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Casanovitism

In response to:

Our Man in the Eighteenth Century? from the March 9, 1967 issue

To the Editors:

I am accustomed to Continental reviewers referring to me occasionally as English, and I let them pass; but it is different when it comes to a fellow countryman [F. W. Dupee, NYR, March 9].

Some years ago in Cairo when an Englishwoman inquired where I was from in England I made answer: “Madame, only the Indians are more American than my Virginia ancestors.”

Besides mistaking my nationality Professor Dupee does not seem to be acquainted with my extended biography of Casanova (Pauvert, Paris, 1962) of which a briefer text was published in 1961 in London by Allen & Unwin and in 1960 by Rowohlt in Germany. Other wise I suspect that certain of the statements in his review might have been modified, such as the ascription to Charles Samaran of the “identification” of Henriette or the characterization of the Constantinople episodes of Casanova as “inferior fiction.” Some of them, yes, but the generalization is too sweeping. I prefer the judgment of Professor Itzkowitz of Princeton University, authority on Turkish history. He very kindly identified for me, Ismail Effendi, with whom Casanova dined at Bonneval Pasha’s in Constantinople in 1741 as a former Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs who was so described by Casanova.

The documentary evidence assembled in my work in favor of not one but two visits of Casanova to Constantinople is sufficiently conclusive so that I know today of no European Casanovist who would dispute them.

Whatever these small flaws, I have read with interest Professor Dupee’s review. It is a thousand pities to learn from it that the notes of the American edition of the Memoirs are drawn not alone from the Brockhaus-Plon French edition, which is basic, but as well from the German translation of that edition. The notes of the latter are far inferior either to the scholarly text published in Italian translation by Mondadori, edited by the Italian writer and scholar Piero Chiara, or to the Danish edition now in course of publication in Copenhagen.

J. Rives Childs

Randolph-Macon College

Ashland, Virginia

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