More than once in his life Casanova considered doing away with himself, most notably as a consequence of his dealings with the duplicitous courtesan Marie Ann Charpillon. Besotted with her and having been duped in to believing she was on her death bed he prepares to throw himself off Westminster Bridge:
“The doctor is no good now,” said the old hypocrite, weeping anew, “he is a minister of the Gospel, and there is another of them upstairs. My poor daughter! In another hour she will be no more.”
I felt as if an icy hand had closed upon my heart. I burst into tears and left the woman, saying,
“It is true that my hand dealt the blow, but her death lies at your door.”
As I walked away my knees seemed to bend under me, and I entered my house determined to commit suicide.
With this fearful idea, I gave orders that I was not at home to anyone. As soon as I got to my room I put my watches, rings, snuff-boxes, purse and pocket-book in my casket, and shut it up in my escritoire. I then wrote a letter to the Venetian ambassador, informing him that all my property was to go to M. de Bragadin after my death. I sealed the letter and put it with the casket, and took the key with me, and also silver to the amount of a few guineas. I took my pistols and went out with the firm intention of drowning myself in the Thames, near the Tower of London.
Pondering over my plan with the utmost coolness, I went and bought some balls of lead as large as my pockets would hold, and as heavy as I could bear, to carry to the Tower, where I intended to go on foot. On my way I was strengthened in my purpose by the reflection, that if I continued to live I should be tormented for the remainder of my days by the pale shade of the Charpillon reproaching me as her murderer. I even congratulated myself on being able to carry out my purpose without any effort, and I also felt a secret pride in my courage.
I walked slowly on account of the enormous weight I bore, which would assure me a speedy passage to the bottom of the river.
By Westminster Bridge my good fortune made me meet Sir Edgar, a rich young Englishman, who lived a careless and joyous life. I had made his acquaintance at Lord Pembroke’s, and he had dined with me several times. We suited one another, his conversation was agreeable, and we had passed many pleasant hours together. I tried to avoid him, but he saw me, and came up and took me by the arm in a friendly manner.
“Where are you going? Come with me, unless you are going to deliver some captive. Come along, we shall have a pleasant party.”
“I can’t come, my dear fellow, let me go.”
“What’s the matter? I hardly recognized you, you looked so solemn.”
“Nothing is the matter.”
“Nothing? You should look at your face in the glass. Now I feel quite sure that you are going to commit a foolish action.”
“Not at all.”
“It’s no good denying it.”
“I tell you there’s nothing the matter with me. Good bye, I shall see you again.”
“It’s no good, I won’t leave you. Come along, we will walk together.”
His eyes happening to fall on my breeches pocket, he noticed my pistol, and putting his hand on the other pocket he felt the other pistol, and said,—
“You are going to fight a duel; I should like to see it. I won’t interfere with the affair, but neither will I leave you.”
I tried to put on a smile, and assured him that he was mistaken, and that I was only going for a walk to pass the time.
“Very good,” said Edgar, “then I hope my society is as pleasant to you as yours is to me; I won’t leave you. After we have taken a walk we will go and dine at the ‘Canon.’ I will get two girls to come and join us, and we shall have a gay little party of four.”
“My dear friend, you must excuse me; I am in a melancholy mood, and I want to be alone to get over it.”
“You can be alone to-morrow, if you like, but I am sure you will be all right in the next three hours, and if not, why I will share your madness. Where did you think of dining?”
“Nowhere; I have no appetite. I have been fasting for the last three days, and I can only drink.”
“Ah! I begin to see daylight. Something has crossed you, and you are going to let it kill you as it killed one of my brothers. I must see what can be done.”
Edgar argued, insisted, and joked till at last I said to myself, “A day longer will not matter, I can do the deed when he leaves me, and I shall only have to bear with life a few hours longer.”
Later that day, however, he bumped into Charpillon out dancing and enjoying herself.
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.
#casanova #europe #eighteenthcentury #london #charpillon #suicide