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and two hundred and sixty for America. Type distributed. Each
copy numbered.







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The Etchings designed and etched by AD. LALAUZE. The Masks,
illustrating the Italian Commedia dell' Arte, by MAURICE SAND,
engraved by A. MANCEAU, and coloured by hand.


I. Gozzi AND HIS FIRST LOVE (etching) . . .26


LUNA (etching) ...... 60

III. PANTALONE (1550) . . . . . . .144

V. SACCHI AND SIGNORA RICCI (etching) . . . 208

VI. RUZZANTE (1525) ....... 240

VII. COVIELLO (1550) ....... 256

VIII. GRATAROL'S INTERVIEW WITH Gozzi (etching) . .284
IX. LEANDRE ........ 320




Concerning my Physical and Mental Qualities.

IN the course of these Memoirs I have promised
more than once to give an exact description of my
external appearance and internal qualities, and also
to narrate the stoiy of my love-affairs.

In stature I am tall. Of this I am made conscious
by the large amount of cloth needed for my cloaks, and
by the frequent knocks I give my forehead on enter-
ing rooms with low doors. I have the good luck to
be neither crook-backed, lame, blind, nor squint-
eyed. I call this good luck ; and yet if I were
afflicted with one or other of these deformities, I
should bear it with the same lightness of heart at
Venice as Scarron put up with his deformities in

This is all I know or have to say about my
physical frame. From early youth I have left to
women the trouble of telling me that I was hand-



some with a view to flatter me, or that I was
ugly with a view to irritate, in neither of which
attempts have they succeeded. Dirt and squalor
I always loathed. Otherwise, if I ever chanced
to wear clothes of a new cut, this was due to
my tailor, and not to my orders. Ask Giuseppe
Fornace, my rogue of a snip for over forty years,
if I ever racked my brains about such matters,
as so many do. From the year 1735 to 1780, at
which date I am writing, I stuck to the same mode
of dressing my hair with heroic constancy. Fashion
has changed perhaps a hundred times during this
period, yet I have never deviated from my adopted
style of coiffure. In like manner I have worn the
same type of buckles ; except when I happened to
break a pair, and was forced to change them from
square to oval ; and then I did so at the instance of
the goldsmith, who made me take the lightest in his
shop, because they would break sooner and give him
more to do in mending them.

Men who talk little and think much, to which
class, peradventure, I belong, being immersed in their
own meditations, catch the habit of knitting their
brows in the travail of reflection. This gives them
an air of savagery, sternness, almost ferocity. Though
I am gay by nature, as appears from my published
writings, yet the innumerable thoughts which kept
my brains in a turmoil, through anxieties about our
family, lawsuits, schemes of economy, literary plans,


and so forth, bred in me a trick of contracting my
forehead and frowning, which, combined with my
slow gait, taciturnity, and preference for solitary-
places, won me the reputation among those who
were not my familiar friends of being a surly, sullen,
unapproachable fellow, perhaps even an enemy of
mankind. Many who have come upon me, ponder-
ing, with knitted brows and gloomy downcast eyes,
will have suspected that I was planning how to kill
an enemy, while really I was constructing the plot of
my Green Bird.

In the society of people new to me, I always ap-
peared drowsy, stupid, silent, and lethargic, until I
had studied their characters and ways of thinking.
Afterwards I turned out quite the opposite ; not,
however, that I may not have remained a fool ; but
I was one of those fools who utter laconisms, less
tiresome to the company than interminable flowery

I was not miserly, because I always loathed that
vice, nor prodigal, for the sole reason that I was not
rich. I cannot form any conception of the influence
which wealth might have exercised over my imagina-
tion and my moral nature, both being doubtless not
more free from foibles than in the case of other
men and women.

I might have earned considerably by my numerous
published works, but I made a present of them all
to comedians and booksellers, or to persons who


sought to profit by giving them to the press. Per-
haps I shall not be believed when I say that I
invariably refused such profit for myself. Yet this
is the fact. Some who are aware that I was far from
rich, will take me to task for my indifference to
gain ; they will attribute my generosity to vainglory
or to stupidity. I had, however, my own reasons,
which were as follows. My writings were always
marked by freedom, boldness, pungency, and satire
upon public manners ; at the same time, moral and
playful in expression. Being unpaid, they gained the
advantage of a certain decent independence, which
secured for them toleration, appreciation, and ap-
plause on their own merits. Had I been paid for
them, they would have lost their prestige ; my an-
tagonists might have stigmatised them as a parcel of
insufferable mercenary calumnies, and I should have
been exposed to universal odium.

In addition to this : there is no degradation for
men of letters in Italy worse than that of writing for
hire in the employ of publishers or of our wretched
comedians. The publishers begin by caressing
authors, with a view to getting hold of their works ;
then they turn round and cast their pretended losses
in the author's teeth. To hear them, you would
imagine that books for which they had begged on
their knees before they sent them to press, were now
a load of useless stones encumbering their shelves.
The wretched pence they fling at a writer for some


masterpiece on which he has distilled the best part
of his brains, are doled out with the air of bestowing
alms. More fuss is made about it, and it costs more
effort, than if the money were being paid for masses
for the dead, who have no need to clothe and feed
themselves. All this is bad enough. But Apollo
protect a poet from being reduced to serve a troop
of our comedians at wages ! There is not a galley-
slave more abjectly condemned to servitude than he.
There is not a stevedore who carries half the weight
that he does ; not an ass who gets more blows
and fouler language, if his drama fails to draw
the whole world in a fever of excitement to the

For these reasons, I have always shrunk from
letting out my pen to hire. On the frequent occa-
sions when family affairs and litigation have emptied
my purse, I always chose rather to borrow from friends
than to plunge into the mire and rake up a few filthy
stinking sequins. In the one case I incurred the
pleasing burden of gratitude to my obligers ; in the
second I should have bent beneath the weight of
shameful self-abasement.

Not even the brotherly terms on which I lived
with comedians, nor my free gift to them through
five-and-twenty years of all my writings for the
stage, preserved me from the acts of ingratitude, and
the annoyances which are described in the ensuing
chapters of my Memoirs. Think then what would


have become of me if I had been their salaried
poet !

Italy lacks noblemen, to play the part of Mecsenas,
and to protect men of letters and the theatre. Had
there been such, and had they thought me worthy
of their munificence, I should not have blushed to
receive it. Knowing my country, however, and
Venice in particular, I never allowed myself to
indulge flattering dreams of any such honourable

Sustained by my natural keen sense of the ludi-
crous, I have never even felt saddened by seeing
the morality, which I held for sound and sought to
diffuse through my writings, turned upside down by
the insidious subtleties and sophisms of our century.
On the contrary, it amused me vastly to notice how
all the men and all the women of this age believed
in good faith that they had become philosophers.
It has afforded me a constant source of indescribable
recreation to study the fantastic jargons which have
sprung up like mushrooms, the obscure and forced
ways of expressing thoughts, spawned by misty self-
styled science, invested with bombastic terms and
phrases alien to the genius of our language. Not
less have I diverted myself with the spectacle of all
the various passions to which humanity is subject,
suddenly unleashed, playing their parts with the
freedom of emancipated imps, let loose from their
hiding-place by famous discoverers just like those


devils in the tale of Bonaventura des Periers,
whom Solomon sealed up in a caldron and buried
beneath the ground until a pack of wiseacres dug
them up and sent them scampering across the world
again. 1

The spectacle of women turned into men, men
turned into women, and both men and women
turned into monkeys ; all of them immersed in dis-
coveries and inventions and the kaleidoscopic whirli-
gigs of fashion ; corrupting and seducing one another
with the eagerness of hounds upon the scent ; vying
in their lusts and ruinous extravagances ; destroying
the fortunes of their families by turns ; laughing at
Plato and Petrarch ; leaving real sensibility to lan-
guish in disuse, and giving its respectable name to
the thinly veiled brutality of the senses ; turning
indecency into decency ; calling all who differ from
them hypocrites, and burning incense with philo-
sophical solemnity to Priapus : these things ought
perhaps to have presented themselves to my eyes in
the form of a lamentable tragedy ; yet I could never
see in them more than a farce, which delighted while
it stupefied me.

I have made but few intimate friendships, being
of opinion that a man of many friends is the real

1 Desperiers lived iii France between 1480 and 1544. He was servant
to Marguerite de Navarre, and a writer of Rabelaisian humour. His
two principal works are called Cymbalum Mundi and Nonvelles, Recrda-
tions et Joyeux Ddvis.


friend of none. Neither time, nor distance, nor even
occasional rudeness, interrupted the rare friendships
which I contracted for life, and which are still as
firm as ever.

Now and then, I have given way to angry im-
pulses on sustaining affronts or injuries ; and at such
times men of phlegmatic temper are more decided in
their action than the irascible. Reflection, however,
always calmed me down ; nor was I ever disposed to
endure the wretchedness which comes from foster-
ing rancour or meditating revenge.

I am inclined to laugh both at esprits faibles, who
believe in everything, and at esprits forts, who pre-
tend that they believe in nothing. Yet I hold that
the latter are really weaker, and I am sure that they
do more harm, than the former.

Notwithstanding my invincible habit of laughing,
I am firmly persuaded that man is a sublimely noble
animal, raised infinitely far above the brutes. Conse-
quently I could not condescend to regard myself as
a bit of dung or mud, a dog or a pig, in the humble
manner of freethinkers. In spite of all the pernicious
systems generated by men of ambitious and seductive
intellect, we are forced to believe ourselves higher
in the scale of beings, and more perfect, than they
are willing to admit. Although we may not be able
to define with certainty what we are, we know at
any rate beyond all contradiction what we are not.
Let the freethinking pigs and hens rout in their mud


and scratch in their midden ; let us laugh and quiz
them, or weep and pity them ; but let us hold fast
to the beliefs transmitted to us by an august line of
philosophers, far wiser, far more worthy of attention,
than these sages of the muck and dungheap. The
modern caprice of turning all things topsy-turvy,
which makes Epicure an honest man, Seneca an
impostor ; which holds up Voltaire, Rousseau, Helve-
tius, Mirabeau, &c., to our veneration, while it pours
contempt upon the fathers of the Church ; this and
all the other impious doctrines scattered broadcast in
our century by sensual fanatics, more fit for the mad-
house than the university, have no fascination for my
mind. I contemplate the disastrous influence exer-
cised by atheism over whole nations. This confirms
me still more in the faith of my forefathers. When I
think of those fanatics, the sages of the muck and
midden, when I think of mankind deceived by them,
I repeat in their behoof the sacred words of Christ
upon the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they
know not what they do." Finally, I assert that I
have always kept alive in me the flame of our august
religion, and that this has been for me my greatest
stay and solace during every affliction. The philo-
sophers of the moment may laugh at me ; I am
quite contented for them to regard me as a dullard,
besotted by what they choose to stigmatise as pre-



Condensed by the Translator.

[Gozzi having been accused by his adversary
Gratarol of hypocrisy and covert libertinism, wished
to make a full confession of his frailties to the world,
while the witnesses of his life and conversation were
still alive, and his statements could be challenged.
With this object he related three love-passages of
his early manhood. To omit these altogether from
his Memoirs would be tantamount to doing him a
grave injustice, since they were meant to illustrate
his sentiments upon the delicate question of the
relation between men and women in affairs of the
heart. They are not, however, suited to the taste of
the present century, being dictated with a frankness
and a sense of humour which remind us of our own
Fielding. Their tone is wholesome and manly, but
some of their details are crude. It is the translator's
duty in these circumstances to subordinate literary
to ethical considerations. Repeating the stories, so
far as possible, in Gozzi's own language, he must
supply those parts which he feels bound to omit by
a brief statement of fact. The portions of this chapter
which are enclosed in brackets contain the trans-


lator's abstract. The rest is a more or less literal
version of the original text.]


Story of my first love, with an unexpected termination,

In order to relate the trifling stories of my love-
adventures, I must return to the period of my early
manhood. I ought indeed to blush while telling
them, at the age which I have reached ; but I pro-
mised the tales, and I shall give them with all
candour, even though I have to blush the while.

Being a man, I felt the sympathy for women which
all men feel. As soon as I could comprehend the
difference between the sexes and one arrives betimes
at such discretion women appeared to me a kind
of earthly goddesses. I far preferred the society of
a woman to that of a man. It happened, however,
that education and religious principles were so deeply
rooted in my nature, and acted on me so powerfully
as checks to inclination, that they made me in those
salad days extremely modest and reserved. I hardly
know whether this modesty and this reserve of mine
were quite agreeable to all the girls of my acquaint-
ance during the years of my first manhood.

I can take my oath that I left my father's house,
at the age of sixteen, on military service in Dalmatia,


innocent I will not say in thoughts but most inno-
cent as to the acts of love. The town of Zara was
the rock on which this frail bark of my innocency
foundered ; and since I hope to make my readers
laugh at my peculiar bent in love-making, and also
by the tales of my amours, I will first describe my
character in this respect, and then proceed to the

I always preserved a tincture of romantic meta-
physics with regard to love. The brutality of the
senses had less to do with my peccadilloes than a
delicate inclination and tenderness of heart. I
cherished so lofty and respectful a conception of
feminine honour and virtue that any women who
abandoned themselves to facile pleasures were abhor-
rent to my taste. A^fille de joie, as the voluptuaries
say, appeared to me more frightful, more disgusting,
than the Ore described by Boiardo. 1 Never have I
employed the iniquitous art of seduction by sug-
gestive language, nor have I ever allowed myself
the slightest freedom which might stimulate desire.
Languishing in soft and thrilling sentiments, I
demanded from a woman sympathy and inclination
of like nature with my own. If she fell, I thought
that this should only happen through one of those
blind and sudden transports which suppress our

1 The Oreo was a huge sea-monster, shaped like a gigantic crab. It
first appeared in Boiardo's Orlando Innamorato (Bk. iii. Cant. 3), and
was afterwards developed by Ariosto, Orl. Fur. (Cant. 17).


reason on both sides, the mutual violence of which
admits of no control. Nothing could have been
more charming to my fancy than the contemplation
of a woman, blushing, terrified, with eyes cast down
to earth, after yielding to the blind force of affec-
tion in self-abandonment to impulse. I should have
remembered how she made for me the greatest of
all sacrifices that of honour and of virtue, on
which I set so high a value. I should have wor-
shipped her like a deity. I could have spent my
life's blood in consoling her; and without swearing
eternal constancy, I should have been most stable
on my side in loving such a mistress. On the
other hand, I could have safely defied all men alive
upon the earth to take a more sudden, more resolute,
and more irreversible step of separation than myself,
however much it cost me, if only I discovered in that
woman a character different from what I had imagined
and conceived of her, while all the same I should
have maintained her honour and good repute at the
cost of my own life.

This delicate or eccentric way of mine in thinking
about love exposed me to facile deceptions in my
youthful years, when the blood boils, and self-love
has some right to illusion, and the great acquirement
of experience is yet to be made.

The narratives of my first loves will confer but
little honour on the fair sex ; but before I enter
on them I must protest that I have always made


allowance for the misfortune under which, per-
haps, I suffered, of having had bad luck in love ;
which does not shake my conviction that many
phoenixes may be alive with whom I was unworthy
to consort.

After living through the mortal illness which I
suffered during the first days of my residence at
Zara an illness undergone and overcome in that
squalid room described by me in the first part of
these Memoirs I moved into one of the so-called
Quarterioni situated on the beautiful walls of Zara,
and built for the use of officers. A very good room,
which I furnished suitably to my moderate means,
together with a kitchen, formed the whole of my
apartment. I engaged a soldier for my service at
a small remuneration. He had orders to retire in
the evening to his quarters, leaving me a light burn-
ing. I remained alone ; went to bed, with a book
and a candle at my side ; read, yawned, and fell

Now to attack the tale of my first love-adventure !
Its details will perhaps prove tiresome, but they may
yet be profitable to the inexperience of youngsters.

Opposite my windows, at a certain distance, rose
the dwelling of three sisters, noble by birth, but sunk
in poverty which had nothing to do with noble blood.
An officer, their brother, sent them trifling monies
from his foreign station, and they earned a little for
their livelihood by various woman's w r ork, with which


I saw them occupied. The elder of these three
Graces would not have been ugly, if her bloodshot
eyes, rimmed round with scarlet, had not obscured
the lustre of her countenance. The second was one
of those bewitching rogues who are bound to please.
Not tall, but well-made, and a brunette ; her hair black
and long ; eyes very black and sparkling. Under her
demure aspect there transpired a force of physique
and a vivacity which were certainly seductive. The
third was still a girl, lively, spirited, with possibili-
ties of good or evil in her make.

I never saw these three nymphs except by accident,
when I opened the window at which I used to wash
my hands, and when their windows were also open,
which happened seldom. They saluted me with a
becoming bow. I answered with equal decorum and
sobriety. Meanwhile, I did not fail, as time went on,
to notice that whenever I opened my window to wash
my hands, that little devil, the second sister, lost no
time in opening her window too, and washed her
hands precisely while I was washing mine ; also, when
she bent her lovely head to greet me, she kept those
fine black eyes of hers fixed on my face in a sort of
dream, and with a kind of languor well fitted to
captivate a lad. I felt, indeed, a certain tickling at
my heart-strings ; but the austere thoughts to which
I was accustomed, cured me of that weakness ; and
without failing in civility, I kept myself within the
bounds of grave indifference.


A Genoese woman, to whom I paid a trifle for
ironing my scanty linen, came one morning with
some of my shirts in a basket. Upon the washing
lay a very fine carnation. "Whose is that flower?"
I asked. " It is sent to you," she answered, " and
from the hands of a lovely girl, your neighbour, for
whom you have the cruelty to take no heed." The
carnation and the diplomatic message and well knew
I from whence both came increased the itching at
my heart-strings. Nevertheless, I answered the am-
bassadress in terms like these : " Thank that lovely
damsel on my part ; but do not fail to tell her that
she is wasting her flowers to little purpose."

My head began to spin round and my heart to
soften. At the same time, when I reflected that I
had no wish to enter into matrimonial engagements,
which were wholly excluded from my plan of life,
nor yet to prejudice the reputation of a girl by traffic
with her furthermore, when I considered how little
money I possessed, to be bestowed on one in whom
I recognised so much of beauty I stamped out all
the sparks of sympathy which drew me toward her.
I began by never washing my hands at the window,
in order to escape the arrows of those thievish eyes.
This act of retirement was ineffectual ; indeed, it led
to worse consequences.

One day I was called to attend upon my old friend,
the officer Giovanni Apergi, who had been my
master in military exercises, and who was now in


bed, racked and afflicted with aches acquired in
youthful dissipation. He had his lodging on the
walls, not far away from mine, in the house of a
woman well advanced in years, the wife of a notary.
Thither then I went.

The elderly housekeeper began to twit me with
my rustic manners. Gradually she passed to sharp
but motherly reproof ; in a youngster of from sixteen
to seventeen, like myself, the sobriety of a man of
fifty had all the effect of caricature ; in particular, my
treatment of well-bred handsome girls, devotedly in

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Online LibraryCarlo GozziThe memoirs of Count Carlo Gozzi (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 23)