You may remember in Walk #2 that I told you about the yellow house next door, here on the Piazza di Spagna, where Casanova took his French lessons in 1744. But he lived here, in #32, when he returned to Rome much later in 1770.
This peach-colored building at #32 Piazza di Spagna was the house of M. Poletti. A document shows a list of people registered in the neighborhood, and C’s name is included as one living in the building in 1770-71. His apartment was on the second floor.
He had been traveling abroad for many years and finally returned to Rome with 3,000 zecchini and letters of introduction to some of the best houses in the city. Returning to this neighborhood, he took rooms here the day after he arrived. His landlady’s husband was a cook who was away most of the week, and they had a sixteen or seventeen-year-old daughter named Margherita.
Casanova tells an anecdote about this daughter, whom he describes thus: “Despite her rather too dark complexion, would have been very pretty if smallpox had not deprived her of one eye. She wore a false eye, which, being of a different color from the other and also larger, made her face repulsive.” Being replete with cash, Casanova decided to give her a gift. He took her to the English “oculist” Chevalier Taylor who lived on the same square and had Margherita fitted with a proper porcelain eye costing six zecchini.
And then C writes some curious things, which seem to present contradictions to me. He said that the girl had “made no impression” on him, that “My generosity made Margherita think that, overwhelmed by her beauty in twenty-four hours, I had already fallen in love with her,” and then he says that Margherita reveals her mother’s thoughts on the matter “when we reached the point of an intimate acquaintance.” How intimate did he become with Margherita? Was it physical? Was he in fact repulsed by her or sweet on her? Did he buy an eye for her in order to win her favors or was he simply being generous? His story is brief, so it’s hard to know the answers.
I’m a bit confused because in his memoirs, Vol. 11 chapter 1 (Trask translation), Casanova says that “the apartment was the one which had been occupied twenty-seven years earlier by the teacher of languages to whom I had gone for lessons when I was in the service of Cardinal Acquaviva.” But Casanova was apparently mistaken when he wrote this 20 years later in his memoir. Research by Antonio Valeri in Casanova a Roma (1899) shows us where Casanova lived. Here are the pages, sent by Adriano Contini.