The third of four posts on Casanova and the affair of Giustiniana Wynne.
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.
‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ is now freely available here.
Long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.
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