I thought I had a cool new resource, but today I discovered that it’s just a different translation of Casanova’s memoirs. (I’ve been using Willard Trask’s 1967 version.) I had been looking for an English translation of C’s “Histoire de ma Fuit” or his escape from prison, first published in Liepzig in 1788. He wrote this as a separate book from his 12 volume memoirs where he again recounts his escape. I had asked around to see if there was an English translation available and was told there wasn’t (thanks for the help, Tom!). But when I visited the Parisian exhibit of C’s memoirs, I found a small book titled My Escape from Venice Prison translated by Arthur Machen in 1922 and published by Lineadacqua (a great little bookstore in Venice).
Today I did some comparing and discovered that really the two books I have are the same thing. The Lineadacqua edition is taken from the memoirs, not the Liepzig edition, and sadly it’s full of typos (my inner stickler is screaming its head off!). However, some of Machen’s phrases are really nice. Here’s an example from when C describes his shock at being arrested, which worked as a diuretic, causing him to fill two chamber pots with urine. Later, some of his female readers objected to hearing this detail. Here’s C’s reply:
“I would perhaps have omitted it in talking to a lady; but the public is not a lady, and I like to be instructive” (Trask’s translation, Vol. 4, 202).
“I should have left it out, perhaps, in speaking to a lady, but the public is not a pretty woman whom I am intent on cajoling, my only aim is to be instructive” (Machen’s translation, 27).
Despite the comma splice (sorry, can’t help acknowledging it), I like Machen’s description of the public being a “pretty woman whom I am intent on cajoling.” It made me smile while the other did not.
If anyone knows of an English translation of the real “Histoire de ma Fuit” please let me know!