CASANOVA DE SEINGALT, Giacomo (1725-1798). Autograph letter signed to the Abbot [Eusebio] de la Lena, Dux [Bohemia], 11 June 1796, in Italian, 3 pages, 4to, address panel ('A Monsieur l'Abbé de la Lena sur le Grabe a la Rose blanche a Vienne'), black wax seal (seal tear and 2 small splits in folds, repaired).
Provenance: Alfred Morrison; Sotheby's sale (May 1919); private collection.
CASANOVA AGAINST NAPOLEON. A letter prompted by receiving a sonnet, referring to their shared literary interests, to arrangements for sending books and repaying a loan, commenting irreverently upon his patron, and fulminating at length about Napoleon's invasion of Italy and the threat to Rome. Casanova also mentions his old friend and correspondent, 'mio costantissimo Zaguri', a fellow Venetian.
'Aggradi oltro i suoi saluti il mio signor conte ch'e ancora qui, dicendo sempre da un mese in qua che partira domani per Vienna. Ma partir de[v]e: A due poste di corti ha quaranta cavalli che lo aspettano. Ella ricevera i due libri, Li ho raccomandati al cameriere, e son sicuro che li portera al suo alloggio. Cosi non direi se li avessi raccomandati al conte che non avendo mai l'anima dove ha il corpo non puo ricordarsi di nulla [Milord the count also sends his greetings, and is still here, after saying for a month that he will leave tomorrow for Vienna. But go he must. He has forty horses waiting for him at two places. You will receive the two books. I have entrusted them to the manservant, and I am certain that he will bring them to your address. I could not say this if I had entrusted them to the count who, never having his mind where his person is, is unable to remember anything]'
'[N]on lice che il giglio in quel terreno abbia radice ... Roma
christiana non fu mai tanto maltratta da At[t]ila, e da altri barbari come lo fu da cristiani, ma ora questi atei avrebbero gettato a terra Christo in sacramento per forgli un tabernacolo d'argento. Avvrebbero portato via non solo statue, ma tutti i musei: avrebbero spogliato gli altari come fecevo in Anversa, ed avvrebbero forse condotto il papa in trionfo a Parigi, o lo avvrebbero Dio sa in che guisa obbrobrisamente disonorato ... Cio che mi sorprende e che non mi sembre vero, a che quel Buonaparte e un giovine di 26 anni, come il Salicetti ambi Corsi. Due bardasse avranno conquistata tutta l'Italia [The fleur de lys must not be allowed to put down roots in that land ... Christian Rome was never so ill-treated by Attila and the other barbarians as it was by the Christians, but now these atheists are supposed to have cast Christ in the sacrament to the ground to plunder a silver tabernacle -- carried off not only statues but whole museums, plundered the altars as they did in Antwerp, and maybe even led the pope in triumph to Paris, or infamously dishonoured him in God knows what way ... What astonishes me, and does not seem to me to be true, is that this Buonaparte is a young man of 26 years, like Salicetti, both Corsican. Two bardasse will have conquered the whole of Italy]'
Written at Count Carl de Waldstein's castle of Dux in Bohemia. The Count, a descendant of Count Wallenstein, the hero of the Thirty Years War, first met Casanova at the Venetian embassy in Paris in 1783, and was captivated by his conversation. A generous and extravagant patron, he spent lavishly on women and horses. Casanova had mentioned his imminent departure for Vienna with a troop of fifty horses in a letter to De la Lena in May. To secure Casanova's company Waldstein had offered him the post of librarian at Dux in 1785. Casanova remained there for the rest of his life and composed his memoirs there.
Eusebio de la Lena (1747-?), Casanova's 'Sig[no]r Abbate p[ad]rone ed amico Vener[abilissi]me', man of letters and bibliophile, was from a prominent family of Lucca, and spent some time at Venice before moving to Vienna. He was one of Casanova's closest friends. Three letters to him (but not the present one) are published in Pompeo Molmenti's edition of the Carteggi (1916).