The Audacious Escape from the Piombi

Now that our hero was living a bit more humanely in the Piombe, the clever Casanova masterminded his liberation from the so-called impenetrable jailhouse with the help of a monk who was incarcerated in a cell above him, with whom he had made arrangements through the prison guard to share books. From correspondences made with the cleric in Latin, cleverly concealed in the spines of the shared tomes, Girolamo convinced the ecclesiastic to help him make a daring escape. With a piece of black marble used to sharpen an iron bar to a point, conveniently found during an exercise walk in the prison yard and kept hidden in his armchair, Casanova transferred the small pike, ensconced in the binding of a large bible sent up to the monk, who gouged a large hole through the wooden floor above the gangster of love’s cell, after which the charlatan was hoisted up to his accomplice’s confinement, where both chiseled their way through the ceiling; and the two climbed out, prying through the lead plates over the roof’s supporting gangway in which they had found themselves.

Once outside, Lady Luck helped the renegades for the remainder of their plight, during which Casanova found a long ladder and ropes on the roof, using the implements for lowering themselves down into a room in the Venetian ruler’s palace below, after removing a grate from over the top of a dormer window. The dynamic duo miraculously discovered clean clothes, which just happened to be laying about, and they changed out of their prison garb, resting until daybreak when the pair found their way out of the palace right about sunrise. It was allegedly six o’clock in the morning when a porter unlocked the entrance to the palace, and the men finally escaped to the canal and hopped into a gondola.

The next stop was exile for Girolamo. While in Paris again, our adventurer became cautiously low-keyed. He played his cards close to his chest, this time drawing from the deck of an old friend and new patron, the Foreign Minister of France. Casanova was given the opportunity for making some money to stuff the state’s coffers while filing his pockets as well. Relying on gambling for inspiration, he formulated the first state lottery, which made money for the government, and magically turned our hero into a wealthy man instantly. He was able to hang out with the upper crust of society, leaning on mysticism and the occult to become popular with such notables as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Madame de Pompadour, and Jean le Rond d’Alembert. Mystic Boy became so outlandish in his deceptions, that he was singled out to be a fraud by one of his contemporaries, Count de Saint-Germain, who reportedly called Casanova, “An impostor who declared that he was three hundred years old, and that he possessed the universal medicine, that he made anything he liked from nature, that he created diamonds.”

The Venetian entrepreneur had made a fast fortune but quickly blew it away by mismanaging his affairs and expending most of his resources for his constant liaisons with the hoards of woman who had made Casanova’s acquaintance. His downfall in France began with his outrageous spending, which led him to prison for indebtedness in Paris, after which a failed state-sponsored venture in Amsterdam caused his flight to Cologne; and then to Stuttgart, where he was again arrested for not meeting his obligations, but managed an escape to Switzerland. Moving from one sexual romp to another, taking him to Marseilles, Genoa, Florence, Rome, Naples, and then Turin, the newly self-proclaimed Chevalier de Seingalt had met with the period’s most intellectual luminaries along the way: Albracht von Haller, Voltaire; and Pope Clement XIII presented Casanova with the Papal Order of the Golden Spur.

Our calculating con artist returned back to Paris in the early 1760s, to launch yet another scheme on an unsuspecting, and most often gullible member of an aristocratic family: one with whom he was able to dupe in the past and was a resident in the court of King Louis XV. The Marquess d’Urfé was led to believe that through alchemy and the occult, her soul could be transmigrated into the body of male baby to eventually turn into that a man, her life-long ambition. To accomplish this, the silver-tongued devil was to impregnate a virgin—to be graciously provided to him by his benefactor—who would in turn produce a boy that would be the reincarnated marquess. Casanova was hoping that through her naivety, he would be kept on a nice payroll for a long time; but she finally smartened up and lost faith in him, for which she had nothing more to do with the charlatan.

In 1763, Giralamo tried his luck in England; and through his connections, he eventually was admitted into Buckingham Palace for an audience with King George III, attempting to sell him on the idea of a state-run lottery, for which the monarch declined to buy into it. In the meanwhile the master of seduction had bedded a bevy of wenches, and as the result of not having convinced officials to start selling lottery tickets, he lost whatever money he had left and was forced to leave England, broke, and with a bad case of venereal disease which had festered from his licentious affairs. From Britain he went to Belgium and recovered from his maladies, followed by traveling to Prussia and meeting with Frederick the Great, trying to sell his lottery proposal with hopes of repeating its successes made with the French government. No dice there, so he turned to Russia and Catherine the Great, who outright turned down his scheme. His next venture was in Poland, where he was expelled from the country for dueling over an Italian actress, which left both Casanova and a count from Warsaw wounded, but only superficially. Marksmanship evidently wasn’t a notable trait amongst the other unique attributes of our infamous hero.

Casanova once again returned to Paris for a fourth time in 1766, and hit the gambling circuit only to be thrown out of France by Louis XV, mostly for his attempted rip-off of the Marquess d’Urfé. He had nowhere left to go in Europe for seeking his fortune, as his tarnished reputation had now preceded him most everywhere; all except for Spain, where he had yet to try and exploit. The schemer made one last attempt and worked his way up the Spanish social ladder by means of his Freemason contacts, butting heads with Spain’s nobles and aristocrats, and finally reaching their monarch, Charles III, for a final showdown, extolling the virtues of his state-sponsored lottery proposal.

No cigar was won there either. Girolamo ended up packing for Italy after escaping an assassination attempt on his life, and being locked up in a Barcelona jail for six weeks before finally settling in Rome for a while, writing and waiting for his supporters to arrange for him to gain legal entry into his estranged Venice. In 1774, he was finally granted free and safe-conduct to come and go as he very well pleased, after being in exile for the past eighteen years.

From this point onward, Casanova’s celebrated life turned into one of mediocrity, where his miles of trials and tribulation had taken it toll on Venice’s favorite son. His Venetian patron was dead, and of the senator’s two companions, only one was still alive, who invited the former golden boy to stay with him while his new benefactor paid him a small stipend. As a prolific writer, the author began publishing in earnest, hoping to reap great benefits from his labor; but the money to which he had become accustomed was a thing of the past, thus ending his gambling career. His shining star had faded, and only a few willing women worth pursuing remained in Venice. A friend of Casanova, who was the uncle of our aging mystic’s last patron in life, noted about Girolamo upon his return, “He would be a good-looking man if he were not ugly.” His rough life on the road had led to smallpox scars and weathered skin. He was also describes as having “eyes full of life and fire, but touchy, wary, rancorous, and this gives him a ferocious air. It is easier to put him in a rage than to make him gay.”

Venice was no longer the land of opportunity for the gangster of love. His Italian translation of the Iliad—Homer’s epic masterpiece—on which he had been working since he returned to Rome from Spain, was published in limited editions and rendered little compensation; for which our hero turned to spying for a living, paid piecemeal by the Venetian government for each mission successfully completed, ratting on individuals’ indiscretions of religion, morals and commerce. It was amazing how events had come full circle for Casanova. The Inquisition commissioned him for investigating commerce between the Papal States and Venice, but before long his indebtedness from failed ventures in publishing put an end to his final stay in Venice, from where he was forced to flee for a final foray. In 1783, Girolamo’s quill had the outspoken scrivener expelled from the city for one last time, for penning a scathing satire about Venetian nobility, essentially biting the hand that fed him.

One last jaunt to Paris brought our Freemason to a meeting with Benjamin Franklin, an American member of that secret society and an alleged womanizer himself. They had attended a symposium together on aeronautics. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the grand ballroom of their hotel, to see and hear some of the ballyhoo that must have developed with those two men working in tandem. The Chevalier de Seingalt left the French capitol and stayed in Vienna for a bit, to work as a secretary and scribe for a Venetian ambassador there. In 1785, his meal ticket expired with the death of his employer; and he finally settled in Bohemia, the present-day Czech Republic, where he became a librarian for a fellow Freemason, mystic, and a world traveler like Casanova had been in his younger days; and who was a chamberlain for the emperor. For the next thirteen years, until his own death, Girolamo worked and lived in the Castle of Duchcov while scribing his own memoirs, which were the only life-long possessions he had retained worth anything of value, from his long, extensive and often rewarding career as an adventurer.

Casanova’s autobiography painted a portrait of our hero in chronological order, starting with his being a lawyer, an ecclesiastic, a military officer, violinist, con man and an alleged pimp, lover of fine foods and fast women, a dancer, entrepreneur, diplomat, spy, mathematician, politician, philosopher, printer, charlatan, alchemist, playwright, author and mystic. Giacomo Giralomo Casanova died at 73 years old in 1798, reportedly of a urinary-tract infection; and he was buried in the graveyard of St. Barbara’s Church, just outside of Duchcov, beside the lake.

About Mike Slickster

As an early retiree with an honorary doctorate degree from the proverbial "School of Hard Knocks," this upcoming author with a lot of free time on his hands utilizes his expansive repertoire for humorous yet tragic, wildly creative writing that contains years of imaginative fantasy, pure nonsense, classic slapstick, extreme happiness and searing heartbreak; gathered by a wealth of personal experiences throughout his thrilling—sometimes mundane or unusually horrid—free-spirited, rock-'n'-roller-coaster ride around our beloved Planet Earth. Mike Slickster's illustrious quest continues, living now in Act Three of his present incarnation, quite a bit on the cutting edge of profundity and philosophical merriment as seen through his colorful characters, most notably evident in the amusing Thirty Days Across the Big Pond series, all of which can be found at
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2 Responses to The Audacious Escape from the Piombi

  1. Anonymous says:

    A fine example of how most womanizers end up: by themselves in the end.

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