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European social life during the 18th century. He often signed his works “Jacques Casanova de Seingalt” after he began writing in French following his second exile from Venice. He has become so famous for his often complicated and elaborate affairs with women that his name is now synonymous with “womanizer”. At the time of Casanova’s birth, the city of Venice thrived as the pleasure capital of Europe, ruled by political and religious conservatives who tolerated social vices and encouraged tourism. This was the milieu that bred Casanova and made him its most famous and representative citizen. San Samuele – Casanova’s childhood neighborhood.
Casanova was cared for by his grandmother Marzia Baldissera while his mother toured about Europe in the theater. His father died when he was eight. As a child, Casanova suffered nosebleeds, and his grandmother sought help from a witch: “Leaving the gondola, we enter a hovel, where we find an old woman sitting on a pallet, with a black cat in her arms and five or six others around her. Casanova was fascinated by the incantation.
For Casanova, the neglect by his parents was a bitter memory. So they got rid of me,” he proclaimed. Conditions at the boarding house were appalling, so he appealed to be placed under the care of Abbé Gozzi, his primary instructor, who tutored him in academic subjects as well as the violin. Casanova moved in with the priest and his family and lived there through most of his teenage years. It was also in the Gozzi household that Casanova first came into contact with the opposite sex, when Gozzi’s younger sister Bettina fondled him at the age of eleven. Bettina was “pretty, lighthearted, and a great reader of romances.
The girl pleased me at once, though I had no idea why. It was she who little by little kindled in my heart the first sparks of a feeling which later became my ruling passion. Although she subsequently married, Casanova maintained a lifelong attachment to Bettina and the Gozzi family. Early on, Casanova demonstrated a quick wit, an intense appetite for knowledge, and a perpetually inquisitive mind. It was his guardian’s hope that he would become an ecclesiastical lawyer. Casanova had also studied moral philosophy, chemistry, and mathematics, and was keenly interested in medicine. I should have been allowed to do as I wished and become a physician, in which profession quackery is even more effective than it is in legal practice.