Jean-Jacques, chevalier de Seingalt, whose other name, Casanova, would become synonymous with the bon vivant and sexually proficient man, was a sickly child who was considered mentally deficient by his parents. He suffered from debilitating nosebleeds and was so unresponsive that he did not speak until he was eight years old. His parents made no secret of their wish that he would die.
Casanova was born in Venice, Italy, the eldest son of a Venetian actor of Spanish descent and Zanetta, the leading lady in the Comici Italian troupe of comic actors. His father died when Casanova was very young, and soon after, Zanetta abandoned the young Casanova, his three brothers, and two sisters, leaving them with strangers while she toured Verona, St. Petersburg, and Dresden. After she left, she seldom saw the children, and little is known of Casanova’s siblings.
After the death of his father and in his mother’s absence, Casanova began to flourish academically and was sent to boarding school at Padua, where he studied law, although he wished to become a doctor. In his memoirs, he proudly claims that while at school, he experienced his first sexual encounter at age eleven and found his second love, the gaming tables. He soon lost his money, began gambling on credit, and wrote his grandmother for additional funds. Instead of sending the money, Casanova’s grandmother whisked him home to Venice and placed him in an abbey school in the hope that the...
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