”First, the bedpost notches: let’s get them out of the way. In his History of My Life. Casanova records sexual experiences with well over a hundred women – 122 to 136, depending on how one computes certain group and semi-consummated experiences – and with a handful, as it were, of men…..
…For what it is worth, some of Casanova’s contemporary memoirists and diarists, from James Boswell to William Hickey and John Wilkes appear to record or refer to more sexual encounters than the man whose name is practically synonymous with serial womanising, and Lord Byron alludes to more conquests in a couple of years in the Palazzo Mocenigo in Venice than Casanova did in an entire lifetime. Casanova was certainly very sexually active in his twenties and early thirties but, for an almost constantly travelling bachelor of his era and background, his sex life begins to appear more modest. In the classic eighteenth-century sense, Casanova is a poor example of a libertine in that he had so little interest in conquest or coercion. He was no Valmont or de Sade. He is outclassed ten to one by his fictional alter ego Don Giovanni with his catalogue of 1800 conquests…. ”
The Casanova of legend would have heartily endorsed the reflection of Tennyson’s Ulysses: “I am become a name, for always roaming with a hungry heart”.In celebrating Casanova, it has to be acknowledged that female lust made his escapades possible. Though Casanova’s name is used today as a catchall for caddy womanizers, he can be plausibly presented as a man who lavished affection on his paramours, and wasn’t always the initiator. Women ardently pursued him, sending him love letters even in his later years, when shame about his waning performance kept him coy and elusive.
His ”Memoirs” are great reading , though it begs the question whether one can trust such a flighty, ruthless sybarite; a cross between a sophisticated business swindler and romantic dupe. Casanova’s Casanova isn’t infallibly slick. He catalogues his failures as well as hissuccesses, obsessing over women who reject him, including — perhaps most humiliatingly — a London prostitute. One lady friend makes him dress up as a woman, then slaps him when his inopportune erection stains the chemise. He’s constantly fussing over his appearance so women will want him; this becomes more comically poignant as he grows older and finds that “the fair sex was no longer interested in me at first sight. I had to talk, rivals were preferred to me.” He suffers from performance-anxiety: “I have been dominated all my life by the fear that my steed would be recalcitrant about starting a new race . . .”
Casanova experienced his first stirring of self doubt when he failed to woo a well known English courtesan named Marriane Charpillon. He befriended Samuel Johnson and attempted a fresh start in England without knowing its language.He flirted with the idea of becoming a writer. But it Charpillon who occupied his attention. England was the only place, and she was the only woman who ever said ”No” to him; the experience unsettled him for the rest of his life.
…After Casanova trashed her lodgings when he found her with a young lover, la Charpillon escaped into the street , and next day he heard that she was seriously ill. This was followed shortly by news that she was expected to die within an hour’s time. ” I felt, at that moment, as it were an icy hand crushing my heart”; and he promptly determined to commit suicide, loaded his pockets with lead shot , and trudged off doggedly toward the river. ” A human being”, he notes, ”very easily goes mad; but his mind had always included a hidden germ of superstition, and he was convinced that ” in irrevocably decisive actions we are only masters of ourselves up to a certain point.” Halfway across Westminster Bridge, whom should he meet but Mr. Agar, a rich and good natured young Englishman capable of providing just the diversion that he needed!
They drank together at a tavern with a pair of friendly girls, and although Casanova found that he had not the slightest appetite for roast beef and pudding, or, indeed, for making love, the debauch that ensued had a temporarily palliative effect. That same night however, they visited Ranelagh Gardens, where, on the dance floor, he caught sight of La Charpillon, performing with her usual elegance; he broke into a cold sweat, and a convulsive tremor shook his arms.
_15522" class="wp-caption aligncenter" style="width: 560px">