The duel – an extract from Casanova’s memoirs

See previous blog post for more information about Casanova’s duel with Count Branicki – here.

We had driven about half an hour when the carriage stopped at the door of a large garden. We got down and, following the postoli, reached a green arbour which, by the way, was not at all green on that 5th of March. In it was a stone table on which the footman placed two pistols, a foot and half long, with a powder flask and scales. He weighed the powder, loaded them equally, and laid them down crosswise on the table.

This done, Branicki said boldly,

“Choose your weapon, sir.”

At this the general called out,

“Is this a duel, sir?”


“You cannot fight here; you are within the ban.”

“No matter.”

“It does matter; and I, at all events, refuse to be a witness. I am on guard at the castle, and you have taken me by surprise.”

“Be quiet; I will answer for everything. I owe this gentleman satisfaction, and I mean to give it him here.”

“M. Casanova,” said the general, “you cannot fight here.”

“Then why have I been brought here? I shall defend myself wherever I am attacked.”

“Lay the whole matter before the king, and you shall have my voice in your favour.”

“I am quite willing to do so, general, if his excellency will say that he regrets what passed between us last night.”

Branicki looked fiercely at me, and said wrathfully that he had come to fight and not to parley.

“General,” said I, “you can bear witness that I have done all in my power to avoid this duel.”

The general went away with his head between his hands, and throwing off my cloak I took the first pistol that came to my hand. Branicki took the other, and said that he would guarantee upon his honour that my weapon was a good one.

“I am going to try its goodness on your head,” I answered.

He turned pale at this, threw his sword to one of his servants, and bared his throat, and I was obliged, to my sorrow, to follow his example, for my sword was the only weapon I had, with the exception of the pistol. I bared my chest also, and stepped back five or six paces, and he did the same.

As soon as we had taken up our positions I took off my hat with my left hand, and begged him to fire first.

Instead of doing so immediately he lost two or three seconds in sighting, aiming, and covering his head by raising the weapon before it. I was not in a position to let him kill me at his ease, so I suddenly aimed and fired on him just as he fired on me. That I did so is evident, as all the witnesses were unanimous in saying that they only heard one report. I felt I was wounded in my left hand, and so put it into my pocket, and I ran towards my enemy who had fallen. All of a sudden, as I knelt beside him, three bare swords were flourished over my head, and three noble assassins prepared to cut me down beside their master. Fortunately, Branicki had not lost consciousness or the power of speaking, and he cried out in a voice of thunder,—

“Scoundrels! have some respect for a man of honour.”

This seemed to petrify them. I put my right hand under the pistoli’s armpit, while the general helped him on the other side, and thus we took him to the inn, which happened to be near at hand.

Branicki stooped as he walked, and gazed at me curiously, apparently wondering where all the blood on my clothes came from.

When we got to the inn, Branicki laid himself down in an arm-chair. We unbuttoned his clothes and lifted up his shirt, and he could see himself that he was dangerously wounded. My ball had entered his body by the seventh rib on the right hand, and had gone out by the second false rib on the left. The two wounds were ten inches apart, and the case was of an alarming nature, as the intestines must have been pierced. Branicki spoke to me in a weak voice,—

“You have killed me, so make haste away, as you are in danger of the gibbet. The duel was fought in the ban, and I am a high court officer, and a Knight of the White Eagle. So lose no time, and if you have not enough money take my purse.”

In fact, Branicki survived.

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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