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I receive the minor orders from the patriarch of Venice—
I get acquainted with Senator Malipiero, with Therese Imer,
with the niece of the Curate, with Madame Orio, with Nanette
and Marton, and with the Cavamacchia—I become a preacher—
My adventure with Lucie at Pasean A rendezvous on the third
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"He comes from Padua, where he has completed his studies." Such were the
words by which I was everywhere introduced, and which, the moment they
were uttered, called upon me the silent observation of every young man of
my age and condition, the compliments of all fathers, and the caresses of
old women, as well as the kisses of a few who, although not old, were not
sorry to be considered so for the sake of embracing a young man without
impropriety. The curate of Saint-Samuel, the Abbe Josello, presented me to
Monsignor Correre, Patriarch of Venice, who gave me the tonsure, and who,
four months afterwards, by special favour, admitted me to the four minor
orders. No words could express the joy and the pride of my grandmother.
Excellent masters were given to me to continue my studies, and M. Baffo
chose the Abbe Schiavo to teach me a pure Italian style, especially
poetry, for which I had a decided talent. I was very comfortably lodged
with my brother Francois, who was studying theatrical architecture. My
sister and my youngest brother were living with our grandam in a house of
her own, in which it was her wish to die, because her husband had there
breathed his last. The house in which I dwelt was the same in which my
father had died, and the rent of which my mother continued to pay. It was
large and well furnished.
Although Abbe Grimani was my chief protector, I seldom saw him, and I
particularly attached myself to M. de Malipiero, to whom I had been
presented by the Curate Josello. M. de Malipiero was a senator, who was
unwilling at seventy years of age to attend any more to State affairs, and
enjoyed a happy, sumptuous life in his mansion, surrounded every evening
by a well-chosen party of ladies who had all known how to make the best of
their younger days, and of gentlemen who were always acquainted with the
news of the town. He was a bachelor and wealthy, but, unfortunately, he
had three or four times every year severe attacks of gout, which always
left him crippled in some part or other of his body, so that all his
person was disabled. His head, his lungs, and his stomach had alone
escaped this cruel havoc. He was still a fine man, a great epicure, and a
good judge of wine; his wit was keen, his knowledge of the world
extensive, his eloquence worthy of a son of Venice, and he had that wisdom
which must naturally belong to a senator who for forty years has had the
management of public affairs, and to a man who has bid farewell to women
after having possessed twenty mistresses, and only when he felt himself
compelled to acknowledge that he could no longer be accepted by any woman.
Although almost entirely crippled, he did not appear to be so when he was
seated, when he talked, or when he was at table. He had only one meal a
day, and always took it alone because, being toothless and unable to eat
otherwise than very slowly, he did not wish to hurry himself out of
compliment to his guests, and would have been sorry to see them waiting
for him. This feeling deprived him of the pleasure he would have enjoyed
in entertaining at his board friendly and agreeable guests, and caused
great sorrow to his excellent cook.
The first time I had the honour of being introduced to him by the curate,
I opposed earnestly the reason which made him eat his meals in solitude,
and I said that his excellency had only to invite guests whose appetite
was good enough to enable them to eat a double share.
"But where can I find such table companions?" he asked.
"It is rather a delicate matter," I answered; "but you must take your
guests on trial, and after they have been found such as you wish them to
be, the only difficulty will be to keep them as your guests without their
being aware of the real cause of your preference, for no respectable man
could acknowledge that he enjoys the honour of sitting at your
excellency's table only because he eats twice as much as any other man."
The senator understood the truth of my argument, and asked the curate to
bring me to dinner on the following day. He found my practice even better
than my theory, and I became his daily guest.
This man, who had given up everything in life except his own self,
fostered an amorous inclination, in spite of his age and of his gout. He
loved a young girl named Therese Imer, the daughter of an actor residing
near his mansion, her bedroom window being opposite to his own. This young
girl, then in her seventeenth year, was pretty, whimsical, and a regular
coquette. She was practising music with a view to entering the theatrical
profession, and by showing herself constantly at the window she had
intoxicated the old senator, and was playing with him cruelly. She paid
him a daily visit, but always escorted by her mother, a former actress,
who had retired from the stage in order to work out her salvation, and
who, as a matter of course, had made up her mind to combine the interests
of heaven with the works of this world. She took her daughter to mass
every day and compelled her to go to confession every week; but every
afternoon she accompanied her in a visit to the amorous old man, the rage
of whom frightened me when she refused him a kiss under the plea that she
had performed her devotions in the morning, and that she could not
reconcile herself to the idea of offending the God who was still dwelling
What a sight for a young man of fifteen like me, whom the old man admitted
as the only and silent witness of these erotic scenes! The miserable
mother applauded her daughter's reserve, and went so far as to lecture the
elderly lover, who, in his turn, dared not refute her maxims, which
savoured either too much or too little of Christianity, and resisted a
very strong inclination to hurl at her head any object he had at hand.
Anger would then take the place of lewd desires, and after they had
retired he would comfort himself by exchanging with me philosophical
Compelled to answer him, and not knowing well what to say, I ventured one
day upon advising a marriage. He struck me with amazement when he answered
that she refused to marry him from fear of drawing upon herself the hatred
of his relatives.
"Then make her the offer of a large sum of money, or a position."
"She says that she would not, even for a crown, commit a deadly sin."
"In that case, you must either take her by storm, or banish her for ever
from your presence."
"I can do neither one nor the other; physical as well as moral strength is
deficient in me."
"Kill her, then."
"That will very likely be the case unless I die first."
"Indeed I pity your excellency."
"Do you sometimes visit her?"
"No, for I might fall in love with her, and I would be miserable."
"You are right."
Witnessing many such scenes, and taking part in many similar
conversations, I became an especial favourite with the old nobleman. I was
invited to his evening assemblies which were, as I have stated before,
frequented by superannuated women and witty men. He told me that in this
circle I would learn a science of greater import than Gassendi's
philosophy, which I was then studying by his advice instead of
Aristotle's, which he turned into ridicule. He laid down some precepts for
my conduct in those assemblies, explaining the necessity of my observing
them, as there would be some wonder at a young man of my age being
received at such parties. He ordered me never to open my lips except to
answer direct questions, and particularly enjoined me never to pass an
opinion on any subject, because at my age I could not be allowed to have
I faithfully followed his precepts, and obeyed his orders so well, that in
a few days I had gained his esteem, and become the child of the house, as
well as the favourite of all the ladies who visited him. In my character
of a young and innocent ecclesiastic, they would ask me to accompany them
in their visits to the convents where their daughters or their nieces were
educated; I was at all hours received at their houses without even being
announced; I was scolded if a week elapsed without my calling upon them,
and when I went to the apartments reserved for the young ladies, they
would run away, but the moment they saw that the intruder was only I, they
would return at once, and their confidence was very charming to me.
Before dinner, M. de Malipiero would often inquire from me what advantages
were accruing to me from the welcome I received at the hands of the
respectable ladies I had become acquainted with at his house, taking care
to tell me, before I could have time to answer, that they were all endowed
with the greatest virtue, and that I would give everybody a bad opinion of
myself, if I ever breathed one word of disparagement to the high
reputation they all enjoyed. In this way he would inculcate in me the wise
precept of reserve and discretion.
It was at the senator's house that I made the acquaintance of Madame
Manzoni, the wife of a notary public, of whom I shall have to speak very
often. This worthy lady inspired me with the deepest attachment, and she
gave me the wisest advice. Had I followed it, and profited by it, my life
would not have been exposed to so many storms; it is true that in that
case, my life would not be worth writing.
All these fine acquaintances amongst women who enjoyed the reputation of
being high-bred ladies, gave me a very natural desire to shine by my good
looks and by the elegance of my dress; but my father confessor, as well as
my grandmother, objected very strongly to this feeling of vanity. On one
occasion, taking me apart, the curate told me, with honeyed words, that in
the profession to which I had devoted myself my thoughts ought to dwell
upon the best means of being agreeable to God, and not on pleasing the
world by my fine appearance. He condemned my elaborate curls, and the
exquisite perfume of my pomatum. He said that the devil had got hold of me
by the hair, that I would be excommunicated if I continued to take such
care of it, and concluded by quoting for my benefit these words from an
oecumenical council: 'clericus qui nutrit coman, anathema sit'. I answered
him with the names of several fashionable perfumed abbots, who were not
threatened with excommunication, who were not interfered with, although
they wore four times as much powder as I did—for I only used a
slight sprinkling—who perfumed their hair with a certain
amber-scented pomatum which brought women to the very point of fainting,
while mine, a jessamine pomade, called forth the compliment of every
circle in which I was received. I added that I could not, much to my
regret, obey him, and that if I had meant to live in slovenliness, I would
have become a Capuchin and not an abbe.
My answer made him so angry that, three or four days afterwards, he
contrived to obtain leave from my grandmother to enter my chamber early in
the morning, before I was awake, and, approaching my bed on tiptoe with a
sharp pair of scissors, he cut off unmercifully all my front hair, from
one ear to the other. My brother Francois was in the adjoining room and
saw him, but he did not interfere as he was delighted at my misfortune. He
wore a wig, and was very jealous of my beautiful head of hair. Francois
was envious through the whole of his life; yet he combined this feeling of
envy with friendship; I never could understand him; but this vice of his,
like my own vices, must by this time have died of old age.
After his great operation, the abbe left my room quietly, but when I woke
up shortly afterwards, and realized all the horror of this unheard-of
execution, my rage and indignation were indeed wrought to the highest
What wild schemes of revenge my brain engendered while, with a
looking-glass in my hand, I was groaning over the shameful havoc performed
by this audacious priest! At the noise I made my grandmother hastened to
my room, and amidst my brother's laughter the kind old woman assured me
that the priest would never have been allowed to enter my room if she
could have foreseen his intention, and she managed to soothe my passion to
some extent by confessing that he had over-stepped the limits of his right
to administer a reproof.
But I was determined upon revenge, and I went on dressing myself and
revolving in my mind the darkest plots. It seemed to me that I was
entitled to the most cruel revenge, without having anything to dread from
the terrors of the law. The theatres being open at that time I put on a
mask to go out, and I, went to the advocate Carrare, with whom I had
become acquainted at the senator's house, to inquire from him whether I
could bring a suit against the priest. He told me that, but a short time
since, a family had been ruined for having sheared the moustache of a
Sclavonian—a crime not nearly so atrocious as the shearing of all my
front locks, and that I had only to give him my instructions to begin a
criminal suit against the abbe, which would make him tremble. I gave my
consent, and begged that he would tell M. de Malipiero in the evening the
reason for which I could not go to his house, for I did not feel any
inclination to show myself anywhere until my hair had grown again.
I went home and partook with my brother of a repast which appeared rather
scanty in comparison to the dinners I had with the old senator. The
privation of the delicate and plentiful fare to which his excellency had
accustomed me was most painful, besides all the enjoyments from which I
was excluded through the atrocious conduct of the virulent priest, who was
my godfather. I wept from sheer vexation; and my rage was increased by the
consciousness that there was in this insult a certain dash of comical fun
which threw over me a ridicule more disgraceful in my estimation than the
I went to bed early, and, refreshed by ten hours of profound slumber, I
felt in the morning somewhat less angry, but quite as determined to summon
the priest before a court. I dressed myself with the intention of calling
upon my advocate, when I received the visit of a skilful hair-dresser whom
I had seen at Madame Cantarini's house. He told me that he was sent by M.
de Malipiero to arrange my hair so that I could go out, as the senator
wished me to dine with him on that very day. He examined the damage done
to my head, and said, with a smile, that if I would trust to his art, he
would undertake to send me out with an appearance of even greater elegance
than I could boast of before; and truly, when he had done, I found myself
so good-looking that I considered my thirst for revenge entirely
Having thus forgotten the injury, I called upon the lawyer to tell him to
stay all proceedings, and I hastened to M. de Malipiero's palace, where,
as chance would have it, I met the abbe. Notwithstanding all my joy, I
could not help casting upon him rather unfriendly looks, but not a word
was said about what had taken place. The senator noticed everything, and
the priest took his leave, most likely with feelings of mortified
repentance, for this time I most verily deserved excommunication by the
extreme studied elegance of my curling hair.
When my cruel godfather had left us, I did not dissemble with M. de
Malipiero; I candidly told him that I would look out for another church,
and that nothing would induce me to remain under a priest who, in his
wrath, could go the length of such proceedings. The wise old man agreed
with me, and said that I was quite right: it was the best way to make me
do ultimately whatever he liked. In the evening everyone in our circle,
being well aware of what had happened, complimented me, and assured me
that nothing could be handsomer than my new head-dress. I was delighted,
and was still more gratified when, after a fortnight had elapsed, I found
that M. de Malipiero did not broach the subject of my returning to my
godfather's church. My grandmother alone constantly urged me to return.
But this calm was the harbinger of a storm. When my mind was thoroughly at
rest on that subject, M. de Malipiero threw me into the greatest
astonishment by suddenly telling me that an excellent opportunity offered
itself for me to reappear in the church and to secure ample satisfaction
from the abbe.
"It is my province," added the senator, "as president of the Confraternity
of the Holy Sacrament, to choose the preacher who is to deliver the sermon
on the fourth Sunday of this month, which happens to be the second
Christmas holiday. I mean to appoint you, and I am certain that the abbe
will not dare to reject my choice. What say you to such a triumphant
reappearance? Does it satisfy you?"
This offer caused me the greatest surprise, for I had never dreamt of
becoming a preacher, and I had never been vain enough to suppose that I
could write a sermon and deliver it in the church. I told M. de Malipiero
that he must surely be enjoying a joke at my expense, but he answered that
he had spoken in earnest, and he soon contrived to persuade me and to make
me believe that I was born to become the most renowned preacher of our age
as soon as I should have grown fat—a quality which I certainly could
not boast of, for at that time I was extremely thin. I had not the shadow
of a fear as to my voice or to my elocution, and for the matter of
composing my sermon I felt myself equal to the production of a
I told M. de Malipiero that I was ready, and anxious to be at home in
order to go to work; that, although no theologian, I was acquainted with
my subject, and would compose a sermon which would take everyone by
surprise on account of its novelty.
On the following day, when I called upon him, he informed me that the abbe
had expressed unqualified delight at the choice made by him, and at my
readiness in accepting the appointment; but he likewise desired that I
should submit my sermon to him as soon as it was written, because the
subject belonging to the most sublime theology he could not allow me to
enter the pulpit without being satisfied that I would not utter any
heresies. I agreed to this demand, and during the week I gave birth to my
masterpiece. I have now that first sermon in my possession, and I cannot
help saying that, considering my tender years, I think it a very good one.
I could not give an idea of my grandmother's joy; she wept tears of
happiness at having a grandson who had become an apostle. She insisted
upon my reading my sermon to her, listened to it with her beads in her
hands, and pronounced it very beautiful. M. de Malipiero, who had no
rosary when I read it to him, was of opinion that it would not prove
acceptable to the parson. My text was from Horace: 'Ploravere suis non
respondere favorem sperdtum meritis'; and I deplored the wickedness and
ingratitude of men, through which had failed the design adopted by Divine
wisdom for the redemption of humankind. But M. de Malipiero was sorry that
I had taken my text from any heretical poet, although he was pleased that
my sermon was not interlarded with Latin quotations.
I called upon the priest to read my production; but as he was out I had to
wait for his return, and during that time I fell in love with his niece,
Angela. She was busy upon some tambour work; I sat down close by her, and
telling me that she had long desired to make my acquaintance, she begged
me to relate the history of the locks of hair sheared by her venerable
My love for Angela proved fatal to me, because from it sprang two other
love affairs which, in their turn, gave birth to a great many others, and
caused me finally to renounce the Church as a profession. But let us
proceed quietly, and not encroach upon future events.
On his return home the abbe found me with his niece, who was about my age,
and he did not appear to be angry. I gave him my sermon: he read it over,
and told me that it was a beautiful academical dissertation, but unfit for
a sermon from the pulpit, and he added,
"I will give you a sermon written by myself, which I have never delivered;
you will commit it to memory, and I promise to let everybody suppose that
it is of your own composition."
"I thank you, very reverend father, but I will preach my own sermon, or
none at all."
"At all events, you shall not preach such a sermon as this in my church."
"You can talk the matter over with M. de Malipiero. In the meantime I will
take my work to the censorship, and to His Eminence the Patriarch, and if
it is not accepted I shall have it printed."
"All very well, young man. The patriarch will coincide with me."
In the evening I related my discussion with the parson before all the
guests of M. de Malipiero. The reading of my sermon was called for, and it
was praised by all. They lauded me for having with proper modesty
refrained from quoting the holy fathers of the Church, whom at my age I
could not be supposed to have sufficiently studied, and the ladies
particularly admired me because there was no Latin in it but the Text from
Horace, who, although a great libertine himself, has written very good
things. A niece of the patriarch, who was present that evening, promised
to prepare her uncle in my favour, as I had expressed my intention to
appeal to him; but M. de Malipiero desired me not to take any steps in the
matter until I had seen him on the following day, and I submissively bowed
to his wishes.
When I called at his mansion the next day he sent for the priest, who soon
made his appearance. As he knew well what he had been sent for, he
immediately launched out into a very long discourse, which I did not
interrupt, but the moment he had concluded his list of objections I told
him that there could not be two ways to decide the question; that the
patriarch would either approve or disapprove my sermon.
"In the first case," I added, "I can pronounce it in your church, and no
responsibility can possibly fall upon your shoulders; in the second, I
must, of course, give way."
The abbe was struck by my determination and he said,
"Do not go to the patriarch; I accept your sermon; I only request you to
change your text. Horace was a villain."
"Why do you quote Seneca, Tertullian, Origen, and Boethius? They were all
heretics, and must, consequently, be considered by you as worse wretches
than Horace, who, after all, never had the chance of becoming a
However, as I saw it would please M. de Malipiero, I finally consented to
accept, as a substitute for mine, a text offered by the abbe, although it
did not suit in any way the spirit of my production; and in order to get
an opportunity for a visit to his niece, I gave him my manuscript, saying
that I would call for it the next day. My vanity prompted me to send a
copy to Doctor Gozzi, but the good man caused me much amusement by
returning it and writing that I must have gone mad, and that if I were
allowed to deliver such a sermon from the pulpit I would bring dishonour
upon myself as well as upon the man who had educated me.
I cared but little for his opinion, and on the appointed day I delivered
my sermon in the Church of the Holy Sacrament in the presence of the best
society of Venice. I received much applause, and every one predicted that
I would certainly become the first preacher of our century, as no young
ecclesiastic of fifteen had ever been known to preach as well as I had
done. It is customary for the faithful to deposit their offerings for the
preacher in a purse which is handed to them for that purpose.
The sexton who emptied it of its contents found in it more than fifty
sequins, and several billets-doux, to the great scandal of the weaker
brethren. An anonymous note amongst them, the writer of which I thought I
had guessed, let me into a mistake which I think better not to relate.
This rich harvest, in my great penury, caused me to entertain serious
thoughts of becoming a preacher, and I confided my intention to the
parson, requesting his assistance to carry it into execution. This gave me
the privilege of visiting at his house every day, and I improved the
opportunity of conversing with Angela, for whom my love was daily
increasing. But Angela was virtuous. She did not object to my love, but
she wished me to renounce the Church and to marry her. In spite of my
infatuation for her, I could not make up my mind to such a step, and I
went on seeing her and courting her in the hope that she would alter her
The priest, who had at last confessed his admiration for my first sermon,
asked me, some time afterwards, to prepare another for St. Joseph's Day,
with an invitation to deliver it on the 19th of March, 1741. I composed
it, and the abbe spoke of it with enthusiasm, but fate had decided that I
should never preach but once in my life. It is a sad tale, unfortunately
for me very true, which some persons are cruel enough to consider very
Young and rather self-conceited, I fancied that it was not necessary for
me to spend much time in committing my sermon to memory. Being the author,
I had all the ideas contained in my work classified in my mind, and it did
not seem to me within the range of possibilities that I could forget what
I had written. Perhaps I might not remember the exact words of a sentence,
but I was at liberty to replace them by other expressions as good, and as
I never happened to be at a loss, or to be struck dumb, when I spoke in
society, it was not likely that such an untoward accident would befall me
before an audience amongst whom I did not know anyone who could intimidate
me and cause me suddenly to lose the faculty of reason or of speech. I
therefore took my pleasure as usual, being satisfied with reading my
sermon morning and evening, in order to impress it upon my memory which
until then had never betrayed me.
The 19th of March came, and on that eventful day at four o'clock in the
afternoon I was to ascend the pulpit; but, believing myself quite secure
and thoroughly master of my subject, I had not the moral courage to deny
myself the pleasure of dining with Count Mont-Real, who was then residing
with me, and who had invited the patrician Barozzi, engaged to be married
to his daughter after the Easter holidays.
I was still enjoying myself with my fine company, when the sexton of the
church came in to tell me that they were waiting for me in the vestry.
With a full stomach and my head rather heated, I took my leave, ran to the
church, and entered the pulpit. I went through the exordium with credit to
myself, and I took breathing time; but scarcely had I pronounced the first
sentences of the narration, before I forgot what I was saying, what I had
to say, and in my endeavours to proceed, I fairly wandered from my subject
and I lost myself entirely. I was still more discomforted by a
half-repressed murmur of the audience, as my deficiency appeared evident.
Several persons left the church, others began to smile, I lost all
presence of mind and every hope of getting out of the scrape.
I could not say whether I feigned a fainting fit, or whether I truly
swooned; all I know is that I fell down on the floor of the pulpit,
striking my head against the wall, with an inward prayer for annihilation.
Two of the parish clerks carried me to the vestry, and after a few
moments, without addressing a word to anyone, I took my cloak and my hat,
and went home to lock myself in my room. I immediately dressed myself in a
short coat, after the fashion of travelling priests, I packed a few things
in a trunk, obtained some money from my grandmother, and took my departure
for Padua, where I intended to pass my third examination. I reached Padua
at midnight, and went to Doctor Gozzi's house, but I did not feel the
slightest temptation to mention to him my unlucky adventure.
I remained in Padua long enough to prepare myself for the doctor's degree,
which I intended to take the following year, and after Easter I returned
to Venice, where my misfortune was already forgotten; but preaching was
out of the question, and when any attempt was made to induce me to renew
my efforts, I manfully kept to my determination never to ascend the pulpit
On the eve of Ascension Day M. Manzoni introduced me to a young courtesan,
who was at that time in great repute at Venice, and was nick-named
Cavamacchia, because her father had been a scourer. This named vexed her a
great deal, she wished to be called Preati, which was her family name, but
it was all in vain, and the only concession her friends would make was to
call her by her Christian name of Juliette. She had been introduced to
fashionable notice by the Marquis de Sanvitali, a nobleman from Parma, who
had given her one hundred thousand ducats for her favours. Her beauty was
then the talk of everybody in Venice, and it was fashionable to call upon
her. To converse with her, and especially to be admitted into her circle,
was considered a great boon.
As I shall have to mention her several times in the course of my history,
my readers will, I trust, allow me to enter into some particulars about
her previous life.
Juliette was only fourteen years of age when her father sent her one day
to the house of a Venetian nobleman, Marco Muazzo, with a coat which he
had cleaned for him. He thought her very beautiful in spite of the dirty
rags in which she was dressed, and he called to see her at her father's
shop, with a friend of his, the celebrated advocate, Bastien Uccelli, who;
struck by the romantic and cheerful nature of Juliette still more than by
her beauty and fine figure, gave her an apartment, made her study music,
and kept her as his mistress. At the time of the fair, Bastien took her
with him to various public places of resort; everywhere she attracted
general attention, and secured the admiration of every lover of the sex.
She made rapid progress in music, and at the end of six months she felt
sufficient confidence in herself to sign an engagement with a theatrical
manager who took her to Vienna to give her a 'castrato' part in one of
The advocate had previously ceded her to a wealthy Jew who, after giving
her splendid diamonds, left her also.
In Vienna, Juliette appeared on the stage, and her beauty gained for her
an admiration which she would never have conquered by her very inferior
talent. But the constant crowd of adorers who went to worship the goddess,
having sounded her exploits rather too loudly, the august Maria-Theresa
objected to this new creed being sanctioned in her capital, and the
beautiful actress received an order to quit Vienna forthwith.
Count Spada offered her his protection, and brought her back to Venice,
but she soon left for Padua where she had an engagement. In that city she
kindled the fire of love in the breast of Marquis Sanvitali, but the
marchioness having caught her once in her own box, and Juliette having
acted disrespectfully to her, she slapped her face, and the affair having
caused a good deal of noise, Juliette gave up the stage altogether. She
came back to Venice, where, made conspicuous by her banishment from
Vienna, she could not fail to make her fortune. Expulsion from Vienna, for
this class of women, had become a title to fashionable favour, and when
there was a wish to depreciate a singer or a dancer, it was said of her
that she had not been sufficiently prized to be expelled from Vienna.
After her return, her first lover was Steffano Querini de Papozzes, but in
the spring of 1740, the Marquis de Sanvitali came to Venice and soon
carried her off. It was indeed difficult to resist this delightful
marquis! His first present to the fair lady was a sum of one hundred
thousand ducats, and, to prevent his being accused of weakness or of
lavish prodigality, he loudly proclaimed that the present could scarcely
make up for the insult Juliette had received from his wife—an
insult, however, which the courtesan never admitted, as she felt that
there would be humiliation in such an acknowledgment, and she always
professed to admire with gratitude her lover's generosity. She was right;
the admission of the blow received would have left a stain upon her
charms, and how much more to her taste to allow those charms to be prized
at such a high figure!
It was in the year 1741 that M. Manzoni introduced me to this new Phryne
as a young ecclesiastic who was beginning to make a reputation. I found
her surrounded by seven or eight well-seasoned admirers, who were burning
at her feet the incense of their flattery. She was carelessly reclining on
a sofa near Querini. I was much struck with her appearance. She eyed me
from head to foot, as if I had been exposed for sale, and telling me, with
the air of a princess, that she was not sorry to make my acquaintance, she
invited me to take a seat. I began then, in my turn, to examine her
closely and deliberately, and it was an easy matter, as the room, although
small, was lighted with at least twenty wax candles.
Juliette was then in her eighteenth year; the freshness of her complexion
was dazzling, but the carnation tint of her cheeks, the vermilion of her
lips, and the dark, very narrow curve of her eyebrows, impressed me as
being produced by art rather than nature. Her teeth—two rows of
magnificent pearls—made one overlook the fact that her mouth was
somewhat too large, and whether from habit, or because she could not help
it, she seemed to be ever smiling. Her bosom, hid under a light gauze,
invited the desires of love; yet I did not surrender to her charms. Her
bracelets and the rings which covered her fingers did not prevent me from
noticing that her hand was too large and too fleshy, and in spite of her
carefully hiding her feet, I judged, by a telltale slipper lying close by
her dress, that they were well proportioned to the height of her figure—a
proportion which is unpleasant not only to the Chinese and Spaniards, but
likewise to every man of refined taste. We want a tall women to have a
small foot, and certainly it is not a modern taste, for Holofernes of old
was of the same opinion; otherwise he would not have thought Judith so
charming: 'et sandalid ejus rapuerunt oculos ejus'. Altogether I found her
beautiful, but when I compared her beauty and the price of one hundred
thousand ducats paid for it, I marvelled at my remaining so cold, and at
my not being tempted to give even one sequin for the privilege of making
from nature a study of the charms which her dress concealed from my eyes.