Casanova and the affair of Giustiniana Wynne

One of the various adventures in which Casanova embroiled himself during his second stint in Paris involved Giustiniana Wynne, the female half of an extraordinary eighteenth-century love story (the other half being Andrea Memmo).  It’s a fascinating drama.  On the purely human level anyone who has experienced romantic love with all the doubts, exhilaration, despair and frustrations it entails can relate to the whirlwind of emotions on display in the numerous letters that shuttled between the two lovers across Venice, Paris and London.  Moreover, it gives us a direct insight into the daily lives and preoccupations of the denizens of polite society, the centrality of status, honour and reputation and, in particular, the vulnerability of women who were deemed not to conform to socially accepted norms.  From the perspective of Casanovan scholars, the extensive correspondence between Giustiniana and Andrea, who were both friends of Casanova, allows them the opportunity to assess the accuracy of his memoirs.  In the case of Giustiniana Wynne, Casanova’s descriptions of events closely align with her own, which is pretty remarkable given that Giustiniana’s letters were contemporaneous and Casanova was putting together Histoire de ma vie (The Story of my life) three decades later.  A full account of the love story can be found in the eminently readable ‘A Venetian Affair’ by Andrea di Robilant from which much of this article is drawn.

Giustiniana Wynne was the eldest of three sisters and two brothers, born 21st January, 1737, the daughter of an English baronet, Sir Richard Wynne.  Prompted by the death of his wife, in 1735 Sir Richard left England and toured Europe, never to return.  In Venice he met and married Anna Gazzini, a beautiful twenty-two-year-old Venetian courtesan of Greek descent with whom he fathered Giustiniana and her four siblings.  The marriage looks to have taken place after at least several of their children had already been born.  Mrs Anna, who transformed herself into a devout Catholic and disciplinarian, saw to it that her children had a traditional education centred on music, dance and French.  In 1751, Sir Richard Wynne died and the family undertook the arduous journey to London to sort out the inheritance.

In contrast to the rather dubious lineage of Giustiniana, Andrea Memmo, born 29th March, 1729, was of a far purer breed.  Although not particularly rich, the Memmo family were part of a ruling elite, one of the twenty-four so-called apostolic families who were counted amongst the original founders of the Venetian Republic.  As early as 979 there had been a Memmo Doge.  Andrea’s uncle, also called Andrea, had been Ambassador to Constantinople early in the century and had served Venice with great distinction.  He was the family patriarch and it was anticipated that his nephew would be his successor.  Andrea himself was a highly educated and cultured young man, fully accepting of his position in the community and the expectations placed upon him, including a future career in some capacity as one of the leaders of the state.

Venice was a tolerant society in comparison to much of the rest of Catholic Europe but its traditions and institutions of government were deeply conservative.  History has demonstrated that long-term political stability has been a hellishly difficult trick to pull off.  Until modern times and the evolution of liberal democracies it was a rare generation that did not experience violent political turmoil or existential threat.  And yet the constitution of the Serenissima as it evolved from the eleventh century enabled it to survive pretty much unscathed until the intervention of Napoleon in 1797.  It is unsurprising, therefore, that it stuck with what worked.  The Republic was essentially an oligarchy in which all political power resided in the hands of a limited number of noble families.  Amongst themselves the members of this Patriciate enjoyed absolute political equality.  The day-to-day operation of government was in the hands of the Doge and various councils that narrowly circumscribed his power.  The Doge and members of the councils were selected by labyrinthine voting procedures designed to prevent any individual or faction within the Patriciate acquiring too much power.  Given the centrality of the Patriciate to the governance of the state, issues of genealogy, marriage and legitimacy were of immense importance.  Consequently, the lives of Venetian noblemen such as Andrea Memmo were closely supervised and regulated.

Casanova first met Giustiniana in 1752, in the house of the Venetian Ambassador to Paris, Alvise Mocenigo.  He was twenty-seven and it was during his first trip to Paris:

I had likewise occasion to become acquainted at the Venetian Embassy with a lady from Venice, the widow of an English baronet named Wynne. She was then coming from London with her children, where she had been compelled to go in order to insure them the inheritance of their late father, which they would have lost if they had not declared themselves members of the Church of England. She was on her way back to Venice, much pleased with her journey. She was accompanied by her eldest daughter—a young girl of twelve years [she was, in fact, fifteen], who, notwithstanding her youth, carried on her beautiful face all the signs of perfection.
(Casanova’s Memoirs, To Paris and Prison, Chapter VII)

On his return to Venice in the same year Casanova was quick to reacquaint himself with Giustiniana, claiming to have fallen in love with her.  Her mother, however, aware of his dubious reputation, was having none of it.  Mrs Anna would be keeping her girls on a very tight leash.  She was only too well aware that the chances of her daughters obtaining advantageous marriages, and thereby assuring the future security and well-being of the Wynne family, would be severely hindered by rumours of sexual impropriety.

…when I was at Padua, I fell in love with the eldest daughter, but a few months after, when we were at Venice, Madame X. C. V. [Mrs Anna] thought good to exclude me from her family circle. The insult which the mother put upon me was softened by the daughter, who wrote me a charming letter, which I love to read even now. I may as well confess that my grief was the easier to bear as my time was taken up by my fair nun, M—— M——, and my dear C—— C——. Nevertheless, Mdlle. X. C. V. [Giustiniana], though only fifteen, was of a perfect beauty, and was all the more charming in that to her physical advantages she joined those of a cultured mind.
(Casanova’s Memoirs, The Eternal Quest, Chapter VI)

It was also upon his return from Paris that Casanova befriended Andrea Memmo and his two brothers.  In 1746 Casanova had hit it lucky.  He had saved the life of an influential Venetian senator called Matteo Bragadin who believed his rescuer possessed occult powers.  At the time, Casanova’s life was rather squalid and feckless.   Now it was transformed as Bragadin and his equally gullible friends showered him with money and gifts and gave him entry to elite society.  It was an opportunity he was determined to make the most of:

I began to lead a life of complete freedom, caring for nothing but what ministered to my tastes…With enough money, endowed by nature with a pleasing and commanding physical appearance, a confirmed gambler, a true spendthrift, a great talker, very far from modest, intrepid, always running after pretty women, supplanting my rivals, and acknowledging no good company but that which ministered to my enjoyment, I was certain to be disliked…  
(Casanova’s Memoirs, Venetian Years, Chapter XVIII)

And disliked he was.  Inevitably there were rumours (probably well-founded) about the nature of Casanova’s relationship with Bragadin and his companions.  There is strong suspicion that Casanova had been something of a rent-boy.  The Venetian authorities, ever jealous of the standing of the ruling families, paid informants to keep an eye on him and over the next few years the Inquisition files that recorded his various indiscretions grew and grew.  When he became friends with the Memmo brothers, scions of one of the most prestigious families in Venice, the ice upon which Casanova was treading was becoming exceedingly thin.  Andrea’s mother, Lucia, was particularly concerned.  Convinced that he would corrupt her sons, she communicated her fears to the Inquisition, further adding to the case against him.  Eventually they decided to act and, in July 1755, Casanova was sent to prison.  He would next meet Giustiniana in 1759.  However, by the time Casanova had been packed off to Il Piombi (the prison of the Inquisition high up in the palace of the Doge) Giustiniana and Andrea were already an item, albeit a rather clandestine and tortured one.

Central to the blossoming of the pair’s romance was the wealthy English merchant and voracious collector and dealer Consul Joseph Smith (for several years he had been the agent for Canaletto).  He had been a friend of Sir Richard Wynne, knew the family well and helped them out after his death.  At this time, he was in his late seventies.  He was a foreign resident who had lived almost his entire adult life in Venice and owned the magnificent Palazzo Balbi which he’d had redesigned in the style of Palladio.  Palazzo Balbi was very much a cultural hub and one of the few places that Mrs Anna risked allowing her children to visit, acutely aware as she was of the reputational damage that could arise if her daughters socialised too freely.  Her uncompromising quest for respectability reflected the family’s precarious circumstances.  She was, for a start, a widow taking care of five children.  Moreover, Venetians had long memories and her own past was hardly spotless: how far would Mrs Anna’s acorns fall from the tree?  Not only would any scandal reduce the chances of her daughters on the marriage market but their residency permit itself could be revoked.

Now it so happened that Andrea was a near neighbour and particularly good friend of Consul Smith, frequently visiting Palazzo Balbi where he made use of Smith’s extensive library as well as studying his vast collection of paintings and sculptures.  The Consul himself was childless and had developed a genuine affection for Andrea who became the elderly collector’s confidant and assistant.  At this point in his life, Andrea had not yet served in any capacity as a member of the government but kept himself busy with family responsibilities, a project to open a new theatre and his passion for learning and the arts.  Although he’d had a number of affairs none had been particularly serious.  Marriage, when it happened, would be more a matter of family and state politics than love and it would be to someone of his own class.  The idea that marriage could be a free choice regardless of social and economic family interests had become a serious issue of Enlightenment debate but for an Andrea Memmo it was out of the question.

It was during one of Giustiniana’s visits to Palazzi Balbi that Consul Smith introduced her to Andrea in 1753.  The two quickly fell in love, much to the alarm of Giustiniana’s mother who moved to put a stop to it.  The weight of public opinion amongst the English community and interested parties in Venice at large stood full-square behind Lady Wynne.  Those interested parties included Andrea’s mother.  Lucia’s concern, however, was the obverse of Mrs Anna’s.  She had no problem with her son having a casual fling but to develop a deep attachment was altogether something else.  The possibility of an unsanctioned marriage reared its head, with the danger that Andrea’s career and the fortunes of the Memmo family would be derailed.  Andrea, nonetheless, persisted in seeing Giustiniana despite her mother’s wishes, whether at a theatre, during the traditional evening passeggiata in Piazza San Marco or even calling on Giustiniana from his gondola moored below the Wynne residence.  Pushed into a corner, Mrs Anna had little option but to confront him directly.  In a dramatic encounter in the winter of 1754 she banished Andrea from their house and forbade any form of communication between the pair, news of the fireworks spreading quickly around the city.

But Giustiniana and Andrea, borne onwards by the intensity of their love, were not going to give up without a fight.  In Mrs Anna, however, they had a determined adversary.  She was now obsessively suspicious.  Giustiniana was kept under close surveillance and never allowed out unaccompanied.  Her mother used spies and allies within the community to pick up any gossip and to keep an eye on any places that offered potential for the two to meet.  Whether at home or abroad, the Venetian state was renowned for its subterfuge and sophisticated intelligence gathering, utilising extensive networks of informants and diplomats.  In this respect, Giustiniana and Andrea demonstrated that they were true children of the Serenissima.  Andrea marshalled his own network of spies and allies.  He obtained regular updates as to Giustiniana’s whereabouts.  He bribed one of Mrs Anna’s servants, Alvisetto, to pass on messages between the two.  Gondoliers and a sympathetic local shopkeeper were also employed as part of their secret mail service.  Andrea was good friends with the Tiepolo family (another of the great Venetian lineages) whose palazzo was conveniently situated opposite the Wynnes, across a narrow canal.  Andrea would visit to catch a glimpse of his beloved who would be forewarned and instructed to go out onto her balcony at a certain time.  They developed their own sign language to communicate at a distance as well as their own written secret codes.  Their emotions bounced all over the place: the thrill of a stolen moment; joy at the receipt of a letter; the fear that their correspondence might fall into the wrong hands; the excitement of the risks they were taking; the frustration at misunderstandings and plans that went awry; doubts over the constancy and sincerity of the other (a particular worry for Giustiniana given Andrea’s far greater freedom).  They wrote to each other constantly, sometimes several times in a day.  For Andrea especially, organising their affair absorbed an enormous amount of his time and energy, to the extent that other responsibilities and aspects of his life, such as his plans for a new theatre, began to suffer.   Here’s one of Andrea’s letters published in Andrea di Robilant’s account A Venetian Affair:

 Yesterday I tried desperately to see you.  Before lunch the gondoliers could not serve me.  After lunch I went looking for you in Campo Santo Stefano.  Nothing.  So I walked toward Piazza San Marco, and when I arrived at the bridge of San Moise I ran into Lucrezia Pisani [a good friend]! I gave her my hand on the bridge, and then I saw you.  I left her immediately and went looking for you everywhere.  Finally I found you in the piazza.  I sent Alvisetto ahead to find out whether you were on your way to the opera or to the new play at Teatro Sant’Angelo, so that I could rush over to get a new box in time.  Then I forged ahead and waited for you, filled with desire.  Finally you arrived and I went up to my box so that I could contemplate you – not only for the sheer pleasure I take in admiring you but also in the hope of receiving a sign of acknowledgement as a form of consolation.  But you did nothing of the sort.  Instead you laughed continuously, made loud noises until the end of the show, for which I was both sorry and angry – as you can well imagine.

After several months, believing that the danger had passed, Mrs Anna turned her attentions to the task of finding Giustiniana a suitable husband and lowered her guard.  The lovers now took advantage of this more relaxed supervision to meet up in the apartments and casinos of friends, their relationship becoming a much more physical one.  This secret affair continued throughout 1755.  As successful as their scheming had been, however, there was always an underlying hopelessness about the relationship.  The social gulf between them was simply too great.  In some ways, Andrea had suggested, it would be easier for them if Giustiniana got herself married to someone else.  They could then carry on their relationship without so many dynastic complications.  Such arrangements were not uncommon amongst elite society in eighteenth-century Europe.

At the end of 1755, it then so happened that Consul Smith’s wife died.  He was eighty-years-old but in very good health and was apparently keen to remarry.  Mrs Anna was quickly on the case.  Invitations to the Wynne abode followed along with various hints.  There were competitors, however, and they lost no time making it clear to Consul Smith that Giustiniana was still sweet on Andrea.  It was to be expected, however, that a rival would try to discredit her, so such a charge could be taken with a large pinch of salt.  Understandably, Giustiniana had mixed feelings but she went along; marriage to the Consul might, after all, work in the lovers’ favour. Andrea himself was particularly keen on the idea and used his access to Smith to discretely promote her cause.  Mrs Anna’s campaign gathered pace.  The Consul invited the family to visit his villa to the north of Venice and then facilitated the rental of the nearby villa, La Scalette, where the Wynne’s could stay for the summer.  All appeared to be going well and there were hopes that a proposal of marriage would be forthcoming, possibly by the September.  Then everything came crashing down.  Towards the end of the summer, Andrea settled in at the Tiepolo’s own villa which was not too far from La Scalette.  Rumours began to surface that Giustiniana and Andrea were seeing each other.  And worse was to come.  Mrs Anna managed to get hold of letters written by Giustiniana intended for Andrea.  This lead to a terrible scene, with Giustiniana’s mother threatening to sue Andrea and drag the whole affair through the courts.  After some negotiation, much to Giustiniana’s consternation, Andrea agreed to Mrs Anna’s demand not to write or speak to her daughter until after she had married Consul Smith.  It was all for nought, however.  Smith had got wind of events and the marriage was off.

Meanwhile, Lady Wynne wasn’t alone in her frustrations in attempting to arrange an advantageous marriage for one of her children.  Believing, as Mrs Anna had believed, that the relationship between Andrea and Giustiniana was over, Pietro and Lucia Memmo had entered into negotiations with the wealthy Bentivoglio family for the betrothal of one of their daughters to Andrea.  For the cash-strapped Memmos it was a very advantageous match.  Andrea, however, procrastinated and then refused, much to the anger of his family.  What with this as well as the Consul Smith debacle he had a lot bridges to build and fences to mend.  To add to his woes his sister Marina, to whom he was very close, died and old age was bearing down heavily on his father.

In the spring of 1757, now four years into the relationship, Andrea and Giustiniana began seeing each other again in secret but things weren’t the same, especially from Giustiniana’s perspective.  What was there for her to look forward to?  The future was filled with uncertainty.  Her chances of achieving a successful marriage had clearly been dealt a blow.  Andrea felt Giustiniana was becoming more distant and he began to fear that he might lose her.  Desperate for them to stay together, Andrea began to think the unthinkable: he would marry her, even though to do so would be profoundly against the political and financial interests of the family and, moreover, would have to be approved by the Avogaria di Comun, a body that defended the interests of the Patriciate.  The task was not going to be straightforward but initial inquiries gave him room for hope.  He calculated that if he could convince the two families to give him their support then the Avogaria would fall into line.  But he was playing a dangerous game.  If the Avogaria were to reject his petition then his family’s reputation would be damaged.  Giustiniana herself was sceptical of their chances and reluctant to raise the matter with her mother.  Andrea persisted and eventually, after six months of cajoling, Giustiniana spoke to Lady Wynne who, it turned out, was receptive to the idea.  Andrea, meanwhile, was able to win around his own family.  Preliminary negotiations regarding a marriage contract now got underway with the Venetian authorities as well as the drawing up of a contract between the families.  Things were looking hopeful.  Negotiations and enquiries continued into the summer of 1758 and although the lovers were meant to stay apart it was impossible for them not to meet.  Then, as with Consul Smith, everything collapsed.  Evidence came to light that Lady Wynne, a quarter of a century before and prior to meeting Sir Richard, had given birth to a baby boy out of wedlock.  That was the end of that.

Mrs Anna’s disgrace left the Wynne family little option but to try and make a new life elsewhere; it was unlikely that Giustiniana would be able to find a husband in Venice.  In October 1758, they began to make their way across Europe to England, via Paris.  Giustiniana and Andrea had still not given up hope of finding some way to be together but nonetheless the separation hit them hard:

I wept a great deal [all during the night] and was inconsolable.  I made a thousand plans to go back to you if you do not find a way to your Giustiniana.  What misery is mine!  You are always on my mind, and at this very moment I am kissing your little portrait.

The family arrived in Paris in November 1758 where they were granted permission to stay for fifteen days, later extended to over the winter.  The primary goal of Giustiniana and Andrea was to avoid Giustiniana travelling on to London, which would make any future contact between them even more difficult, particularly as England was a Protestant state and presently at war with France.  One way was to find a Parisian husband.  This time the target was Alexandre Le Riche de la Poupliniere, a fabulously rich tax collector in his sixties whose wife had recently died.

Casanova now re-entered the story.  On 1st November 1756 he had broken out of jail and headed for Paris where he met up with Abbe de Bernis, who was Louis XV’s secretary for foreign affairs.  De Bernis had befriended Casanova when he was stationed in Venice as the French Ambassador. Like Casanova he was an extravagant libertine.  Helped by de Bernis, Casanova had become involved in the founding of a lottery and very quickly made a fortune.  He also made a great deal of money through dealings on the Amsterdam bond markets where he negotiated funds for the French government.  Apparently, he was so successful he revived the French securities market.  He was now something of a celebrity in Paris.  It was on the day of his return from this venture that Giustiniana became reacquainted with him.  On a visit to the Comedie Italienne, early in January 1759, Giustiniana and her mother heard enthusiastic cheering from a box close by. They looked over and there he was:

My surprise at seeing this family at such a time and place may be imagined. Mdlle. X. C. V. [Giustiniana] saw me directly, and pointed me out to her mother, who made a sign to me with her fan to come to their box … Mdlle. X. C. V. struck me as prettier than ever; and my love, after sleeping for five years, awoke to fresh strength and vigour.
(Casanova’s Memoirs, The Eternal Quest, Chapter VI)

Casanova wasted no time in paying his respects to them at Hotel de Hollande.  Giustiniana wrote to Andrea: He is with us every day even though his company does not please me …He is quite full of himself and stupidly pompous. We do, of course, have to be cautious about taking her complaint at face value.  Andrea knew Casanova well and Giustiniana would have been very alive to the need to reassure her lover that she was immune to his charms.

Soon, however, Giustiniana had bigger fish to fry.  Through the Venetian poet Tommaso Farsetti, who was sweet on her, Giustiniana managed to wangle an invitation to see Poupliniere.  Although his wife had died recently, they had been estranged for ten years during which time the tax collector had enjoyed a succession of mistresses.  This had led to the evolution of a rather complicated and poisonous household composed of various old mistresses, family members and other hangers on, scheming and manoeuvring against each other.  The most influential mistress was Madame de Saint Aubin who for her own reasons befriended Giustiniana and supported her in her seduction of Poupliniere.  Within a month he had completely fallen in love with Giustiniana and was keen to move things on and get married.  To no-one’s surprise, a campaign to blacken Giustiniana’s name and sabotage the wedding was quickly underway.  Anonymous letters were circulated.  Giustiniana herself was threatened.  Fully aware of what his entourage were capable of Poupliniere dismissed these accusations and ploughed on with the arrangements.  The plan was for them to get married in mid-April.

There was, however, a problem.   Giustiniana was five months pregnant when she met Poupliniere towards the end of January.  She may not have known whose the child was.  It may have been Andrea’s.  But it may also have been the consequence of a brief fling.  In the same month, Casanova received her desperate appeal for help.  Whatever her true feelings towards Casanova she had appeared to warm to him quite quickly after their early meetings, so much so that she managed to find herself alone with him at a masked Opera Ball whereupon Casanova professed his love to her.  It was several days later that he received her letter.  In it she writes:

I am putting my life, my reputation, my whole being in your hands and through you I hope to find my salvation.  I beg you to assist an unhappy soul who will have no other recourse but to seek her own death if she cannot remedy her situation.

The implications of what she proposed, to have an abortion, was dangerous for all concerned.  Firstly, it carried enormous health risks for the mother.  Secondly, although in France the practice of aborting children was fairly widespread it was nonetheless a serious crime to perpetrate or abet.

Casanova’s response to Giustiniana’s message offers an insight into the nature of both his personality and his memoirs.  He regarded himself, with some justification, as an Enlightenment man of letters.  The primary aim of his autobiography was to try to give a truthful psychological account of men’s characters, in particular his own.  This was natural philosophy, a scientific endeavour, objective and evidence based.  He described what men and women do, not what they ought to do.  In the extract below, he illustrates how impulses of chivalrous self-sacrifice and opportunistic sexual exploitation can co-exist within the same person at the same time.  He also highlights his vanity and ego, and, with regards to his decision-making, touches on the relationship between emotion, reason and wisdom.

I was petrified with astonishment and could only write, “I will be with you at eleven o’clock.”
No one should say that he has passed through great misfortunes unless they have proved too great for his mind to bear. The confidence of Mdlle. X. C. V. [Giustiniana] shewed me that she was in need of support. I congratulated myself on having the preference, and I vowed to do my best for her did it cost me my life. These were the thoughts of a lover, but for all that I could not conceal from myself the imprudence of the step she had taken. In such cases as these there is always the choice between speaking or writing, and the only feeling which can give the preference to writing is false shame, at bottom mere cowardice. If I had not been in love with her, I should have found it easier to have refused my aid in writing than if she had spoken to me, but I loved her to distraction.
“Yes,” said I to myself, “she can count on me. Her mishap makes her all the dearer to me.”
And below this there was another voice, a voice which whispered to me that if I succeeded in saving her my reward was sure. I am well aware that more than one grave moralist will fling stones at me for this avowal, but my answer is that such men cannot be in love as I was.
(Casanova’s Memoirs, The Eternal Quest, Chapter VI)

It was hardly surprising that he ‘was petrified with astonishment’.   Here he was, rich and famous, anticipating the pleasures of seducing a beautiful woman with whom he was besotted, now faced with making a decision the consequences of which could destroy them both.  What made his astonishment all the greater was the fact that she was so many months pregnant without it showing.  He met with Giustiniana who, despite his reservations, was determined to go ahead, the cautionary tale of her mother’s undoing no doubt strengthening her resolve.

In mid-February, using another masked Opera Ball as cover, Casanova made arrangements for Giustiniana to meet with a midwife called Rene Demay who might be amenable to helping them.  The aim was to arrive at the ball separately then slip out together, see Demay, and return unnoticed.  The meeting was all rather seedy and unpleasant with Casanova regretting having taken Giustiniana along.  Nonetheless, the mid-wife agreed to put together a potion, for the large sum of fifty louis.  Before returning to the ball they went to Casanova’s country house, Petite Pologne, where, after enjoying a bottle of champagne and some pleasant conversation, he tried to seduce her.  When she resisted, however, he didn’t pursue his attempt.  He observed: The mere idea of violence revolts me.

Casanova’s unease in his dealings with Rene Demay turned out to be fully justified as she and a collaborator, Louis de Castelbajac, attempted to cash in by offering to sell their information to Poupliniere.  He would have none of it, however.  A cursory examination of Giustiniana by his secretary Maisonneuve, which involved resting his hand on her belly to check that it was flat, reassured him that the accusations were baseless.  In an attempt at extortion, Demay and Castelbajac now brought criminal charges against Casanova and Giustiniana which in turn brought counter charges by Poupliniere who had uncovered that Castelbajac was in cahoots with his relatives.

But the clock was ticking and there was still the problem of the unwanted pregnancy.  Casanova now resorted to concocting his own abortifacient on information proffered by his close friend the Marquise D’Urfé who drew upon her extensive knowledge of alchemy and the occult.  The alchemical application, known as an ‘aroph’, was to be administered several times a day for a week. And the method of delivery?   Via the tip of Casanova’s penis (according to Casanova, the formula also required fresh semen).  Apparently Giustiniana laughed when she heard this but went along with it nonetheless.  Biographer Ian Kelly notes:

Although it has been suggested that this was a cruel or, at least, opportunistic coercion into sex, the prescription of arophs and other unguents with invasive techniques, including penetrative sex, were established methods of procuring an abortion. (Casanova: Actor, Spy Lover, Priest)

The aroph too, failed, and time was running out.  Casanova had, however, during his period of intimacy with Giustiniana, managed to convince her to rule out suicide as a solution to her problems.  Instead, using his contacts, notably the influential Countess du Rumain, he arranged for her at the beginning of April to lie low at the convent of Conflans and to stay there until she’d given birth.  Mrs Anna, who had been kept completely in the dark about what was going on, lost no time blaming Casanova for the disappearance and issued a writ against him.  Casanova, of course, pleaded ignorance and, in fact, had taken the precaution of visiting the family on the day of Giustiniana’s disappearance expressing his wish to see her.  In Paris, the Giustiniana affair became such big news that Madame de Pompadour herself was taking an interest.  Inevitably, rumours were rife that Mademoiselle Wynne was expecting. The cover story, communicated in letters smuggled out from the convent, was that she had gone into hiding because she feared for her safety as a consequence of the threats she’d received linked to her betrothal to Poupliniere.  A month later Giustiniana was delivered of a baby boy.  There’s no record of what happened to the child.

During Giustiniana’s confinement, Casanova had been having to deal with the ongoing cases against him.  The Countess du Rumain explained to the city’s judiciary, Antoine de Sartine, that there had been no abortion and that Giustiniana was pregnant, information that Sartine discretely kept to himself.  At the same time, Demay and Castelbajac offered to retract their testimony for 100 Louis.  Casanova reported this to Sartine who had the pair arrested and imprisoned.  At the end of May, Giustiniana finally resurfaced leading to Mrs Anna’s charges being dropped.  Poupliniere was still keen on going ahead with the wedding once matters had settled but Giustiniana had now decided against becoming a member of the tax collector’s toxic household.   She wrote to Andrea, who hadn’t known what to think about the news that had been reaching him from Paris, giving him her version of events.  Claims that she was expecting, she reassured him, were nothing but malicious rumour mongering.

In July the family departed for London.  The authorities had not been inclined to extend the Wynnes’ permit to stay, such was their unhappiness at all the brouhaha.  Andrea and Giustiniana continued to correspond but time and distance began to take their toll.  Their lives, particularly Andrea’s, would begin to move along different paths.  Andrea’s attention became increasingly taken up by his political career.  The pair, however, always remained friends.

The Wynnes never really felt comfortable in London and after two years Mrs Anna petitioned the Venetian authorities to allow them to return, which was granted.  Giustiniana herself had decided to stay single and live modestly on the small allowance she had inherited.  It turned out, however, that shortly after her return to Venice she ended up marrying the Austrian ambassador, the seventy-year-old Count Philip Orsini-Rosenberg, much to the surprise of everyone.  She was now financially secure.  In 1764 Count and Countess Rosenberg left Venice for Austria.  In 1770, Giustiniana returned, now a widow but still only in her thirties.  Eventually she settled in Padua and became recognised as an accomplished writer, publishing several novels.  Andrea’s career prospered.  In fact, in 1789 he was a whisper away from being elected Doge.  Giustiniana died in 1791 and Andrea two years later.  As for Casanova, shortly after the Wynne affair his fortunes in Paris soured and he moved on to try his hand elsewhere.

Note: references to Casanova’s memoirs relate to the revised unabridged Arthur Machen English translation (Gutenberg project)

Dave Thompson (2018)


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