Casanova Slept Here

Was Casanova more than just a pretty face?

Smithsonian Magazine has just published my epic quest to separate fact from fiction in the life of history’s greatest lover. The man is so surrounded by mythology that many people assume him to be a fictional character (and maybe it’s hard to take seriously someone who has been portrayed in film by Heath Ledger, Donald Sutherland and even Vincent Price, in the Bob Hope vehicle Casanova’s Big Night.) The story was prompted by the French government’s purchase of Casanova’s erotic memoir for $9.6 million — a record for any literary manuscript. I was able to examine the 4,500 page tome in the National Library of Paris (and check out the secret watermarks of two hearts touching…) and then head to Venice, where fashion icon Pierre Cardin let me into his private palazzo, where Casanova’s bedroom is still intact, used for trysts with young nuns he recalls as “M.M” and “C.C.” Finally, I made the journey to rural Prague, where Casanova ended up at the end of his life working as a librarian (of all things!) in the gloomy Castle Dux.

You can read the full story here.

As an addendum, I wrote a piece on the story that Casanova collaborated with Mozart on the libretto of the opera Don Giovanni, about a great womanizer… Casanova recounts 122 affairs in his memoir, but Don Giovanni claims 10,000…

All this is a follow-on from the initial research I did for Napoleon’s Privates and The Sinner’s Grand Tour — in the latter book, I managed to track down the prison cell where Casanova languished for over a year (he was ostensibly arrested for dabbling in the occult, but really because he was seducing the mistress of a chief Inquisitor…) He managed to escape after 15 months with a disgraced monk — the only two prisoners to ever do so. When he returned to Venice years later, even the Inquisitors wanted to know how he did it…