Lessons From The Life Of Casanova

Giovanni Jacopo Casanova (1725-1798) tacked on the spurious title “de Seingalt” to his name as a way of impressing the people he was attempting to manipulate.  By all accounts, he must rank as one of the most interesting men of the eighteenth century.  Born in Venice to two itinerant actors in 1725, he claimed to have received a doctorate in law at the University of Padua at the age of sixteen.  Scanning through his multi-volume Memoirs, we must remind ourselves that Casanova is one of those raconteurs who, despite his irrepressible, self-effacing candor, often allows his imagination to overwhelm his mastery of the facts.  With Casanova, one is never quite certain where reality ends and imagination begins.  Perhaps this was one of the secrets of his longevity and–it must be said–his genius.


His first conquest, a pretty girl of thirteen named Bettina, fell ill of smallpox; Casanova claims to have nursed her and caught the disease himself.  He later met her years later, poor and in ill health, and she supposedly “died lovingly in his arms”.  He portrays all his amours as having loved him fiercely until their very deaths.

Poor, ambitious, and handsome, Casanova was one of those people who always seemed to be at the right place at the right time.  He saved the Venetian senator Zuan Bragadino from a fall down a staircase in 1746 and thereafter enjoyed a measure of political protection for his shady activities, for which he was already acquiring a reputation.  Under his tutelage, Casanova visited France, Germany, and Austria, hawking a peculiar blend of esoteric knowledge, medical cures, and occult magic.

His language skills and innate charm enabled him to float among clerics, socialites, royalty, and wealthy businessmen.  Sentenced to prison for five years in Venice for teaching occult wisdom and disturbing the peace, he escaped after fifteen months (1757).  He was able to attach himself to wealthy women by peddling the healing and magical arts, and added significantly to his income by cheating at cards and other games of chance.

Throughout his travels around Europe, he accumulated numerous mistresses and sired progeny here and there as opportunity would have it.  His seductive self-assurance, wit, alleged “occult” knowledge, and unusual ability to win at casino games, earned him access to the highest social circles in the countries he visited, but sooner or later he always found himself either in jail or escorted to the frontier.  Like all great seducers, he was possessed of a powerful intellect, which he was able to deploy on his targets when needed.  And he had the daring and flair that comes from a man who has nothing to lose.  He claimed even to have met and debated philosophy and religion with Voltaire, the great intellect of the age.  If we are to believe his account of the debate with Voltaire (and it makes entertaining reading), Casanova even came out ahead in the exchange.  He fought duels with angry rivals now and then, but according to him, of course, he always won.

After various adventures and assorted sexual conquests too numerous here to recount, he eventually discovered that his ruses, wit, and sleight-of-hand had reached the point of diminishing returns.  He eventually accepted a position as a librarian at a castle in Bohemia, which was crushingly boring but at least stable and secure.  There he spent the last fourteen years of his life in dreary book-lined drudgery, writing his Memoirs ten to twelve hours per day as a way of relieving the solitude of his existence.  He claims absolute honesty in his narrative, and much of it actually agrees with history; but much of it also has no corroboration elsewhere.

Right up until the very end, Casanova retained a bit of his old panache.  He claims to have been deeply religious, and this appears to be the case; but it is difficult to know how much of this was protective coloration in a religious age, or how much was sincere devotion.


In surveying his career, can we say there is a coherent system of philosophy here?  What are we to conclude from the life of this unique character?  Should he be viewed as a cautionary tale, or as a hero?  The reader will have to form his own conclusions.  But let us summarize a bit of the ethos by which Casanova lived his life.  The following points (consciously or unconsciously) are the undercurrents of his life, and seem to have formed the basics of his code of conduct:

A detached, ironic view of life is the best refuge. 

Casanova likes to pretend that the hardships he endured (poor background, lack of family and permanent love) did not touch his emotions.  He suppresses his feelings, and takes refuge in witty comments and philosophical statements.   Not sure whether to believe in God or not?  Then just employ Pascal’s Wager, and all will be well, Casanova suggests.  (Pascal’s Wager, named after the French philosopher Blaise Pascal, is a name given to a sort of “cost-benefit” argument used to justify belief in God.  Very basically, it says that since we will never know whether God exists or not, it makes more sense to believe in the existence of a Deity, since the benefits of belief outweigh the disadvantages of belief).

Crime may not pay; but then again, normal life is an existential straight-jacket.

Casanova never apologizes for any of his frauds, schemes, and trickery he did in his life.  He definitely gives the impression that, although he regrets how he ended up, his personality would not have let things turn out any other way.  Normal life was a soul-destroying charade anyway, he apparently believed, so a little fraud now and then would never hurt anyone.

Character determines fate.

This idea goes back as far as the Greek tragedians.  Casanova knows that he could not escape his true nature, no matter how hard he tried.  He appears to have discovered things about himself he would rather not have known at certain times in his life, and this knowledge sent him further down the path where he ended up.  Basically, he had a stoic fatalism that suggested the wheels of Fate grind on regardless of a man’s plans or needs.  He ended up as he did because his character made it inevitable.

Fun counts for something.

Regardless how he ended up, Casanova packed several lifetimes of adventure into his years on this earth.  He knows this very well, and always slyly suggests that it was all worth it.  While he never advocated unrestrained debauchery, there is little doubt that he structured his life around the pursuit of sensual delights.

Alienation is inescapable.

Casanova takes delight in relating how he outwitted the wealthy aristocrats he came into contact with.  He, from a poor background, could not help but notice how alienated and separated he was from the people he mixed with.  No matter how hard he tried to integrate himself into proper society, it never worked.  Casanova was the consummate outsider, condemned to live his existence on the margins.  He was arguably the first red-pill ingester.  And he knew it.

All in all, Casanova remains a figure of controversy.  For how he ended up (unhappy and alone in a castle), one may ask:  Was it all worth it?  Did all the trickery, womanizing, and gamesmanship leave him better off than he would otherwise have been?  I will let readers draw their own judgments.  I have no doubt that he would have said yes.  And it is difficult to disagree with him.  One suspects that the Greeks really were right after all:  perhaps, when all is said and done, character really does determine fate.

Read More:  Shortness of Life 

51 thoughts on “Lessons From The Life Of Casanova”

  1. Yeah he used his powers for evil. He sealed his own fate. Rich and alone.
    The same powers used for good…will seal a different fate. Poor and never lonely.

      1. Everything he did was for his selfish desires. Even his memoirs were to relieve his solitude.
        Did he ever use his manipulation to help out others? Doesn’t sound like it to me.

  2. Excellent article. I’m not sold on some of the conclusions you reached here, but nonetheless, I have to agree that this is well-written and thoughtfully considered.
    Further food for thought: He’d be a Sigma in Vox’s schema–the charming, mysterious outsider.

  3. Casanova wrote that the first woman he loved left him for another man, and after that he sought revenge on all women by seducing them.
    There is a saying about him and how he ended his life: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

    1. Yeah he really showed her. He decided to let her live in his house rent free.

  4. Was it worth it for him? He started as a peasant, at the bottom of society and the sexual market. If he hadn’t been bold and pushed himself, he would just be poor and alone. Maybe he’d have a family, but he never had a chance to become accepted into the social circles he mingled with. Born an outsider, he died an outsider. If you’re born a beta male, you can swallow the red-pill, but you’ll never be a natural.

    1. “If you’re born a beta male, you can swallow the red-pill, but you’ll never be a natural”
      Don’t know what to say to that assertion, other than I disagree. Taking the red pill is not ‘faking it’; it is not memorizing pre-fab opening lines to give to chicks or elite social circles; nor is it putting on a fake dog-and-pony show. Swallowing the red pill means your perception of reality is different. It means the blinders that were once on you have been removed, and however you proceed from that point on will always be genuine. And for those ahem… ‘insiders’ one has to wonder just how ‘natural’ they in fact are. Shakespeare once said that “all’s the World indeed a stage, and the people merely players” and this is true for everyone across all classes in all human interactions. The notion of someone being ‘natural’ is very relative.

      1. You make a really good point. I can only say that from my personal experience dealing with guys who fall under the alpha male category from childhood have no internal conflicts related to self-esteem and such. If you’re born with it, you don’t have to keep reminding your subconscious to man the fuck up.

        1. Yeah I know what you mean.. there is something to be said about good upbringing, which high self esteem is automatic. Reminding one’s subconscious to man up is the beginning phase really… after you experience the ways people react to you (for the better) when you change your behaviors and attitudes then it stays on your own, you then “become” it.

  5. After reading this article, Casanova sounds like a kindred spirit.
    As an INTP, I definitely have a detached, ironic view of life. I actually see life as one big cosmic joke/accident, having studied fields as diverse as cosmology (the evolution of the universe), biology, and history. Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I just say to tell with it and go get laid. (INTP subtype Cynical Realist describes me pretty well.)
    Life is absolutely an existential straightjacket if you’re of the red-pill persuasion. It’s enough to drive you mad if you let it. The biggest issue I have is dealing with the “tyranny of the masses” in which individualism is relentlessly crushed. Hivemind thinking is everywhere, and is suffocating, particularly in these late days of sexually-repressed America. We are living in a dystopian nation now despite all the false protestations of freedom. In fact, just as Orwell said, “The more people chant about their freedom and how free they are, the more loudly I hear their chains rattling.”
    I definitely identify with the feeling of alienation. I’ve recently likened talking to “normal” people as being similar to learning a foreign language. You have to learn how to talk to “normal” people in a very different way than you would any of your red-pill brethren or your true friends. You have to mimic the same prosaic ways of thinking and pretend to be interested in the same vapid social trends and gossip that they are, or you’ll be immediately labeled an “outsider” and cast down with the Sodomites in terms of social standing.
    Strangely, a book about home economics helped congeal part of my evolving personal philosophy. “Accomplish and Achieve, Don’t Accumulate” is part of a chapter in Debt is Slavery that clarifies an important point when it comes to life. As the book says, “Our society focuses on accumulating possessions. Somehow, owning certain stuff is supposed to give us self-worth. It’s an endless cycle of meaningless consumption…But nobody can take away what we accomplish.”

    1. I agree, Relampago. At the end of the day, we’re all at some point going to be old and spinning our war stories to other people. Better to live life to the fullest, push the envelope, and have no regrets. I do think that Casanova could have tempered his excesses with a little philosophy and discipline, and this would have helped him endure his final years with a little more cheer and dignity. But it’s just my opinion.
      Casanova is not an easy man to categorize, and his memoirs are filled in equal measure with brilliance and skulduggery. Which is what makes him perfect for our study and reflection.
      I find in him a lot of similarities with Sir Thomas Malory, the author of “Le Morte D’Arthur”, the main sourcebook of Arthurian chivalric legends. Malory gave up the life of a knight to become a criminal, basically, and in prison penned one of the most sensitive, tender, and brilliant evocations of the chivalric ideal. Man is a complicated and many-faced being, is he not?

      1. “Man is a complicated and many-faced being, is he not?” Yes, he is. Another quote I like is, “There are many different ways of being human.” -Carl Sagan. But try to make the Hive understand that.
        A couple of mentions for further reading on people who might be of interest:
        I’ve enjoyed reading about Lord Byron who shuffled off the repressive coils of England (sexual repression is a common theme in Anglo nations) and found happiness in the Mediterranean nations. “Byron is the archetypal Anglo-American expatriate, fleeing the repressive Puritanism of the Anglosphere for a more fulfilling life abroad,” as pointed out in Havoc by Rookh Kshatriya. His alienation from his culture, just like the alienation many of us are experiencing in America is summed up in one of his quotes: “I know of no other situation except Hell which I should be inclined to participate with [the English] as a race.” Of course, I’d make exceptions for a few individuals, and in my case, it would be the Americans and not the English.
        D.H. Lawrence is another interesting example. Lawrence fled to Italy and then Mexico, and also despised the hypocrisy and sexual repression of Anglo instituations. Lawrence’s “…alienation was occasioned by his obvious intelligence and lowly social origins. Such a combination often creates an acutely critical social awareness,” according to Havoc.

        1. D.H. Lawrence is a big favorite of mine. He’s been a huge influence. You might enjoy his travel books on Italy: “Sea and Sardinia” and “Etruscan Places”. Penetrating insights, mystical overtones, and a passionate embrace of life.

    2. Concerning good red-pill materials, I also recommend documentaries from Adam Curtis and blog posts from evolutionay psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa. It would be interesting to have a list of red-pill authors and intellectuals. It could serve as a foundation for the red-pill community. Please share any authors of interest. Thanks

      1. I second the motion for documentaries from Adam Curtis. The Power of Nightmares and The Century of the Self are particularly good. Both of them show you exactly how the powers that be control and manipulate the masses.
        I’d also recommend Frontline’s The Persuaders, if for nothing else to hear Clotaire Rapaille talk about how “Most of the time, people have no idea WHY they’re doing what they’re doing, so they’re going to try to make up something that makes sense,” and Reptilian Marketing.
        Of course, Cosmos is high on the list if you want a scientific explanation as to how the universe came to be and our (tiny) role in the cosmological evolution of it.
        There are lots of others, but those are some that come to mind right away for me.

    3. @Relampago2013:
      Please tell us the title & author of that book about home economics which you read & quoted. Sounds like a very worthwhile read.

      1. Debt is Slavery by Michael Mihalik. It’s probably the best personal finance book I’ve ever come across. Part of the genius of it is the fact it’s such a short, quick read. There’s no fluff, just hard facts that will change your life if you follow them.

        1. I now buy everything on kindle and there does not seem to be a kindle version of Mihalik’s book available. If there is an electronic version out there for purchase and download please advise, and thanks for recommending the book.

        2. I have a paperback copy, so I’m not sure about the digital versions. The paperback was about $10 or so a couple of years ago.

  6. I too have read extensively in Casanova’s Memoirs. Besides being instructional, it can also be hugely entertaining – well worth the time in the reading and highly recommended.
    He was indeed born near the bottom, to an actress mother who, as most actresses of the times did, prostituted herself out. His gifts were a talent for acting, a clever and uninhibited mind, and striking good looks. Later, Frederick the Great called him the most handsome man in Europe, or something to that effect (according to Casanova, at least.)
    His writings contain all sorts of interesting observations on female behavior, like the time he rented a window space overlooking a torturous public execution for himself and his date. The torture got her very hot if you’re guessing. His mother-daughter threesome is, as one might expect, a page-turner.
    If there is one message from his Memoirs, it is to dare.

    1. Wow! I’ve definitely got to read up on some Casanova after seeing this.

  7. If you want a real life lesson…I’d suggest “Confessions” by St. Augustine.
    He was like Casanova and had a much different ending.

        1. From there I believe we’ll disagree that the life lived was immoral on either side.
          Mostly due to a difference in values. I am agnostic and do not, perhaps not yet, ascribe a morality to the actions and lifestyles of which we speak.
          Otherwise, I enjoy your comments, Even if I have a different philosophy than you, I can recognize wisdom when I see it.

  8. A lesser example of someone who was born poor and rose through the ranks, only to do himself in, is “Barry Lyndon.”

    1. Excellent movie by Stanley Kubrick! Great visuals, engaging plot, and the sound track will have you searching out classic music.

  9. A voracious student of history I find will be fascinated by the 17th and 18th centuries. They were not only critical to world history but spawned a cast of characters that certainly played the allotted parts in such a drama.
    Cassanova’s memoirs seem worthwhile to add to my already extensive list of things to do.

    1. What I like about the life and career of Casanova is that his meteoric rise and fall cause us to reflect on some important elements of masculinity and life in general. What makes a man? How do all the masculine virtues interconnect with each other? Does character really determine fate, and if so, to what extent?
      My own view, after a few days of thinking on the matter, is that Casanova did the best he could with the tools he had and the hand of cards he was dealt. He went as far as one could go with daring, intelligence, and panache. But fire is only one-half of a man; passion must be tempered by our nobler instincts, the idea of “virtue” in the classical or Renaissance sense. He was all energy and no harness. In the end, he mistook sensualism for philosophy, and sleight-of-hand for true spiritual sincerity.

      1. I think that character can determine fate, one question that remains: Can character shift / change / evolve at various stages in a man’s life?

        1. Yes, it can, but probably to a lesser degree than we imagine. I think Euripides and Aeschylus would agree with me on this.

        2. True — I think character is more strongly embedded, but not immune top external forces.

  10. Can we get a short write-up on Napolean please? Paging Micheal James!!!!

    1. Seriously Quintus – I’m only askin’ for a “short” one. lozlzolzolzolzolzozlol

      1. Duly noted, CB. Appreciate the feedback on the kind of material that resonates. I’ll get on that…

        1. Seriously though, Napolean was a beast – Keep crankin’ out material brotha

  11. I haven’t read about him at length, but I understand that he was very skilled at the art of the break up, thus his supposedly leaving all of his lovers on good terms.

  12. Excellent article. I discovered some facts about him I was not aware of and perhaps sadly, or possibly encouraging relate a little too much with Casanova.

    1. I know what you mean, Chris. Some of Casanova’s life and experiences hit a little too close to home for some of us here. Let’s just say that he touches a nerve with some of us. Which was my intention. After you’ve been in the game for a while, you start to ask yourself the big questions. I guess this self-reflective spirit was what drew me to Casanova…a vague feeling of kinship, maybe. I wish I had all the answers. But maybe just asking the questions is enough.

  13. externalizing your power by believing in something that governs your life kinda sucks

  14. The author of this article is an narrow minded freak … i agree with casanova … go fuck yourself Quintus Curtius

  15. I do not understand why this myth is perpetuated that Casanova was prone to exaggeration in his memoirs. As time has passed more of what he has written has been verified in one manner or another. The majority of his actions were also in keeping with his character, which is quite evident if one has read his memoirs in their entirety, unabridged, which few have. Having done so myself I believe that he has written the truth. Had he wanted to embellish to present himself in a better light he would have refrained from including the accounts that do the exact opposite, of which there are many.
    I think that upon reading his memoirs it is self-evident that he understood how posterity would view his actions, and that he did not care. He had changed in a few ways upon reaching old age, and could reflect on his follies, and he knew perfectly well that he had done some things of which he was not proud. It is also not thoroughly fair to call him a manipulator, as if he were out to take advantage of everyone. In the vast majority of his encounters with women it could be said that he was driven by overwhelming emotion, which his reason was not sufficient to overcome. Rather than making a conscious decision to do the things he did, he instead was only doing what anyone else does…reacting to internal stimuli. It should also be remembered that the chief pleasure for Casanova was in giving pleasure.

Comments are closed.