round set off to run at, full speed. As soon as he was some
way off he slackened his course, turned round and kissed his hand to
me, in token of wishing me a prosperous journey. And as soon; as he
was out of my sight I gave thanks to God that, this man by his
quickness had preserved me from the commission of a crime, for I
would have killed him; and he, as it turned out, bore me no ill will.
I was in a terrible position. In open war with all the powers of-
the Republic, everything had to give way to my safety, which made me
neglect no means of attaining my ends.
With the gloom of a man who has passed through a great peril, I gave
a glance of contempt towards the monk, who now saw to what danger he
had exposed us, and then got up again into the carriage. We reached
Trevisa without further adventure, and I told the posting-master to
get me a carriage and two horses ready by ten o'clock; though I had
no intention of continuing my journey along the highway, both
because. I lacked means; and because I feared pursuit. The inn-
keeper asked me, if I would take any breakfast, of which I stood in
great need, for I was dying with hunger, but I did not dare to,
accept his offer, as a quarter of an hour's delay might, prove fatal.
I was afraid of being retaken, and of being ashamed of it for the
rest of my life; for a man of sense ought to be able to snap his
fingers at four hundred thousand men in the open country, and if he
cannot escape capture he must be a fool.
I went out by St. Thomas's Gate as if I was going for a short walk,
and after walking for a mile on the highway I struck into the fields,
resolving not to leave them as long as I should be within the borders
of the Republic. The shortest way was by Bassano, but I took the
longer path, thinking I might possibly be expected on the more direct
road, while they would never think of my leaving the Venetian
territory by way of Feltre, which is the longest way of getting into
the state subject to the Bishop of Trent.
After walking for three hours I let myself drop to the ground, for I
could not move a step further. I must either take some food or die
there, so I told the monk to leave the cloak with me and go to a farm
I saw, there to buy something to eat. I gave him the money, and he
set off, telling me that he thought I had more courage. The
miserable man did not know what courage was, but he was more robust
than myself, and he had, doubtless, taken in provisions before
leaving the prison. Besides he had had some chocolate; he was thin
and wiry, and a monk, and mental anxieties were unknown to him.
Although the house was not an inn, the good farmer's wife sent me a
sufficient meal which only cost me thirty Venetian sous. After
satisfying my appetite, feeling that sleep was creeping on me, I set
out again on the tramp, well braced up. In four hours' time I
stopped at a hamlet, and found that I was twenty-four miles from
Trevisa. I was done up, my ankles were swollen, and my shoes were in
holes. There was only another hour of day-light before us.
Stretching myself out beneath a grove of trees I made Father Balbi
sit by me, and discoursed to him in the manner following:
"We must make for Borgo di Valsugano, it is the first town beyond the
borders of the Republic. We shall be as safe there as if we were in
London, and we can take our ease for awhile; but to get there we must
go carefully to work, and the first thing we must do is to separate.
You must go by Mantello Woods, and I by the mountains; you by the
easiest and shortest way, and I by the longest and most difficult;
you with money and I without a penny. I will make you a present of
my cloak, which you must exchange for a great coat and a hat, and
everybody will take you for a countryman, as you are luckily rather
like one in the face. Take these seventeen livres, which is all that
remains to me of the two sequins Count Asquin gave me. You will
reach Borgo by the day after to-morrow, and I shall be twenty-four
hours later. Wait for me in the first inn on the left-hand side of
the street, and be sure I shall come in due season. I require a good
night's rest in a good bed; and Providence will get me one somewhere,
but I must sleep without fear of being disturbed, and in your company
that would be out of the question. I am certain that we are being
sought for on all sides, and that our descriptions have been so
correctly given that if we went into any inn together we should be
certain to be arrested. You see the state I am in, and my urgent
necessity for a ten hours' rest. Farewell, then, do you go that way
and I will take this, and I will find somewhere near here a rest for
the sole of my foot."
"I have been expecting you to say as much," said Father Balbi, "and
for answer I will remind you of the promise you gave me when I let
myself be persuaded to break into your cell. You promised me that we
should always keep company; and so don't flatter yourself that I
shall leave you, your fate and mine are linked together. We shall be
able to get a good refuge for our money, we won't go to the inns, and
no one will arrest us."
"You are determined, are you, not to follow the good advice I have
"We shall see about that."
I rose to my feet, though with some difficulty, and taking the
measure of his height I marked it out upon the ground, then drawing
my pike from my pocket, I proceeded with the utmost coolness to
excavate the earth, taking no notice of the questions the monk asked
me. After working: for a quarter of an hour I set myself to gaze
sadly upon him, and I told him that I felt obliged as a Christian to
warn him to commend his soul to God, "since I am about to bury you
here, alive or dead; and if you prove the stronger, you will bury me.
You can escape if you wish to, as I shall not pursue you."
He made no reply, and I betook myself to my work again, but I confess
that I began to be afraid of being rushed to extremities by this
brute, of whom I was determined to rid myself.
At last, whether convinced by my arguments or afraid Of my pike, he
came towards me. Not guessing. What he was about, I presented the
point of my pike towards him, but I had nothing to fear.
"I will do what you want," said he.
I straightway gave him all the money I had, and promising to rejoin
him at Borgo I bade him farewell. Although I had not a penny in my
pocket and had two rivers to cross over, I congratulated myself on
having got rid of a man of his character, for by myself I felt
confident of being able to cross the bounds of the Republic.
I Find a Lodging in the House of the Chief of the Sbirri--I Pass a
Good Night There and Recover My Strength--I Go to Mass--
A Disagreeable Meeting I Am Obliged to Take Six Sequins by Force--
Out of Danger--Arrived at Munich--Balbi I Set Out for Paris--
My Arrival--Attempt on the Life of Louis XV
As soon as I saw Father Balbi far enough off I got up, and seeing at
a little distance a shepherd keeping his flock on the hill-side, I
made my way-towards him to obtain such information as I needed.
"What is the name of this village, my friend?" said I.
"Valde Piadene, signor," he answered, to my surprise, for I found I
was much farther on my way that I thought. I next asked him the
owners of five or six houses which I saw scattered around, and the
persons he mentioned chanced to be all known to me, but were not the
kind of men I should have cared to trouble with my presence. On my
asking him the name of a palace before me, he said it belonged to the
Grimanis, the chief of whom was a State Inquisitor, and then resident
at the palace, so I had to take care not to let him see me. Finally,
an my enquiring the owner of a red house in the distance, he told me,
much to my surprise, that it belonged to the chief of the sbirri.
Bidding farewell to the kindly shepherd I began to go down the hill
mechanically, and I am still puzzled to know what instinct directed
my steps towards that house, which common sense and fear also should
have made me shun. I steered my course for it in a straight line,
and I can say with truth that I did so quite unwittingly. If it be
true that we have all of us an invisible intelligence--a beneficent
genius who guides our steps aright--as was the case with Socrates, to
that alone I should attribute the irresistible attraction which drew
me towards the house where I had most to dread. However that may be,
it was the boldest stroke I have played in my whole life.
I entered with an easy and unconstrained air, and asked a child who
was playing at top in the court-yard where his father was. Instead
of replying, the child went to call his mother, and directly
afterwards appeared a pretty woman in the family way, who politely
asked me my business with her husband, apologizing for his absence.
"I am sorry," I said, "to hear that my gossip is not in, though at
the same time I am delighted to make the acquaintance of his charming
"Your gossip? You will be M. Vetturi, then? My husband told me that
you had kindly promised to be the god-father of our next child. I am
delighted to know you, but my husband will be very vexed to have been
"I hope he will soon return, as I wanted to ask him for a night's
lodging. I dare not go anywhere in the state you see me."
"You shall have the best bed in the house, and I will get you a good
supper. My husband when he comes back will thank your excellence for
doing us so much honour. He went away with all his people an hour
ago, and I don't expect him back for three or four days."
"Why is he away for such a long time, my dear madam?"
"You have not heard, then, that two prisoners have escaped from The
Leads? One is a noble and the other a private individual named
Casanova. My husband has received a letter from Messer-Grande
ordering him to make a search for them; if he find them he will take
them back to Venice, and if not he will return here, but he will be
on the look-out for three days at least."
"I am sorry for this accident, my dear madam, but I should not like
to put you out, and indeed I should be glad to lie down immediately."
"You shall do so, and my mother shall attend to your wants. But what
is the matter with your knees?"
"I fell down whilst hunting on the mountains, and gave myself some
severe wounds, and am much weakened by loss of blood."
"Oh! my poor gentleman, my poor gentleman! But my mother will cure
She called her mother, and having told her of my necessities she went
out. This pretty sbirress had not the wit of her profession, for the
story I had told her sounded like a fairy-tale. On horseback with
white silk stockings! Hunting in sarcenet, without cloak and without
a man! Her husband would make fine game of her when he came back;
but God bless her for her kind heart and benevolent stupidity. Her
mother tended me with all the politeness I should have met with in
the best families. The worthy woman treated me like a mother, and
called me "son" as she attended to my wounds. The name sounded
pleasantly in my ears, and did no little towards my cure by the
sentiments it awoke in my breast. If I had been less taken up with
the position I was in I should have repaid her care with some evident
marks of the gratitude I felt, but the place I was in and the part I
was playing made the situation too serious a one for me to think of
This kindly woman, after looking at my knees and my thighs, told me
that I must make my mind to suffer a little pain, but I might be sure
of being cured by the morning. All I had to do was to bear the
application of medicated linen to my wounds, and not to stir till the
next day. I promised to bear the pain patiently, and to do exactly
as she told me.
I was given an excellent supper, and I ate and drank with good
appetite. I then gave myself up to treatment, and fell asleep whilst
my nurse was attending to me. I suppose she undressed me as she
would a child, but I remembered nothing about it when I woke up--I
was, in fact, totally unconscious. Though I had made a good supper I
had only done so to satisfy my craving for food and to regain my
strength, and sleep came to me with an irresistible force, as my
physical exhaustion did not leave me the power of arguing myself out
of it. I took my supper at six o'clock in the evening, and I heard
six striking as I awoke. I seemed to have been enchanted. Rousing
myself up and gathering my wits together, I first took off the linen
bandages, and I was astonished to find my wounds healed and quite
free from pain. I did my hair, dressed myself in less than five
minutes, and finding the door of my room open I went downstairs,
crossed the court, and left the house behind me, without appearing to
notice two individuals who were standing outside, and must have been
sbirri. I made haste to lengthen the distance between me and the
place where I had found the kindliest hospitality, the utmost
politeness, the most tender care, and best of all, new health and
strength, and as I walked I could not help feeling terrified at the
danger I had been in. I shuddered involuntarily; and at the present
moment, after so many years, I still shudder when I think of the
peril to which I had so heedlessly exposed myself. I wondered how I
managed to go in, and still more how I came out; it seemed absurd
that I should not be followed. For five hours I tramped on, keeping
to the woods and mountains, not meeting a soul besides a few
countryfolk, and turning neither to the right nor left.
It was not yet noon, when, as I went along my way, I stopped short at
the sound of a bell. I was on high ground, and looking in the
direction from which the sound came I saw, a little church in the
valley, and many, people going towards it to hear mass. My heart
desired to express thankfulness for the protection of Providence,
and, though all nature was a temple worthy of its Creator, custom
drew me to the church. When men are in trouble, every passing
thought seems an inspiration. It was All Souls' Day. I went down
the hill, and came into the church, and saw, to my astonishment, M.
Marc Antoine Grimani, the nephew of the State Inquisitor, with Madame
Marie Visani, his wife. I made my bow; which was returned, and after
I had heard mass I left the church. M. Grimani followed me by
himself, and when he had got near me, called me by name, saying,
"What are you doing here, Casanova, and what has become of your
"I have given him what little money I had for him to escape by
another road, whilst I, without a penny in my pocket, am endeavouring
to reach a place of safety by this way. If your excellence would
kindly give me some help, it would speed my journey for me."
"I can't give you anything, but you will find recluses on your way
who won't let you die of hunger. But tell me how you contrived to
pierce the roof of The Leads."
"The story is an interesting one, but it would take up too much time,
and in the meanwhile the recluses might eat up the food which is to
keep me from dying of hunger."
With this sarcasm I made him a profound bow, and went upon my way.
In spite of my great want, his refusal pleased me, as it made me
think myself a better gentleman than the "excellence" who had
referred me to the charity of recluses. I heard at Paris afterwards
that when his wife heard of it she reproached him for his hard-
hearted behaviour. There can be no doubt that kindly and generous
feelings are more often to be found in the hearts of women than of
I continued my journey till sunset. Weary and faint with hunger I
stopped at a good-looking house, which stood by itself. I asked to
speak to the master, and the porter told me that he was not in as he
had gone to a wedding on the other side of the river, and would be
away for two days, but that he had bidden him to welcome all his
friends while he was away. Providence! luck! chance! whichever you
I went in and was treated to a good supper and a good bed. I found
by the addresses of some letters which were lying about that I was
being entertained in the house of M. Rombenchi--a consul, of what
nation I know not. I wrote a letter to him and sealed it to await
his return. After making an excellent supper and having had a good
sleep, I rose, and dressing myself carefully set out again without
being able to leave the porter any mark of my gratitude, and shortly
afterwards crossed the river, promising to pay when I came back.
After walking for five hours I dined in a monastery of Capuchins, who
are very useful to people in my position. I then set out again,
feeling fresh and strong, and walked along at a good pace till three
o'clock. I halted at a house which I found from a countryman
belonged to a friend of mine. I walked in, asked if the master was
at home, and was shewn into a room where he was writing by himself.
I stepped forward to greet him, but as soon as he saw me he seemed
horrified and bid me be gone forthwith, giving me idle and insulting
reasons for his behaviour. I explained to him how I was situated,
and asked him to let me have sixty sequins on my note of hand, drawn
on M. de Bragadin. He replied that he could not so much as give me a
glass of water, since he dreaded the wrath of the Tribunal for my
very presence in his house. He was a stockbroker, about sixty years
old, and was under great obligations to me. His inhuman refusal
produced quite a different effect on me than that of M. Grimani.
Whether from rage, indignation, or nature, I took him by the collar,
I shewed him my pike, and raising my voice threatened to kill him.
Trembling all over, he took a key from his pocket and shewing me a
bureau told me he kept money there, and I had only to open it and
take what I wanted; I told him to open it himself. He did so, and on
his opening a drawer containing gold, I told him to count me out six
"You asked me for sixty."
"Yes, that was when I was asking a loan of you as a friend; but since
I owe the money to force, I require six only, and I will give you no
note of hand. You shall be repaid at Venice, where I shall write of
the pass to which you forced me, you cowardly wretch!"
"I beg your pardon! take the sixty sequins, I entreat you."
"No, no more. I am going on my way, and I advise you not to hinder
me, lest in my despair I come back and burn your house about your
I went out and walked for two hours, until the approach of night and
weariness made me stop short at the house of a farmer, where I had a
bad supper and a bed of straw. In the morning, I bought an old
overcoat, and hired an ass to journey on, and near Feltre I bought a
pair of boots. In this guise I passed the hut called the Scala.
There was a guard there who, much to my delight, as the reader will
guess, did not even honour me by asking my name. I then took a two-
horse carriage and got to Borgo de Valsugano in good time, and found
Father Balbi at the inn I had told him of. If he had not greeted me
first I should not have known him. A great overcoat, a low hat over
a thick cotton cap, disguised him to admiration. He told me that a
farmer had given him these articles in exchange for my cloak, that he
had arrived without difficulty, and was faring well. He was kind
enough to tell me that he did not expect to see me, as he did not
believe my promise to rejoin him was made in good faith. Possibly I
should have been wise not to undeceive him on this account.
I passed the following day in the inn, where, without getting out of
my bed, I wrote more than twenty letters to Venice, in many of which
I explained what I had been obliged to do to get the six sequins.
The monk wrote impudent letters to his superior, Father Barbarigo,
and to his brother nobles, and love-letters to the servant girls who
had been his ruin. I took the lace off my dress, and sold my hat,
and thus got rid of a gay appearance unsuitable to my position, as it
made me too much an object of notice.
The next day I went to Pergina and lay there, and was visited by a
young Count d'Alberg, who had discovered, in some way or another,
that we had escaped from the state-prisons of Venice. From Pergina I
went to Trent and from there to Bolzan, where, needing money for my
dress, linen, and the continuation of my journey, I introduced myself
to an old banker named Mensch, who gave me a man to send to Venice
with a letter to M. de Bragadin. In the mean time the old banker put
me in a good inn where I spent the six days the messenger was away in
bed. He brought me the sum of a hundred sequins, and my first care
was to clothe my companion, and afterwards myself. Every day I found
the society of the wretched Balbi more intolerable. "Without me you
would never have escaped" was continually in his mouth, and he kept
reminding me that I had promised him half of whatever money I got.
He made love to all the servant girls, and as he had neither the
figure nor the manners to please them, his attentions were returned
with good hearty slaps, which he bore patiently, but was as
outrageous as ever in the course of twenty-four hours. I was amused,
but at the same time vexed to be coupled to a man of so low a nature.
We travelled post, and in three days we got to Munich, where I went
to lodge at the sign of the "Stag." There I found two young
Venetians of the Cantarini family, who had been there some time in
company with Count Pompei, a Veronese; but not knowing them, and
having no longer any need of depending on recluses for my daily
bread, I did not care to pay my respects to them. It was otherwise
with Countess Coronini, whom I knew at St. Justine's Convent at
Venice, and who stood very well with the Bavarian Court.
This illustrious lady, then seventy years old, gave me a good
reception and promised to speak on my behalf to the Elector, with a
view to his granting me an asylum in his country. The next day,
having fulfilled her promise, she told me that his highness had
nothing to say against me, but as for Balbi there was no safety for
him in Bavaria, for as a fugitive monk he might be claimed by the
monks at Munich, and his highness had no wish to meddle with the
monks. The countess advised me therefore to get him out of the town
as soon as possible, for him to fly to some other quarter, and thus
to avoid the bad turn which his beloved brethren the monks were
certain to do him.
Feeling in duty bound to look after the interests of the wretched
fellow, I went to the Elector's confessor to ask him to give Balbi
letters of introduction to some town in Swabia. The confessor, a
Jesuit, did not give the lie to the fine reputation of his brethren
of the order; his reception of me was as discourteous as it well
could be. He told me in a careless way that at Munich I was well
known. I asked him without flinching if I was to take this as a
piece of good or bad news; but he made no answer, and left me
standing. Another priest told me that he had gone out to verify the
truth of a miracle of which the whole town was talking.
"What miracle is that, reverend father?" I said.
"The empress, the widow of Charles VII, whose body is still exposed
to the public gaze, has warm feet, although she is dead."
"Perhaps something keeps them warm."
"You can assure yourself personally of the truth of this wonderful
To neglect such an opportunity would have been to lose the chance of
mirth or edification, and I was as desirous of the one as of the
other. Wishing to be able to boast that I had seen a miracle--and
one, moreover, of a peculiar interest for myself, who have always had
the misfortune to suffer from cold feet--I went to see the mighty
dead. It was quite true that her feet were warm, but the matter was
capable of a simple explanation, as the feet of her defunct majesty
were turned towards a burning lamp at a little distance off. A
dancer of my acquaintance, whom curiosity had brought there with the
rest, came up to me, complimented me upon my fortunate escape, and
told me everybody was talking about it. His news pleased me, as it
is always a good thing to interest the public. This son of
Terpsichore asked me to dinner, and I was glad to accept his
invitation. His name was Michel de l'Agata, and his wife was the
pretty Gandela, whom I had known sixteen years ago at the old
Malipiero's. The Gandela was enchanted to see me, and to hear from
my own lips the story of my wondrous escape. She interested herself
on behalf of the monk, and offered me to give him a letter of
introduction for Augsburg Canon Bassi, of Bologna, who was Dean of
St. Maurice's Chapter, and a friend of hers. I took advantage of the
offer, and she forthwith wrote me the letter, telling me that I need
not trouble myself any more about the monk, as she was sure that the
dean would take care of him, and even make it all right at Venice.
Delighted at getting rid of him in so honourable a manner, I ran to
the inn, told him what I had done, gave him the letter, and promised
not to abandon him in the case of the dean's not giving him a warm
welcome. I got him a good carriage, and started him off the next day
at daybreak. Four days after, Balbi wrote that the dean had received
him with great kindness, that he had given him a room in the deanery,
that he had dressed him as an abbe, that he had introduced him to
the Prince-Bishop of Armstadt, and that he had received assurances of
his safety from the civil magistrates. Furthermore, the dean had
promised to keep him till he obtained his secularization from Rome,
and with it freedom to return to Venice, for as soon as he ceased to
be a monk the Tribunal would have no lien upon him. Father Balbi
finished by asking me to send him a few sequins for pocket-money, as
he was too much of a gentleman to ask the dean who, quoth the
ungrateful fellow, "is not gentleman enough to offer to give me
anything." I gave him no answer.
As I was now alone in peace and quietness, I thought seriously of
regaining my health, for my sufferings had given me nervous spasms
which might become dangerous. I put myself on diet, and in three
weeks I was perfectly well. In the meanwhile Madame Riviere came
from Dresden with her son and two daughters. She was going to Paris
to marry the elder. The son had been diligent, and would have passed
for a young man of culture. The elder daughter, who was going to
marry an actor, was extremely beautiful, an accomplished dancer, and
played on the clavichord like a professional, and was altogether most
charming and graceful. This pleasant family was delighted to see me
again, and I thought myself fortunate when Madame Riviere,
anticipating my wishes, intimated to me that my company as far as
Paris would give them great pleasure. I had nothing to say
respecting the expenses of the journey. I had to accept their offer
in its entirety. My design was to settle in Paris, and I took this
stroke of fortune as an omen of success in the only town where the
blind goddess freely dispenses her favours to those who leave
themselves to be guided by her, and know how to take advantage of her
gifts. And, as the reader will see by and by, I was not mistaken;
but all the gifts of fortune were of no avail, since I abused them
all by my folly. Fifteen months under the Leads should have made me
aware of my weak points, but in point of fact I needed a little
longer stay to learn how to cure myself of my failings.
Madame Riviere wished to take me with her, but she could not put off
her departure, and I required a week's delay to get money and letters
from Venice. She promised to wait a week in Strassburg, and we
agreed that if possible I would join her there. She left Munich on
the 18th of December.
Two days afterwards I got from Venice the bill of exchange for which
I was waiting. I made haste to pay my debts, and immediately
afterwards I started for Augsburg, not so much for the sake of seeing
Father Balbi, as because I wanted to make the acquaintance of the
kindly dean who had rid me of him. I reached Augsburg in seven hours
after leaving Munich, and I went immediately to the house of the good
ecclesiastic. He was not in, but I found Balbi in an abbe's dress,
with his hair covered with white powder, which set off in a new but
not a pleasing manner the beauties of his complexion of about the
same colour as a horse chestnut. Balbi was under forty, but he was
decidedly ugly, having one of those faces in which baseness,
cowardice, impudence, and malice are plainly expressed, joining to
this advantage a tone of voice and manners admirably calculated to
repulse anyone inclined to do him a service. I found him comfortably
housed, well looked after, and well clad; he had books and all the
requisites for writing. I complimented him upon his situation,
calling him a fortunate fellow, and applying the same epithet to
myself for having gained him all the advantages he enjoyed, and the
hope of one day becoming a secular priest. But the ungrateful hound,
instead of thanking me, reproached me for having craftily rid myself
of him, and added that, as I was going to Paris, I might as well take
him with me, as the dullness of Augsburg was almost killing him.
"What do you want at Paris?"
"What do you want yourself?"
"To put my talents to account."
"So do I."
"Well, then, you don't require me, and can fly on your own wings.
The people who are taking me to Paris would probably not care for me
if I had you for a companion."
"You promised not to abandon me."
"Can a man who leaves another well provided for and an assured future
be said to abandon him?"
"Well provided! I have not got a penny."
"What do you want with money? You have a good table, a good lodging,
clothes, linen, attendance, and so forth. And if you want pocket-
money, why don't you ask your brethren the monks?"
"Ask monks for money? They take it, but they don't give it."
"Ask your friends, then."
"I have no friends."
"You are to be pitied, but the reason probably is that you have never
been a friend to anyone. You ought to say masses, that is a good way
of getting money."
"I am unknown."
"You must wait, then, till you are known, and then you can make up
for lost time."
"Your suggestions are idle; you will surely give me a few sequins."
"I can't spare any."
"Wait for the dean. He will be back to-morrow. You can talk to him
and persuade him to lend me some money. You can tell him that I will
pay it back."
"I cannot wait, for I am setting out on my journey directly, and were
he here this moment I should not have the face to tell him to lend
you money after all his generous treatment of you, and when he or
anyone can see that you have all you need."
After this sharp dialogue I left him, and travelling post I set out,
displeased with myself for having given such advantages to a man
wholly unworthy of them. In the March following I had a letter from
the good Dean Bassi, in which he told me how Balbi had run away,
taking with him one of his servant girls, a sum of money, a gold
watch, and a dozen silver spoons and forks. He did not know where he
Towards the end of the same year I learnt at Paris that the wretched
man had taken refuge at Coire, the capital of the Grisons, where he
asked to be made a member of the Calvinistic Church, and to be
recognized as lawful husband of the woman with him; but in a short
time the community discovered that the new convert was no good, and
expelled him from the bosom of the Church of Calvin. Our ne'er-do-
well having no more money, his wife left him, and he, not knowing
what to do next, took the desperate step of going to Bressa, a town
within the Venetian territory, where he sought the governor, telling
him his name, the story of his flight, and his repentance, begging
the governor to take him under his protection and to obtain his
The first effect of the podesta's protection was that the penitent
was imprisoned, and he then wrote to the Tribunal to know what to do
with him. The Tribunal told him to send Father Balbi in chains to
Venice, and on his arrival Messer-Grande gave him over to the
Tribunal, which put him once more under the Leads. He did not find
Count Asquin there, as the Tribunal, out of consideration for his
great age, had moved him to The Fours a couple of months after our
Five or six years later, I heard that the Tribunal, after keeping the
unlucky monk for two years under the Leads, had sent him to his
convent. There, his superior fearing lest his flock should take
contagion from this scabby sheep, sent him to their original
monastery near Feltre, a lonely building on a height. However, Balbi
did not stop there six months. Having got the key of the fields, he
went to Rome, and threw himself at the feet of Pope Rezzonico, who
absolved him of his sins, and released him from his monastic vows.
Balbi, now a secular priest, returned to Venice, where he lived a
dissolute and wretched life. In 1783 he died the death of Diogenes,
minus the wit of the cynic.
At Strassburg I rejoined Madame Riviere and her delightful family,
from whom I received a sincere and hearty welcome. We were staying
at the "Hotel de l'Esprit," and we passed a few days there most
pleasurably, afterwards setting out in an excellent travelling
carriage for Paris the Only, Paris the Universal. During the journey
I thought myself bound to the expense of making it a pleasant one, as
I had not to put my hand in my pocket for other expenses. The charms
of Mdlle. Riviere enchanted me, but I should have esteemed myself
wanting in gratitude and respect to this worthy family if I had
darted at her a single amorous glance, or if I had let her suspect my
feelings for her by a single word. In fact I thought myself obliged
to play the heavy father, though my age did not fit me for the part,
and I lavished on this agreeable family all the care which can be
given in return for pleasant society, a seat in a comfortable
travelling carriage, an excellent table, and a good bed.
We reached Paris on the 5th of January, 1757, and I went to the house
of my friend Baletti, who received me with open arms, and assured me
that though I had not written he had been expecting me, since he
judged that I would strive to put the greatest possible distance
between myself and Venice, and he could think of no other retreat for
me than Paris. The whole house kept holiday when my arrival became
known, and I have never met with more sincere regard than in that
delightful family. I greeted with enthusiasm the father and mother,
whom I found exactly the same as when I had seen them last in 1752,
but I was struck with astonishment at the daughter whom I had left a
child, for she was now a tall and well-shaped girl. Mdlle. Baletti
was fifteen years old, and her mother had brought her up with care,
had given her the best masters, virtue, grace, talents, a good
manner, tact, a knowledge of society-in short, all that a clever
mother can give to a dear daughter.
After finding a pleasant lodging near the Baletti's, I took a coach
and went to the "Hotel de Bourbon" with the intention of calling on
M. de Bernis, who was then chief secretary for foreign affairs. I
had good reasons for relying on his assistance. He was out; he had
gone to Versailles. At Paris one must go sharply to work, and, as it
is vulgarly but forcibly said, "strike while the iron's hot." As I
was impatient to see what kind of a reception I should get from the
liberal-minded lover of my fair M---- M----, I went to the Pont-
Royal, took a hackney coach, and went to Versailles. Again bad luck!
Our coaches crossed each other on the way, and my humble equipage had
not caught his excellency's eye. M. de Bernis had returned to Paris
with Count de Castillana, the ambassador from Naples, and I
determined to return also; but when I got to the gate I saw a mob of
people running here and there in the greatest confusion, and from all
sides I heard the cry, "The king is assassinated! The king is
My frightened coachman only thought of getting on his way, but the
coach was stopped. I was made to get out and taken to the guard-
room, where there were several people already, and in less than three
minutes there were twenty of us, all under arrest, all astonished at
the situation, and all as much guilty as I was. We sat glum and
silent, looking at each other without daring to speak. I knew not
what to think, and not believing in enchantment I began to think I
must be dreaming. Every face expressed surprise, as everyone, though
innocent, was more or less afraid.
We were not left in this disagreeable position for long, as in five
minutes an officer came in, and after some polite apologies told us
we were free.
"The king is wounded," he said, "and he has been taken to his room.
The assassin, whom nobody knows, is under arrest. M. de la
Martiniere is being looked for everywhere."
As soon as I had got back to my coach, and was thinking myself lucky
for being there, a gentlemanly-looking young man came up to me and
besought me to give him a seat in my coach, and he would gladly pay
half the fare; but in spite of the laws of politeness I refused his
request. I may possibly have been wrong. On any other occasion I
should have been most happy to give him a place, but there are times
when prudence does not allow one to be polite. I was about three
hours on the way, and in this short time I was overtaken every minute
by at least two hundred couriers riding at a breakneck pace. Every
minute brought a new courier, and every courier shouted his news to
the winds. The first told me what I already knew; then I heard that
the king had been bled, that the wound was not mortal, and finally,
that the wound was trifling, and that his majesty could go to the
Trianon if he liked.
Fortified with this good news, I went to Silvia's and found the
family at table. I told them I had just come from Versailles.
"The king has been assassinated."
"Not at all; he is able to go to the Trianon, or the Parc-aux-cerfs,
if he likes. M. de la Martiniere has bled him, and found him to be
in no danger. The assassin has been arrested, and the wretched man
will be burnt, drawn with red-hot pincers, and quartered."
This news was soon spread abroad by Silvia's servants, and a crowd of
the neighbours came to hear what I had to say, and I had to repeat
the same thing ten times over. At this period the Parisians fancied
that they loved the king. They certainly acted the part of loyal
subjects to admiration. At the present day they are more
enlightened, and would only love the sovereign whose sole desire is
the happiness of his people, and such a king--the first citizens of a
great nation--not Paris and its suburbs, but all France, will be
eager to love and obey. As for kings like Louis XV., they have
become totally impracticable; but if there are any such, however much
they may be supported by interested parties, in the eyes of public
opinion they will be dishonoured and disgraced before their bodies
are in a grave and their names are written in the book of history.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs M. de Boulogne, the Comptroller--
M. le Duc de Choiseul--M. Paris du Vernai--Establishment of the
Lottery--My Brother's Arrival at Paris; His Reception by the Academy
Once more, then, I was in Paris, which I ought to regard as my
fatherland, since I could return no more to that land which gave me
birth: an unworthy country, yet, in spite of all, ever dear to me,
possibly on account of early impressions and early prejudices, or
possibly because the beauties of Venice are really unmatched in the
world. But mighty Paris is a place of good luck or ill, as one takes
it, and it was my part to catch the favouring gale.
Paris was not wholly new to me, as my readers know I had spent two
years there, but I must confess that, having then no other aim than
to pass the time pleasantly, I had merely devoted myself to pleasure
and enjoyment. Fortune, to whom I had paid no court, had not opened
to me her golden doors; but I now felt that I must treat her more
reverently, and attach myself to the throng of her favoured sons whom
she loads with her gifts. I understood now that the nearer one draws
to the sun the more one feels the warmth of its rays. I saw that to
attain my end I should have to employ all my mental and physical
talents, that I must make friends of the great, and take cue from all
whom I found it to be my interest to please. To follow the plans
suggested by these thoughts, I saw that I must avoid what is called
bad company, that I must give up my old habits and pretensions, which
would be sure to make me enemies, who would have no scruple in
representing me as a trifler, and not fit to be trusted with affairs
of any importance.
I think I thought wisely, and the reader, I hope, will be of the same
opinion. "I will be reserved," said I, "in what I say and what I do,
and thus I shall get a reputation for discretion which will bring its
I was in no anxiety on the score of present needs, as I could reckon
on a monthly allowance of a hundred crowns, which my adopted father,
the good and generous M. de Bragadin, sent me, and I found this sum
sufficient in the meanwhile, for with a little self-restraint one can
live cheaply at Paris, and cut a good figure at the same time. I was
obliged to wear a good suit of clothes, and to have a decent lodging;
for in all large towns the most important thing is outward show, by
which at the beginning one is always judged. My anxiety was only for
the pressing needs of the moment, for to speak the truth I had
neither clothes nor linen--in a word, nothing.
If my relations with the French ambassador are recalled, it will be
found natural that my first idea was to address myself to him, as I
knew him sufficiently well to reckon on his serving me.
Being perfectly certain that the porter would tell me that my lord
was engaged, I took care to have a letter, and in the morning I went
to the Palais Bourbon. The porter took my letter, and I gave him my
address and returned home.
Wherever I went I had to tell the story of my escape from The Leads.
This became a service almost as tiring as the flight itself had been,
as it took me two hours to tell my tale, without the slightest bit of
fancy-work; but I had to be polite to the curious enquirers, and to
pretend that I believed them moved by the most affectionate interest
in my welfare. In general, the best way to please is to take the
benevolence of all with whom one has relation for granted.
I supped at Silvia's, and as the evening was quieter than the night
before, I had time to congratulate myself on all the friendship they
shewed me. The girl was, as I had said, fifteen years old, and I was
in every way charmed with her. I complimented the mother on the good
results of her education, and I did not even think of guarding myself
from falling a victim to her charms. I had taken so lately such
well-founded and philosophical resolutions, and I was not yet
sufficiently at my ease to value the pain of being tempted. I left
at an early hour, impatient to see what kind of an answer the
minister had sent me. I had not long to wait, and I received a short
letter appointing a meeting for two o'clock in the afternoon. It may
be guessed that I was punctual, and my reception by his excellence
was most flattering. M. de Bernis expressed his pleasure at seeing
me after my fortunate escape, and at being able to be of service to
me. He told me that M---- M---- had informed him of my escape, and
he had flattered himself that the first person I should go and see in
Paris would be himself. He shewed me the letters from M---- M----
relating to my arrest and escape, but all the details in the latter
were purely imaginary and had no foundation in fact. M---- M---- was
not to blame, as she could only write what she had heard, and it was
not easy for anyone besides myself to know the real circumstances of
my escape. The charming nun said that, no longer buoyed up by the
hope of seeing either of the men who alone had made her in love with
life, her existence had become a burden to her, and she was
unfortunate in not being able to take any comfort in religion. "C---
C---- often comes to see me," she said, "but I grieve to say she is
not happy with her husband."
I told M. de Bernis that the account of my flight from The Leads, as
told by our friend, was wholly inaccurate, and I would therefore take
the liberty of writing out the whole story with the minutest details.
He challenged me to keep my word, assuring me that he would send a
copy to M---- M----, and at the same time, with the utmost courtesy,
he put a packet of a hundred Louis in my hand, telling me that he
would think what he could do for me, and would advise me as soon as
he had any communication to make.
Thus furnished with ample funds, my first care was for my dress; and
this done I went to work, and in a week sent my generous protector
the result, giving him permission to have as many copies printed as
he liked, and to make any use he pleased of it to interest in my
behalf such persons as might be of service to me.
Three weeks after, the minister summoned me to say that he had spoken
of me to M. Erizzo, the Venetian ambassador, who had nothing to say
against me, but for fear of embroiling himself with the State
Inquisitors declined to receive me. Not wanting anything from him--
his refusal did me no harm. M. de Bernis then told me that he had
given a copy of my history to Madame la Marquise de Pompadour, and he
promised to take the first opportunity of presenting me to this all-
powerful lady. "You can present yourself, my dear Casanova," added
his excellence, "to the Duc de Choiseul, and M. de Boulogne, the
comptroller. You will be well received, and with a little wit you
ought to be able to make good use of the letter. He himself will
give you the cue, and you will see that he who listens obtains. Try
to invent some useful plan for the royal exchequer; don't let it be
complicated or chimerical, and if you don't write it out at too great
length I will give you my opinion on it."
I left the minister in a pleased and grateful mood, but extremely
puzzled to find a way of increasing the royal revenue. I knew
nothing of finance, and after racking my brains all that I could
think of was new methods of taxation; but all my plans were either
absurd or certain to be unpopular, and I rejected them all on
As soon as I found out that M. de Choiseul was in Paris I called on
him. He received me in his dressing-room, where he was writing while
his valet did his hair. He stretched his politeness so far as to
interrupt himself several times to ask me questions, but as soon as I
began to reply his grace began to write again, and I suspect did not
hear what I was saying; and though now and again he seemed to be
looking at me, it was plain that his eyes and his thoughts were
occupied on different objects. In spite of this way of receiving
visitors--or me, at all events, M. de Choiseul was a man of wit.
When he had finished writing he said in Italian that M. de Bernis had
told him of some circumstances of my escape, and he added,
"Tell me how you succeeded."
"My lord, it would be too long a story; it would take me at least two
hours, and your grace seems busy."
"Tell me briefly about it."
"However much I speak to the point, I shall take two hours."
"You can keep the details for another time."
"The story is devoid of interest without the details"
"Well, well, you can tell me the whole story in brief, without losing
much of the interest:"
"Very good; after that I can say no more. I must tell your lordship,
then, that, the State Inquisitors shut me up under the Leads; that
after fifteen months and five days of imprisonment I succeeded in
piercing the roof; that after many difficulties I reached the
chancery by a window, and broke open the door; afterwards I got to
St. Mark's Place, whence, taking a gondola which bore me to the
mainland, I arrived at Paris, and have had the honour to pay my duty
to your lordship."
"But.... what are The Leads?"
"My lord, I should take a quarter of an hour, at least, to explain."
"How did you pierce the roof?"
"I could not tell your lordship in less than half an hour:"
"Why were you shut up?"
"It would be a long tale, my lord."
"I think you are right. The interest of the story lies chiefly in
"I took the liberty of saying as much to your grace."
"Well, I must go to Versailles, but I shall be delighted if you will
come and see me sometimes. In the meanwhile, M. Casanova, think what
I can do for you."
I had been almost offended at the way in which M. de Choiseul had
received me, and I was inclined to resent it; but the end of our
conversation, and above all the kindly tone of his last words,
quieted me, and I left him, if not satisfied, at least without
bitterness in my heart.
From him I went to M. de Boulogne's, and found him a man of quite a
different stamp to the duke--in manners, dress, and appearance. He
received me with great politeness, and began by complimenting me on
the high place I enjoyed in the opinion of M. de Bernis, and on my
skill in matters of finance.
I felt that no compliment had been so ill deserved, and I could
hardly help bursting into laughter. My good angel, however, made me
keep my countenance.
M. de Boulogne had an old man with him, every feature bore the
imprint of genius, and who inspired me with respect.
"Give me your views;" said the comptroller, "either on paper or 'viva
voce'. You will find me willing to learn and ready to grasp your
ideas. Here is M. Paris du Vernai, who wants twenty millions for his
military school; and he wishes to get this sum without a charge on
the state or emptying the treasury."
"It is God alone, sir, who has the creative power."
"I am not a god," said M. du Vernai, "but for all that I have now and
then created but the times have changed."
"Everything," I said, "is more difficult than it used to be; but in
spite of difficulties I have a plan which would give the king the
interest of a hundred millions."
"What expense would there be to the Crown?"
"Merely the cost of receiving."
"The nation, then, would furnish the sum in question?"
"Undoubtedly, but voluntarily."
"I know what you are thinking of."
"You astonish me, sir, as I have told nobody of my plan."
"If you have no other engagement, do me the honour of dining with me
to-morrow, and I will tell you what your project is. It is a good
one, but surrounded, I believe, with insuperable difficulties.
Nevertheless, we will talk it over and see what can be done. Will
"I will do myself that honour."
"Very good, I will expect you at Plaisance."
After he had gone, M. de Boulogne praised his talents and honesty.
He was the brother of M. de Montmartel, whom secret history makes the
father of Madame de Pompadour, for he was the lover of Madame Poisson
at the same time as M. le Normand.
I left the comptroller's and went to walk in the Tuileries, thinking
over the strange stroke of luck which had happened to me. I had been
told that twenty millions were wanted, and I had boasted of being
able to get a hundred, without the slightest idea of how it was to be
done; and on that a well-known man experienced in the public business
had asked me to dinner to convince me that he knew what my scheme
was. There was something odd and comic about the whole affair; but
that corresponded very well with my modes of thought and action. "If
he thinks he is going to pump me," said I, "he will find himself
mistaken. When he tells me what the plan is, it will rest with me to
say he has guessed it or he is wrong as the inspiration of the moment
suggests. If the question lies within my comprehension I may,
perhaps, be able to suggest something new; and if I understand
nothing I will wrap myself up in a mysterious silence, which
sometimes produces a good effect. At all events, I will not repulse
Fortune when she appears to be favourable to me."
M. de Bernis had only told M. de Boulogne that I was a financier to
get me a hearing, as otherwise he might have declined to see me. I
was sorry not to be master, at least, of the jargon of the business,
as in that way men have got out of a similar difficulty, and by
knowing the technical terms, and nothing more, have made their mark.
No matter, I was bound to the engagement. I must put a good face on
a bad game, and if necessary pay with the currency of assurance. The
next morning I took a carriage, and in a pensive mood I told the
coachman to take me to M. du Vernai's, at Plaisance--a place a little
I was set down at the door of the famous man who, forty years ago,
had rescued France on the brink of the precipice down which Law had
almost precipitated her. I went in and saw a great fire burning on
the hearth, which was surrounded by seven or eight persons, to whom I
was introduced as a friend of the minister for foreign affairs and of
the comptroller; afterwards he introduced these gentlemen to me,
giving to each his proper title, and I noted that four of them were
treasury officials. After making my bow to each, I gave myself over
to the worship of Harpocrates, and without too great an air of
listening was all ears and eyes.
The conversation at first was of no special interest as they were
talking of the Seine being frozen over, the ice being a foot thick.
Then came the recent death of M. de Fontenelle, then the case of
Damien, who would confess nothing, and of the five millions his trial
would cost the Crown. Then coming to war they praised M. de Soubise,
who had been chosen by the king to command the army. Hence the
transition was easy to the expenses of the war, and how they were to
I listened and was weary, for all they said was so full of
technicalities that I could not follow the meaning; and if silence
can ever be imposing, my determined silence of an hour and a half's
duration ought to have made me seem a very important personage in the
eyes of these gentlemen. At last, just as I was beginning to yawn,
dinner was announced, and I was another hour and a half without
opening my mouth, except to do honour to an excellent repast.
Directly the dessert had been served, M. du Vernai asked me to follow
him into a neighbouring apartment, and to leave the other guests at
the table. I followed him, and we crossed a hall where we found a
man of good aspect, about fifty years old, who followed us into a
closet and was introduced to me by M. du Vernai under the name of
Calsabigi. Directly after, two superintendents of the treasury came
in, and M. du Vernai smilingly gave me a folio book, saying,
"That, I think, M. Casanova, is your plan."
I took the book and read, Lottery consisting of ninety tickets, to be
drawn every month, only one in eighteen to be a winning number. I
gave him back the book and said, with the utmost calmness,
"I confess, sir, that is exactly my idea."
"You have been anticipated, then; the project is by M. de Calsabigi
"I am delighted, not at being anticipated, but to find that we think
alike; but may I ask you why you have not carried out the plan?"
"Several very plausible reasons have been given against it, which
have had no decisive answers."
"I can only conceive one reason against it," said I, coolly; "perhaps
the king would not allow his subjects to gamble."
"Never mind that, the king will let his subjects gamble as much as
they like: the question is, will they gamble?"
"I wonder how anyone can have any doubt on that score, as the winners
are certain of being paid."
"Let us grant, then, that they will gamble: how is the money to be
"How is the money to be found? The simplest thing in the world. All
you want is a decree in council authorizing you to draw on the
treasury. All I want is for the nation to believe that the king can
afford to pay a hundred millions."
"A hundred millions!"
"Yes, a hundred millions, sir. We must dazzle people."
"But if France is to believe that the Crown can afford to pay a
hundred millions, it must believe that the Crown can afford to lose a
hundred millions, and who is going to believe that? Do you?"
"To be sure I do, for the Crown, before it could lose a hundred
millions, would have received at least a hundred and fifty millions,
and so there need be no anxiety on that score."
"I am not the only person who has doubts on the subject. You must
grant the possibility of the Crown losing an enormous sum at the
"Certainly, sir, but between possibility and reality is all the
region of the infinite. Indeed, I may say that it would be a great
piece of good fortune if the Crown were to lose largely on the first
"A piece of bad fortune, you mean, surely?"
"A bad fortune to be desired. You know that all the insurance
companies are rich. I will undertake to prove before all the
mathematicians in Europe that the king is bound to gain one in five
in this lottery. That is the secret. You will confess that the
reason ought to yield to a mathematical proof?"
"Yes, of course; but how is it that the Castelletto cannot guarantee
the Crown a certain gain?"
"Neither the Castelletto nor anybody in the world can guarantee
absolutely that the king shall always win. What guarantees us
against any suspicion of sharp practice is the drawing once a month,
as then the public is sure that the holder of the lottery may lose."
"Will you be good enough to express your sentiments on the subject
before the council?"
"I will do so with much pleasure."
"You will answer all objections?"
"I think I can promise as much."
"Will you give me your plan?"
"Not before it is accepted, and I am guaranteed a reasonable profit."
"But your plan may possibly be the same as the one before us."
"I think not. I see M. de Calsabigi for the first time, and as he
has not shewn me his scheme, and I have not communicated mine to him,
it is improbable, not to say impossible, that we should agree in all
respects. Besides, in my plan I clearly shew how much profit the
Crown ought to get per annum."
"It might, therefore, be formed by a company who would pay the Crown
a fixed sum?"
"I think not."
"For this reason. The only thing which would make the lottery pay,
would be an irresistible current of public opinion in its favour.
I should not care to have anything to do with it in the service of a
company, who, thinking to increase their profits, might extend their
operations--a course which would entail certain loss."
"I don't see how."
"In a thousand ways which I will explain to you another time, and
which I am sure you can guess for yourself. In short, if I am to
have any voice in the matter, it must be a Government lottery or
"M. de Calsabigi thinks so, too."
"I am delighted to hear it, but not at all surprised; for, thinking
on the same lines, we are bound to arrive at the same results."
"Have you anybody ready for the Castelletto?"
"I shall only want intelligent machines, of whom there are plenty in
I went out for a moment and found them in groups on my return,
discussing my project with great earnestness.
M. Calsabigi after asking me a few questions took my hand, which he
shook heartily, saying he should like to have some further
conversation with me; and returning the friendly pressure, I told him
that I should esteem it as an honour to be numbered amongst his
friends. Thereupon I left my address with M. du Vernai and took my
leave, satisfied, by my inspection of the faces before me, that they
all had a high opinion of my talents.
Three days after, M. de Calsabigi called on me; and after receiving
him in my best style I said that if I had not called on him it was
only because I did not wish to be troublesome. He told me that my
decisive way of speaking had made a great impression, and he was
certain that if I cared to make interest with the comptroller we
could set up the lottery and make a large profit.
"I think so, too," said I, "but the financiers will make a much
larger profit, and yet they do not seem anxious about it. They have
not communicated with me, but it is their look-out, as I shall not
make it my chief aim."
"You will undoubtedly hear something about it today, for I know for a
fact that M. de Boulogne has spoken of you to M. de Courteuil."
"Very good, but I assure you I did not ask him to do so."
After some further conversation he asked me, in the most friendly
manner possible, to come and dine with him, and I accepted his
invitation with a great pleasure; and just as we were starting I
received a note from M. de Bernis, in which he said that if I could
come to Versailles the next day he would present me to Madame de
Pompadour, and that I should have an opportunity of seeing M. de
In high glee at this happy chance, less from vanity than policy I
made M. de Calsabigi read the letter, and I was pleased to see him
opening his eyes as he read it.
"You can force Du Vernai himself to accept the lottery," he said,
"and your fortune is made if you are not too rich already to care
about such matters."
"Nobody is ever rich enough to despise good fortune, especially when
it is not due to favour."
"Very true. We have been doing our utmost for two years to get the
plan accepted, and have met with nothing beyond foolish objections
which you have crushed to pieces. Nevertheless, our plans must be
very similar. Believe me it will be best for us to work in concert,
for by yourself you would find insuperable difficulties in the
working, and you will find no 'intelligent machines' in Paris. My
brother will do all the work, and you will be able to reap the
advantages at your ease."
"Are you, then, not the inventor of the scheme which has been shewn
"No, it is the work of my brother."
"Shall I have the pleasure or seeing him?"
"Certainly. His body is feeble, but his mind is in all its vigour.
We shall see him directly."
The brother was not a man of a very pleasing appearance, as he was
covered with a kind of leprosy; but that did not prevent him having a
good appetite, writing, and enjoying all his bodily and intellectual
faculties; he talked well and amusingly. He never went into society,
as, besides his personal disfigurement, he was tormented with an
irresistible and frequent desire of scratching himself, now in one
place, and now in another; and as all scratching is accounted an
abominable thing in Paris, he preferred to be able to use his
fingernails to the pleasures of society. He was pleased to say that,
believing in God and His works, he was persuaded his nails had been
given him to procure the only solace he was capable of in the kind of
fury with which he was tormented.
"You are a believer, then, in final causes? I think you are right,
but still I believe you would have scratched yourself if God had
forgotten to give you any nails."
My remarks made him laugh, and he then began to speak of our common
business, and I soon found him to be a man of intellect. He was the
elder of the two brothers, and a bachelor. He was expert in all
kinds of calculations, an accomplished financier, with a universal
knowledge of commerce, a good historian, a wit, a poet, and a man of
gallantry. His birthplace was Leghorn, he had been in a Government
office at Naples, and had come to Paris with M. de l'Hopital. His
brother was also a man of learning and talent, but in every respect
He shewed me the pile of papers, on which he had worked out all the
problems referring to the lottery.
"If you think you can do without me," said he, "I must compliment you
on your abilities; but I think you will find yourself mistaken, for
if you have no practical knowledge of the matter and no business men
to help you, your theories will not carry you far. What will you do
after you have obtained the decree? When you speak before the
council, if you take my advice, you will fix a date after which you
are not to be held responsible--that is to say, after which you will
have nothing more to do with it. Unless you do so, you will be
certain to encounter trifling and procrastination which will defer
your plan to the Greek Kalends. On the other hand, I can assure you
that M. du Vernai would be very glad to see us join hands:"
Very much inclined to take these gentlemen into partnership, for the
good reason that I could not do without them, but taking care that
they should suspect nothing, I went down with the younger brother,
who introduced me to his wife before dinner. I found present an old
lady well known at Paris under the name of General La Mothe, famous
for her former beauty and her gout, another lady somewhat advanced in
years, who was called Baroness Blanche, and was still the mistress of
M. de Vaux, another styled the President's lady, and a fourth, fair
as the dawn, Madame Razzetti, from Piedmont, the wife of one of the
violin players at the opera, and said to be courted by M. de
Fondpertuis, the superintendent of the opera.
We sat down to dinner, but I was silent and absorbed, all my thoughts
being monopolized by the lottery. In the evening, at Silvia's, I was
pronounced absent and pensive, and so I was in spite of the sentiment
with which Mademoiselle Baletti inspired me--a sentiment which every
day grew in strength.
I set out for Versailles next morning two hours before day-break, and
was welcomed by M. de Bernis, who said he would bet that but for him
I should never have discovered my talent for finance.
"M. de Boulogne tells me you astonished M. du Vernai, who is
generally esteemed one of the acutest men in France. If you will
take my advice, Casanova, you will keep up that acquaintance and pay
him assiduous court. I may tell you that the lottery is certain to
be established, that it will be your doing, and that you ought to
make something considerable out of it. As soon as the king goes out
to hunt, be at hand in the private apartments, and I will seize a
favourable moment for introducing you to the famous marquise.
Afterwards go to the Office for Foreign Affairs, and introduce
yourself in my name to the Abbe de la Ville. He is the chief
official there, and will give you a good reception."
M. de Boulogne told me that, as soon as the council of the military
school had given their consent, he would have the decree for the
establishment of the lottery published, and he urged me to
communicate to him any ideas which I might have on the subject of
At noon Madame de Pompadour passed through the private apartments
with the Prince de Soubise, and my patron hastened to point me out to
the illustrious lady. She made me a graceful curtsy, and told me
that she had been much interested in the subject of my flight.
"Do you go," said she, "to see your ambassador?"
"I shew my respect to him, madam, by keeping away."
"I hope you mean to settle in France."
"It would be my dearest wish to do so, madam, but I stand in need of
patronage, and I know that in France patronage is only given to men
of talent, which is for me a discouraging circumstance."
"On the contrary, I think you have reason to be hopeful, as you have
some good friends. I myself shall be delighted if I can be of any
assistance to you."
As the fair marquise moved on, I could only stammer forth my
I next went to the Abbe de la Ville, who received me with the utmost
courtesy, and told me that he would remember me at the earliest
Versailles was a beautiful spot, but I had only compliments and not
invitations to expect there, so after leaving M. de la Ville I went
to an inn to get some dinner. As I was sitting down, an abbe of
excellent appearance, just like dozens of other French abbes,
accosted me politely, and asked me if I objected to our dining
together. I always thought the company of a pleasant man a thing to
be desired, so I granted his request; and as soon as he sat down he
complimented me on the distinguished manner in which I had been
treated by M. de la Ville. "I was there writing a letter," said he,
"and I could hear all the obliging things the abbe said to you. May
I ask, sir, how you obtained access to him?"
"If you really wish to know, I may be able to tell you."
"It is pure curiosity on my part."
"Well, then, I will say nothing, from pure prudence."
"I beg your pardon."
"Certainly, with pleasure."
Having thus shut the mouth of the curious impertinent, he confined
his conversation to ordinary and more agreeable topics. After
dinner, having no further business at Versailles, I made preparations
for leaving, on which the abbe begged to be of my company. Although
a man who frequents the society of abbes is not thought much more of
than one who frequents the society of girls. I told him that as I
was going to Paris in a public conveyance--far from its being a
question of permission--I should be only too happy to have the
pleasure of his company. On reaching Paris we parted, after
promising to call on each other, and I went to Silvia's and took
supper there. The agreeable mistress of the house complimented me on
my noble acquaintances, and made me promise to cultivate their
As soon as I got back to my own lodging, I found a note from M. du
Vernai, who requested me to come to the military school at eleven
o'clock on the next day, and later in the evening Calsabigi came to
me from his brother, with a large sheet of paper containing all the
calculations pertaining to the lottery.
Fortune seemed to be in my favour, for this tabular statement came to
me like a blessing from on high. Resolving, therefore, to follow the
instructions which I pretended to receive indifferently. I went to
the military school, and as soon as I arrived the conference began.
M. d'Alembert had been requested to be present as an expert in
arithmetical calculations. If M. du Vernai had been the only person
to be consulted, this step would not have been necessary; but the
council contained some obstinate heads who were unwilling to give in.
The conference lasted three hours.
After my speech, which only lasted half an hour, M. de Courteuil
summed up my arguments, and an hour was passed in stating objections
which I refuted with the greatest ease. I finally told them that no
man of honour and learning would volunteer to conduct the lottery on
the understanding that it was to win every time, and that if anyone
had the impudence to give such an undertaking they should turn him
out of the room forthwith, for it was impossible that such an
agreement could be maintained except by some roguery.
This had its effect, for nobody replied; and M. du Vernai remarked
that if the worst came to the worst the lottery could be suppressed.
At this I knew my business was done, and all present, after signing a
document which M. du Vernai gave them, took their leave, and I myself
left directly afterwards with a friendly leave-taking from M. du
M. Calsabigi came to see me the next day, bringing the agreeable news
that the affair was settled, and that all that was wanting was the
publication of the decree.
"I am delighted to hear it," I said, "and I will go to M. de
Boulogne's every day, and get you appointed chief administrator as
soon as I know what I have got for myself."
I took care not to leave a stone unturned in this direction, as I
knew that, with the great, promising and keeping a promise are two
different things. The decree appeared a week after. Calsabigi was
made superintendent, with an allowance of three thousand francs for
every drawing, a yearly pension of four thousand francs for us both,
and the chief of the lottery. His share was a much larger one than
mine, but I was not jealous as I knew he had a greater claim than I.
I sold five of the six offices that had been allotted to me for two
thousand francs each, and opened the sixth with great style in the
Rue St. Denis, putting my valet there as a clerk. He was a bright
young Italian, who had been valet to the Prince de la Catolica, the
ambassador from Naples.
The day for the first drawing was fixed, and notice was given that