Casanova de Seingalt, Giovanni Giacomo

Casanova de Seingalt, Giovanni Giacomo kăzənōˈvə, Ital. jōvänˈnē jäˈkōmō käzänōˈvä dā sāngältˈ [key], 1725–98, Venetian adventurer, author, and celebrated libertine. He studied for the church but was expelled from school for immorality. A life of adventure took him all over Europe. He supported himself by gambling, spying, writing, and, especially, by his power to seduce women, and his personal charm affected the foremost persons of his time. Arrested (1755) in Venice, he accomplished the notable feat of escaping (1756) from the “leaden roofs” of the state prison. In Paris, where he enjoyed favor in court circles, he became director of the lottery and amassed a fortune. In 1785 Casanova retired to the castle of Dux, Bohemia, where his friend Count Waldstein employed him as librarian. A man of learning and taste, with interests ranging from mathematics, poetry, science fiction, and literary and musical criticism to commercial, historical, and political projects, Casanova left many writings. His memoirs (1725–98), written in French, became world-famous. Only abridged versions were published until 1960, when the complete memoirs began to appear in French and in German translation; they were published in English in 1966. Accurate as to history, the memoirs probably contain much invented personal matter. Other papers, in prose and verse, were published in 1930.

See his autobiography tr. by W. R. Trask (12 vol. in 6, 1967–71; repr. 1997); biographies by J. R. Childs (1961), J. Masters (1969), L. Flem (1997), I. Kelly (2008), and L. Bergreen (2017).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Italian Literature: Biographies