The Memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt Volume VI Part 110
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Scattered through the Memoirs are many of Casanova's thoughts about his old age. Some were possibly incorporated in the original text, others possibly added when he revised the text in 1797. These vary from resignation to bitterness, doubtless depending on Casanova's state of mind at the moment he wrote them:
"Now that I am seventy-two years old, I believe myself no longer susceptible of such follies. But alas! that is the very thing which causes me to be miserable."
"I hate old age which offers only what I already know, unless I should take up a gazette."
"Age has calmed my pa.s.sions by rendering them powerless, but my heart has not grown old and my memory has kept all the freshness of youth."
"No, I have not forgotten her [Henriette]; for even now, when my head is covered with white hair, the recollection of her is still a source of happiness for my heart."
"A scene which, even now, excites my mirth."
"Age, that cruel and unavoidable disease, compels me to be in good health, in spite of myself."
"Now that I am but the shadow of the once brilliant Casanova, I love to chatter."
"Now that age has whitened my hair and deadened the ardor of my senses, my imagination does not take such a high flight and I think differently."
"What embitters my old age is that, having a heart as warm as ever, I have no longer the strength necessary to secure a single day as blissful as those which I owed to this charming girl."
"When I recall these events, I grow young again and feel once more the delights of youth, despite the long years which separate me from that happy time."
"Now that I am getting into my dotage, I look on the dark side of everything. I am invited to a wedding and see naught but gloom; and, witnessing the coronation of Leopold II, at Prague, I say to myself, 'Nolo coronari'. Cursed old age, thou art only worthy of dwelling in h.e.l.l."
"The longer I live, the more interest I take in my papers. They are the treasure which attaches me to life and makes death more hateful still."
And so on, through the Memoirs, Casanova supplies his own picture, knowing very well that the end, even of his cherished memories, is not far distant.
In 1797, Casanova relates an amusing, but irritating incident, which resulted in the loss of the first three chapters of the second volume of the Memoirs through the carelessness of a servant girl at Dux who took the papers "old, written upon, covered with scribbling and erasures,"
for "her own purposes," thus necessitating a re-writing, "which I must now abridge," of these chapters. Thirty years before, Casanova would doubtless have made love to the girl and all would have been forgiven.
But, alas for the "hateful old age" permitting no relief except irritation and impotent anger.
On the 1st August, 1797, Cecilia Roggendorff, the daughter of the Count Roggendorff [printed Roquendorf] whom Casanova had met at Vienna in 1753, wrote: "You tell me in one of your letters that, at your death, you will leave me, by your will, your Memoirs which occupy twelve volumes."
At this time, Casanova was revising, or had completed his revision of, the twelve volumes. In July 1792, as mentioned above, Casanova wrote Opiz that he had arrived at the twelfth volume. In the Memoirs themselves we read, "... the various adventures which, at the age of seventy-two years, impel me to write these Memoirs ...," written probably during a revision in 1797.
At the beginning of one of the two chapters of the last volume, which were missing until discovered by Arthur Symons at Dux in 1899, we read: "When I left Venice in the year 1783, G.o.d ought to have sent me to Rome, or to Naples, or to Sicily, or to Parma, where my old age, according to all appearances, might have been happy. My genius, who is always right, led me to Paris, so that I might see my brother Francois, who had run into debt and who was just then going to the Temple. I do not care whether or not he owes me his regeneration, but I am glad to have effected it. If he had been grateful to me, I should have felt myself paid; it seems to me much better that he should carry the burden of his debt on his shoulders, which from time to time he ought to find heavy.
He does not deserve a worse punishment. To-day, in the seventy-third year of my life, my only desire is to live in peace and to be far from any person who might imagine that he has rights over my moral liberty, for it is impossible that any kind of tyranny should not coincide with this imagination."
Early in February, 1798, Casanova was taken sick with a very grave bladder trouble of which he died after suffering for three-and-a-half months. On the 16th February Zaguri wrote: "I note with the greatest sorrow the blow which has afflicted you." On the 31st March, after having consulted with a Prussian doctor, Zaguri sent a box of medicines and he wrote frequently until the end.
On the 20th April Elisa von der Recke, whom Casanova had met, some years before, at the chateau of the Prince de Ligne at Teplitz, having returned to Teplitz, wrote: "Your letter, my friend, has deeply affected me. Although myself ill, the first fair day which permits me to go out will find me at your side." On the 27th, Elisa, still bedridden, wrote that the Count de Montboisier and his wife were looking forward to visiting Casanova. On the 6th May she wrote, regretting that she was unable to send some crawfish soup, but that the rivers were too high for the peasants to secure the crawfish. "The Montboisier family, Milady Clark, my children and myself have all made vows for your recovery." On the 8th, she sent bouillon and madeira.
On the 4th June, 1798, Casanova died. His nephew, Carlo Angiolini was with him at the time. He was buried in the churchyard of Santa Barbara at Dux. The exact location of his grave is uncertain, but a tablet, placed against the outside wall of the church reads:
JAKOB CASANOVA Venedig 1725 Dux 1798
The Memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt Volume VI Part 110
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