Return to Rome, Casanova, v28
Jacques Casanova de Seingalt
Part 2 out of 3
Donna Lucrezia remarked our mutual emotion as I held Leonilda in my arms,
and warned us to be careful. She then left us to walk in a different
part of the garden.
Her words had the contrary effect to what was intended, for as soon as
she left us in so opportune a manner, although we had no intention of
committing the double crime, we approached too near to each other, and an
almost involuntary movement made, the act complete.
We remained motionless, looking into one another's eyes, in mute
astonishment, as we confessed afterwards, to find neither guilt nor
repentance in our breasts.
We rearranged our position, and the marchioness sitting close to me
called me her dear husband, while I called her my dear wife.
The new bond between us was confirmed by affectionate kisses. We were
absorbed and silent, and Lucrezia was delighted to find us so calm when
We had no need to warn each other to observe secrecy. Donna Lucrezia was
devoid of prejudice, but there was no need to give her a piece of useless
We felt certain that she had left us alone, so as not to be a witness of
what we were going to do.
After some further conversation we went back to the palace with
Anastasia, whom we found in the alley by herself.
The marquis received his wife with joy, congratulating her on the success
of her negotiations. He thanked me for my compliance, and assured me I
should have a comfortable apartment in his country house.
"I suppose you will not mind having our friend for a neighbor?" he said
"No," said she; "but we will be discreet, for the flower of our lives has
"I shall believe as much of that as I please."
The worthy man dearly loved a joke.
The long table was laid for five, and as soon as dinner was served an old
priest came in and sat down. He spoke to nobody, and nobody spoke to
The pretty page stood behind the marchioness, and we were waited on by
ten or twelve servants.
I had only a little soup at dinner, so I ate like an ogre, for I was very
hungry, and the marquis's French cook was a thorough artist.
The marquis exclaimed with delight as I devoured one dish after another.
He told me that the only fault in his wife that she was a very poor eater
like her mother. At dessert the wine began to take effect, and our
conversation, which was conducted in French, became somewhat free. The
old priest took no notice, as he only understood Italian, and he finally
left us after saying the 'agimus'.
The marquis told me that this ecclesiastic had been a confessor to the
palace for the last twenty years, but had never confessed anybody. He
warned me to take care what I said before him if I spoke Italian, but he
did not know a word of French.
Mirth was the order of the day, and I kept the company at table till an
hour after midnight.
Before we parted for the night the marquis told me that we would start in
the afternoon, and that he should arrive an hour before us. He assured
his wife that he was quite well, and that he hoped to convince her that
I had made him ten years younger. Leonilda embraced him tenderly,
begging him to be careful of his health.
"Yes, yes," said he, "but get ready to receive me."
I wished them a good night, and a little marquis at nine months from
"Draw the bill," said he to me, "and to-morrow I will accept it."
"I promise you," said Lucrezia, "to do my best to ensure your meeting
Donna Lucrezia took me to my room, where she handed me over to the charge
of an imposing-looking servant, and wished me a good night.
I slept for eight hours in a most comfortable bed, and when I was dressed
Lucrezia took me to breakfast with the marchioness, who was at her
"Do you think I may draw my bill at nine months?" said I.
"It will very probably be met," said she.
"Yes, really; and it will be to you that my husband will owe the
happiness he has so long desired. He told me so when he left me an hour
"I shall be delighted to add to your mutual happiness."
She looked so fresh and happy that I longed to kiss her, but I was
obliged to restrain myself as she was surrounded by her pretty maids.
The better to throw any spies off the scent I began to make love to
Anastasia, and Leonilda pretended to encourage me.
I feigned a passionate desire, and I could see that I should not have
much trouble in gaining my suit. I saw I should have to be careful if I
did not want to be taken at my word; I could not bear such a surfeit of
We went to breakfast with the marquis, who was delighted to see us. He
was quite well, except the gout which prevented his walking.
After breakfast we heard mass, and I saw about twenty servants in the
chapel. After the service I kept the marquis company till dinner-time.
He said I was very good to sacrifice the company of the ladies for his
After dinner we set out for his country house; I in a carriage with the
two ladies, and the marquis in a litter borne by two mules.
In an hour and a half we arrived at his fine and well-situated castle.
The first thing the marchioness did was to take me into the garden, where
my ardour returned and she once more abandoned herself to me.
We agreed that I should only go to her room to court Anastasia, as it was
necessary to avoid the slightest suspicion.
This fancy of mine for his wife's maid amused the marquis, for his wife
kept him well posted in the progress of our intrigue.
Donna Lucrezia approved of the arrangement as she did not want the
marquis to think that I had only come to Salerno for her sake. My
apartments were next to Leonilda's, but before I could get into her room
I should be obliged to pass through that occupied by Anastasia, who slept
with another maid still prettier than herself.
The marquis came an hour later, and he said he would get his people to
carry him in an arm-chair round the gardens, so that he might point out
their beauties to me. After supper he felt tired and went to bed,
leaving me to entertain the ladies.
After a few moments' conversation, I led the marchioness to her room, and
she said I had better go to my own apartment through the maids' room,
telling Aanastasia to shew me the way.
Politeness obliged me to shew myself sensible of such a favour, and I
said I hoped she would not be so harsh as to lock her door upon me.
"I shall lock my door," said she, "because it is my duty to do so. This
room is my mistress's closet, and my companion would probably make some
remark if I left the door open contrary to my usual custom."
"Your reasons are too good for me to overcome, but will you not sit down
beside me for a few minutes and help me to recollect how I used to tease
"I don't want you to recollect anything about it; please let me go."
"You must please yourself," said I; and after embracing her and giving
her a kiss, I wished her good night.
My servant came in as she went out, and I told him that I would sleep by
myself for the future.
The next day the marchioness laughingly repeated the whole of my
conversation with Anastasia.
"I applauded her virtuous resistance, but I said she might safely assist
at your toilette every evening."
Leonilda gave the marquis a full account of my talk with Anastasia. The
old man thought I was really in love with her, and had her in to supper
for my sake, so I was in common decency bound to play the lover.
Anastasia was highly pleased at my preferring her to her charming
mistress, and at the latter's complaisance towards our love-making.
The marquis in his turn was equally pleased as he thought the intrigue
would make me stay longer at his house.
In the evening Anastasia accompanied me to my room with a candle, and
seeing that I had no valet she insisted combing my hair. She felt
flattered at my not presuming to go to bed in her presence, and kept me
company for an hour; and as I was not really amorous of her, I had no
difficulty in playing the part of the timid lover. When she wished me
good night she was delighted to find my kisses as affectionate but not so
daring as those of the night before.
The marchioness said, the next morning, that if the recital she had heard
were true, she was afraid Anastasia's company tired me, as she very well
knew that when I really loved I cast timidity to the winds.
"No, she doesn't tire me at all; she is pretty and amusing. But how can
you imagine that I really love her, when you know very well that the
whole affair is only designed to cast dust in everyone's eyes?"
"Anastasia fully believes that you adore her, and indeed I am not sorry
that you should give her a little taste for gallantry."
"If I can persuade her to leave her door open I can easily visit you, for
she will not imagine for a moment that after leaving her I go to your
room instead of my own."
"Take care how you set about it."
"I will see what I can do this evening."
The marquis and Lucrezia had not the slightest doubt that Anastasia spent
every night with me, and they were delighted at the idea.
The whole of the day I devoted to the worthy marquis, who said my company
made him happy. It was no sacrifice on my part, for I liked his
principles and his way of thinking.
On the occasion of my third supper with Anastasia I was more tender than
ever, and she was very much astonished to find that I had cooled down
when I got to my room.
"I am glad to see you so calm," said she, "you quite frightened me at
"The reason is that I know you think yourself in danger when you are
alone with me."
"Not at all; you are much more discreet than you were nine years ago."
"What folly did I commit then?"
"No folly, but you did not respect my childhood."
"I only gave you a few caresses, for which I am now sorry, as you are
frightened of me, and persist in locking your door."
"I don't mistrust you, but I have told you my reasons for locking the
door. I think that you must mistrust me, as you won't go to bed while I
am in the room."
"You must think me very presumptuous. I will go to bed, but you must not
leave me without giving me a kiss."
"I promise to do so."
I went to bed, and Anastasia spent half an hour beside me. I had a good
deal of difficulty in controlling myself, but I was afraid of her telling
the marchioness everything.
As she left me she gave me such a kind embrace that I could bear it no
longer, and guiding her hand I skewed her the power she exercised over
me. She then went away, and I shall not say whether my behaviour
irritated or pleased her.
The next day I was curious to know how much she had told the marchioness,
and on hearing nothing of the principal fact I felt certain she would not
lock her door that evening.
When the evening came I defied her to skew the same confidence in me as I
had shewn in her. She replied that she would do so with pleasure, if I
would blow out my candle and promise not to put my hand on her. I easily
gave her the required promise, for I meant to keep myself fresh for
I undressed hastily, followed her with bare feet, and laid myself beside
She took my hands and held them, to which I offered no resistance. We
were afraid of awakening her bedfellow, and kept perfect silence. Our
lips however gave themselves free course, and certain motions, natural
under the circumstances, must have made her believe that I was in
torments. The half hour I passed beside her seemed extremely long to me,
but it must have been delicious to her, as giving her the idea that she
could do what she liked with me.
When I left her after we had shared an ecstatic embrace, I returned to my
room, leaving the door open. As soon as I had reason to suppose that she
was asleep, I returned, and passed through her room to Leonilda's. She
was expecting me, but did not know of my presence till I notified it with
After I had given her a strong proof of my love, I told her of my
adventure with Anastasia, and then our amorous exploits began again, and
I did not leave her till I had spent two most delicious hours. We agreed
that they should not be the last, and I returned to my room on tiptoe as
I had come.
I did not get up till noon, and the marquis and his wife jested with me
at dinner on the subject of my late rising. At supper it was Anastasia's
turn, and she seemed to enjoy the situation. She told me in the evening
that she would not lock her door, but that I must not come into her room,
as it was dangerous. It would be much better, she said, for us to talk
in my room, where there would be no need of putting out the light. She
added that I had better go to bed, as then she would feel certain that
she was not tiring me in any way.
I could not say no, but I flattered myself that I would keep my strength
intact for Leonilda.
I reckoned without my host, as the proverb goes.
When I held Anastasia between my arms in bed, her lips glued to mine, I
told her, as in duty bound, that she did not trust in me enough to lie
beside me with her clothes off.
Thereupon she asked me if I would be very discreet.
If I had said no, I should have looked a fool. I made up my mind, and
told her yes, determined to satisfy the pretty girl's desires.
In a moment she was in my arms, not at all inclined to keep me to my
Appetite, it is said, comes in eating. Her ardour made me amorous, and I
rendered homage to her charms till I fell asleep with fatigue.
Anastasia left me while I was asleep, and when I awoke I found myself in
the somewhat ridiculous position of being obliged to make a full
confession to the marchioness as to why I had failed in my duties to her.
When I told Leonilda my tale, she began to laugh and agreed that further
visits were out of the question. We made up our minds, and for the
remainder of my visit our amorous meetings only took place in the
summerhouses in the garden.
I had to receive Anastasia every night, and when I left for Rome and did
not take her with me she considered me as a traitor.
The worthy marquis gave me a great surprise on the eve of my departure.
We were alone together, and he began by saying that the Duke of Matalone
had told him the reason which had prevented me marrying Leonilda, and
that he had always admired my generosity in making her a present of five
thousand ducats, though I was far from rich.
"These five thousand ducats," he added, "with seven thousand from the
duke, composed her dower, and I have added a hundred thousand, so that
she is sure of a comfortable living, even if I die without a successor.
"Now, I want you to take back the five thousand ducats you gave her; and
she herself is as desirous of your doing so as I am. She did not like to
ask you herself; she is too delicate."
"Well, I should have refused Leonilda if she had asked me, but I accept
this mark of your friendship. A refusal would have borne witness to
nothing but a foolish pride, as I am a poor man. I should like Leonilda
and her mother to be present when you give me the money."
"Embrace me; we will do our business after dinner."
Naples has always been a temple of fortune to me, but if I went there now
I should starve. Fortune flouts old age.
Leonilda and Lucrezia wept with joy when the good marquis gave me the
five thousand ducats in bank notes, and presented his mother-in-law with
an equal sum in witness of his gratitude to her for having introduced me
The marquis was discreet enough not to reveal his chief reason. Donna
Lucrezia did not know that the Duke of Matalone had told him that
Leonilda was my daughter.
An excess of gratitude lessened my high spirits for the rest of the day,
and Anastasia did not spend a very lively night with me.
I went off at eight o'clock the next morning. I was sad, and the whole
house was in tears.
I promised that I would write to the marquis from Rome, and I reached
Naples at eleven o'clock.
I went to see Agatha, who was astonished at my appearance as she had
thought I was at Rome. Her husband welcomed me in the most friendly
manner, although he was suffering a great deal.
I said I would dine with them and start directly afterwards, and I asked
the advocate to get me a bill on Rome for five thousand ducats, in
exchange for the bank notes I gave him.
Agatha saw that my mind was made up, and without endeavoring to persuade
me to stay went in search of Callimena.
She too had thought I was in Rome, and was in an ecstasy of delight to
see me again.
My sudden disappearance and my unexpected return were the mystery of the
day, but I did not satisfy anyone's curiosity.
I left them at three o'clock, and stopped at Montecasino, which I had
never seen. I congratulated myself on my idea, for I met there Prince
Xaver de Saxe, who was travelling under the name of Comte de Lusace with
Madame Spinucci, a lady of Fermo, with whom he had contracted a semi-
clandestine marriage. He had been waiting for three days to hear from
the Pope, for by St. Benedict's rule women are not allowed in
monasteries; and as Madame Spinucci was extremely curious on the subject,
her husband had been obliged to apply for a dispensation to the Holy
I slept at Montecasino after having seen the curiosities of the place,
and I went on to Rome, and put up with Roland's daughter in the Place
Margarita--Madame Buondcorsi--The Duchess of Fiano--Cardinal Bernis--
The Princess Santa Croce--Menicuccio and His Sister
I had made up my mind to spend a quiet six months at Rome, and the day
after my arrival I took a pleasant suite of rooms opposite the Spanish
Ambassador, whose name was d'Aspura. It happened to be the same rooms as
were occupied twenty-seven years ago by the teacher of languages, to whom
I had gone for lessons while I was with Cardinal Acquaviva. The landlady
was the wife of a cook who only, slept with his better half once a week.
The woman had a daughter of sixteen or seventeen years old, who would
have been very pretty if the small-pox had not deprived her of one eye.
They had provided her with an ill-made artificial eye, of a wrong size
and a bad colour, which gave a very unpleasant expression to her face.
Margarita, as she was called, made no impression on me, but I made her a
present which she valued very highly. There was an English oculist named
Taylor in Rome at that time, and I got him to make her an eye of the
right size and colour. This made Margarita imagine that I had fallen in
love with her, and the mother, a devotee, was in some trouble as to
whether my intentions were strictly virtuous.
I made arrangements with the mother to supply me with a good dinner and
supper without any luxury. I had three thousand sequins, and I had made
up my mind to live in a quiet and respectable manner.
The next day I found letters for me in several post-offices, and the
banker Belloni, who had known me for several years, had been already
advised of my bill of exchange. My good friend Dandolo sent me two
letters of introduction, of which one was addressed to M. Erizzo, the
Venetian ambassador. He was the brother of the ambassador to Paris.
This letter pleased me greatly. The other was addressed to the Duchess
of Fiano, by her brother M. Zuliani.
I saw that I should be free of all the best houses, and I promised myself
the pleasure of an early visit to Cardinal Bernis.
I did not hire either a carriage or a servant. At Rome both these
articles are procurable at a moment's notice.
My first call was on the Duchess of Fiano. She was an ugly woman, and
though she was really very good-natured, she assumed the character of
being malicious so as to obtain some consideration.
Her husband, who bore the name of Ottoboni, had only married her to
obtain an heir, but the poor devil turned out to be what the Romans call
'babilano', and we impotent. The duchess told me as much on the occasion
of my third visit. She did not give me the information in a complaining
tone, or as if she was fain to be consoled, but merely to defy her
confessor, who had threatened her with excommunication if she went on
telling people about her husband's condition, or if she tried to cure him
The duchess gave a little supper every evening to her select circle of
friends. I was not admitted to these reunions for a week or ten days, by
which time I had made myself generally popular. The duke did not care
for company and supped apart.
The Prince of Santa Croce was the duchess's 'cavaliere servante', and the
princess was served by Cardinal Bernis. The princess was a daughter of
the Marquis Falconieri, and was young, pretty, lively, and intended by
nature for a life of pleasure. However, her pride at possessing the
cardinal was so great that she did not give any hope to other competitors
for her favour.
The prince was a fine man of distinguished manners and great capability,
which he employed in business speculations, being of opinion, and
rightly, that it was no shame for a nobleman to increase his fortune by
the exercise of his intelligence. He was a careful man, and had attached
himself to the duchess because she cost him nothing, and he ran no risk
of falling in love with her.
Two or three weeks after my arrival he heard me complaining of the
obstacles to research in the Roman libraries, and he offered to give me
an introduction to the Superior of the Jesuits. I accepted the offer,
and was made free of the library; I could not only go and read when I
liked, but I could, on writing my name down, take books away with me.
The keepers of the library always brought me candles when it grew dark,
and their politeness was so great that they gave me the key of a side
door, so that I could slip in and out as I pleased.
The Jesuits were always the most polite of the regular clergy, or,
indeed, I may say the only polite men amongst them; but during the crisis
in which they were then involved, they were simply cringing.
The King of Spain had called for the suppression of the order, and the
Pope had promised that it should be done; but the Jesuits did not think
that such a blow could ever be struck, and felt almost secure. They did
not think that the Pope's power was superhuman so far as they were
concerned. They even intimated to him by indirect channels that his
authority did not extend to the suppression of the order; but they were
mistaken. The sovereign pontiff delayed the signature of the bull, but
his hesitation proceeded from the fact that in signing it he feared lest
he should be signing his own sentence of death. Accordingly he put it
off till he found that his honour was threatened. The King of Spain, the
most obstinate tyrant in Europe, wrote to him with his own hand, telling
him that if he did not suppress the order he would publish in all the
languages of Europe the letters he had written when he was a cardinal,
promising to suppress the order when he became Pope. On the strength of
these letters Ganganelli had been elected.
Another man would have taken refuge in casuistry and told the king that
it was not for a pope to be bound to the cardinal's promises, in which
contention he would have been supported by the Jesuits. However, in his
heart Ganganelli had no liking for the Jesuits. He was a Franciscan, and
not a gentleman by birth. He had not a strong enough intellect to defy
the king and all his threats, or to bear the shame of being exhibited to
the whole world as an ambitious and unscrupulous man.
I am amused when people tell me that Ganganelli poisoned himself by
taking so many antidotes. It is true that having reason, and good
reason, to dread poison, he made use of antidotes which, with his
ignorance of science, might have injured his health; but I am morally
certain that he died of poison which was given by other hands than his
My reasons for this opinion are as follows:
In the year of which I am speaking, the third of the Pontificate of
Clement XIV., a woman of Viterbo was put in prison on the charge of
making predictions. She obscurely prophesied the suppression of the
Jesuits, without giving any indication of the time; but she said very
clearly that the company would be destroyed by a pope who would only
reign five years three months and three days--that is, as long as Sixtus
V., not a day more and not a day less.
Everybody treated the prediction with contempt, as the product of a
brain-sick woman. She was shut up and quite forgotten.
I ask my readers to give a dispassionate judgment, and to say whether
they have any doubt as to the poisoning of Ganganelli when they hear that
his death verified the prophecy.
In a case like this, moral certainty assumes the force of scientific
certainty. The spirit which inspired the Pythia of Viterbo took its
measures to inform the world that if the Jesuits were forced to submit to
being suppressed, they were not so weak as to forego a fearful vengeance.
The Jesuit who cut short Ganganelli's days might certainly have poisoned
him before the bull was signed, but the fact was that they could not
bring themselves to believe it till it took place. It is clear that if
the Pope had not suppressed the Jesuits, they would not have poisoned
him, and here again the prophecy could not be taxed with falsity. We may
note that Clement XIV., like Sixtus V., was a Franciscan, and both were
of low birth. It is also noteworthy that after the Pope's death the
prophetess was liberated, and, though her prophecy had been fulfilled to
the letter, all the authorities persisted in saying that His Holiness had
died from his excessive use of antidotes.
It seems to me that any impartial judge will scout the idea of Ganganelli
having killed himself to verify the woman of Viterbo's prediction. If
you say it was a mere coincidence, of course I cannot absolutely deny
your position, for it may have been chance; but my thoughts on the
subject will remain unchanged.
This poisoning was the last sign the Jesuits gave of their power. It was
a crime, because it was committed after the event, whereas, if it had
been done before the suppression of the order, it would have been a
stroke of policy, and might have been justified on politic grounds. The
true politician looks into the future, and takes swift and certain
measures to obtain the end he has in view.
The second time that the Prince of Santa Croce saw me at the Duchess of
Fiano's, he asked me 'ex abrupta' why I did not visit Cardinal Bernis.
"I think of paying my suit to him to-morrow," said I.
"Do so, for I have never heard his eminence speak of anyone with as much
consideration as he speaks of yourself."
"He has been very kind to me, and I shall always be grateful to him."
The cardinal received me the next day with every sign of delight at
seeing me. He praised the reserve with which I had spoken of him to the
prince, and said he need not remind me of the necessity for discretion as
to our old Venetian adventures.
"Your eminence," I said, "is a little stouter, otherwise you look as
fresh as ever and not at all changed."
"You make a mistake. I am very different from what I was then. I am
fifty-five now, and then I was thirty-six. Moreover, I am reduced to a
"Is that to keep down the lusts of the flesh?"
"I wish people would think so; but no one does, I am afraid."
He was glad to hear that I bore a letter to the Venetian ambassador,
which I had not yet presented. He said he would take care to give the
ambassador a prejudice in my favour, and that he would give me a good
"We will begin to break the ice to-morrow," added this charming cardinal.
"You shall dine with me, and his excellence shall hear of it."
He heard with pleasure that I was well provided for as far as money was
concerned, and that I had made up my mind to live simply and discreetly
so long as I remained in Rome.
"I shall write about you to M---- M----," he said. "I have always kept
up a correspondence with that delightful nun."
I then amused him by the, talk of my adventure with the nun of Chamberi.
"You ought to ask the Prince of Santa Croce to introduce you to the
princess. We might pass some pleasant hours with her, though not in our
old Venetian style, for the princess is not at all like M---- M----.
"And yet she serves to amuse your eminence?"
"Well, I have to be content with what I can get."
The next day as I was getting up from dinner the cardinal told me that M.
Zuliani had written about me to the ambassador, who would be delighted to
make my acquaintance, and when I went I had an excellent reception from
The Chevalier Erizzo, who is still alive, was a man of great
intelligence, common sense, and oratorical power. He complimented me on
my travels and on my being protected by the State Inquisitors instead of
being persecuted by them. He kept me to dinner, and asked me to dine
with him whenever I had no other engagement.
The same evening I met Prince Santa Croce at the duchess's, and asked him
to introduce me to his wife.
"I have been expecting that," he replied "even since the cardinal talked
to her about you for more than an hour. You can call any day at eleven
in the morning or two in the afternoon."
I called the next day at two o'clock. She was taking her siesta in bed,
but as I had the privileges allowed to a person of no consequence she let
me in directly. She was young, pretty, lively, curious, and talkative;
she had not enough patience to wait for my answer to her questions. She
struck me as a toy, well adapted to amuse a man of affairs, who felt the
need of some distraction. The cardinal saw her regularly three times a
day; the first thing in the morning he called to ask if she had had a
good night, at three o'clock in the afternoon he took coffee with her,
and in the evening he met her at the assembly. He always played at
piquet, and played with such talent that he invariably lost six Roman
sequins, no more and no less. These losses of the cardinal's made the
princess the richest young wife in Rome.
Although the marquis was somewhat inclined to be jealous, he could not
possibly object to his wife enjoying a revenue of eighteen hundred francs
a month, and that without the least scandal, for everything was done in
public, and the game was honestly conducted. Why should not fortune fall
in love with such a pretty woman?
The Prince of Santa Croce could not fail to appreciate the friendship of
the cardinal for his wife, who gave him a child every year, and sometimes
every nine months, in spite of the doctor's warnings to beware of
results. It was said that to make up for his enforced abstinence during
the last few days of his wife's pregnancy, the prince immediately set to
again when the child was being baptized.
The friendship of the cardinal for the prince's wife also gave him the
advantage of getting silks from Lyons without the Pope's treasurer being
able to say anything, as the packets were addressed to the French
ambassador. It must also be noted that the cardinal's patronage kept
other lovers from the house. The High Constable Colonna was very much
taken with her. The prince had surprised this gentleman talking to the
princess in a room of the palace and at an hour when she was certain that
the cardinal would not be in the way. Scarcely had the Colonna gone when
the prince told his wife that she would accompany him into the country
the next day. She protested, saying that this sudden order was only a
caprice and that her honour would not allow of her obeying him. The
prince, however, was very determined, and she would have been obliged to
go if the cardinal had not come in and heard the story from the mouth of
the innocent princess. He shewed the husband that it was to his own
interests to go into the country by himself, and to let his wife remain
in Rome. He spoke for her, assuring the prince that she would take more
care for the future and avoid such meetings, always unpleasant in a
In less than a month I became the shadow of the three principal persons
in the play. I listened and admired and became as necessary to the
personages as a marker at billiards. When any of the parties were
afflicted I consoled them with tales or amusing comments, and, naturally,
they were grateful to me. The cardinal, the prince, and his fair wife
amused each other and offended no one.
The Duchess of Fiano was proud of being the possessor of the prince who
left his wife to the cardinal, but no one was deceived but herself. The
good lady wondered why no one acknowledged that the reason why the
princess never came to see her was mere jealousy. She spoke to me on the
subject with so much fire that I had to suppress my good sense to keep
her good graces.
I had to express my astonishment as to what the cardinal could see in the
princess, who, according to her, was skinny in person and silly in mind,
altogether a woman of no consequence. I agreed to all this, but I was
far from thinking so, for the princess was just the woman to amuse a
voluptuous and philosophic lover like the cardinal.
I could not help thinking now and again that the cardinal was happier in
the possession of this treasure of a woman than in his honours and
I loved the princess, but as I did not hope for success I confined myself
strictly to the limits of my position.
I might, no doubt, have succeeded, but more probably I should have raised
her pride against me, and wounded the feelings of the cardinal, who was
no longer the same as when we shared M---- M---- in common. He had told
me that his affection for her was of a purely fatherly character, and I
took that as a hint not to trespass on his preserves.
I had reason to congratulate myself that she observed no more ceremony
with me than with her mail. I accordingly pretended to see nothing,
while she felt certain I saw all.
It is no easy matter to win the confidence of such a woman, especially if
she be served by a king or a cardinal.
My life at Rome was a tranquil and happy one. Margarita had contrived to
gain my interest by the assiduity of her attentions. I had no servant,
so she waited on me night and morning, and her false eye was such an
excellent match that I quite forgot its falsity. She was a clever, but a
vain girl, and though at first I had no designs upon her I flattered her
vanity by my conversation and the little presents I bestowed upon her,
which enabled her to cut a figure in church on Sundays. So before long I
had my eyes opened to two facts; the one that she was sure of my love,
and wondered why I did not declare it; the other, that if I chose I had
an easy conquest before me.
I guessed the latter circumstance one day when, after I had asked her to
tell me her adventures from the age of eleven to that of eighteen, she
proceeded to tell me tales, the telling of which necessitated her
throwing all modesty to the winds.
I took the utmost delight in these scandalous narrations, and whenever I
thought she had told the whole truth I gave her a few pieces of money;
while whenever I had reason to suppose that she had suppressed some
interesting circumstances I gave her nothing.
She confessed to me that she no longer possessed that which a maid can
lose but once, that a friend of hers named Buonacorsi was in the same
case, and finally she told me the name of the young man who had relieved
them both of their maidenheads.
We had for neighbor a young Piedmontese abbe named Ceruti, on whom
Margarita was obliged to wait when her mother was too busy. I jested
with her about him, but she swore there was no lovemaking between them.
This abbe was a fine man, learned and witty, but he was overwhelmed with
debt and in very bad odour at Rome on account of an extremely unpleasant
story of which he was the hero.
They said that he had told an Englishman, who was in love with Princess
Lanti, that she was in want of two hundred sequins, that the Englishman
had handed over the money to the abbe, and that the latter had
This act of meanness had been brought to light by an explanation between
the lady and the Englishman. On his saying to the princess that he was
ready to do anything for her, and that the two hundred sequins he had
given her were as nothing in comparison with what he was ready to do, she
indignantly denied all knowledge of the transaction. Everything came
out. The Englishman begged pardon, and the abbe was excluded from the
princess's house and the Englishman's also.
This Abbe Ceruti was one of those journalists employed to write the
weekly news of Rome by Bianconi; he and I had in a manner become friends
since we were neighbours. I saw that he loved Margarita, and I was not
in the least jealous, but as he was a handsome young fellow I could not
believe that Margarita was cruel to him. Nevertheless, she assured me
that she detested him, and that she was very sorry that her mother made
her wait on him at all.
Ceruti had already laid himself under obligations to me. He had borrowed
a score of crowns from me, promising to repay them in a week, and three
weeks had gone by without my seeing the money. However, I did not ask
for it, and would have lent him as much more if he had requested me. But
I must tell the story as it happened.
Whenever I supped with the Duchess of Fiano I came in late, and Margarita
waited up for me. Her mother would go to bed. For the sake of amusement
I used to keep her for an hour or two without caring whether our
pleasantries disturbed the abbe, who could hear everything we said.
One evening I came home at midnight and was surprised to find the mother
waiting for me.
"Where is your daughter?" I enquired.
"She's asleep, and I really cannot allow you to pass the whole night with
her any longer."
"But she only stays with me till I get into bed. This new whim wounds my
feelings. I object to such unworthy suspicions. What has Margarita been
telling you? If she has made any complaints of me, she has lied, and I
shall leave your house to-morrow."
"You are wrong; Margarita has made no complaints; on the contrary she
says that you have done nothing to her."
"Very good. Do you think there is any harm in a little joking?"
"No, but you might be better employed."
"And these are your grounds for a suspicion of which you should be
ashamed, if you are a good Christian."
"God save me from thinking evil of my neighbour, but I have been informed
that your laughter and your jests are of such a nature as to be offensive
to people of morality."
"Then it is my neighbour the abbe who has been foolish enough to give you
"I cannot tell you how I heard it, but I have heard it."
"Very good. To-morrow I shall seek another lodging, so as to afford your
tender conscience some relief."
"Can't I attend on you as well as my daughter?"
"No; your daughter makes me laugh, and laughing is beneficial to me,
whereas you would not make me laugh at all. You have insulted me, and I
leave your house to-morrow."
"I shall have to tell my husband the reason of your departure, and I do
not want to do that."
"You can do as you like; that's no business of mine. Go away; I want to
get into bed."
"Allow me to wait on you."
"Certainly not; if you want anybody to wait on me, send Margarita."
"Then wake her up."
The good woman went her way, and two minutes later, the girl came in with
little on but her chemise. She had not had time to put in her false eye,
and her expression was so amusing that I went off into a roar of
"I was sleeping soundly," she began, "and my mother woke me up all of a
sudden, and told me to come and wait on you, or else you would leave, and
my father would think we had been in mischief."
"I will stay, if you will continue to wait on me."
"I should like to come very much, but we mustn't laugh any more, as the
abbe has complained of us."
"Oh! it is the abbe, is it?"
"Of course it is. Our jests and laughter irritate his passions."
"The rascal! We will punish him rarely. If we laughed last night, we
will laugh ten times louder tonight."
Thereupon we began a thousand tricks, accompanied by shouts and shrieks
of laughter, purposely calculated to drive the little priest desperate.
When the fun was at its height, the door opened and the mother came in.
I had Margarita's night-cap on my head, and Margarita's face was adorned
with two huge moustaches, which I had stuck on with ink. Her mother had
probably anticipated taking us in the fact, but when she came in she was
obliged to re-echo our shouts of mirth.
"Come now," said I, "do you think our amusements criminal?"
"Not a bit; but you see your innocent orgies keep your neighbour awake."
"Then he had better go and sleep somewhere else; I am not going to put
myself out for him. I will even say that you must choose between him and
me; if I consent to stay with you, you must send him away, and I will
take his room."
"I can't send him away before the end of the month, and I am afraid he
will say things to my husband which will disturb the peace of the house."
"I promise you he shall go to-morrow and say nothing at all. Leave him
to me; the, abbe shall leave of his own free will, without giving you the
slightest trouble. In future be afraid for your daughter when she is
alone with a man and you don't hear laughing. When one does not laugh,
one does something serious."
After this the mother seemed satisfied and went off to bed. Margarita
was in such high spirits over the promised dismissal of the abbe that I
could not resist doing her justice. We passed an hour together without
laughing, and she left me very proud of the victory she had gained.
Early the next day I paid the abbe a visit, and after reproaching him for
his behaviour I gave him his choice between paying me the money he owed
me and leaving the house at once. He did his best to get out of the
dilemma, but seeing that I was pitiless he said he could not leave
without paying a few small sums he owed the landlord, and without the
wherewithal to obtain another lodging.
"Very good," said I, "I will present you with another twenty crowns; but
you must go to-day, and not say a word to anyone, unless you wish me to
become your implacable enemy."
I thus got rid of him and entered into possession of the two rooms.
Margarita was always at my disposal, and after a few days so was the fair
Buonacorsi, who was much the prettier of the two.
The two girls introduced me to the young man who had seduced them.
He was a lad of fifteen or sixteen, and very handsome though short.
Nature had endowed him with an enormous symbol of virility, and at
Lampsacus he would no doubt have had an altar erected to him beside that
of Priapus, with which divinity he might well have contended.
He was well-mannered and agreeable, and seemed much above a common
workman. He did not love Margarita or Mdlle. Bounacorsi; he had merely
satisfied their curiosity. They saw and admired, and wished to come to a
nearer acquaintance; he read their minds and offered to satisfy them.
Thereupon the two girls held a consultation, and pretending to submit out
of mere complaisance; the double deed was done. I liked this young man,
and gave him linen and clothes. So before long he had complete
confidence in me. He told me he was in love with a girl, but unhappily
for him she was in a convent, and not being able to win her he was
becoming desperate. The chief obstacle to the match lay in the fact that
his earnings only amounted to a paul a day, which was certainly an
insufficient sum to support a wife on.
He talked so much about her that I became curious, and expressed a desire
to see her. But before coming to this I must recite some other incidents
of my stay at Rome.
One day I went to the Capitol to see the prizes given to the art
students, and the first face I saw was the face of Mengs. He was with
Battoni and two or three other painters, all being occupied in adjudging
the merits of the various pictures.
I had not forgotten his treatment of me at Madrid, so I pretended not to
see him; but as soon as he saw me, he came up and addressed me as
"My dear Casanova, let us forget what happened at Madrid and be friends
"So be it, provided no allusion is made to the cause of our quarrel; for
I warn you that I cannot speak of it and keep my head cool."
"I dare say; but if you had understood my position at Madrid you would
never have obliged me to take a course which gave me great pain."
"I do not understand you."
"I dare say not. You must know, then, that I was strongly suspected of
being a Protestant; and if I had shewn myself indifferent to your
conduct, I might possibly have been ruined. But dine with me tomorrow;
we will make up a party of friends, and discuss our quarrel in a good
bottle of wine. I know that you do not receive your brother, so he shall
not be there. Indeed, I do not receive him myself, for if I did all
honest people would give me the cold shoulder."
I accepted his friendly invitation, and was punctual to the appointment.
My brother left Rome a short time afterwards with Prince Beloselski, the
Russian ambassador to Dresden, with whom he had come; but his visit was
unsuccessful, as Rezzonico proved inexorable. We only saw each other two
or three times at Rome.
Three or four days after he had gone I had the agreeable surprise of
seeing my brother the priest, in rags as usual. He had the impudence to
ask me to help him.
"Where do you come from?"
"From Venice; I had to leave the place, as I could no longer make a
"Then how do you think of making a living at Rome?"
"By saying masses and teaching French."
"You a teacher of languages! Why, you do not know your native tongue."
"I know Italian and French too, and I have already got two pupils."
"They will no doubt make wonderful progress under your fostering care.
Who are they?"
"The son and daughter of the inn-keeper, at whose house I am staying.
But that's not enough to keep me, and you must give me something while I
"You have no right to count on me. Leave the room."
I would not listen to another word, and told Margarita to see that he did
not come in again.
The wretched fellow did his best to ruin me with all my friends,
including the Duchess of Fiano and the Abbe Gama. Everybody told me that
I should either give him some help, or get him out of Rome; I got
heartily sick of the sound of his name. At last the Abbe Ceruti came and
told me that if I did not want to see my brother begging his bread in the
streets I must give him some assistance.
"You can keep him out of Rome," he said, "and he is ready to go if you
will allow him three pauls a day." I consented, and Ceruti hit on a plan
which pleased me very much. He spoke to a priest who served a convent of
Franciscan nuns. This priest took my brother into his service, and gave
him three pauls for saying one mass every day. If he could preach well
he might earn more.
Thus the Abbe Casanova passed away, and I did not care whether he knew or
not where the three pauls had come from. As long as I stayed at Rome the
nine piastres a month came in regularly, but after my departure he
returned to Rome, went to another convent, and died there suddenly
thirteen or fourteen years ago.
Medini had also arrived in Rome, but we had not seen each other. He
lived in the street of the Ursulines at the house of one of the Pope's
light-cavalry men, and subsisted on the money he cheated strangers of.
The rascal had done well and had sent to Mantua for his mistress, who
came with her mother and a very pretty girl of twelve or thirteen.
Thinking it would be to his advantage to take handsome furnished
apartments he moved to the Place d'Espagne, and occupied a house four or
five doors from me, but I knew nothing of all this at the time.
Happening to dine one day with the Venetian ambassador, his excellency
told me that I should meet a certain Count. Manucci who had just arrived
from Paris, and had evinced much delight on learning that I was at Rome.
"I suppose you know him well," said the ambassador, "and as I am going to
present him to the Holy Father to-morrow, I should be much obliged if you
could tell me who he really is."
"I knew him at Madrid, where he lived with Mocenigo our ambassador; he is
well mannered, polite, and a fine looking young man, and that's all I
know about him."
"Was he received at the Spanish Court?"
"I think so, but I cannot be positive."
"Well, I think he was not received; but I see that you won't tell me all
you know about him. It's of no consequence; I shall run no risk in
presenting him to the Pope. He says he is descended from Manucci, the
famous traveller of the thirteenth century, and from the celebrated
printers of the same name who did so much for literature. He shewed me
the Aldine anchor on his coat of arms which has sixteen quarters."
I was astonished beyond measure that this man who had plotted my
assassination should speak of me as an intimate friend, and I determined
to conceal my feelings and await events. I did not shew the least sign
of anger, and when after greeting the ambassador he came up to me with
open arms, I received him cordially and asked after Mocenigo.
Manucci talked a great deal at dinner, telling a score of lies, all in my
honour, about my reception at Madrid. I believe his object was to force
me to lie too, and to make me do the same for him another time.
I swallowed all these bitter pills, for I had no choice in the matter,
but I made up my mind I would have a thorough explanation the next day.
A Frenchman, the Chevalier de Neuville by name, who had come with
Manucci, interested me a great deal. He had come to Rome to endeavour to
obtain the annulment of marriage of a lady who was in a convent at
Mantua. He had a special recommendation to Cardinal Galli.
His conversation was particularly agreeable, and when we left the
ambassador's I accepted the offer to come into his carriage with Manucci,
and we drove about till the evening.
As we were returning at nightfall he told us that he was going to present
us to a pretty girl with whom we would sup and where we should have a
game of faro.
The carriage stopped at the Place d'Espagne, at a short distance from my
lodging, and we went up to a room on the second floor. When I went in I
was surprised to see Count Medini and his mistress, the lady whom the
chevalier had praised, and whom I found not at all to my taste. Medini
received me cordially, and thanked the Frenchman for having made me
forget the past, and having brought me to see him.
M. de Neuville looked astonished, and to avoid any unpleasant
explanations I turned the conversation.
When Medini thought a sufficient number of punters were present he sat
down at a large table, placed five or six hundred crowns in gold and
notes before him, and began to deal. Manucci lost all the gold he had
about him, Neuville swept away half the bank, and I was content with the
humble part of spectator.
After supper, Medini asked the chevalier to give him his revenge, and
Manucci asked me to lend him a hundred sequins. I did so, and in an hour
he had not one left. Neuville, on the other hand, brought down Medini's
bank to twenty or thirty sequins, and after that we retired to our
Manucci lodged with my sister-in-law, Roland's daughter, and I had made
up my mind to give him an early call; but he did not leave me the
opportunity, as he called on me early in the morning.
After returning me the hundred sequins he embraced me affectionately,
and, shewing me a large letter of credit on Bettoni, said that I must
consider his purse as mine. In short, though he said nothing about the
past, he gave me to understand that he wished to initiate a mutual policy
of forget and forgive.
On this occasion my heart proved too strong for my brain; such has often
been the case with me. I agreed to the articles of peace he offered and
Besides, I was no longer at that headstrong age which only knows one kind
of satisfaction, that of the sword. I remembered that if Manucci had
been wrong so had I, and I felt that my honour ran no danger of being
The day after, I went to dinner with him. The Chevalier de Neuville came
in towards the close of the meal, and Medini a few moments later. The
latter called on us to hold a bank, each in his turn, and we agreed.
Manucci gained double what he had lost; Neuvilie lost four hundred
sequins, and I only lost a trifle. Medini who had only lost about fifty
sequins was desperate, and would have thrown himself out of the window.
A few days later Manucci set out for Naples, after giving a hundred louis
to Medini's mistress, who used to sup with him; but this windfall did not
save Medini from being imprisoned for debt, his liabilities amounting to
more than a thousand crowns.
The poor wretch wrote me doleful epistles, entreating me to come to his
assistance; but the sole effect of his letters was to make me look after
what he called his family, repaying myself with the enjoyment of his
mistress's young sister. I did not feel called upon to behave generously
to him for nothing.
About this time the Emperor of Germany came to Rome with his brother, the
Grand Duke of Tuscany.
One of the noblemen in their suite made the girl's acquaintance, and gave
Medini enough to satisfy his creditors. He left Rome soon after
recovering his liberty, and we shall meet him again in a few months.
I lived very happily amongst the friends I had made for myself. In the
evenings I visited the Duchess of Fiano, in the afternoons the Princess
of Santa Croce. The rest of my time I spent at home, where I had
Margarita, the fair Buonacorsi, and young Menicuccio, who told me so much
about his lady-love that I felt quite curious to see her.
The girl was in a kind of convent where she had been placed out of
charity. She could only leave it to get married, with the consent of the
cardinal who superintended the establishment. When a girl went out and
got married, she received a dower of two hundred Roman crowns.
Menicuccio had a sister in the same convent, and was allowed to visit her
on Sundays; she came to the grating, followed by her governess. Though
Menicuccio was her brother, she was not permitted to see him alone.
Five or six months before the date of which I am writing his sister had
been accompanied to the grating by another girl, whom he had never seen
before, and he immediately fell in love with her.
The poor young man had to work hard all the week, and could only visit
the convent on holidays; and even then he had rarely the good luck to see
his lady-love. In five or six months he had only seen her seven or eight
His sister knew of his love, and would have done all in her power for
him, but the choice of a companion did not rest with her, and she was
afraid of asking for this particular girl for fear of exciting suspicion.
As I have said, I had made up my mind to pay the place a visit, and on
our way Menicuccio told me that the women of the convent were not nuns,
properly speaking, as they had never taken any vow and did not wear a
monastic dress. In spite of that they had few temptations to leave their
prison house, as they would only find themselves alone in the world with
the prospect of starvation or hard work before them. The young girls
only came out to get married, which was uncommon, or by flight, which was
We reached a vast ill-built house, near one of the town gates--a lonely
and deserted situation, as the gate led to no highway. When we went into
the parlour I was astonished to see the double grating with bars so thick
and close together that the hand of a girl of ten could scarce have got
through. The grating was so close that it was extremely difficult to
make out the features of the persons standing on the inner side,
especially as this was only lighted by the uncertain reflection from the
outer room. The sight of these arrangements made me shudder.
"How and where have you seen your mistress?" I asked Menicuccio; "for
there I see nothing but darkness."
"The first time the governess chanced to have a candle, but this
privilege is confined, under pain of excommunication, to relations."
"Then she will have a light to-day?"
"I expect not, as the portress will have sent up word that there was a
stranger with me."
"But how could you see your sweetheart, as you are not related to her?"
"By chance; the first time she came my sister's governess--a good soul--
said nothing about it. Ever since there has been no candle when she has
been present." Soon after, the forms of three or four women were dimly
to be seen; but there was no candle, and the governess would not bring
one on any consideration. She was afraid of being found out and
I saw that I was depriving my young friend of a pleasure, and would have
gone, but he told me to stay. I passed an hour which interested me in
spite of its painfulness. The voice of Menicuccio's sister sent a thrill
through me, and I fancied that the blind must fall in love through their
sense of hearing. The governess was a woman under thirty. She told me
that when the girls attained their twenty-fifth year they were placed in
charge of the younger ones, and at thirty-five they were free to leave
the convent if they liked, but that few cared to take this step, for fear
of falling into misery.
"Then there are a good many old women here?"
"There are a hundred of us, and the number is only decreased by death and
by occasional marriages."
"But how do those who go out to get married succeed in inspiring the love
of their husbands?"
"I have been here for twenty years, and in that time only four have gone
out, and they did not know their husbands till they met at the altar. As
might be expected, the men who solicit the cardinal for our hands are
either madmen, or fellows of desperate fortunes who want the two hundred
piastres. However, the cardinal-superintendent refuses permission unless
the postulant can satisfy him that he is capable of supporting a wife."
"How does he choose his bride?"
"He tells the cardinal what age and disposition he would prefer, and the
cardinal informs the mother-superior."
"I suppose you keep a good table, and are comfortably lodged."
"Not at all. Three thousand crowns a year are not much to keep a hundred
persons. Those who do a little work and earn something are the best
"What manner of people put their daughters in such a prison?"
"Either poor people or bigots who are afraid of their children falling
into evil ways. We only receive pretty girls here."
"Who is the judge of their prettiness?"
"The parents, the priest, and on the last appeal the cardinal-
superintendent, who rejects plain girls without pity, observing that ugly
women have no reason to fear the seductions of vice. So you may imagine
that, wretched as we are, we curse those who pronounced us pretty."
"I pity you, and I wonder why leave is not given to see you openly; you
might have some chance of getting married then."
"The cardinal says that it is not in his power to give permission, as
anyone transgressing the foundation is excommunicated."
"Then I should imagine that the founder of this house is now consumed by
the flames of hell"
"We all think so, and hope he may stay there. The Pope ought to take
some order with the house."
I gave her ten crowns, saying that as I could not see her I could not
promise a second visit, and then I went away with Menicuccio, who was
angry with himself for having procured me such a tedious hour.
"I suppose I shall never see your mistress or your sister," said I; "your
sister's voice went to my heart."
"I should think your ten paistres ought to work miracles."
"I suppose there is another parlour."
"Yes; but only priests are allowed to enter it under pain of
excommunication, unless you get leave from the Holy Father."
I could not imagine how such a monstrous establishment could be
tolerated, for it was almost impossible, under the circumstances, for the
poor girls to get a husband. I calculated that as two hundred piastres
were assigned to each as a dowry in case of marriage, the founder must
have calculated on two marriages a year at least, and it seemed probable
that these sums were made away with by some scoundrel.
I laid my ideas before Cardinal Bernis in the presence of the princess,
who seemed moved with compassion for these poor women, and said I must
write out a petition and get it signed by all of them, entreating the
Holy Father to allow them the privileges customary in all other convents.
The cardinal told me to draft the supplication, to obtain the signatures,
and to place it in the hands of the princess. In the meantime he would
get the ear of the Holy Father, and ascertain by whose hands it was most
proper for the petition to be presented.
I felt pretty sure of the signatures of the greater number of the
recluses, and after writing out the petition I left it in the hands of
the governess to whom I had spoken before. She was delighted with the
idea, and promised to give me back the paper when I came again, with the
signatures of all her companions in misfortune.
As soon as the Princess Santa Croce had the document she addressed
herself to the Cardinal-Superintendent Orsini, who promised to bring the
matter before the Pope. Cardinal Bernis had already spoken to His
The chaplain of the institute was ordered to warn the superior that for
the future visitors were to be allowed to see girls in the large parlour,
provided they were accompanied by a governess.
Menicuccio brought me this news, which the princess had not heard, and
which she was delighted to hear from my lips.
The worthy Pope did not stop there. He ordered a rigid scrutiny of the
accounts to be made, and reduced the number from a hundred to fifty,
doubling the dower. He also ordered that all girls who reached the age
of twenty-five without getting married should be sent away with their
four hundred crowns apiece; that twelve discreet matrons should have
charge of the younger girls, and that twelve servants should be paid to
do the hard work of the house.
I Sup at the Inn With Armelline and Emilie
These innovations were the work of some six months. The first reform was
the abolition of the prohibition on entering the large parlour and even
the interior of the convent; for as the inmates had taken no vows and
were not cloistered nuns, the superior should have been at liberty to act
according to her discretion. Menicuccio had learnt this from a note his
sister wrote him, and which he brought to me in high glee, asking me to
come with him to the convent, according to his sister's request, who said
my presence would be acceptable to her governess. I was to ask for the
I was only too glad to lend myself to this pleasant arrangement, and felt
curious to see the faces of the three recluses, as well as to hear what
they had to say on these great changes.
When we got into the large parlour I saw two grates, one occupied by the
Abbe Guasco, whom I had known in Paris in 1751, the other by a Russian
nobleman, Ivan Ivanovitch Schuvaloff, and by Father Jacquier, a friar
minim of the Trinita dei Monti, and a learned astronomer. Behind the
grate I saw three very pretty girls.
When our friends came down we began a very interesting conversation,
which had to be conducted in a low tone for fear of our being overheard.
We could not talk at our ease till the other visitors had taken their
leave. My young friend's mistress was a very pretty girl, but his
sister was a ravishing beauty. She had just entered on her sixteenth
year, but she was tall and her figure well developed; in short, she
enchanted me. I thought I had never seen a whiter skin or blacker hair
and eyebrows and eyes, but still more charming was the sweetness of her
voice and expression, and the naive simplicity of her expressions. Her
governess who was ten or twelve years older than she was, was a woman of
an extremely interesting expression; she was pale and melancholy looking,
no doubt from the fires which she had been forced to quench within her.
She delighted me by telling me of the confusion which the new regulations
had caused in the house.
"The mother-superior is well pleased," she said, "and all my young
companions are overjoyed; but the older ones whom circumstance has made
into bigots are scandalized at everything. The superior has already
given orders for windows to be made in the dark parlours, though the old
women say that she cannot go beyond the concessions she has already
received. To this the superior answered that as free communication had
been allowed, it would be absurd to retain the darkness. She has also
given orders for the alteration of the double grating, as there was only
a single one in the large parlour."
I thought the superior must be a woman of intelligence, and expressed a
desire to see her. Emilie obtained this pleasure for me the following
Emilie was the friend of Armelline, Menicuccio's sister. This first
visit lasted two hours, and seemed all too short. Menicuccio spoke to
his well-beloved at the other grating.
I went away, after having given them ten Roman crowns as before. I
kissed Armelline's fair hands, and as she felt the contact of my lips her
face was suffused by a vivid blush. Never had the lips of man touched
more dainty hands before, and she looked quite astounded at the ardour
with which I kissed them.
I went home full of love for her, and without heeding the obstacles in my
path I gave reins to my passion, which seemed to me the most ardent I had
My young friend was in an ocean of bliss. He had declared his love, and
the girl had said that she would gladly become his wife if he could get
the cardinal's consent. As this consent only depended on his ability to
keep himself, I promised to give him a hundred crowns and my patronage.
He had served his time as a tailor's apprentice, and was in a position to
open a shop of his own.
"I envy your lot," said I, "for your happiness is assured, while I,
though I love your sister, despair of possessing her."
"Are you married then?" he asked.
"Alas, yes! Keep my counsel, for I propose visiting her every day, and
if it were known that I was married, my visits would be received with
I was obliged to tell this lie to avoid the temptation of marrying her,
and to prevent Armelline thinking that I was courting her with that
I found the superioress a polite and clever woman, wholly free from
prejudices. After coming down to the grate to oblige me, she sometimes
came for her own pleasure. She knew that I was the author of the happy
reform in the institution, and she told me that she considered herself
under great obligations to me. In less than six weeks three of her girls
made excellent marriages, and six hundred crowns had been added to the
yearly income of the house.
She told me that she was ill pleased with one of their confessors. He
was a Dominican, and made it a rule that his penitents should approach
the holy table every Sunday and feast day; he kept them for hours in the
confessional, and imposed penances and fastings which were likely to
injure the health of young girls.
"All this," said she, "cannot improve them from a mortal point of view,
and takes up a lot of their time, so that they have none left for their
work, by the sale of which they procure some small comforts for
"How many confessors have you?"
"Are you satisfied with the other three?"
"Yes, they are sensible men, and do not ask too much of poor human
"I will carry your just complaint to the cardinal; will you write out
"Kindly give me a model."
I gave her a rough draft, which she copied out and signed, and I laid it
before his eminence. A few days after the Dominican was removed, and his
penitents divided amongst the three remaining confessors. The younger
members of the community owed me a great debt of gratitude on account of
Menicuccio went to see his sweetheart every holiday, while I, in my
amorous ardour, visited his sister every morning at nine o'clock. I
breakfasted with her and Emilie, and remained in the parlour till eleven.
As there was only one grating I could lock the door behind me, but we
could be seen from the interior of the convent, as the door was left open
to admit light, there being no window. This was a great annoyance for
me; recluses, young or old, were continually passing by, and none of them
failed to give a glance in the direction of the grate; thus my fair
Armelline could not stretch out her hand to receive my amorous kisses.
Towards the end of December the cold became intense, and I begged the
superior to allow me to place a screen in front of the door, as I feared
I should catch cold otherwise. The worthy woman granted my request
without any difficulty, and we were at our ease for the future, though
the desires with which Armelline inspired me had become dreadful torment.
On the 1st day of January, 1771, I presented each of them with a good
winter dress, and sent the superior a quantity of chocolate, sugar, and
coffee, all of which were extremely welcome.
Emilie often came by herself to the grating, as Armelline was not ready,
and in the same way Armelline would come by herself when her governess
happened to be busy. It was in these quarters of an hour that she
succeeded in captivating me, heart and soul.
Emilie and Armelline were great friends, but their prejudices on the
subject of sensual enjoyment were so strong that I could never get them
to listen to licentious talk, to allow certain small liberties which I
would gladly have taken, or to afford me those pleasures of the eyes that
we accept in default of better things.
One day they were petrified by my asking them whether they did not
sometimes sleep in the same bed, so as to give each other proofs of the
tenderness of their mutual affection.
How they blushed Emilie asked me with the most perfect innocence what
there was in common between affection and the inconvenience of sleeping
two in a narrow bed.
I took care not to explain myself, for I saw that I had frightened them.
No doubt they were of the same flesh and blood as I, but our educators
had differed widely. They had evidently never confided their little
secrets to one another, possibly not even to their confessor, either
through shame, or with the idea that the liberties they indulged in alone
were no sin.
I made them a present of some silk stockings, lined with plush to keep
out the cold, and vainly endeavoured to make them try the stockings on
before me. I might say as often as I pleased that there was no real
difference between a man's legs and a woman's, and that their confessor
would laugh at them if they confessed to shewing their legs. They only
answered that girls were not allowed to take such a liberty, as they wore
petticoats on purpose to conceal their legs.
The manner in which Emilie spoke, always with Armelline's approbation,
convinced me that their modesty was genuine. I penetrated her idea; she
thought that in acceding to my request she would be lowering herself in
my eyes, and that I should despise her ever after. Nevertheless Emilie
was a woman of twenty-seven, and by no means a devotee.
As for Armelline, I could see that she took Emilie for her model, and
would have been ashamed of appearing less precise than her friend. I
thought she loved me, and that, contrary to the general rule, she would
be more easily won by herself than in company with her friend.
I made the trial one morning when she appeared at the grating by herself,
telling me that her governess was busy. I said that I adored her and was
the most hapless of men, for being a married man I had no hope of ever
being able to clasp her to my arms and cover her with kisses.
"Can I continue to live, dear Armelline, with no other consolation than
that of kissing your fair hands?"
At these words, pronounced with so much passion, she fixed her gaze on
me, and after a few moments' reflection she began to kiss my hands as
ardently as I had kissed hers.
I begged her to put her mouth so that I might kiss it. She blushed arid
looked down, and did nothing. I bewailed my fate bitterly, but in vain.
She was deaf and dumb till Emilie came and asked us why we were so dull.
About this time, the beginning of 1771, I was visited by Mariuccia, whom
I had married ten years before to a young hairdresser. My readers may
remember how I met her at Abbe Momolo's. During the three months I had
been in Rome I had enquired in vain as to what had become of her; so that
I was delighted when she made her appearance.
"I saw you at St. Peter's," said she, "at the midnight mass on Christmas
Eve, but not daring to approach you because of the people with whom I
was, I told a friend of mine to follow you and find out where you lived."
"How is it that I have tried to find you out in vain for the last three
"My husband set up at Frascati eight years ago, and we have lived there
very happily ever since."
"I am very glad to hear it. Have you any children?"
"Four; and the eldest, who is nine years old, is very like you."
"Do you love her?"
"I adore her, but I love the other three as well."
As I wanted to go to breakfast with Armelline I begged Margarita to keep
Mariuccia company till my return.
Mariuccia dined with me, and we spent a pleasant day together without
attempting to renew our more tender relationship. We had plenty to talk
about, and she told me that Costa, my old servant, had come back to Rome
in a splendid coach, three years after I had left, and that he had
married one of Momolo's daughters.
"He's a rascal; he robbed me."
"I guessed as much; his theft did him no good. He left his wife two
years after their marriage, and no one knows what has become of him."
"How about his wife?"
"She is living miserably in Rome. Her father is dead."
I did not care to go and see the poor woman, for I could not do anything
for her, and I could not have helped saying that if I caught her husband
I would do my best to have him hanged. Such was indeed my intention up
to the year 1785, when I found this runagate at Vienna. He was then
Count Erdich's man, and when we come to that period the reader shall hear
what I did.
I promised Mariuccia to come and see her in the course of Lent.
The Princess Santa Croce and the worthy Cardinal Bernis pitied me for my
hapless love; I often confided my sufferings to their sympathizing ears.
The cardinal told the princess that she could very well obtain permission
from Cardinal Orsini to take Armelline to the theatre, and that if I
cared to join the party I might find her less cruel.
"The cardinal will make no objection," said he, "as Armelline has taken
no vows; but as you must know our friend's mistress before making your
request, you have only to tell the cardinal that you would like to see
the interior of the house."
"Do you think he will give me leave?"
"Certainly; the inmates are not cloistered nuns. We will go with you."
"You will come too? that will be a delightful party indeed."
"Ask for leave, and we will arrange the day."
This plan seemed to me a delicious dream. I guessed that the gallant
cardinal was curious to see Armelline, but I was not afraid as I knew he
was a constant lover. Besides I felt sure that if he took an interest in
the fair recluse he would be certain to find her a husband.
In three or four days the princess summoned me to her box in the Alberti
Theatre, and shewed me Cardinal Orsini's note, allowing her and her
friends to see the interior of the house.
"To-morrow afternoon," said she, "we will fix the day and the hour for
Next day I paid my usual visit to the recluses, and the superioress came
to tell me that the cardinal had told her that the Princess Santa Croce
was coming to visit the house with some friends.
"I know it," said I; "I am coming with her."
"When is she coming?"
"I don't know yet, but I will inform you later on."
"This novelty has turned the house upside down. The devotees scarcely
know whether they are awake or dreaming, for with the exception of a few
priests, the doctor, and the surgeon, no one has ever entered the house
since its foundation."
"All these restrictions are now removed, and you need not ask the
cardinal's permission to receive visits from your friends."
"I know that, but I don't like to go so far."
The time for the visit was fixed for the afternoon of the next day, and I
let the superioress know early the next morning. The Duchess of Fiano
had asked to join us; the cardinal came, of course, dressed as a simple
priest, with no indication of his exalted rank. He knew Armelline
directly from my description, and congratulated her on having made my
The poor girl blushed to the roots of her hair; and I thought she would
have fainted when the princess, after telling her she was the prettiest
girl in the house, gave her two affectionate kisses, a mark of friendship
strictly forbidden by the rules.
After these caresses, the princess proceeded to compliment the
superioress. She said that I had done well to praise her parts, as she
could judge of them by the order and neatness which reigned everywhere.
"I shall mention your name to Cardinal Orsini," she added, "and you may
be sure I shall do you all the justice you deserve."
When we had seen all the rooms, which contained nothing worth seeing, I
presented Emilie to the princess, who received her with great cordiality.
"I have heard of your sadness," she said, "but I know the reason of it.
You are a good girl, and pretty too, and I shall get you a husband who
will cure you of your melancholy."
The superioress gave a smile of approbation, but I saw a dozen aged
devotees pulling wry faces.
Emilie dared not reply, but she took the princess's hand and kissed it,
as if to summon her to keep her promise.
As for me, I was delighted to see that though all the girls were really
pretty, my Armelline eclipsed them all, as the light of the sun obscures
When we came down to the parlour, the princess told Armelline that she
meant to ask leave of the cardinal to take her two or three times to the
theatre before Lent began. This observation seemed to petrify everyone
except the superioress, who said that his eminence had now a perfect
right to relax any or all of the rules of the establishment.
Poor Armelline was so overwhelmed between joy and confusion that she
could not speak. She seemed unable to find words wherein to thank the
princess, who commended her and her friend Emilie to the superioress
before she left the house, and gave her a small present to buy
necessaries for them.
Not to be outdone, the Duchess of Fiano told the superioress that she
would make me the almoner of her bounty towards Armelline and Emilie.
My expressions of gratitude to the princess when we were back in the
carriage may be imagined.
I had no need to excuse Armelline, for the princess and the cardinal had
gauged her capacities. Her confusion had prevented her shewing her
cleverness, but her face shewed her to possess it. Besides, the
influence of the education she had received had to be taken into account.
The princess was impatient to take her to the theatre, and afterwards to
supper at an inn, according to the Roman custom.
She wrote the names of Armelline and Emilie upon her tablets, so as to
remember them on every occasion.
I did not forget the mistress of my poor friend Menicuccio, but the time
was not opportune for mentioning her name. The next day, however, I got
the cardinal's ear, and told him that I was anxious to do something for
the young man. The cardinal saw him, and Menicuccio pleased him so well
that the marriage took place before the end of the carnival, the bride
having a dowry of five hundred crowns. With this sum and the hundred
crowns I gave him, he was in a position to open a shop for himself.
The day after the princess's visit was a triumphant one for me. As soon
as I appeared at the grating the superioress was sent for, and we had an
The princess had given her fifty crowns, which she was going to lay out
on linen for Armelline and Emilie.
The recluses were stupefied when I told them that the fat priest was
Cardinal Bernis, as they had an idea that a cardinal can never doff the
The Duchess of Fiano had sent a cask of wine, which was an unknown
beverage there, and these presents made them hope for others. I was
looked upon as the bringer of all this good luck, and gratitude shewed
itself so plainly in every word and glance that I felt I might hope for
A few days later, the princess told Cardinal Orsini that she had taken a
peculiar interest in two of the young recluses, and desiring to provide
them with suitable establishments she wished to take them now and again
to the theatre so as to give them some knowledge of the world. She
undertook to take them and bring them back herself or only to confide
them to sure hands. The cardinal replied that the superioress should
receive instructions to oblige her in every paraticular.
As soon as I heard of this from the princess, I said that I would
ascertain what orders had been actually received at the convent.
The next day the superioress told me that his eminence had instructed her
to do what she thought best for the welfare of the young people committed
to her charge.
"I have also received orders," she added, "to send in the names of those
who have attained the age of thirty, and wish to leave the convent, that
they may receive a warrant for their two hundred crowns. I have not yet
published this command, but I haven't the slightest doubt that we shall
get rid of a score at least."
I told the princess of the cardinal's orders, and she agreed with me that
his behaviour was most generous.
Cardinal Bernis, who was by, advised her that the first time she took the
girls to the theatre she had better go in person, and tell the
superioress that she would always send her carriage and liveried servants
to fetch them.
The princess approved of this advice, and a few days later she called for
Emilie and Armelline, and brought them to her palace, where I awaited
them with the cardinal, the prince, and the Duchess of Fiano.
They were welcomed warmly, encouraged to reply, to laugh, and to say what
was in their minds, but all in vain; finding themselves for the first
time in a splendid apartment surrounded by brilliant company, they were
so confounded that they could not say a word. Emilie persisted in rising
from her seat whenever she was addressed, and Armelline shone only by her
beauty and the vivid blush which suffused her face whenever she was
addressed. The princess might kiss her as much as she pleased, but the
novice had not the courage to return her kisses.
At last Armelline mustered up courage to take the princess's hand and
kiss it, but when the lady kissed her on the lips the girl remained
inactive, seeming to be absolutely ignorant of such a natural and easy
matter as the returning of a kiss.
The cardinal and the prince laughed; the duchess said that so much
restraint was unnatural. As for me I was on thorns, such awkwardness
seemed to me near akin to stupidity, for Armelline had only to do to the
princess's lips what she had already done to her hand. No doubt she
fancied that to do to the princess what the princess had done to her
would shew too much familiarity.
The cardinal took me on one side and said he could not believe that I had
not initiated her in the course of two months' intimacy, but I pointed
out to him the immense force of long engrained prejudice.
Far this first tine the princess had made up her mind to take them to the
Torre di Nonna Theatre, as comic pieces were played there, and they could
not help but laugh.
After the play we went to sup at an inn, and at table the good cheer and
my exhortations began to take some effect on her. We persuaded them to
drink a little wine, and their spirits improved visibly. Emilie ceased
to be sad, and Armelline gave the princess some real kisses. We
applauded their efforts to be gay and our applause convinced them that
they had done nothing wrong.
Of course the princess charged me with the pleasant trust of taking the
two guests back to the convent. Now, I thought, my time has come; but
when we were in the carriage I saw that I had reckoned without my host.
When I would have kissed, heads were turned aside; when I would have
stretched forth an indiscreet hand, dresses were wrapped more tightly;
when I would have forced my way, I was resisted by force; when I
complained, I was told that I was in the wrong; when I got in a rage, I
was allowed to say on; and when I threatened to see them no more, they
did not believe me.
When we got to the convent a servant opened the side door, and noticing
that she did not shut it after the girls, I went in too, and went with
them to see the superioress, who was in bed, and did not seem at all
astonished to see me. I told her that I considered it my duty to bring
back her young charges in person. She thanked me, asked them if they had
had a pleasant evening, and bade me good night, begging me to make as
little noise as possible on my way downstairs.
I wished them all happy slumbers, and after giving a sequin to the
servant who opened the door, and another to the coachman, I had myself
set down at the door of my lodging. Margarita was asleep on a sofa and
welcomed me with abuse, but she soon found out by the ardour of my
caresses that I had not been guilty of infidelity.
I did not get up till noon, and at three o'clock I called on the princess
and found the cardinal already there.
They expected to hear the story of my triumph, but the tale I told and my
apparent indifference in the matter came as a surprise.
I may as well confess that my face was by no means the index of my mind.
However, I did my best to give the thing a comic turn, saying that I did
not care for Pamelas, and that I had made up my mind to give up the
"My dear fellow," said the cardinal, "I shall take two or three days
before I congratulate you on your self-restraint."
His knowledge of the human heart was very extensive.
Armelline thought I must have slept till late as she did not see me in
the morning as usual; but when the second day went by without my coming
she sent her brother to ask if I were ill, for I had never let two days
pass without paying her a visit.
Menicuccio came accordingly, and was delighted to find me in perfect
"Go and tell your sister," I said, "that I shall continue to interest the
princess on her behalf, but that I shall see her no more."
"Because I wish to cure myself of an unhappy passion. Your sister does
not love me: I am sure of it. I am no longer a young man, and I don't
feel inclined to become a martyr to her virtue. Virtue goes rather too
far when it prevents a girl giving the man who adores her a single kiss."
"Indeed, I would not have believed that of her."
"Nevertheless it is the fact, and I must make an end of it. Your sister
cannot understand the danger she runs in treating a lover in this
fashion. Tell her all that, my dear Menicuccio, but don't give her any
advice of your own."
"You can't think how grieved I am to hear all this; perhaps it's Emilie's
presence that makes her so cold."
"No; I have often pressed her when we have been alone together, but all
in vain. I want to cure myself, for if she does not love me I do not
wish to obtain her either by seduction or by any feeling of gratitude on
her part. Tell me how your future bride treats you."
"Very well, ever since she has been sure of my marrying her."
I felt sorry then that I had given myself out as a married man, for in my
state of irritation I could even have given her a promise of marriage
without deliberately intending to deceive her.
Menicuccio went on his way distressed, and I went to the meeting of the
"Arcadians," at the Capitol, to hear the Marchioness d'Aout recite her
reception piece. This marchioness was a young Frenchwoman who had been
at Rome for the last six months with her husband, a man of many talents,
but inferior to her, for she was a genius. From this day I became her
intimate friend, but without the slightest idea of an intrigue, leaving
all that to a French priest who was hopelessly in love with her, and had
thrown up his chances of preferment for her sake.
Every day the Princess Santa Croce told me that I could have the key to
her box at the theatre whenever I liked to take Armelline and Emilie, but
when a week passed by without my giving any sign she began to believe
that I had really broken off the connection.
The cardinal, on the other hand, believed me to be still in love, and
praised my conduct. He told me that I should have a letter from the
superioress, and he was right; for at the end of the week she wrote me a
polite note begging me to call on her, which I was obliged to obey.
I called on her, and she began by asking me plainly why my visits had
"Because I am in love with Armelline."
"If that reason brought you here every day, I do not see how it can have
suddenly operated in another direction."
"And yet it is all quite natural; for when one loves one desires, and
when one desires in vain one suffers, and continual suffering is great
unhappiness. And so you see that I am bound to act thus for my own
"I pity you, and see the wisdom of your course; but allow me to tell you
that, esteeming Armelline, you have no right to lay her open to a
judgment being passed upon her which is very far from the truth."
"And what judgment is that?"
"That your love was only a whim, and that as soon as it was satisfied you
"I am sorry indeed to hear of this, but what can I do? I must cure
myself of this unhappy passion. Do you know any other remedy than
absence? Kindly advise me."
"I don't know much about the affection called love, but it seems to me
that by slow degrees love becomes friendship, and peace is restored."
"True, but if it is to become friendship, love must be gently treated.
If the beloved object is not very tender, love grows desperate and turns
to indifference or contempt. I neither wish to grow desperate nor to
despise Armelline, who is a miracle of beauty and goodness. I shall do
my utmost for her, just as if she had made me happy, but I will see her
"I am in complete darkness on the matter. They assure me that they have
never failed in their duty towards you, and that they cannot imagine why
you have ceased coming here."
"Whether by prudence, or timidity, or a delicate wish not to say anything
against me, they have told you a lie; but you deserve to know all, and my
honour requires that I should tell you the whole story."
"Please do so; you may count on my discretion."
I then told my tale, and I saw she was moved.
"I have always tried," she said, "never to believe evil except on
compulsion, nevertheless, knowing as I do the weakness of the human
heart, I could never have believed that throughout so long and intimate
an acquaintance you could have kept yourself so severely within bounds.
In my opinion there would be much less harm in a kiss than in all this
"I am sure that Armelline does not care about it."
"She does nothing but weep."
"Her tears probably spring from vanity, or from the cause her companions
assign for my absence."
"No, I have told them all that you are ill."
"What does Emilie say?"
"She does not weep, but she looks sad, and says over and over again that
it is not her fault if you do not come, thereby hinting that it is
Armelline's fault. Come tomorrow to oblige me. They are dying to see
the opera at the Aliberti, and the comic opera at the Capronica."
"Very good, then I will breakfast with them to-morrow morning, and to-
morrow evening they shall see the opera."
"You are very good; I thank you. Shall I tell them the news?"
"Please tell Armelline that I am only coming after hearing all that you
have said to me."
The princess skipped for joy when she heard of my interview with the
superioress, and the cardinal said he had guessed as much. The princess
gave me the key of her box, and ordered that her carriage and servants
should be at my orders.
The next day when I went to the convent Emilie came down by herself to
reproach me on my cruel conduct. She told me that a man who really loved
would not have acted in such a manner, and that I had been wrong to tell
the superioress everything.
"I would not have said anything if I had had anything important to say."
"Armelline has become unhappy through knowing you."
"Because she does not want to fail in her duty, and she sees that you
only love her to turn her from it."
"But her unhappiness will cease when I cease troubling her."
"Do you mean you are not going to see her any more?"
"Exactly. Do you think that it costs me no pain? But I must make the
Back to Full Books