Join our email listserv and receive monthly updates on the latest titles.

Hopkins Fulfillment Services

History of My Life

, 728 pages

32 b&w illus.

April 1997



Availability Text

Usually ships 2-3 business days after receipt of order.

History of My Life
Volumes 1 and 2

In volumes 1 and 2, Casanova tells the story of his family, his first loves, and his early travels. With the death of his grandmother, he is sent to a seminary—but is soon expelled. He is briefly imprisoned in the fortress of Sant' Andrea. After wandering from Naples to Rome in search of a patron, he enters the service of Cardinal Acquaviva.

About this edition: Because every previous edition of Casanova's Memoirs had been abridged to suppress the author's political and religious views and tame his vivid, often racy, style, the literary world considered it a major event when Willard R. Trask's translation of the complete original text was published in six double volumes between 1966 and 1971. Trask's award-winning translation now appears in paperback for the first time.

Giacomo Casanova was born in Venice in 1725. His parents, both actors, wanted him to become a priest, but their hopes were dashed when, at sixteen, he was expelled from seminary for immoral misconduct. Probably best-known for his reputation as a womanizer, Casanova was in turn a secretary, a soldier in the Venetian army, a preacher, an alchemist, a gambler, a violinist, a lottery director, and a spy. He translated Homer's Iliad into Italian and collaborated with Da Ponte on the libretto for Mozart's Don Giovanni. He retired in 1785 to the castle of a friend—Count Waldstein of Bohemia—in order to write his memoirs.

"Casanova, outed long ago as a flagrant heterosexual, is out again. This time he's out in paperback—the whole of his memoirs in six hefty volumes. What a pity he couldn't be here for a launch party at, say, the Algonquin... Plenty is what the book has—plenty of everything, even without the sex. There are swindles and scandals, pretentions and inventions, clerics, lyrics, and bubbling alembics, sword fights at midnight and complots at the palace, bugs in the beds and bedlam in the tavern, masked balls, ball-ups, and shinnying up drainpipes, flummery, mummery, and summary executions. All that, as the journalists say, plus a pullulating plankton field of biddable, beddable broads, through which Casanova moves with the single-minded hunger of a straining whale, yet somehow brings the whole populated ocean of eighteenth-century society to phosphorescent life. The book teems. It flows. It does everything but end."

"Trask has written a version in an English fully contemporary yet remarkably Italian in sensibility. With admirable restraint and refinement, he has conveyed the zest and sensuous delight of the original."

"These memoirs are compulsive reading... they are the work not only of a highly accomplished seducer but of a literary artist of the highest talents."

"There is some [unadulterated smut], of course, quite a bit—but it pales next to the enormousness of the picture Casanova paints of 18th-century Europe: a great theater of intrigue, jostling with political emissaries, spies, impostors, charlatans, runaways, courtesans, Republicans, Freethinkers, Rosicrucians, and Inquisitors."

"Trask expertly rendered this text into English in 1966, and his is the English version to read... Compulsively readable... Certainly, few books better convey the sheer, exuberant joy of being alive and young than these reminiscences."

"Casanova is unsurpassed as the recreator of the daily talking interests of 18th-century Europe. He ranges from slut to patrician, from closet to cabinet, waterfront to palace. He is superior to all other erotic writers because of his pleasure in news, in gossip, in the whole personality of his mistresses."

"The Chevalier de Seingalt was a most remarkable man, who had some of the qualities of greatness... Has any novelist or poet ever rendered better than Casanova the passing glory of the personal life?—the gaiety, the spontaneity, the generosity of youth: the ups and downs of middle age when our character begins to get to us and we are forced to come to terms with it; the dreadful blanks of later years, when what is gone is gone. All that a life of this kind can contain Casanova put into his story. And how much of the world!—the eighteenth century as you get it in no other book; society from top to bottom; Europe from England to Russia, a more brilliant variety of characters than you can find in any eighteenth-century novel."

"These are what Edmund Wilson has rightly called the most interesting memoirs ever written. Indeed, Rousseau, Stendhal, even Augustine, must take their proper place, a half step behind this greatest of storytellers."