Story of my life – Giacomo Casanova

I was still enjoying myself with my fine company, when the sexton of the
church came in to tell me that they were waiting for me in the vestry.
With a full stomach and my head rather heated, I took my leave, ran to
the church, and entered the pulpit. I went through the exordium with
credit to myself, and I took breathing time; but scarcely had I
pronounced the first sentences of the narration, before I forgot what I
was saying, what I had to say, and in my endeavours to proceed, I fairly
wandered from my subject and I lost myself entirely. I was still more
discomforted by a half-repressed murmur of the audience, as my deficiency
appeared evident. Several persons left the church, others began to smile,
I lost all presence of mind and every hope of getting out of the scrape.

I could not say whether I feigned a fainting fit, or whether I truly
swooned; all I know is that I fell down on the floor of the pulpit,
striking my head against the wall, with an inward prayer for
annihilation.

Two of the parish clerks carried me to the vestry, and after a few
moments, without addressing a word to anyone, I took my cloak and my hat,
and went home to lock myself in my room. I immediately dressed myself in
a short coat, after the fashion of travelling priests, I packed a few
things in a trunk, obtained some money from my grandmother, and took my
departure for Padua, where I intended to pass my third examination. I
reached Padua at midnight, and went to Doctor Gozzi's house, but I did
not feel the slightest temptation to mention to him my unlucky adventure.

I remained in Padua long enough to prepare myself for the doctor's
degree, which I intended to take the following year, and after Easter I
returned to Venice, where my misfortune was already forgotten; but
preaching was out of the question, and when any attempt was made to
induce me to renew my efforts, I manfully kept to my determination never
to ascend the pulpit again.

On the eve of Ascension Day M. Manzoni introduced me to a young
courtesan, who was at that time in great repute at Venice, and was
nick-named Cavamacchia, because her father had been a scourer. This named
vexed her a great deal, she wished to be called Preati, which was her
family name, but it was all in vain, and the only concession her friends
would make was to call her by her Christian name of Juliette. She had
been introduced to fashionable notice by the Marquis de Sanvitali, a
nobleman from Parma, who had given her one hundred thousand ducats for
her favours. Her beauty was then the talk of everybody in Venice, and it
was fashionable to call upon her. To converse with her, and especially to
be admitted into her circle, was considered a great boon.

As I shall have to mention her several times in the course of my history,
my readers will, I trust, allow me to enter into some particulars about
her previous life.

Juliette was only fourteen years of age when her father sent her one day
to the house of a Venetian nobleman, Marco Muazzo, with a coat which he
had cleaned for him. He thought her very beautiful in spite of the dirty
rags in which she was dressed, and he called to see her at her father's
shop, with a friend of his, the celebrated advocate, Bastien Uccelli,
who; struck by the romantic and cheerful nature of Juliette still more
than by her beauty and fine figure, gave her an apartment, made her study
music, and kept her as his mistress. At the time of the fair, Bastien
took her with him to various public places of resort; everywhere she
attracted general attention, and secured the admiration of every lover of
the sex. She made rapid progress in music, and at the end of six months
she felt sufficient confidence in herself to sign an engagement with a
theatrical manager who took her to Vienna to give her a 'castrato' part
in one of Metastasio's operas.

The advocate had previously ceded her to a wealthy Jew who, after giving
her splendid diamonds, left her also.
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