I recently read Laurence Bergreen’s new biography of Giacomo Casanova, the 18th century Italian libertine best known for being an incessant seducer of women. This is what the vast majority of people associate him with, but he was much more than that: an ex-priest, adventurer, gambler, writer, violinist, spy, mathematician, and alchemist, to name a few. Excerpt from Anthony Gottlieb’s review, via the New York Times:
Casanova moved with ease in all strata of society. As well as hordes of nobility, he met Benjamin Franklin, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Frederick the Great, Catherine the Great, Pope Clement XIII, Rousseau, Voltaire and Mozart. He mixed with financiers, ambassadors, Freemasons, magicians and government ministers, in addition to an awful lot of gamblers, rakes, actors, dancers, courtesans and common prostitutes.
He also wrote poems, a translation of Homer into ottava rima, librettos, some pamphlets on mathematics, historical studies on Poland and Venice and — among other things — a five-volume work of science fiction set in the Earth’s interior. He envied the literary fame of Goethe and Voltaire, and could not quite understand why they were more highly regarded than he was.
Buy Bergreen’s biography here.