Casanova certainly has made a name for himself, as even though he lived back in the 18th century, his legacy still lives on today. Historians study his autobiography to gain insight on what it was really like to live in the 1700s and whenever anyone hears the name, Casanova, they automatically think of a captivating lady's man who was also addicted to gambling.
Casanova started gambling at a very early age and although he was never very lucky at the tables, he never stopped playing. He will forever be known for his adventurous personality, his curiosity, and his willingness to take risks in every aspect of his life.
Giacomo Casanova was born in April, 1725 in Venice to Zanetta Farussi and Gaetano Casanova, who were both famous actors in Italy at the time. He spent the majority of his childhood with his grandmother so that his parents could perform across Europe. After his father passed away when he was only eight years old, he was sent to a boarding school in Padua, Italy.
He stayed with one of his professors that taught at the school, Abbé Gozzi, who specialized in music and was able to teach Casanova how to play the violin. The professor had a daughter named, Bettina, which was the first girl Casanova was ever interested in.
When Casanova was only twelve years old, he enrolled at the University of Padua and graduated before his eighteenth birthday in 1742 with a degree in law. Casanova also studied moral philosophy, chemistry, and mathematics while he was there. It was during his time at in school that Casanova was introduced to gambling, quickly getting himself into extraordinary debt.
Earning a Reputation
Right out of school, he became a lawyer and would spend his evenings at the gambling tables and his nights in bed with various women. He played a variety of different games that were common during this time period including basset, piquet, quinze, and whist.
At the turn of his twenty-first birthday, he set out to become a professional gambler, but had little success. In his autobiography, he said "I had neither prudence enough to leave off when fortune was adverse, nor sufficient control over myself when I had won." After he lost the majority of his money, he turned to his old friend, Alvise Grimani, for help.
Grimani provided Casanova with a job opportunity as a violinist in the San Samuele theater. He once saved the life of a Venetian nobleman who had a stroke while riding with Casanova in a gondola after an elegant wedding ball.
The Senator hired Casanova as his own personal legal assistant after hearing about his background in law and to thank him for saving his life. Casanova now made a significant amount of money, which he used to dress and dine like royalty, while spending any extra money he had on gambling.
76-year-old Venetian senator, Alvise Malipiero, was fond of Casanova and taught him how to behave in a high class society. They were good friends until Casanova was caught with Malipiero's girlfriend, further acknowledging Casanova's reputation as a lady's man.
Escape from Jail
In Venice, Casanova had many enemies and was under constant watch by the Venetian inquisitors. His police record became a lengthening list of reported blasphemies, fights, seductions, and public controversies.
He was eventually sentenced to solitary confinement for five years and he wasn't even given a trial to defend his case. He found a black marble piece and an iron bar which he used to create a spike that he planned to use for his escape. Casanova was moved to a new cell before he was able to execute his plan.
With the help of the prisoner in the cell next to his, which happened to be a former priest, used the Casanova's spike to cut a hole in both of their cells, allowing for their escape. Casanova fled to Paris, using his gambling winnings to support himself financially. However, that lifestyle only lasted for a short period of time and he had to keep moving in order to avoid paying his gambling debts. He visited Germany, Switzerland, and other parts of France during his time one the run.
He was finally allowed to return to Venice in the early 1770s as long as he promised to be a spy for the Venetian inquisitors. After devoting eight years to serving his country in that way, Casanova moved to Bohemia, where he spent the remainder of his life working as a librarian in the Chateau of Dux.
In 1797, word arrived that Napoleon Bonaparte had seized Casanova's home city. Casanova was never able to return home and he died nearly a year later on June 4, 1798, at age 73. His last words are said to have been "I have lived as a philosopher and I die as a Christian."
Prior to his death, Casanova wrote an autobiography, called Histoire De Ma Vie which is translated, Story of My Life and is studied by many today, as it reflects the customs and norms of European social life during the 18th century. It is through his writing that we are able to learn about the gambling activities that both the common man and high clergy participated in, as well as the many methods of cheating that were used during that time.
Author: Nicole Miller
Updated: December 2016