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NOTES for the Memories of Casanova (1725-1798)

That success was owing to a very simple artifice; it was only to tell my story in
a quiet and truthful manner, without even avoiding the facts which told against me. It
is simple secret that many men do not know, because the larger portion of humankind
is composed of cowards; a man who always tells the truth must be possessed of great
moral courage. Experience has taught me that truth is a talisman, the charm of which
never fails in its effect, provided it is not wasted upon unworthy people, and I believe
that a guilty man, who candidly speaks the truth to his judge, has a better chance of
being acquitted, than the innocent man who hesitates and evades true statements. Of
course the speaker must be young, or at least in the prime of manhood; for an old man
finds the whole of nature combined against him. (pag. 79)

What sweet recollections that villa has left in my memory! It seemed as if I saw
my divine Lucrezia for the first time. Our looks were full of ardent love, our hearts
were beating in concert with the most tender impatience, and a natural instinct was
leading us towards a solitary asylum which the hand of Love seemed to have prepared
on purpose for the mysteries of its secret worship. There, in the middle of a long
avenue, and under a canopy of thick foliage, we found a wide sofa made of grass, and
sheltered by a deep thicket; from that place our eyes could range over an immense
plain, and view the avenue to such a distance right and left that we were perfectly
secure against any surprise. We did not require to exchange one word at the sight of
this beautiful temple so favourable to our love; our hearts spoke the same language.
Without a word being spoken, our ready hands soon managed to get rid of all
obstacles, and to expose in a state of nature all the beauties which are generally veiled
by troublesome wearing apparel. Two whole hours were devoted to the most
delightful, loving ecstasies. At last we exclaimed together in mutual ecstasy, “O Love,
we thank thee!” (pag. 119)

I wore on my finger the beautiful ring which Lucrezia had given me. At the
back of the ring I had had a piece of enamel placed, on it was delineated a saduceus,
with one serpent between the letters Alpha and Omega. This ring was the subject of
conversation during breakfast, and Don Francisco, as well as the advocate, exerted
himself in vain to guess the meaning of the hieroglyphs; much to the amusement of
Lucrezia, who understood the mysterious secret so well. (pag. 122)

They all asked me how long I would require to teach them the rules of my
sublime calculus. “Not very long,” I answered, “and I will teach you as you wish,
although the hermit assured me that I would die suddenly within three days if I
communicated my science to anyone, but I have no faith whatever in that prediction.”
M. de Bragadin who believed in it more than I did, told me in a serious tone that I was

bound to have faith in it, and from that day they never asked me again to teach them.
They very likely thought that, if they could attach me to them, it would answer the
purpose as well as if they possessed the science themselves. Thus I became the
hierophant of those three worthy and talented men, who, in spite of their literary
accomplishments, were not wise, since they were infatuated with occult and fabulous
sciences, and believed in the existence of phenomena impossible in the moral as well
as in the physical order of things. They believed that through me they possessed the
philosopher’s stone, the universal panacea, the intercourse with all the elementary,
heavenly, and infernal spirits; they had no doubt whatever that, thanks to my sublime
science, they could find out the secrets of every government in Europe. (pag. 212)

It was in Lyons that a respectable individual, whose acquaintance I made at the

house of M. de Rochebaron, obtained for me the favour of being initiated in the
sublime trifles of Freemasonry. I arrived in Paris a simple apprentice; a few months
after my arrival I became companion and master; the last is certainly the highest
degree in Freemasonry, for all the other degrees which I took afterwards are only
pleasing inventions, which, although symbolical, add nothing to the dignity of master.
No one in this world can obtain a knowledge of everything, but every man who feels
himself endowed with faculties, and can realize the extent of his moral strength,
should endeavour to obtain the greatest possible amount of knowledge. A well-born
young man who wishes to travel and know not only the world, but also what is called
good society, who does not want to find himself, under certain circumstances, inferior
to his equals, and excluded from participating in all their pleasures, must get himself
initiated in what is called Freemasonry, even if it is only to know superficially what
Freemasonry is. It is a charitable institution, which, at certain times and in certain
places, may have been a pretext for criminal underplots got up for the overthrow of
public order, but is there anything under heaven that has not been abused? Have we
not seen the Jesuits, under the cloak of our holy religion, thrust into the parricidal hand
of blind enthusiasts the dagger with which kings were to be assassinated! All men of
importance, I mean those whose social existence is marked by intelligence and merit,
by learning or by wealth, can be (and many of them are) Freemasons: is it possible to
suppose that such meetings, in which the initiated, making it a law never to speak,
‘intra muros’, either of politics, or of religions, or of governments, converse only
concerning emblems which are either moral or trifling; is it possible to suppose, I
repeat, that those meetings, in which the governments may have their own creatures,
can offer dangers sufficiently serious to warrant the proscriptions of kings or the
excommunications of Popes?
In reality such proceedings miss the end for which they are undertaken, and the
Pope, in spite of his infallibility, will not prevent his persecutions from giving
Freemasonry an importance which it would perhaps have never obtained if it had been

left alone. Mystery is the essence of man’s nature, and whatever presents itself to
mankind under a mysterious appearance will always excite curiosity and be sought,
even when men are satisfied that the veil covers nothing but a cypher.
Upon the whole, I would advise all well-born young men, who intend to travel,
to become Freemasons; but I would likewise advise them to be careful in selecting a
lodge, because, although bad company cannot have any influence while inside of the
lodge, the candidate must guard against bad acquaintances.
Those who become Freemasons only for the sake of finding out the secret of the
order, run a very great risk of growing old under the trowel without ever realizing their
purpose. Yet there is a secret, but it is so inviolable that it has never been confided or
whispered to anyone. Those who stop at the outward crust of things imagine that the
secret consists in words, in signs, or that the main point of it is to be found only in
reaching the highest degree. This is a mistaken view: the man who guesses the secret
of Freemasonry, and to know it you must guess it, reaches that point only through long
attendance in the lodges, through deep thinking, comparison, and deduction. He would
not trust that secret to his best friend in Freemasonry, because he is aware that if his
friend has not found it out, he could not make any use of it after it had been whispered
in his ear. No, he keeps his peace, and the secret remains a secret.
Everything done in a lodge must be secret; but those who have unscrupulously
revealed what is done in the lodge, have been unable to reveal that which is essential;
they had no knowledge of it, and had they known it, they certainly would not have
unveiled the mystery of the ceremonies.
The impression felt in our days by the non-initiated is of the same nature as that
felt in former times by those who were not initiated in the mysteries enacted at Eleusis
in honour of Ceres. But the mysteries of Eleusis interested the whole of Greece, and
whoever had attained some eminence in the society of those days had an ardent wish
to take a part in those mysterious ceremonies, while Freemasonry, in the midst of
many men of the highest merit, reckons a crowd of scoundrels whom no society ought
to acknowledge, because they are the refuse of mankind as far as morality is
In the mysteries of Ceres, an inscrutable silence was long kept, owing to the
veneration in which they were held. Besides, what was there in them that could be
revealed? The three words which the hierophant said to the initiated? But what would
that revelation have come to? Only to dishonour the indiscreet initiate, for they were
barbarous words unknown to the vulgar. I have read somewhere that the three sacred
words of the mysteries of Eleusis meant: Watch, and do no evil. The sacred words and
the secrets of the various masonic degrees are about as criminal.
The initiation in the mysteries of Eleusis lasted nine days. The ceremonies were
very imposing, and the company of the highest. Plutarch informs us that Alcibiades
was sentenced to death and his property confiscated, because he had dared to turn the

mysteries into ridicule in his house. He was even sentenced to be cursed by the priests
and priestesses, but the curse was not pronounced because one of the priestesses
opposed it, saying:
“I am a priestess to bless and not to curse!”
Sublime words! Lessons of wisdom and of morality which the Pope despises,
but which the Gospel teaches and which the Saviour prescribes. In our days nothing is
important, and nothing is sacred, for our cosmopolitan philosophers. Botarelli
publishes in a pamphlet all the ceremonies of the Freemasons, and the only sentence
passed on him is:
“He is a scoundrel. We knew that before!” (pag. 304-305)