“After that we went from one casino to another, not intending to commit any debauchery, but for want of something better to do.”
In the field of playing the field, Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798) was a giant who gave his name to generations of comparative midgets – guys who couldn’t pretend to attain the lofty standard he set for both quality and quantity. For The Original, the highly intelligent, well-educated offspring of an Italian actor and actress, no effort, ingenuity, or gold was to be spared in pursuit of a date – or “asssignation” as it was then styled.
Casanovas aren’t what they used to be. Such is the conclusion I’ve arrived at as I near the end of volume 2 (of 12!) of the work, one of the authentic literary monuments of the eighteenth century and a real trove of detail about the pursuits, politics, clothing, domestic arrangements, and, of course, gender relations of the Europeans who lived it. Food and wine figure prominently here either as accompaniments to seduction or the actual instruments thereof. Remind me to tell you the one about Emilie, Armelline, and the one hundred Venice oysters.
With the aid of an electronic version of the memoirs (courtesy of Project Gutenberg) I was able to note each instance of wine mentioned in its 2679 pages.
Many are likely to be familiar to the 21st century reader, namely: refosco, muscatel, muscat, Champagne (lots of this), red and white Burgundy including Chambertin (“Truly Chambertin and Roquefort are excellent things to restore an old love and to ripen a young one.”), Bordeaux, Malaga, Tokay, Rhine (or Rhenish), alicante, Cape (South Africa), La Mancha, Montepulciano, Montefiascone, Languedoc (as Beziers), Orvieto, Hermitage, Gatta, Neuchatel, aleatico (as “Oleatico”).