“Of Mistresses, Tigresses and Other Conquests” by Giacomo Casanova

 I must say, I didn’t notice any tigresses. And "conquests" seems the wrong word. In fact, Casanova was not a casanova. (That’s my pull quote.) He was more a victim than a conqueror — helplessly in love with… nuns. Casanova had a weakness for gorgeous women in clerical garb. Sample dialogue:


When M.M. appeared dressed as a nun, I cried out… "But in your saintly dress you astonish me. Allow me to adore you on the spot, my angel."


"I shall don my lay attire at once. I need but fifteen minutes. I do not like myself in these woolens."


"Not at all. You shall receive my amorous homage in the clothing you wore when you first kindled it."


All this takes place at night, with secret gondolas approaching the convents of 18th century Venice, which adds to the exoticism. (Often, Casanova travels masked.)


In fact, the title of this book is merely provisional — as it sounds. Casanova never finished his memoirs, which reached 3600 pages, so these are brief excerpts.


The book begins with philosophy: a chapter entitled "The Freedom of Man." For example:


Man is free; but not unless he believes he is, for the more power he attributes to Destiny, the more he deprives himself of that power which GOD gave him when he granted him reason.


Yes, in his own kooky way, Casanova was a partisan of the Enlightenment. (And may have also invented existentialism.)


One of the best elements in Of Mistresses, Tigresses and Other Conquests is the euphemistic jargon:


I threw myself at her feet, begging her to yield to my desires at once; but she ordered me to hold my fire until we were in bed.


"I do not want," she told me laughing, "to have to worry that your quintessence will fall on the rug. You shall see."


What a word: "quintessence"! I’m going to use that with my wife. 


[Translated by Stephen Sartarelli and Sophie Hawkes]