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My Stay in Naples; It Is Short but Happy—Don Antonio
Casanova—Don Lelio Caraffa—I Go to Rome in Very Agreeable
Company, and Enter the Service of Cardinal Acquaviva—
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I had no difficulty in answering the various questions which Doctor
Gennaro addressed to me, but I was surprised, and even displeased, at the
constant peals of laughter with which he received my answers. The piteous
description of miserable Calabria, and the picture of the sad situation of
the Bishop of Martorano, appeared to me more likely to call forth tears
than to excite hilarity, and, suspecting that some mystification was being
played upon me, I was very near getting angry when, becoming more
composed, he told me with feeling that I must kindly excuse him; that his
laughter was a disease which seemed to be endemic in his family, for one
of his uncles died of it.
"What!" I exclaimed, "died of laughing!"
"Yes. This disease, which was not known to Hippocrates, is called li
"What do you mean? Does an hypochondriac affection, which causes sadness
and lowness in all those who suffer from it, render you cheerful?"
"Yes, because, most likely, my flati, instead of influencing the
hypochondrium, affects my spleen, which my physician asserts to be the
organ of laughter. It is quite a discovery."
"You are mistaken; it is a very ancient notion, and it is the only
function which is ascribed to the spleen in our animal organization."
"Well, we must discuss the matter at length, for I hope you will remain
with us a few weeks."
"I wish I could, but I must leave Naples to-morrow or the day after."
"Have you got any money?"
"I rely upon the sixty ducats you have to give me."
At these words, his peals of laughter began again, and as he could see
that I was annoyed, he said, "I am amused at the idea that I can keep you
here as long as I like. But be good enough to see my son; he writes pretty
And truly his son, although only fourteen, was already a great poet.
A servant took me to the apartment of the young man whom I found possessed
of a pleasing countenance and engaging manners. He gave me a polite
welcome, and begged to be excused if he could not attend to me altogether
for the present, as he had to finish a song which he was composing for a
relative of the Duchess de Rovino, who was taking the veil at the Convent
of St. Claire, and the printer was waiting for the manuscript. I told him
that his excuse was a very good one, and I offered to assist him. He then
read his song, and I found it so full of enthusiasm, and so truly in the
style of Guidi, that I advised him to call it an ode; but as I had praised
all the truly beautiful passages, I thought I could venture to point out
the weak ones, and I replaced them by verses of my own composition. He was
delighted, and thanked me warmly, inquiring whether I was Apollo. As he
was writing his ode, I composed a sonnet on the same subject, and,
expressing his admiration for it he begged me to sign it, and to allow him
to send it with his poetry.
While I was correcting and recopying my manuscript, he went to his father
to find out who I was, which made the old man laugh until supper-time. In
the evening, I had the pleasure of seeing that my bed had been prepared in
the young man's chamber.
Doctor Gennaro's family was composed of this son and of a daughter
unfortunately very plain, of his wife and of two elderly, devout sisters.
Amongst the guests at the supper-table I met several literary men, and the
Marquis Galiani, who was at that time annotating Vitruvius. He had a
brother, an abbe whose acquaintance I made twenty years after, in Paris,
when he was secretary of embassy to Count Cantillana. The next day, at
supper, I was presented to the celebrated Genovesi; I had already sent him
the letter of the Archbishop of Cosenza. He spoke to me of Apostolo Zeno
and of the Abbe Conti. He remarked that it was considered a very venial
sin for a regular priest to say two masses in one day for the sake of
earning two carlini more, but that for the same sin a secular priest would
deserve to be burnt at the stake.
The nun took the veil on the following day, and Gennaro's ode and my
sonnet had the greatest success. A Neapolitan gentleman, whose name was
the same as mine, expressed a wish to know me, and, hearing that I resided
at the doctor's, he called to congratulate him on the occasion of his
feast-day, which happened to fall on the day following the ceremony at
Don Antonio Casanova, informing me of his name, enquired whether my family
was originally from Venice.
"I am, sir," I answered modestly, "the great-grandson of the unfortunate
Marco Antonio Casanova, secretary to Cardinal Pompeo Colonna, who died of
the plague in Rome, in the year 1528, under the pontificate of Clement
VII." The words were scarcely out of my lips when he embraced me, calling
me his cousin, but we all thought that Doctor Gennaro would actually die
with laughter, for it seemed impossible to laugh so immoderately without
risk of life. Madame Gennaro was very angry and told my newly-found cousin
that he might have avoided enacting such a scene before her husband,
knowing his disease, but he answered that he never thought the
circumstance likely to provoke mirth. I said nothing, for, in reality, I
felt that the recognition was very comic. Our poor laugher having
recovered his composure, Casanova, who had remained very serious, invited
me to dinner for the next day with my young friend Paul Gennaro, who had
already become my alter ego.
When we called at his house, my worthy cousin showed me his family tree,
beginning with a Don Francisco, brother of Don Juan. In my pedigree, which
I knew by heart, Don Juan, my direct ancestor, was a posthumous child. It
was possible that there might have been a brother of Marco Antonio's; but
when he heard that my genealogy began with Don Francisco, from Aragon, who
had lived in the fourteenth century, and that consequently all the
pedigree of the illustrious house of the Casanovas of Saragossa belonged
to him, his joy knew no bounds; he did not know what to do to convince me
that the same blood was flowing in his veins and in mine.
He expressed some curiosity to know what lucky accident had brought me to
Naples; I told him that, having embraced the ecclesiastical profession, I
was going to Rome to seek my fortune. He then presented me to his family,
and I thought that I could read on the countenance of my cousin, his
dearly beloved wife, that she was not much pleased with the newly-found
relationship, but his pretty daughter, and a still prettier niece of his,
might very easily have given me faith in the doctrine that blood is
thicker than water, however fabulous it may be.
After dinner, Don Antonio informed me that the Duchess de Bovino had
expressed a wish to know the Abbe Casanova who had written the sonnet in
honour of her relative, and that he would be very happy to introduce me to
her as his own cousin. As we were alone at that moment, I begged he would
not insist on presenting me, as I was only provided with travelling suits,
and had to be careful of my purse so as not to arrive in Rome without
money. Delighted at my confidence, and approving my economy, he said, "I
am rich, and you must not scruple to come with me to my tailor;" and he
accompanied his offer with an assurance that the circumstance would not be
known to anyone, and that he would feel deeply mortified if I denied him
the pleasure of serving me. I shook him warmly by the hand, and answered
that I was ready to do anything he pleased. We went to a tailor who took
my measure, and who brought me on the following day everything necessary
to the toilet of the most elegant abbe. Don Antonio called on me, and
remained to dine with Don Gennaro, after which he took me and my friend
Paul to the duchess. This lady, according to the Neapolitan fashion,
called me thou in her very first compliment of welcome. Her daughter, then
only ten or twelve years old, was very handsome, and a few years later
became Duchess de Matalona. The duchess presented me with a snuff-box in
pale tortoise-shell with arabesque incrustations in gold, and she invited
us to dine with her on the morrow, promising to take us after dinner to
the Convent of St. Claire to pay a visit to the new nun.
As we came out of the palace of the duchess, I left my friends and went
alone to Panagiotti's to claim the barrel of muscatel wine. The manager
was kind enough to have the barrel divided into two smaller casks of equal
capacity, and I sent one to Don Antonio, and the other to Don Gennaro. As
I was leaving the shop I met the worthy Panagiotti, who was glad to see
me. Was I to blush at the sight of the good man I had at first deceived?
No, for in his opinion I had acted very nobly towards him.
Don Gennaro, as I returned home, managed to thank me for my handsome
present without laughing, and the next day Don Antonio, to make up for the
muscatel wine I had sent him, offered me a gold-headed cane, worth at
least fifteen ounces, and his tailor brought me a travelling suit and a
blue great coat, with the buttonholes in gold lace. I therefore found
myself splendidly equipped.
At the Duchess de Bovino's dinner I made the acquaintance of the wisest
and most learned man in Naples, the illustrious Don Lelio Caraffa, who
belonged to the ducal family of Matalona, and whom King Carlos honoured
with the title of friend.
I spent two delightful hours in the convent parlour, coping successfully
with the curiosity of all the nuns who were pressing against the grating.
Had destiny allowed me to remain in Naples my fortune would have been
made; but, although I had no fixed plan, the voice of fate summoned me to
Rome, and therefore I resisted all the entreaties of my cousin Antonio to
accept the honourable position of tutor in several houses of the highest
Don Antonio gave a splendid dinner in my honour, but he was annoyed and
angry because he saw that his wife looked daggers at her new cousin. I
thought that, more than once, she cast a glance at my new costume, and
then whispered to the guest next to her. Very likely she knew what had
taken place. There are some positions in life to which I could never be
reconciled. If, in the most brilliant circle, there is one person who
affects to stare at me I lose all presence of mind. Self-dignity feels
outraged, my wit dies away, and I play the part of a dolt. It is a
weakness on my part, but a weakness I cannot overcome.
Don Lelio Caraffa offered me a very liberal salary if I would undertake
the education of his nephew, the Duke de Matalona, then ten years of age.
I expressed my gratitude, and begged him to be my true benefactor in a
different manner—namely, by giving me a few good letters of
introduction for Rome, a favour which he granted at once. He gave me one
for Cardinal Acquaviva, and another for Father Georgi.
I found out that the interest felt towards me by my friends had induced
them to obtain for me the honour of kissing the hand of Her Majesty the
Queen, and I hastened my preparations to leave Naples, for the queen would
certainly have asked me some questions, and I could not have avoided
telling her that I had just left Martorano and the poor bishop whom she
had sent there. The queen likewise knew my mother; she would very likely
have alluded to my mother's profession in Dresden; it would have mortified
Don Antonio, and my pedigree would have been covered with ridicule. I knew
the force of prejudice! I should have been ruined, and I felt I should do
well to withdraw in good time. As I took leave of him, Don Antonio
presented me with a fine gold watch and gave me a letter for Don Gaspar
Vidaldi, whom he called his best friend. Don Gennaro paid me the sixty
ducats, and his son, swearing eternal friendship, asked me to write to
him. They all accompanied me to the coach, blending their tears with mine,
and loading me with good wishes and blessings.
From my landing in Chiozza up to my arrival in Naples, fortune had seemed
bent upon frowning on me; in Naples it began to shew itself less adverse,
and on my return to that city it entirely smiled upon me. Naples has
always been a fortunate place for me, as the reader of my memoirs will
discover. My readers must not forget that in Portici I was on the point of
disgracing myself, and there is no remedy against the degradation of the
mind, for nothing can restore it to its former standard. It is a case of
disheartening atony for which there is no possible cure.
I was not ungrateful to the good Bishop of Martorano, for, if he had
unwittingly injured me by summoning me to his diocese, I felt that to his
letter for M. Gennaro I was indebted for all the good fortune which had
just befallen me. I wrote to him from Rome.
I was wholly engaged in drying my tears as we were driving through the
beautiful street of Toledo, and it was only after we had left Naples that
I could find time to examine the countenance of my travelling companions.
Next to me, I saw a man of from forty to fifty, with a pleasing face and a
lively air, but, opposite to me, two charming faces delighted my eyes.
They belonged to two ladies, young and pretty, very well dressed, with a
look of candour and modesty. This discovery was most agreeable, but I felt
sad and I wanted calm and silence. We reached Avessa without one word
being exchanged, and as the vetturino stopped there only to water his
mules, we did not get out of the coach. From Avessa to Capua my companions
conversed almost without interruption, and, wonderful to relate! I did not
open my lips once. I was amused by the Neapolitan jargon of the gentleman,
and by the pretty accent of the ladies, who were evidently Romans. It was
a most wonderful feat for me to remain five hours before two charming
women without addressing one word to them, without paying them one
At Capua, where we were to spend the night, we put up at an inn, and were
shown into a room with two beds—a very usual thing in Italy. The
Neapolitan, addressing himself to me, said,
"Am I to have the honour of sleeping with the reverend gentleman?"
I answered in a very serious tone that it was for him to choose or to
arrange it otherwise, if he liked. The answer made the two ladies smile,
particularly the one whom I preferred, and it seemed to me a good omen.
We were five at supper, for it is usual for the vetturino to supply his
travellers with their meals, unless some private agreement is made
otherwise, and to sit down at table with them. In the desultory talk which
went on during the supper, I found in my travelling companions decorum,
propriety, wit, and the manners of persons accustomed to good society. I
became curious to know who they were, and going down with the driver after
supper, I asked him.
"The gentleman," he told me, "is an advocate, and one of the ladies is his
wife, but I do not know which of the two."
I went back to our room, and I was polite enough to go to bed first, in
order to make it easier for the ladies to undress themselves with freedom;
I likewise got up first in the morning, left the room, and only returned
when I was called for breakfast. The coffee was delicious. I praised it
highly, and the lady, the one who was my favourite, promised that I should
have the same every morning during our journey. The barber came in after
breakfast; the advocate was shaved, and the barber offered me his
services, which I declined, but the rogue declared that it was slovenly to
wear one's beard.
When we had resumed our seats in the coach, the advocate made some remark
upon the impudence of barbers in general.
"But we ought to decide first," said the lady, "whether or not it is
slovenly to go bearded."
"Of course it is," said the advocate. "Beard is nothing but a dirty
"You may think so," I answered, "but everybody does not share your
opinion. Do we consider as a dirty excrescence the hair of which we take
so much care, and which is of the same nature as the beard? Far from it;
we admire the length and the beauty of the hair."
"Then," remarked the lady, "the barber is a fool."
"But after all," I asked, "have I any beard?"
"I thought you had," she answered.
"In that case, I will begin to shave as soon as I reach Rome, for this is
the first time that I have been convicted of having a beard."
"My dear wife," exclaimed the advocate, "you should have held your tongue;
perhaps the reverend abbe is going to Rome with the intention of becoming
a Capuchin friar."
The pleasantry made me laugh, but, unwilling that he should have the last
word, I answered that he had guessed rightly, that such had been my
intention, but that I had entirely altered my mind since I had seen his
"Oh! you are wrong," said the joyous Neapolitan, "for my wife is very fond
of Capuchins, and if you wish to please her, you had better follow your
original vocation." Our conversation continued in the same tone of
pleasantry, and the day passed off in an agreeable manner; in the evening
we had a very poor supper at Garillan, but we made up for it by
cheerfulness and witty conversation. My dawning inclination for the
advocate's wife borrowed strength from the affectionate manner she
displayed towards me.
The next day she asked me, after we had resumed our journey, whether I
intended to make a long stay in Rome before returning to Venice. I
answered that, having no acquaintances in Rome, I was afraid my life there
would be very dull.
"Strangers are liked in Rome," she said, "I feel certain that you will be
pleased with your residence in that city."
"May I hope, madam, that you will allow me to pay you my respects?"
"We shall be honoured by your calling on us," said the advocate.
My eyes were fixed upon his charming wife. She blushed, but I did not
appear to notice it. I kept up the conversation, and the day passed as
pleasantly as the previous one. We stopped at Terracina, where they gave
us a room with three beds, two single beds and a large one between the two
others. It was natural that the two sisters should take the large bed;
they did so, and undressed themselves while the advocate and I went on
talking at the table, with our backs turned to them. As soon as they had
gone to rest, the advocate took the bed on which he found his nightcap,
and I the other, which was only about one foot distant from the large bed.
I remarked that the lady by whom I was captivated was on the side nearest
my couch, and, without much vanity, I could suppose that it was not owing
only to chance.
I put the light out and laid down, revolving in my mind a project which I
could not abandon, and yet durst not execute. In vain did I court sleep. A
very faint light enabled me to perceive the bed in which the pretty woman
was lying, and my eyes would, in spite of myself, remain open. It would be
difficult to guess what I might have done at last (I had already fought a
hard battle with myself for more than an hour), when I saw her rise, get
out of her bed, and go and lay herself down near her husband, who, most
likely, did not wake up, and continued to sleep in peace, for I did not
hear any noise.
Vexed, disgusted.... I tried to compose myself to sleep, and I woke only
at day-break. Seeing the beautiful wandering star in her own bed, I got
up, dressed myself in haste, and went out, leaving all my companions fast
asleep. I returned to the inn only at the time fixed for our departure,
and I found the advocate and the two ladies already in the coach, waiting
The lady complained, in a very obliging manner, of my not having cared for
her coffee; I pleaded as an excuse a desire for an early walk, and I took
care not to honour her even with a look; I feigned to be suffering from
the toothache, and remained in my corner dull and silent. At Piperno she
managed to whisper to me that my toothache was all sham; I was pleased
with the reproach, because it heralded an explanation which I craved for,
in spite of my vexation.
During the afternoon I continued my policy of the morning. I was morose
and silent until we reached Serinonetta, where we were to pass the night.
We arrived early, and the weather being fine, the lady said that she could
enjoy a walk, and asked me politely to offer her my arm. I did so, for it
would have been rude to refuse; besides I had had enough of my sulking
fit. An explanation could alone bring matters back to their original
standing, but I did not know how to force it upon the lady. Her husband
followed us at some distance with the sister.
When we were far enough in advance, I ventured to ask her why she had
supposed my toothache to have been feigned.
"I am very candid," she said; "it is because the difference in your manner
was so marked, and because you were so careful to avoid looking at me
through the whole day. A toothache would not have prevented you from being
polite, and therefore I thought it had been feigned for some purpose. But
I am certain that not one of us can possibly have given you any grounds
for such a rapid change in your manner."
"Yet something must have caused the change, and you, madam, are only half
"You are mistaken, sir, I am entirely sincere; and if I have given you any
motive for anger, I am, and must remain, ignorant of it. Be good enough to
tell me what I have done."
"Nothing, for I have no right to complain."
"Yes, you have; you have a right, the same that I have myself; the right
which good society grants to every one of its members. Speak, and shew
yourself as sincere as I am."
"You are certainly bound not to know, or to pretend not to know the real
cause, but you must acknowledge that my duty is to remain silent."
"Very well; now it is all over; but if your duty bids you to conceal the
cause of your bad humour, it also bids you not to shew it. Delicacy
sometimes enforces upon a polite gentleman the necessity of concealing
certain feelings which might implicate either himself or others; it is a
restraint for the mind, I confess, but it has some advantage when its
effect is to render more amiable the man who forces himself to accept that
restraint." Her close argument made me blush for shame, and carrying her
beautiful hand to my lips, I confessed my self in the wrong.
"You would see me at your feet," I exclaimed, "in token of my repentance,
were I not afraid of injuring you—-"
"Do not let us allude to the matter any more," she answered.
And, pleased with my repentance, she gave me a look so expressive of
forgiveness that, without being afraid of augmenting my guilt, I took my
lips off her hand and I raised them to her half-open, smiling mouth.
Intoxicated with rapture, I passed so rapidly from a state of sadness to
one of overwhelming cheerfulness that during our supper the advocate
enjoyed a thousand jokes upon my toothache, so quickly cured by the simple
remedy of a walk. On the following day we dined at Velletri and slept in
Marino, where, although the town was full of troops, we had two small
rooms and a good supper. I could not have been on better terms with my
charming Roman; for, although I had received but a rapid proof of her
regard, it had been such a true one—such a tender one! In the coach
our eyes could not say much; but I was opposite to her, and our feet spoke
a very eloquent language.
The advocate had told me that he was going to Rome on some ecclesiastical
business, and that he intended to reside in the house of his
mother-in-law, whom his wife had not seen since her marriage, two years
ago, and her sister hoped to remain in Rome, where she expected to marry a
clerk at the Spirito Santo Bank. He gave me their address, with a pressing
invitation to call upon them, and I promised to devote all my spare time
We were enjoying our dessert, when my beautiful lady-love, admiring my
snuff-box, told her husband that she wished she had one like it.
"I will buy you one, dear."
"Then buy mine," I said; "I will let you have it for twenty ounces, and
you can give me a note of hand payable to bearer in payment. I owe that
amount to an Englishman, and I will give it him to redeem my debt."
"Your snuff-box, my dear abbe, is worth twenty ounces, but I cannot buy it
unless you agree to receive payment in cash; I should be delighted to see
it in my wife's possession, and she would keep it as a remembrance of
His wife, thinking that I would not accept his offer, said that she had no
objection to give me the note of hand.
"But," exclaimed the advocate, "can you not guess the Englishman exists
only in our friend's imagination? He would never enter an appearance, and
we would have the snuff-box for nothing. Do not trust the abbe, my dear,
he is a great cheat."
"I had no idea," answered his wife, looking at me, "that the world
contained rogues of this species."
I affected a melancholy air, and said that I only wished myself rich
enough to be often guilty of such cheating.
When a man is in love very little is enough to throw him into despair, and
as little to enhance his joy to the utmost. There was but one bed in the
room where supper had been served, and another in a small closet leading
out of the room, but without a door. The ladies chose the closet, and the
advocate retired to rest before me. I bid the ladies good night as soon as
they had gone to bed; I looked at my dear mistress, and after undressing
myself I went to bed, intending not to sleep through the night. But the
reader may imagine my rage when I found, as I got into the bed, that it
creaked loud enough to wake the dead. I waited, however, quite motionless,
until my companion should be fast asleep, and as soon as his snoring told
me that he was entirely under the influence of Morpheus, I tried to slip
out of the bed; but the infernal creaking which took place whenever I
moved, woke my companion, who felt about with his hand, and, finding me
near him, went to sleep again. Half an hour after, I tried a second time,
but with the same result. I had to give it up in despair.
Love is the most cunning of gods; in the midst of obstacles he seems to be
in his own element, but as his very existence depends upon the enjoyment
of those who ardently worship him, the shrewd, all-seeing, little blind
god contrives to bring success out of the most desperate case.
I had given up all hope for the night, and had nearly gone to sleep, when
suddenly we hear a dreadful noise. Guns are fired in the street, people,
screaming and howling, are running up and down the stairs; at last there
is a loud knocking at our door. The advocate, frightened out of his
slumbers, asks me what it can all mean; I pretend to be very indifferent,
and beg to be allowed to sleep. But the ladies are trembling with fear,
and loudly calling for a light. I remain very quiet, the advocate jumps
out of bed, and runs out of the room to obtain a candle; I rise at once, I
follow him to shut the door, but I slam it rather too hard, the double
spring of the lock gives way, and the door cannot be reopened without the
I approach the ladies in order to calm their anxiety, telling them that
the advocate would soon return with a light, and that we should then know
the cause of the tumult, but I am not losing my time, and am at work while
I am speaking. I meet with very little opposition, but, leaning rather too
heavily upon my fair lady, I break through the bottom of the bedstead, and
we suddenly find ourselves, the two ladies and myself, all together in a
heap on the floor. The advocate comes back and knocks at the door; the
sister gets up, I obey the prayers of my charming friend, and, feeling my
way, reach the door, and tell the advocate that I cannot open it, and that
he must get the key. The two sisters are behind me. I extend my hand; but
I am abruptly repulsed, and judge that I have addressed myself to the
wrong quarter; I go to the other side, and there I am better received. But
the husband returns, the noise of the key in the lock announces that the
door is going to be opened, and we return to our respective beds.
The advocate hurries to the bed of the two frightened ladies, thinking of
relieving their anxiety, but, when he sees them buried in their
broken-down bedstead, he bursts into a loud laugh. He tells me to come and
have a look at them, but I am very modest, and decline the invitation. He
then tells us that the alarm has been caused by a German detachment
attacking suddenly the Spanish troops in the city, and that the Spaniards
are running away. In a quarter of an hour the noise has ceased, and quiet
is entirely re-established.
The advocate complimented me upon my coolness, got into bed again, and was
soon asleep. As for me, I was careful not to close my eyes, and as soon as
I saw daylight I got up in order to perform certain ablutions and to
change my shirt; it was an absolute necessity.
I returned for breakfast, and while we were drinking the delicious coffee
which Donna Lucrezia had made, as I thought, better than ever, I remarked
that her sister frowned on me. But how little I cared for her anger when I
saw the cheerful, happy countenance, and the approving looks of my adored
Lucrezia! I felt a delightful sensation run through the whole of my body.