Richard Aldington: The Romance of Casanova
Heinemann. 9s. 6d.
The theme of Mr. Aldington's romance bears an odd resemblance to one of Mr. Shaw's: that, for practical purposes, woman is superman. Young Casanova is represented here, perhaps truly, as the tool of women, not their master. Marietta, seduced by him at seventeen, uses him for her own ends on their second meeting; Donna Giulietta, whom he abandons in insulting circumstances, has him consigned to prison for a year or two; and Henriette, the Austrian spy, leads him by the nose. It is to their tune that Casanova dances, not they to his. The romance has comic aspects. The strictly romantic side of the book is provided by Casanova's love for Henriette, Whom he rescued from a canal in Venice at the height of a storm, and whose laconic little notes -- two words and a signature -- and persistent elusiveness, were just the thing to hold the attention of a man who suceeded with women, as a rule, too easily.
Whether Mr. Aldington is entierely happy with either the romance or the comedy may be doubted. The detachment with which he writes -- the distance, too, for he incautiously describes the eighteenth century with reference to the present day -- prevent the reader from falling into the sentimental mood in which alone romances my be taken seriously; and because his plot is dependent on the romantic elements he is unable to make proper fun of his hero. His pages are, in consequence, rather flat. Where he does suceed is in the account of Casanova's attempted escape from Leads, in the picture of the Venitians in relation to their police State, in numerous sketches of carnival in Rome and Venice, and in the light he throws on everyday life in eighteenth-century Italy.