Today is the birthday of the world’s most famous womanizer, Giacomo Casanova, born in Venice in 1725. His mother, Zanetta Farussi, was an actress, and his father, Gaetano Giuseppe Casanova, was an actor and dancer. Venice at that time was a kind of Las Vegas of Italy, with its gambling dens and courtesans and whose religious and political leaders valued tourism and turned a blind eye to vice.
Casanova is best known for his romantic liaisons, and his name is synonymous with seduction, but his autobiography – the 12-volume, 3,500-page Histoire de ma vie or Story of my life – is the best record we have of 18th-century society and its customs. He began to toy with the idea of writing his memoir in 1780, and took up the project in earnest in 1789, in part to relieve the boredom he felt in his position as librarian to a Bohemian count. He completed the first draft in 1792, and worked on revisions until his death six years later. He tells his story without repentance, but nevertheless with humor and candor in describing his failures as well as his successes. He wrote in the preface, “My follies are the follies of youth. You will see that I laugh at them, and if you are kind you will laugh at them with me,” and later, “I loved, I was loved, my health was good, I had a great deal of money, and I spent it, I was happy and I confessed it to myself.”
I’m redoing my memoir that had been published as “Crime A Day.” A title I hated as I thought it inappropriate for the story of a person born into poverty who turned his life around.