Apart from obscuring so much of what is interesting about him, Casanova’s historical reputation as a womaniser has, ironically, also obscured the nature of his relationship with women. The great libertine was, in fact, in some ways very atypical when it came to women. The libertine creed regarded the pursuit of sexual pleasure as a good in itself and the object of their attention was no more than a means to an end. They regarded the norms of marriage and sentimental love as artificial, man-made contrivances that hindered them in achieving their goal of maximising pleasure. For Casanova, by contrast, the satisfaction and fulfilment of the other was integral to his own enjoyment even if the encounter was fleeting. He might manoeuvre, dupe and trick women (as they would him), he might even dupe himself, but, ultimately, he wanted a willing partner and he wanted them both to have a good time. He loathed the idea of force or coercion. Consequently, his relationship with women was a sympathetic one, based much more upon empathy and equality than was generally the case between men and women at the time.
In ‘Casanova in Paris’ we’ve tried to bring out more faithfully the true nature of his relationship with women. There is the casual fling with Madame de Boufflers, who, given her position at court, is exploiting him more than the other way around, his relationship with Marie who is as much a friend as a lover, his impulsive protectiveness and sense of chivalrous nobility that is the basis of his relationship with Gabrielle, and his platonic friendship with Marquise d’Urfé. And there is, of course, his troubled relationship with his mother.
‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ is freely available here.
27 long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.
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