Casanova’s first great love was Bellino, a woman who had disguised herself as a castrato (a castrated opera singer with a unique singing voice that made them highly fashionable and capable of earning huge sums of money). He was nineteen at the time. They had decided to elope to Rimini when fate intervened. Casanova had lost his passport and was detained by the army in Pesaro while he was waiting for a new one to arrive. The bizarre event that followed is worth reading in full:
Towards the ninth or tenth day everyone in the army knew and liked me, and I was expecting the passport, which could not be delayed much longer. I was almost free, and I would often walk about even out of sight of the sentinel. They were quite right not to fear my running away, and I should have been wrong if I had thought of escaping, but the most singular adventure of my life happened to me then, and most unexpectedly.
It was about six in the morning. I was taking a walk within one hundred yards of the sentinel, when an officer arrived and alighted from his horse, threw the bridle on the neck of his steed, and walked off. Admiring the docility of the horse, standing there like a faithful servant to whom his master has given orders to wait for him I got up to him, and without any purpose I get hold of the bridle, put my foot in the stirrup, and find myself in the saddle. I was on horseback for the first time in my life. I do not know whether I touched the horse with my cane or with my heels, but suddenly the animal starts at full speed. My right foot having slipped out of the stirrup, I press against the horse with my heels, and, feeling the pressure, it gallops faster and faster, for I did not know how to check it. At the last advanced post the sentinels call out to me to stop; but I cannot obey the order, and the horse carrying me away faster than ever, I hear the whizzing of a few musket balls, the natural consequence of my involuntary disobedience. At last, when I reach the first advanced picket of the Austrians, the horse is stopped, and I get off his back thanking God.
(History of my life, Venetian Years, Chapter XII)
‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ is freely available here.
Long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.
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