Soldier, spy, diplomat, writer, adventurer, chiefly remembered from his autobiography, which has established his reputation as the most famous erotic hero. Casanova's memoirs are a fascinating and perhaps unreliable account of his adventures with 122 women - according to his own counts - but they also provide an intimate portrait of the manners and life in the 18th century.
The name of Giacomo Casanova, Chevalier de Seingalt (1725-1798), in now synonymous with amorous exploits, and there are plenty of these, vividly narrated, in him memoirs. But Casanova was not just an energetic lover. In his time he was diplomat, business man, trainee priest, traveller, prisoner, magician, confidence trickster, gambler, professional entertainer and chalatan. He financed business projects, organised lotteries, wrote opera libretti and dabbled in high politics. Above all he was an autobiographer of enduring brilliance and subtlety who left behind him what is probably the most remarkable confession ever written. Casanova was a Venetian who explored to the full all the possibilities 18th century Venice offered by way of love and profit before being imprisoned, escaping from gaol, and fleeing from the city to begin travels which took him across Europe. In Moscow and London, Berlin and Constantinople, he met the famous men and women of the time - Catherine the Great, Voltaire, Louis XV, Rousseau - and recorded his encounters for the memoirs he wrote in retirement at the end of his life. These memoirs are by turns subtle, touching, thrilling, wonderfully comic and quite irresistible. Although the present edition includes one third of Casanova's enormous (though unfinished) book, it contains all his major adventures and all is greatest affairs of the heart. 'Casanova is unsurpassed as the recreator of the daily talking interests of 18th century Europe. he ranges from slut to patrician, from closet to cabinet, waterfront to palace.' - V S PRITCHETT