“It Will Fall into Languour…”

In 1797, as Napoleon marched in to Venice, the Venetian Senate abdicated its rule. At that time, native son Giacomo Casanova had been living in Czechoslovakia for a number of years and was in fact nearing the end of his life. He was also in the midst of writing his memoirs in French. When he heard the news of the Republic’s demise, he wrote this letter, sharing his rather sardonic response to the news:

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Detail from the painting L’Albero della Libertà in piazza by Giuseppe Borsato, picturing San Marco on June 4, 1797

Lettera di Giacomo Casanova, 4 dicembre 1797:

“Mais que deviendra la ville de Venise? Cette ville ne pouvoit exister dans sa splendeur, dans sa richesse et dans sa beauté qu’étant habitée en qualité de capitale par les aristocrates qui gouvernoient la république. Elle tombera en langueur, quand vous serez tous partis pour habiter en terreferme. N’est-il pas vrai que vous partirez? Qu’y feriez-vous, n y ayant plus rien à faire? C’est un dommage que, partant, vous ne puissiez pas porter avec vous vos beaux palais. Vous ne sauriez y rester qu’en force d’un attachement matériel inconcevable, car l’air de la terreferme vaut mieux que celui des lagunes, les voitures sont plus riantes que les gondoles et les chevaux valent mieux que les gondoliers, malgré qu’ils aient moins d’esprit. Il se peut cependant que le commerce s’agrandisse, qu’on ne fasse plus que très peu de cas de Trieste. Que sais-je? Que ne suis-je si jeune?”

 

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Two views of the Castle in Dux, Czechoslovakia, where Casanova spent his final years

Translation:

“But what will become of the city of Venice? This city could not exist in its splendor, its wealth, and its beauty, but by being inhabited as a capital by the aristocrats who governed the republic. It will fall into languor, when all of you will be gone to live on firm ground. Is it not true that you will leave? What would you do, having nothing to do? It is a pity that, leaving, you cannot carry with you your beautiful palaces. You would be able to stay there by dint of an inconceivable material attachment, because the air of the firm ground is better than that of the lagoons, the cars are more cheerful than the gondolas and the horses are better than the gondoliers, although they have less wit. It is possible, however, that the trade is growing, that we do not attach great importance to Trieste. What do I know? What am I not so young?”

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Even the priests danced beneath the Tree of Liberty

(I do not speak French, and I have relied on others for this translation. If you have another interpretation to offer, please share it!)

About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
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