(17th- and 18th-Century Biographies)

It is virtually impossible to separate Casanova the man from Casanova the literary artist, not only because the major portion of his work is autobiography, which is theoretically fact, but also because so much of Casanova’s character is fiction. Although he disliked novels, he is the prototype of the picaresque, the charming rogue who slips and slides through encounters while envisioning, at best, an improved state in life and, at the least, survival at any cost.

Whether the man created the legend or vice versa remains a matter of scholarly debate; however, the memoirs clearly enumerate the manners, the ills, and the mores of the upper classes of eighteenth century Europe. Although some critics dismiss Casanova’s memoirs as erotic or obscene, others believe the twelve volumes are great literature worthy of study and discourse.

Casanova died in 1798, but the manuscript did not appear until 1820, when Carlo Angiolini, about whom little is known, brought the handwritten bundles to Brockhaus Publishers in Leipzig. Although Angiolini presented the publishers with twelve bundles, which corresponded roughly to the original twelve volumes of the autobiography, it became apparent that sections were missing and that the work was probably incomplete because the chronology ended in 1774. Some sources contend that Casanova burned the balance of the manuscript when age forced the writing to become less than perfect.

The work was translated...

(The entire section is 499 words.)