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false play. But his main resource was imposing upon the credulity of the wealthy by a pretended method of divining the secrets of the future; all which, and the base swindling of it, he recounts with perfect self-satisfaction. Indeed, one of the most curious features of the book, as a picture of the time, is the truly wonderful giillibillity and fatuous credulity which he finds among people of all classes of society; just at a time, it is curious to remark, when all belief in revealed religion was giving way.
Such is the nature of almost every page of this extraordinary book. But there is one passage of it, of considerable extent, which may be read without any offence. It consists of the pages in which he describes with minute detail, and at considerable length, the manner of his escape from the prisons of the Inquisition.
There were many other cases, in which the same persons were at one period of their lives confidential agents of the Tribunal, and at another its prisoners. But in all these instances the employment of "confidant" came first; and it was some abuse of the position which led to the imprisonment. It was not so in the case of Casanova.
This man was born at Venice in 1725. His father had run away from a 'family in a higher social position and had become an actor. He ran away with a shoemaker's daughter, who became an actress, and appeared on the stage with her husband for the first time in London in 1727. The first part of his memoirs—about a volume and a half out of the four volumes— describe with the most unblushing cynicism his career at Venice, in such sort as to justify what has been said above of the state of society at Venice at that period. This portion of his work brings his story of his life to the July of 1755, when he was thirty years old. It was early one morning of that month that Casanova received a visit from the dreaded "Fante" of the Inquisition, known popularly at Venice as "Messer grande." He was ordered to dress himself; did so, and found a posse of archers in the outer room. "It is singular, " he remarks on this occasion, "that at London, where everybody is brave, they only employ one man to arrest another; whereas in my dear country (Venice), where everybody is a great coward, they require thirty for the same purpose. Per
haps it is because the coward in the character of assailant is more afraid than the coward assailed, a situation which may sometimes give to a coward the courage of despair."
He is taken before the Secretary to the Inquisition, who merely looks at him, and says to the officer, "That's the fellow, is it? Put him into safe keeping." And he is at once taken to the terrible " Piombi." No sort of intimation was given to him as to the nature of the offence or accusation which had led to his arrest, and he protests that he was wholly innocent of any crime against the State which it would have been the duty of the Inquisitors to take cognizance of. But his own account of himself describes him as an habitual and systematic cheater at play; as habitually preying on the credulity of people—sundry patricians of Venice among the number— by swindling pretences of divination; as an avowed disbeliever in the doctrines of religion; as an habitual desecrator of nunneries and sharer in the profligacy of their inmates; and surely there is enough here to induce a Tribunal, which considered itself charged with the general supervision of the conduct of the citizens, to deem it high time to put an end to such a career, without having recourse, as Casanova in his memoirs has, to the supposition that his misfortune was caused by the friendship of one of the Inquisitors for a playwriter whose works Casanova had bitterly ridiculed.
He proceeds to describe minutely the prison under the roof of the Ducal Palace, to which he was conducted; and any visitor to the sights of Venice may still satisfy himself of the perfect accuracy of the description. These prisons were enormously strong wooden boxes, the doors of which opened on the main open space of the huge garret beneath the leads of the Palace. That one in which Casanova was confined was about twelve feet square by five and a half feet high, besides a sort of recess in one of the sides large enough to hold a small bed. This cage was, or rather is,— for it remains precisely in statu quo,— lighted by a window two feet square in the door, which, as the writer says, would have rendered the prison tolerably light, had not the main corner-beam of the building projected across the outer window, from which the borrowed light of the prison was derived, so as to obscure it almost entirely. For this reason, and by reason of the extra lowness of the den, which made it impossible to stand upright in it, and which was caused by the situation of it under the corner of the roof, this prison in which Casanova was placed, was the worst in the whole range of the "Piombi."
And when Casanova entered his prison it was July!
His description of his sufferings there, written apparently with the simplicity of perfect truth, is very terrible. He found his prison absolutely void of any article of furniture whatsoever, unless a plank one foot wide, fixed in the wall at a height of four feet from the floor, could be called such. In the garret on which the hole in his door looked, he saw great numbers of immense rats, which compelled him to close the shutter belonging to it for fear that his prison should be invaded by them. The jailer who conducted him asked him, before leaving him, what he would wish to eat. He answered, with ill-humor, that he had not yet determined. Thereupon the man turned on his heel, locked the door, and left him. He remained, he says, standing with his arms resting on the lower frame of the little window for eight hours in a sort of stupor. Then, as the darkness of night began to deepen the gloom of his prison, he was roused by the sound of the large bell of a clock not far off, and was startled and terrified at the thought that no human being had come near him to bring food or any other necessary. A transport of rage, he says, seized him, and he began to rave and scream and shout with the utmost power of his voice for a good hour,—of course without the smallest indication that any human ear had heard his cries!
After this, being perfectly exhausted, he threw himself on the floor of his dungeon, and slept till he was awakened by the clock tolling midnight. He relates how, stretching out his hand on awaking, it came in contact with another hand cold as that of a corpse; how he was overpowered with horror, almost to the losing of his senses ; how he came to the conclusion that the dead body of a prisoner put to death in the solitude of that awful place must have been put into his cell while he slept—as a warning, perhaps, of the fate that awaited himself; and how, after a while, he found that it was his own other hand which he had grasped, which had become deadly cold
and altogether insensible from the arm having been bent under him, as he lay on the hard boards.
There was no more sleeping after that, and he sate still listening to the clock as it tolled the hours, till at half-past eight, the jailer returned to the cell, and asked him whether he had yet made up his mind what he would like to eat.
Then he perceived that his long fasting had been a punishment for the pert answer he had given to his jailer when asked what he would like to eat, and had not arisen from any intention on the part of the Inquisitors to starve him to death.
This time he ordered the materials of a good dinner, whereupon the jailer asked him for money to buy the things with. He had three sequins in his purse, and handed one of them to the jailer. He was then asked whether he did not want a bed and some articles of furniture; "for," said Lorenzo, the jailer, "if you suppose that you are put here for a short time only you are mistaken." The man handed him a pencil and paper and told him to write down what he wanted. He made out a list, and, on reading it to Lorenzo—who could not do so himself—was told that many of the articles named must be scratched out. "Books, paper, pens, razors, looking glass; all that must be scratched out, for those things are forbidden here." Then the man asked where he was to go for the bed and articles of clothing and furniture; and, having received instructions on this point, departed.
At mid-day Lorenzo returned, with two or three subordinates, bringing the dinner and the other articles, together with an ivory spoon, purchased with part of the prisoner's money, and which was the only utensil permitted him to eat with. He also brought two large volumes, which the Secretary, who could not permit him to have the books he had asked for (which, in truth, were anything but edifying reading), had sent him as a favor. These books turned out to be, one of them, the work of a Spanish nun, entitled The Mystic City of the Sister Maria de Jesus, of Agrada: the other The Adoration of the Holy Ghost of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the Jesuit Caravita.
Despite the bed which it had been allowed him to have, the following night was worse than the one which had preceded it. The noise made by the rats, and the stunning sound of the great bell of the clock of St Mark, which seemed as if it were absolutely in the cell, prevented the possibility of sleep. The dreadful heat, which drove the prisoner to lay aside every article of clothing or covering, and caused the perspiration to fall in streams from his body, seemed to make the drawing of each breath a painful effort. And the innumerable swarms of fleas, which fixed themselves on every part of his body, threw him into nervous convulsions and poisoned all his blood.
At die end of nineteen days the three sequins, which the prisoner had in his pocket at the time of his arrest, were all gone. Lorenzo asked for money to buy the morrow's dinner, and was told that his prisoner had none. The next day he came and told him that the Tribunal had assigned him fifty sous a day for his maintenance.
"Seventy-five livres a month," states Casanova, "was more than I needed, inasmuch as I had no longer any appetite. The extreme heat, and the inanition caused by want of proper nourishment, had enfeebled me. We were in the 'Dogdays.' And the power of the sun's rays, which beat directly on my prison, kept me as in a furnace; so that the perspiration which flowed from my wretched body soaked the floor on either side of the chair, on which I was compelled to sit in a state of perfect nudity."
The next day he was so manifestly ill that the jailer, without any demand on his part, brought him a physician. The doctor succeeded in curing him of the fever which had prostrated him, obtained for him a volume of Boethius instead of the volumes of mystic piety which the secretary had selected for him; and also permission to walk every day in the open space of the garret for a few minutes, while the jailer was occupied in making his bed and sweeping his cell.
This permission it was which rendered possible, as the reader will see, that celebrated escape from the "Piombi," which would otherwise have been utterly impossible.
One day in November a very startling incident happened. The prisoner was standing at the little window in the door of his cell gazing at the outer window, the light from which was, as has been mentioned, almost entirely obscured by the huge corner beam of the roof which
projected over it. All of a sudden, Casanova saw this immense beam turn a little on its axis towards one side, and then turn slowly back again. He thought for a moment that he must have gone mad, and lost the correct use of his senses. But a certain swimming of the cell having at the same moment nearly thrown him off his legs, he doubted not, after a moment of reflection, that the phenomenon was caused by an earthquake. It was, in fact, a slight manifestation of the same earthquake that was in that same hour destroying Lisbon.
It was one day shortly after the earthquake that the prisoner took advantage of the few minutes' walk in the garret which had been permitted to him, while the jailer was sweeping out his cell, to cast a shrewd and curious eye on a variety of objects of the kind which may be supposed to accumulate in the course of years in such a place. Among these he spied a small polished piece of black marble, which he picked up, secreted, and carried back with him to his cell, without in the least knowing, as he declares, to what use he should or could ever put it. It turned out afterwards to be touchstone. And upon another similar occasion, a few days subsequently, he found, hidden under a heap of old waste paper, a large iron bolt as thick as a man's thumb, and about a foot and a half long. He laid hands on this, succeeded in hiding it under the dressing-gown he had, and conveying it into his cell. A safe hiding place was found for it in the stuffed seat of the arm-chair, which he had been allowed to send for. Then, with incredible patience and labor, and at the cost of wearing and lacerating his hands to the bone, he succeeded, by dint of rubbing the end of the bolt on the marble, in producing a sharp point at the end of the former. And thus he was in possession of a very formidable and effective weapon, whether for offence or defence.
Still he had not as yet the smallest idea of what use this weapon could be to him. But, after four days of meditation on the subject, he determined to attempt making with it a hole in the floor of his cell! His previous knowledge of the geography of the vast palace assured him that his cell must be situated immediately over the room of the Secretary to the Inquisisition. And his plan was to make a hole in the floor and in the ceiling below it. also of wood, large enough for his body to pass through it, then to let himself down by the sheets of his bed in the night, hide himself under the great table in the middle of the Secretary's room, and then, as soon as the doors should be opened, which was regularly done every morning, escape from the Palace, trusting that he might be able to do so, among the number of people frequenting the stairs and passages of the vast building, without attracting attention.
Of course the difficulties attending such a scheme were enormous. The first that arose was the difficulty of preventing his jailer from detecting the work he was engaged on during its progress, for he had reason to think that he should have to pierce three very considerable thicknesses of planking before he could reach the panelling which formed the ceiling of the room below. The difficulty was rendered greater by the daily habit of the jailer to sweep out his cell, which he himself had insisted on being done in the hope of thus alleviating the torment of the fleas.
This was the plan he conceived for conquering this first obstacle:
He told the servants of the jailer who swept the cell not to do so. They readily enough saved themselves that trouble, and nothing was said for a week. But the prisoner was far too cautiously cunning to trust to this for commencing his operations. This was but the beginning of his plan. At the end of a week Lorenzo asked why he did not choose to have his cell swept.
"Because, the fact is, the dust so caused gives me such an access of cough that I am afraid of some fatal accident."
"I will have the floor sprinkled then, sir."
"Alas, Lorenzo! that would be worse still. The damp would give me a cold, which would assuredly kill me with coughing."
So for another week the cell remained unswept. At the end of that time, either from some suspicion or from thinking the operation necessary, the jailer one morning told his men to remove the bed and sweep out the cell. He lighted a candle, moreover, for the better performing this work, which led the prisoner to think that his suspicions had been aroused. The cell was duly swept, and everything was found in proper order. But when Lo
renzo made his daily visit the next morning, his prisoner was coughing with the most frightful violence. He exhibited his handkerchief soaked with blood, which he had carefully drawn from his finger; declared that the sweeping of the dust in his cell had endangered his life, and that a doctor must be called to him.
The doctor was quite deceived, and volunteered an anecdote of a case of a young man who had broken a blood vessel from swallowing dust. The jailer was thoroughly taken in, and swore by all that was holy that he would never again sweep the cell of a prisoner with such delicate lungs.
Then, and not till then, Casanova began the long labor of digging a hole in the flooring of his cell under his bed.
Then he was prevented from pursuing his work by the arrival of a new prisoner, who was made to share his cell. It was not till fifteen days after Easter that he was delivered from the presence of this sharer of his captivity. He then once more set to work with redoubled activity, fearing the arrival of some new partner in his cell. And in three weeks he had dug through three thicknesses of planking, making together six inches of thickness. But beneath that he found a flooring of that sort of mixed marble fragments and cement, which is so common in all Venetian buildings. This at first made him despair, but, with immense difficulty and perseverance, he overcame this obstacle also; and, at the end of four more days, had reached the panel which formed the ceiling of the room below.
Just then a new prisoner was again brought to share Casanova's cell. He turned out to be an old acquaintance of his. And when the new comer, tormented in the same way that Casanova had been, demanded why the cell should not be swept out, he found himself obliged to tell him the truth, and showed him the progress he had made towards a possibility of escape. The new-comer promised to aid Casanova to descend into the chamber below, but declined to attempt flight himself.
At last, on the 23d of August, when he had been in the "Piombi" rather more than a year, the preparations for his flight were completed, all but breaking through the last skin of the panel of the ceiling— which, of course, had been left intact with the most minute care; and he fixed the night of the 27th for the attempt. But, on the 25th, a terrible misfortune happened to him. The jailer on that morning, entering his cell with a cheerful visage, wished him joy of the good news he brought him: he was to be moved from that cell, the worst in the whole range, to one recently vacated, which had much more air and light.
Here was a blow! That all the painful labor he had so patiently undergone was thrown away, was the least part of the misfortune. His attempt at evasion would infallibly be discovered.
His only solace in this terrible moment was, that his arm-chair, in which the sharpened bolt he had prepared with so much toil was concealed, was moved into the other cell with him.
Then the storm burst. No sooner was the prisoner's bed removed than the terribly accusing hole in the floor was but too apparent. The jailer returned to the new cell, where the prisoner was, foaming at the mouth with rage. And he might well be angry; for the escape of a prisoner was his own death-warrant.
His first demand was for the tools with which the flooring had been cut, and the name of the attendant turnkey who had furnished them. The prisoner remained mute. The jailer said savagely that he could soon find the means to make him speak.
"If I am put to the torture, of course I must tell the truth. I shall have to confess that you yourself supplied me with the tools!" said Casanova, with unfaltering steadiness. The subordinates grinned, and the jailer, having in vain searched the person and cell of the prisoner, rushed out of the cell blaspheming horribly, and holding his head between his hands in an agony of rage and perplexity.
A short time for reflection convinced him that his safest plan was to cause the hole to be mended, and say nothing about it
During eight days the jailer revenged himself on his prisoner for his attempt at evasion by shutting up the window, which gave air and light to the cell, and by bringing him food that was utterly uneatable. On the ninth day, in compliance with the demand of the prisoner, Lorenzo brought his account of the expenditure of the fifty sous a day allowed by the TribuNew Series.— Vol. XIV., No. 2.
nal for Casanova's keep. He thought fit to bring him at the same time an excellent roast-fowl, and a basket of lemons, which had been sent by a friend of the prisoner's in the town. Casanova, despite the fury he had been feeling all these days against the jailer, was so pleased that he told the man to keep the balance of several sequins which resulted from the account. Lorenzo then, in milder fashion, strove to persuade Casanova to tell him how he had obtained the tools needed for making the hole in the other cell. The prisoner calmly replied that he himself (the jailer) had furnished them to him. Then in answer to his adjurations and entreaties for explanation as to what the prisoner meant, and how he (Lorenzo) had supplied him with tools, he replied gravely that he would tell him, and would tell him with perfect truth j but that he would only do so in the presence of the Secretary!
The unhappy jailer was checkmated, cowed, and beaten. He ended by imploring his prisoner to say no more upon the subject, and to remember that he was a poor man, who had a wife and family depending upon him, and who would assuredly be ruined by the discovery of what the prisoner had done, despite his vigilance.
Thenceforward the relations between prisoner and jailer were more amicable. And the unlucky man began a course of indulgences, which eventually led to the escape of his captive.
Casanova begged for books to read. He had read all those that had been allowed to him. The jailer said that there was a prisoner in a neighboring cell who had several books, which no doubt he would be willing to lend to his fellowprisoner.
The captive in the neighboring cell turned out to be a monk, imprisoned for licentious conduct. He made no difficulty in lending his books. Casanova lent his in return. And thus a system of correspondence was readily established between them.
Ever since Casanova's removal into his new cell, and the discovery of the hole in the floor of the old one, the jailer or his assistants had every morning sounded every part of the floor and walls of his pris on. But he observed that they never thought of sounding the ceiling! He at 11