Giacomo Casanova.

Memoirs of Casanova — Volume 04: Return to Venice online

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A Fearful Misfortune Befalls Me - Love Cools Down - Leave Corfu and Return
to Venice - Give Up the Army and Become a Fiddler

The wound was rapidly healing up, and I saw near at hand the moment when
Madame F - - would leave her bed, and resume her usual avocations.

The governor of the galeasses having issued orders for a general review
at Gouyn, M. F - - , left for that place in his galley, telling me to join
him there early on the following day with the felucca. I took supper
alone with Madame F - - , and I told her how unhappy it made me to remain
one day away from her.

"Let us make up to-night for to-morrow's disappointment," she said, "and
let us spend it together in conversation. Here are the keys; when you
know that my maid has left me, come to me through my husband's room."

I did not fail to follow her instructions to the letter, and we found
ourselves alone with five hours before us. It was the month of June, and
the heat was intense. She had gone to bed; I folded her in my arms, she
pressed me to her bosom, but, condemning herself to the most cruel
torture, she thought I had no right to complain, if I was subjected to
the same privation which she imposed upon herself. My remonstrances, my
prayers, my entreaties were of no avail.

"Love," she said, "must be kept in check with a tight hand, and we can
laugh at him, since, in spite of the tyranny which we force him to obey,
we succeed all the same in gratifying our desires."

After the first ecstacy, our eyes and lips unclosed together, and a
little apart from each other we take delight in seeing the mutual
satisfaction beaming on our features.

Our desires revive; she casts a look upon my state of innocence entirely
exposed to her sight. She seems vexed at my want of excitement, and,
throwing off everything which makes the heat unpleasant and interferes
with our pleasure, she bounds upon me. It is more than amorous fury, it
is desperate lust. I share her frenzy, I hug her with a sort of delirium,
I enjoy a felicity which is on the point of carrying me to the regions of
bliss.... but, at the very moment of completing the offering, she fails
me, moves off, slips away, and comes back to work off my excitement with
a hand which strikes me as cold as ice.

"Ah, thou cruel, beloved woman! Thou art burning with the fire of love,
and thou deprivest thyself of the only remedy which could bring calm to
thy senses! Thy lovely hand is more humane than thou art, but thou has
not enjoyed the felicity that thy hand has given me. My hand must owe
nothing to thine. Come, darling light of my heart, come! Love doubles my
existence in the hope that I will die again, but only in that charming
retreat from which you have ejected me in the very moment of my greatest

While I was speaking thus, her very soul was breathing forth the most
tender sighs of happiness, and as she pressed me tightly in her arms I
felt that she was weltering in an ocean of bliss.

Silence lasted rather a long time, but that unnatural felicity was
imperfect, and increased my excitement.

"How canst thou complain," she said tenderly, "when it is to that very
imperfection of our enjoyment that we are indebted for its continuance? I
loved thee a few minutes since, now I love thee a thousand times more,
and perhaps I should love thee less if thou hadst carried my enjoyment to
its highest limit."

"Oh! how much art thou mistaken, lovely one! How great is thy error! Thou
art feeding upon sophisms, and thou leavest reality aside; I mean nature
which alone can give real felicity. Desires constantly renewed and never
fully satisfied are more terrible than the torments of hell."

"But are not these desires happiness when they are always accompanied by

"No, if that hope is always disappointed. It becomes hell itself, because
there is no hope, and hope must die when it is killed by constant

"Dearest, if hope does not exist in hell, desires cannot be found there
either; for to imagine desires without hopes would be more than madness."

"Well, answer me. If you desire to be mine entirely, and if you feel the
hope of it, which, according to your way of reasoning, is a natural
consequence, why do you always raise an impediment to your own hope?
Cease, dearest, cease to deceive yourself by absurd sophisms. Let us be
as happy as it is in nature to be, and be quite certain that the reality
of happiness will increase our love, and that love will find a new life
in our very enjoyment."

"What I see proves the contrary; you are alive with excitement now, but
if your desires had been entirely satisfied, you would be dead, benumbed,
motionless. I know it by experience: if you had breathed the full ecstacy
of enjoyment, as you desired, you would have found a weak ardour only at
long intervals."

"Ah! charming creature, your experience is but very small; do not trust
to it. I see that you have never known love. That which you call love's
grave is the sanctuary in which it receives life, the abode which makes
it immortal. Give way to my prayers, my lovely friend, and then you shall
know the difference between Love and Hymen. You shall see that, if Hymen
likes to die in order to get rid of life, Love on the contrary expires
only to spring up again into existence, and hastens to revive, so as to
savour new enjoyment. Let me undeceive you, and believe me when I say
that the full gratification of desires can only increase a hundredfold
the mutual ardour of two beings who adore each other."

"Well, I must believe you; but let us wait. In the meantime let us enjoy
all the trifles, all the sweet preliminaries of love. Devour thy
mistress, dearest, but abandon to me all thy being. If this night is too
short we must console ourselves to-morrow by making arrangements for
another one."

"And if our intercourse should be discovered?"

"Do we make a mystery of it? Everybody can see that we love each other,
and those who think that we do not enjoy the happiness of lovers are
precisely the only persons we have to fear. We must only be careful to
guard against being surprised in the very act of proving our love. Heaven
and nature must protect our affection, for there is no crime when two
hearts are blended in true love. Since I have been conscious of my own
existence, Love has always seemed to me the god of my being, for every
time I saw a man I was delighted; I thought that I was looking upon
one-half of myself, because I felt I was made for him and he for me. I
longed to be married. It was that uncertain longing of the heart which
occupies exclusively a young girl of fifteen. I had no conception of
love, but I fancied that it naturally accompanied marriage. You can
therefore imagine my surprise when my husband, in the very act of making
a woman of me, gave me a great deal of pain without giving me the
slightest idea of pleasure! My imagination in the convent was much better
than the reality I had been condemned to by my husband! The result has
naturally been that we have become very good friends, but a very
indifferent husband and wife, without any desires for each other. He has
every reason to be pleased with me, for I always shew myself docile to
his wishes, but enjoyment not being in those cases seasoned by love, he
must find it without flavour, and he seldom comes to me for it.

"When I found out that you were in love with me, I felt delighted, and
gave you every opportunity of becoming every day more deeply enamoured of
me, thinking myself certain of never loving you myself. As soon as I felt
that love had likewise attacked my heart, I ill-treated you to punish you
for having made my heart sensible. Your patience and constancy have
astonished me, and have caused me to be guilty, for after the first kiss
I gave you I had no longer any control over myself. I was indeed
astounded when I saw the havoc made by one single kiss, and I felt that
my happiness was wrapped up in yours. That discovery flattered and
delighted me, and I have found out, particularly to-night, that I cannot
be happy unless you are so yourself."

"That is, my beloved, the most refined of all sentiments experienced by
love, but it is impossible for you to render me completely happy without
following in everything the laws and the wishes of nature."

The night was spent in tender discussions and in exquisite
voluptuousness, and it was not without some grief that at day-break I
tore myself from her arms to go to Gouyn. She wept for joy when she saw
that I left her without having lost a particle of my vigour, for she did
not imagine such a thing possible.

After that night, so rich in delights, ten or twelve days passed without
giving us any opportunity of quenching even a small particle of the
amorous thirst which devoured us, and it was then that a fearful
misfortune befell me.

One evening after supper, M. D - - R - - having retired, M. F - - used no
ceremony, and, although I was present, told his wife that he intended to
pay her a visit after writing two letters which he had to dispatch early
the next morning. The moment he had left the room we looked at each
other, and with one accord fell into each other's arms. A torrent of
delights rushed through our souls without restraint, without reserve, but
when the first ardour had been appeased, without giving me time to think
or to enjoy the most complete, the most delicious victory, she drew back,
repulsed me, and threw herself, panting, distracted, upon a chair near
her bed. Rooted to the spot, astonished, almost mad, I tremblingly looked
at her, trying to understand what had caused such an extraordinary
action. She turned round towards me and said, her eyes flashing with the
fire of love,

"My darling, we were on the brink of the precipice."

"The precipice! Ah! cruel woman, you have killed me, I feel myself dying,
and perhaps you will never see me again."

I left her in a state of frenzy, and rushed out, towards the esplanade,
to cool myself, for I was choking. Any man who has not experienced the
cruelty of an action like that of Madame F - - , and especially in the
situation I found myself in at that moment, mentally and bodily, can
hardly realize what I suffered, and, although I have felt that suffering,
I could not give an idea of it.

I was in that fearful state, when I heard my name called from a window,
and unfortunately I condescended to answer. I went near the window, and I
saw, thanks to the moonlight, the famous Melulla standing on her balcony.

"What are you doing there at this time of night?" I enquired.

"I am enjoying the cool evening breeze. Come up for a little while."

This Melulla, of fatal memory, was a courtezan from Zamte, of rare
beauty, who for the last four months had been the delight and the rage of
all the young men in Corfu. Those who had known her agreed in extolling
her charms: she was the talk of all the city. I had seen her often, but,
although she was very beautiful, I was very far from thinking her as
lovely as Madame F - - , putting my affection for the latter on one side.
I recollect seeing in Dresden, in the year 1790, a very handsome woman
who was the image of Melulla.

I went upstairs mechanically, and she took me to a voluptuous boudoir;
she complained of my being the only one who had never paid her a visit,
when I was the man she would have preferred to all others, and I had the
infamy to give way.... I became the most criminal of men.

It was neither desire, nor imagination, nor the merit of the woman which
caused me to yield, for Melulla was in no way worthy of me; no, it was
weakness, indolence, and the state of bodily and mental irritation in
which I then found myself: it was a sort of spite, because the angel whom
I adored had displeased me by a caprice, which, had I not been unworthy
of her, would only have caused me to be still more attached to her.

Melulla, highly pleased with her success, refused the gold I wanted to
give her, and allowed me to go after I had spent two hours with her.

When I recovered my composure, I had but one feeling-hatred for myself
and for the contemptible creature who had allured me to be guilty of so
vile an insult to the loveliest of her sex. I went home the prey to
fearful remorse, and went to bed, but sleep never closed my eyes
throughout that cruel night.

In the morning, worn out with fatigue and sorrow, I got up, and as soon
as I was dressed I went to M. F - - , who had sent for me to give me some
orders. After I had returned, and had given him an account of my mission,
I called upon Madame F - - , and finding her at her toilet I wished her
good morning, observing that her lovely face was breathing the
cheerfulness and the calm of happiness; but, suddenly, her eyes meeting
mine, I saw her countenance change, and an expression of sadness replace
her looks of satisfaction. She cast her eyes down as if she was deep in
thought, raised them again as if to read my very soul, and breaking our
painful silence, as soon as she had dismissed her maid, she said to me,
with an accent full of tenderness and of solemnity,

"Dear one, let there be no concealment either on my part or on yours. I
felt deeply grieved when I saw you leave me last night, and a little
consideration made me understand all the evil which might accrue to you
in consequence of what I had done. With a nature like yours, such scenes
might cause very dangerous disorders, and I have resolved not to do again
anything by halves. I thought that you went out to breathe the fresh air,
and I hoped it would do you good. I placed myself at my window, where I
remained more than an hour without seeing alight in your room. Sorry for
what I had done, loving you more than ever, I was compelled, when my
husband came to my room, to go to bed with the sad conviction that you
had not come home. This morning, M. F. sent an officer to tell you that
he wanted to see you, and I heard the messenger inform him that you were
not yet up, and that you had come home very late. I felt my heart swell
with sorrow. I am not jealous, dearest, for I know that you cannot love
anyone but me; I only felt afraid of some misfortune. At last, this
morning, when I heard you coming, I was happy, because I was ready to
skew my repentance, but I looked at you, and you seemed a different man.
Now, I am still looking at you, and, in spite of myself, my soul reads
upon your countenance that you are guilty, that you have outraged my
love. Tell me at once, dearest, if I am mistaken; if you have deceived
me, say so openly. Do not be unfaithful to love and to truth. Knowing
that I was the cause of it, I should never forgive my self, but there is
an excuse for you in my heart, in my whole being."

More than once, in the course of my life, I have found myself under the
painful necessity of telling falsehoods to the woman I loved; but in this
case, after so true, so touching an appeal, how could I be otherwise than
sincere? I felt myself sufficiently debased by my crime, and I could not
degrade myself still more by falsehood. I was so far from being disposed
to such a line of conduct that I could not speak, and I burst out crying.

"What, my darling! you are weeping! Your tears make me miserable. You
ought not to have shed any with me but tears of happiness and love.
Quick, my beloved, tell me whether you have made me wretched. Tell me
what fearful revenge you have taken on me, who would rather die than
offend you. If I have caused you any sorrow, it has been in the innocence
of a loving and devoted heart."

"My own darling angel, I never thought of revenge, for my heart, which
can never cease to adore you, could never conceive such a dreadful idea.
It is against my own heart that my cowardly weakness has allured me to
the commission of a crime which, for the remainder of my life, makes me
unworthy of you."

"Have you, then, given yourself to some wretched woman?"

"Yes, I have spent two hours in the vilest debauchery, and my soul was
present only to be the witness of my sadness, of my remorse, of my

"Sadness and remorse! Oh, my poor friend! I believe it. But it is my
fault; I alone ought to suffer; it is I who must beg you to forgive me."

Her tears made mine flow again.

"Divine soul," I said, "the reproaches you are addressing to yourself
increase twofold the gravity of my crime. You would never have been
guilty of any wrong against me if I had been really worthy of your love."

I felt deeply the truth of my words.

We spent the remainder of the day apparently quiet and composed,
concealing our sadness in the depths of our hearts. She was curious to
know all the circumstances of my miserable adventure, and, accepting it
as an expiation, I related them to her. Full of kindness, she assured me
that we were bound to ascribe that accident to fate, and that the same
thing might have happened to the best of men. She added that I was more
to be pitied than condemned, and that she did not love me less. We both
were certain that we would seize the first favourable opportunity, she of
obtaining her pardon, I of atoning for my crime, by giving each other new
and complete proofs of our mutual ardour. But Heaven in its justice had
ordered differently, and I was cruelly punished for my disgusting

On the third day, as I got up in the morning, an awful pricking announced
the horrid state into which the wretched Melulla had thrown me. I was
thunderstruck! And when I came to think of the misery which I might have
caused if, during the last three days, I had obtained some new favour
from my lovely mistress, I was on the point of going mad. What would have
been her feelings if I had made her unhappy for the remainder of her
life! Would anyone, then, knowing the whole case, have condemned me if I
had destroyed my own life in order to deliver myself from everlasting
remorse? No, for the man who kills himself from sheer despair, thus
performing upon himself the execution of the sentence he would have
deserved at the hands of justice cannot be blamed either by a virtuous
philosopher or by a tolerant Christian. But of one thing I am quite
certain: if such a misfortune had happened, I should have committed

Overwhelmed with grief by the discovery I had just made, but thinking
that I should get rid of the inconvenience as I had done three times
before, I prepared myself for a strict diet, which would restore my
health in six weeks without anyone having any suspicion of my illness,
but I soon found out that I had not seen the end of my troubles; Melulla
had communicated to my system all the poisons which corrupt the source of
life. I was acquainted with an elderly doctor of great experience in
those matters; I consulted him, and he promised to set me to rights in
two months; he proved as good as his word. At the beginning of September
I found myself in good health, and it was about that time that I returned
to Venice.

The first thing I resolved on, as soon as I discovered the state I was
in, was to confess everything to Madame F - - . I did not wish to wait for
the time when a compulsory confession would have made her blush for her
weakness, and given her cause to think of the fearful consequences which
might have been the result of her passion for me. Her affection was too
dear to me to run the risk of losing it through a want of confidence in
her. Knowing her heart, her candour, and the generosity which had
prompted her to say that I was more to be pitied than blamed, I thought
myself bound to prove by my sincerity that I deserved her esteem.

I told her candidly my position and the state I had been thrown in, when
I thought of the dreadful consequences it might have had for her. I saw
her shudder and tremble, and she turned pale with fear when I added that
I would have avenged her by killing myself.

"Villainous, infamous Melulla!" she exclaimed.

And I repeated those words, but turning them against myself when I
realized all I had sacrificed through the most disgusting weakness.

Everyone in Corfu knew of my visit to the wretched Melulla, and everyone
seemed surprised to see the appearance of health on my countenance; for
many were the victims that she had treated like me.

My illness was not my only sorrow; I had others which, although of a
different nature, were not less serious. It was written in the book of
fate that I should return to Venice a simple ensign as when I left: the
general did not keep his word, and the bastard son of a nobleman was
promoted to the lieutenancy instead of myself. From that moment the
military profession, the one most subject to arbitrary despotism,
inspired me with disgust, and I determined to give it up. But I had
another still more important motive for sorrow in the fickleness of
fortune which had completely turned against me. I remarked that, from the
time of my degradation with Melulla, every kind of misfortune befell me.
The greatest of all - that which I felt most, but which I had the good
sense to try and consider a favour - was that a week before the departure
of the army M. D - - R - - took me again for his adjutant, and M. F - - had
to engage another in my place. On the occasion of that change Madame F
told me, with an appearance of regret, that in Venice we could not, for
many reasons, continue our intimacy. I begged her to spare me the
reasons, as I foresaw that they would only throw humiliation upon me. I
began to discover that the goddess I had worshipped was, after all, a
poor human being like all other women, and to think that I should have
been very foolish to give up my life for her. I probed in one day the
real worth of her heart, for she told me, I cannot recollect in reference
to what, that I excited her pity. I saw clearly that she no longer loved
me; pity is a debasing feeling which cannot find a home in a heart full
of love, for that dreary sentiment is too near a relative of contempt.
Since that time I never found myself alone with Madame F - - . I loved her
still; I could easily have made her blush, but I did not do it.

As soon as we reached Venice she became attached to M. F - - R - - , whom
she loved until death took him from her. She was unhappy enough to lose
her sight twenty years after. I believe she is still alive.

During the last two months of my stay in Corfu, I learned the most bitter
and important lessons. In after years I often derived useful hints from
the experience I acquired at that time.

Before my adventure with the worthless Melulla, I enjoyed good health, I
was rich, lucky at play, liked by everybody, beloved by the most lovely
woman of Corfu. When I spoke, everybody would listen and admire my wit;
my words were taken for oracles, and everyone coincided with me in
everything. After my fatal meeting with the courtezan I rapidly lost my
health, my money, my credit; cheerfulness, consideration, wit,
everything, even the faculty of eloquence vanished with fortune. I would
talk, but people knew that I was unfortunate, and I no longer interested
or convinced my hearers. The influence I had over Madame F - - faded away
little by little, and, almost without her knowing it, the lovely woman
became completely indifferent to me.

I left Corfu without money, although I had sold or pledged everything I
had of any value. Twice I had reached Corfu rich and happy, twice I left
it poor and miserable. But this time I had contracted debts which I have
never paid, not through want of will but through carelessness.

Rich and in good health, everyone received me with open arms; poor and
looking sick, no one shewed me any consideration. With a full purse and
the tone of a conqueror, I was thought witty, amusing; with an empty
purse and a modest air, all I said appeared dull and insipid. If I had
become rich again, how soon I would have been again accounted the eighth
wonder of the world! Oh, men! oh, fortune! Everyone avoided me as if the
ill luck which crushed me down was infectious.

We left Corfu towards the end of September, with five galleys, two
galeasses, and several smaller vessels, under the command of M. Renier.
We sailed along the shores of the Adriatic, towards the north of the
gulf, where there are a great many harbours, and we put in one of them
every night. I saw Madame F - - every evening; she always came with her

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Online LibraryGiacomo CasanovaMemoirs of Casanova — Volume 04: Return to Venice → online text (page 1 of 9)