Adventurer The Life and Times of Giacomo Casanova Leo Damrosch

Publication date:
12 Jul 2022
Yale University Press
448 pages: 235 x 156mm
34 color + 49 b-w illus.
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A fast-paced narrative about the world-famous libertine Giacomo Casanova, from celebrated biographer Leo Damrosch

The iconic libertine Giacomo Casanova (1725–1798) was a storied adventurer through the Enlightenment’s shadowy underside. Known as a serial seducer, he was also an aspiring priest, an army officer, a fortune teller, a con man, a violinist, a mathematician, a Masonic master, an entrepreneur, a diplomat, a gambler, and a spy. The first to tell his own story, in his massive autobiography Histoire de Ma Vie, he recorded at least a hundred and twenty love affairs, as well as dramatic sagas of duels, swindles, arrests, and escapes. He knew kings and an empress, Catherine the Great, and most of the famous writers of the time, including Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin.
Drawing on seldom used materials, Leo Damrosch situates Casanova fully in the multiple subcultures he inhabited. Reading Casanova’s memoir with a critical eye and engaging extensively with his non-autobiographical writings, he brings alive this extraordinary figure and the eighteenth-century world that Casanova knew so intimately. Casanova aspired to a life of freedom from restraints, but, Damrosch asks, freedom at whose expense?

Leo Damrosch is the Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature Emeritus at Harvard University. His many books include The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age and Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World, winner of the National Book Critics Circle award and Pulitzer finalist for biography. He lives in Newton, MA.

“A pleasure to read, remarkably clear and readable, engaging, vivid, informative—in short, an excellent biography that both delights and instructs.”—April Alliston, Princeton University