Casanova on introducing lottery in Paris

Feb 15th, 2014
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  4. The Minister of Foreign Affairs M. de Boulogne, the Comptroller--M. le
  5. Duc de Choiseul--M. Paris du Vernai--Establishment of the Lottery--My
  6. Brother's Arrival at Paris; His Reception by the Academy
  8. Once more, then, I was in Paris, which I ought to regard as my
  9. fatherland, since I could return no more to that land which gave me
  10. birth: an unworthy country, yet, in spite of all, ever dear to me,
  11. possibly on account of early impressions and early prejudices, or
  12. possibly because the beauties of Venice are really unmatched in the
  13. world. But mighty Paris is a place of good luck or ill, as one takes it,
  14. and it was my part to catch the favouring gale.
  16. Paris was not wholly new to me, as my readers know I had spent two years
  17. there, but I must confess that, having then no other aim than to pass
  18. the time pleasantly, I had merely devoted myself to pleasure and
  19. enjoyment. Fortune, to whom I had paid no court, had not opened to me
  20. her golden doors; but I now felt that I must treat her more reverently,
  21. and attach myself to the throng of her favoured sons whom she loads with
  22. her gifts. I understood now that the nearer one draws to the sun the
  23. more one feels the warmth of its rays. I saw that to attain my end I
  24. should have to employ all my mental and physical talents, that I must
  25. make friends of the great, and take cue from all whom I found it to be
  26. my interest to please. To follow the plans suggested by these thoughts,
  27. I saw that I must avoid what is called bad company, that I must give up
  28. my old habits and pretensions, which would be sure to make me enemies,
  29. who would have no scruple in representing me as a trifler, and not fit
  30. to be trusted with affairs of any importance.
  32. I think I thought wisely, and the reader, I hope, will be of the same
  33. opinion. "I will be reserved," said I, "in what I say and what I do, and
  34. thus I shall get a reputation for discretion which will bring its
  35. reward."
  37. I was in no anxiety on the score of present needs, as I could reckon on
  38. a monthly allowance of a hundred crowns, which my adopted father, the
  39. good and generous M. de Bragadin, sent me, and I found this sum
  40. sufficient in the meanwhile, for with a little self-restraint one can
  41. live cheaply at Paris, and cut a good figure at the same time. I was
  42. obliged to wear a good suit of clothes, and to have a decent lodging;
  43. for in all large towns the most important thing is outward show, by
  44. which at the beginning one is always judged. My anxiety was only for the
  45. pressing needs of the moment, for to speak the truth I had neither
  46. clothes nor linen--in a word, nothing.
  48. If my relations with the French ambassador are recalled, it will be
  49. found natural that my first idea was to address myself to him, as I knew
  50. him sufficiently well to reckon on his serving me.
  52. Being perfectly certain that the porter would tell me that my lord was
  53. engaged, I took care to have a letter, and in the morning I went to the
  54. Palais Bourbon. The porter took my letter, and I gave him my address and
  55. returned home.
  57. Wherever I went I had to tell the story of my escape from The Leads.
  58. This became a service almost as tiring as the flight itself had been, as
  59. it took me two hours to tell my tale, without the slightest bit of
  60. fancy-work; but I had to be polite to the curious enquirers, and to
  61. pretend that I believed them moved by the most affectionate interest in
  62. my welfare. In general, the best way to please is to take the
  63. benevolence of all with whom one has relation for granted.
  65. I supped at Silvia's, and as the evening was quieter than the night
  66. before, I had time to congratulate myself on all the friendship they
  67. shewed me. The girl was, as I had said, fifteen years old, and I was in
  68. every way charmed with her. I complimented the mother on the good
  69. results of her education, and I did not even think of guarding myself
  70. from falling a victim to her charms. I had taken so lately such well-
  71. founded and philosophical resolutions, and I was not yet sufficiently at
  72. my ease to value the pain of being tempted. I left at an early hour,
  73. impatient to see what kind of an answer the minister had sent me. I had
  74. not long to wait, and I received a short letter appointing a meeting for
  75. two o'clock in the afternoon. It may be guessed that I was punctual, and
  76. my reception by his excellence was most flattering. M. de Bernis
  77. expressed his pleasure at seeing me after my fortunate escape, and at
  78. being able to be of service to me. He told me that M---- M---- had
  79. informed him of my escape, and he had flattered himself that the first
  80. person I should go and see in Paris would be himself. He shewed me the
  81. letters from M---- M---- relating to my arrest and escape, but all the
  82. details in the latter were purely imaginary and had no foundation in
  83. fact. M---- M---- was not to blame, as she could only write what she had
  84. heard, and it was not easy for anyone besides myself to know the real
  85. circumstances of my escape. The charming nun said that, no longer buoyed
  86. up by the hope of seeing either of the men who alone had made her in
  87. love with life, her existence had become a burden to her, and she was
  88. unfortunate in not being able to take any comfort in religion. "C---C---
  89. - often comes to see me," she said, "but I grieve to say she is not
  90. happy with her husband."
  92. I told M. de Bernis that the account of my flight from The Leads, as
  93. told by our friend, was wholly inaccurate, and I would therefore take
  94. the liberty of writing out the whole story with the minutest details. He
  95. challenged me to keep my word, assuring me that he would send a copy to
  96. M---- M----, and at the same time, with the utmost courtesy, he put a
  97. packet of a hundred Louis in my hand, telling me that he would think
  98. what he could do for me, and would advise me as soon as he had any
  99. communication to make.
  101. Thus furnished with ample funds, my first care was for my dress; and
  102. this done I went to work, and in a week sent my generous protector the
  103. result, giving him permission to have as many copies printed as he
  104. liked, and to make any use he pleased of it to interest in my behalf
  105. such persons as might be of service to me.
  107. Three weeks after, the minister summoned me to say that he had spoken of
  108. me to M. Erizzo, the Venetian ambassador, who had nothing to say against
  109. me, but for fear of embroiling himself with the State Inquisitors
  110. declined to receive me. Not wanting anything from him--his refusal did
  111. me no harm. M. de Bernis then told me that he had given a copy of my
  112. history to Madame la Marquise de Pompadour, and he promised to take the
  113. first opportunity of presenting me to this all-powerful lady. "You can
  114. present yourself, my dear Casanova," added his excellence, "to the Duc
  115. de Choiseul, and M. de Boulogne, the comptroller. You will be well
  116. received, and with a little wit you ought to be able to make good use of
  117. the letter. He himself will give you the cue, and you will see that he
  118. who listens obtains. Try to invent some useful plan for the royal
  119. exchequer; don't let it be complicated or chimerical, and if you don't
  120. write it out at too great length I will give you my opinion on it."
  122. I left the minister in a pleased and grateful mood, but extremely
  123. puzzled to find a way of increasing the royal revenue. I knew nothing of
  124. finance, and after racking my brains all that I could think of was new
  125. methods of taxation; but all my plans were either absurd or certain to
  126. be unpopular, and I rejected them all on consideration.
  128. As soon as I found out that M. de Choiseul was in Paris I called on him.
  129. He received me in his dressing-room, where he was writing while his
  130. valet did his hair. He stretched his politeness so far as to interrupt
  131. himself several times to ask me questions, but as soon as I began to
  132. reply his grace began to write again, and I suspect did not hear what I
  133. was saying; and though now and again he seemed to be looking at me, it
  134. was plain that his eyes and his thoughts were occupied on different
  135. objects. In spite of this way of receiving visitors--or me, at all
  136. events, M. de Choiseul was a man of wit.
  138. When he had finished writing he said in Italian that M. de Bernis had
  139. told him of some circumstances of my escape, and he added,
  141. "Tell me how you succeeded."
  143. "My lord, it would be too long a story; it would take me at least two
  144. hours, and your grace seems busy."
  146. "Tell me briefly about it."
  148. "However much I speak to the point, I shall take two hours."
  150. "You can keep the details for another time."
  152. "The story is devoid of interest without the details"
  154. "Well, well, you can tell me the whole story in brief, without losing
  155. much of the interest:"
  157. "Very good; after that I can say no more. I must tell your lordship,
  158. then, that, the State Inquisitors shut me up under the Leads; that after
  159. fifteen months and five days of imprisonment I succeeded in piercing the
  160. roof; that after many difficulties I reached the chancery by a window,
  161. and broke open the door; afterwards I got to St. Mark's Place, whence,
  162. taking a gondola which bore me to the mainland, I arrived at Paris, and
  163. have had the honour to pay my duty to your lordship."
  165. "But.... what are The Leads?"
  167. "My lord, I should take a quarter of an hour, at least, to explain."
  169. "How did you pierce the roof?"
  171. "I could not tell your lordship in less than half an hour:"
  173. "Why were you shut up?"
  175. "It would be a long tale, my lord."
  177. "I think you are right. The interest of the story lies chiefly in the
  178. details."
  180. "I took the liberty of saying as much to your grace."
  182. "Well, I must go to Versailles, but I shall be delighted if you will
  183. come and see me sometimes. In the meanwhile, M. Casanova, think what I
  184. can do for you."
  186. I had been almost offended at the way in which M. de Choiseul had
  187. received me, and I was inclined to resent it; but the end of our
  188. conversation, and above all the kindly tone of his last words, quieted
  189. me, and I left him, if not satisfied, at least without bitterness in my
  190. heart.
  192. From him I went to M. de Boulogne's, and found him a man of quite a
  193. different stamp to the duke--in manners, dress, and appearance. He
  194. received me with great politeness, and began by complimenting me on the
  195. high place I enjoyed in the opinion of M. de Bernis, and on my skill in
  196. matters of finance.
  198. I felt that no compliment had been so ill deserved, and I could hardly
  199. help bursting into laughter. My good angel, however, made me keep my
  200. countenance.
  202. M. de Boulogne had an old man with him, every feature bore the imprint
  203. of genius, and who inspired me with respect.
  205. "Give me your views;" said the comptroller, "either on paper or 'viva
  206. voce'. You will find me willing to learn and ready to grasp your ideas.
  207. Here is M. Paris du Vernai, who wants twenty millions for his military
  208. school; and he wishes to get this sum without a charge on the state or
  209. emptying the treasury."
  211. "It is God alone, sir, who has the creative power."
  213. "I am not a god," said M. du Vernai, "but for all that I have now and
  214. then created but the times have changed."
  216. "Everything," I said, "is more difficult than it used to be; but in
  217. spite of difficulties I have a plan which would give the king the
  218. interest of a hundred millions."
  220. "What expense would there be to the Crown?"
  222. "Merely the cost of receiving."
  224. "The nation, then, would furnish the sum in question?"
  226. "Undoubtedly, but voluntarily."
  228. "I know what you are thinking of."
  230. "You astonish me, sir, as I have told nobody of my plan."
  232. "If you have no other engagement, do me the honour of dining with me to-
  233. morrow, and I will tell you what your project is. It is a good one, but
  234. surrounded, I believe, with insuperable difficulties. Nevertheless, we
  235. will talk it over and see what can be done. Will you come?"
  237. "I will do myself that honour."
  239. "Very good, I will expect you at Plaisance."
  241. After he had gone, M. de Boulogne praised his talents and honesty. He
  242. was the brother of M. de Montmartel, whom secret history makes the
  243. father of Madame de Pompadour, for he was the lover of Madame Poisson at
  244. the same time as M. le Normand.
  246. I left the comptroller's and went to walk in the Tuileries, thinking
  247. over the strange stroke of luck which had happened to me. I had been
  248. told that twenty millions were wanted, and I had boasted of being able
  249. to get a hundred, without the slightest idea of how it was to be done;
  250. and on that a well-known man experienced in the public business had
  251. asked me to dinner to convince me that he knew what my scheme was. There
  252. was something odd and comic about the whole affair; but that
  253. corresponded very well with my modes of thought and action. "If he
  254. thinks he is going to pump me," said I, "he will find himself mistaken.
  255. When he tells me what the plan is, it will rest with me to say he has
  256. guessed it or he is wrong as the inspiration of the moment suggests. If
  257. the question lies within my comprehension I may, perhaps, be able to
  258. suggest something new; and if I understand nothing I will wrap myself up
  259. in a mysterious silence, which sometimes produces a good effect. At all
  260. events, I will not repulse Fortune when she appears to be favourable to
  261. me."
  263. M. de Bernis had only told M. de Boulogne that I was a financier to get
  264. me a hearing, as otherwise he might have declined to see me. I was sorry
  265. not to be master, at least, of the jargon of the business, as in that
  266. way men have got out of a similar difficulty, and by knowing the
  267. technical terms, and nothing more, have made their mark. No matter, I
  268. was bound to the engagement. I must put a good face on a bad game, and
  269. if necessary pay with the currency of assurance. The next morning I took
  270. a carriage, and in a pensive mood I told the coachman to take me to M.
  271. du Vernai's, at Plaisance--a place a little beyond Vincennes.
  273. I was set down at the door of the famous man who, forty years ago, had
  274. rescued France on the brink of the precipice down which Law had almost
  275. precipitated her. I went in and saw a great fire burning on the hearth,
  276. which was surrounded by seven or eight persons, to whom I was introduced
  277. as a friend of the minister for foreign affairs and of the comptroller;
  278. afterwards he introduced these gentlemen to me, giving to each his
  279. proper title, and I noted that four of them were treasury officials.
  280. After making my bow to each, I gave myself over to the worship of
  281. Harpocrates, and without too great an air of listening was all ears and
  282. eyes.
  284. The conversation at first was of no special interest as they were
  285. talking of the Seine being frozen over, the ice being a foot thick. Then
  286. came the recent death of M. de Fontenelle, then the case of Damien, who
  287. would confess nothing, and of the five millions his trial would cost the
  288. Crown. Then coming to war they praised M. de Soubise, who had been
  289. chosen by the king to command the army. Hence the transition was easy to
  290. the expenses of the war, and how they were to be defrayed.
  292. I listened and was weary, for all they said was so full of
  293. technicalities that I could not follow the meaning; and if silence can
  294. ever be imposing, my determined silence of an hour and a half's duration
  295. ought to have made me seem a very important personage in the eyes of
  296. these gentlemen. At last, just as I was beginning to yawn, dinner was
  297. announced, and I was another hour and a half without opening my mouth,
  298. except to do honour to an excellent repast. Directly the dessert had
  299. been served, M. du Vernai asked me to follow him into a neighbouring
  300. apartment, and to leave the other guests at the table. I followed him,
  301. and we crossed a hall where we found a man of good aspect, about fifty
  302. years old, who followed us into a closet and was introduced to me by M.
  303. du Vernai under the name of Calsabigi. Directly after, two
  304. superintendents of the treasury came in, and M. du Vernai smilingly gave
  305. me a folio book, saying,
  307. "That, I think, M. Casanova, is your plan."
  309. I took the book and read, Lottery consisting of ninety tickets, to be
  310. drawn every month, only one in eighteen to be a winning number. I gave
  311. him back the book and said, with the utmost calmness,
  313. "I confess, sir, that is exactly my idea."
  315. "You have been anticipated, then; the project is by M. de Calsabigi
  316. here."
  318. "I am delighted, not at being anticipated, but to find that we think
  319. alike; but may I ask you why you have not carried out the plan?"
  321. "Several very plausible reasons have been given against it, which have
  322. had no decisive answers."
  324. "I can only conceive one reason against it," said I, coolly; "perhaps
  325. the king would not allow his subjects to gamble."
  327. "Never mind that, the king will let his subjects gamble as much as they
  328. like: the question is, will they gamble?"
  330. "I wonder how anyone can have any doubt on that score, as the winners
  331. are certain of being paid."
  333. "Let us grant, then, that they will gamble: how is the money to be
  334. found?"
  336. "How is the money to be found? The simplest thing in the world. All you
  337. want is a decree in council authorizing you to draw on the treasury. All
  338. I want is for the nation to believe that the king can afford to pay a
  339. hundred millions."
  341. "A hundred millions!"
  343. "Yes, a hundred millions, sir. We must dazzle people."
  345. "But if France is to believe that the Crown can afford to pay a hundred
  346. millions, it must believe that the Crown can afford to lose a hundred
  347. millions, and who is going to believe that? Do you?"
  349. "To be sure I do, for the Crown, before it could lose a hundred
  350. millions, would have received at least a hundred and fifty millions, and
  351. so there need be no anxiety on that score."
  353. "I am not the only person who has doubts on the subject. You must grant
  354. the possibility of the Crown losing an enormous sum at the first
  355. drawing?"
  357. "Certainly, sir, but between possibility and reality is all the region
  358. of the infinite. Indeed, I may say that it would be a great piece of
  359. good fortune if the Crown were to lose largely on the first drawing."
  361. "A piece of bad fortune, you mean, surely?"
  363. "A bad fortune to be desired. You know that all the insurance companies
  364. are rich. I will undertake to prove before all the mathematicians in
  365. Europe that the king is bound to gain one in five in this lottery. That
  366. is the secret. You will confess that the reason ought to yield to a
  367. mathematical proof?"
  369. "Yes, of course; but how is it that the Castelletto cannot guarantee the
  370. Crown a certain gain?"
  372. "Neither the Castelletto nor anybody in the world can guarantee
  373. absolutely that the king shall always win. What guarantees us against
  374. any suspicion of sharp practice is the drawing once a month, as then the
  375. public is sure that the holder of the lottery may lose."
  377. "Will you be good enough to express your sentiments on the subject
  378. before the council?"
  380. "I will do so with much pleasure."
  382. "You will answer all objections?"
  384. "I think I can promise as much."
  386. "Will you give me your plan?"
  388. "Not before it is accepted, and I am guaranteed a reasonable profit."
  390. "But your plan may possibly be the same as the one before us."
  392. "I think not. I see M. de Calsabigi for the first time, and as he has
  393. not shewn me his scheme, and I have not communicated mine to him, it is
  394. improbable, not to say impossible, that we should agree in all respects.
  395. Besides, in my plan I clearly shew how much profit the Crown ought to
  396. get per annum."
  398. "It might, therefore, be formed by a company who would pay the Crown a
  399. fixed sum?"
  401. "I think not."
  403. "Why?"
  405. "For this reason. The only thing which would make the lottery pay, would
  406. be an irresistible current of public opinion in its favour. I should not
  407. care to have anything to do with it in the service of a company, who,
  408. thinking to increase their profits, might extend their operations--a
  409. course which would entail certain loss."
  411. "I don't see how."
  413. "In a thousand ways which I will explain to you another time, and which
  414. I am sure you can guess for yourself. In short, if I am to have any
  415. voice in the matter, it must be a Government lottery or nothing."
  417. "M. de Calsabigi thinks so, too."
  419. "I am delighted to hear it, but not at all surprised; for, thinking on
  420. the same lines, we are bound to arrive at the same results."
  422. "Have you anybody ready for the Castelletto?"
  424. "I shall only want intelligent machines, of whom there are plenty in
  425. France."
  427. I went out for a moment and found them in groups on my return,
  428. discussing my project with great earnestness.
  430. M. Calsabigi after asking me a few questions took my hand, which he
  431. shook heartily, saying he should like to have some further conversation
  432. with me; and returning the friendly pressure, I told him that I should
  433. esteem it as an honour to be numbered amongst his friends. Thereupon I
  434. left my address with M. du Vernai and took my leave, satisfied, by my
  435. inspection of the faces before me, that they all had a high opinion of
  436. my talents.
  438. Three days after, M. de Calsabigi called on me; and after receiving him
  439. in my best style I said that if I had not called on him it was only
  440. because I did not wish to be troublesome. He told me that my decisive
  441. way of speaking had made a great impression, and he was certain that if
  442. I cared to make interest with the comptroller we could set up the
  443. lottery and make a large profit.
  445. "I think so, too," said I, "but the financiers will make a much larger
  446. profit, and yet they do not seem anxious about it. They have not
  447. communicated with me, but it is their look-out, as I shall not make it
  448. my chief aim."
  450. "You will undoubtedly hear something about it today, for I know for a
  451. fact that M. de Boulogne has spoken of you to M. de Courteuil."
  453. "Very good, but I assure you I did not ask him to do so."
  455. After some further conversation he asked me, in the most friendly manner
  456. possible, to come and dine with him, and I accepted his invitation with
  457. a great pleasure; and just as we were starting I received a note from M.
  458. de Bernis, in which he said that if I could come to Versailles the next
  459. day he would present me to Madame de Pompadour, and that I should have
  460. an opportunity of seeing M. de Boulogne.
  462. In high glee at this happy chance, less from vanity than policy I made
  463. M. de Calsabigi read the letter, and I was pleased to see him opening
  464. his eyes as he read it.
  466. "You can force Du Vernai himself to accept the lottery," he said, "and
  467. your fortune is made if you are not too rich already to care about such
  468. matters."
  470. "Nobody is ever rich enough to despise good fortune, especially when it
  471. is not due to favour."
  473. "Very true. We have been doing our utmost for two years to get the plan
  474. accepted, and have met with nothing beyond foolish objections which you
  475. have crushed to pieces. Nevertheless, our plans must be very similar.
  476. Believe me it will be best for us to work in concert, for by yourself
  477. you would find insuperable difficulties in the working, and you will
  478. find no 'intelligent machines' in Paris. My brother will do all the
  479. work, and you will be able to reap the advantages at your ease."
  481. "Are you, then, not the inventor of the scheme which has been shewn me?"
  483. "No, it is the work of my brother."
  485. "Shall I have the pleasure or seeing him?"
  487. "Certainly. His body is feeble, but his mind is in all its vigour. We
  488. shall see him directly."
  490. The brother was not a man of a very pleasing appearance, as he was
  491. covered with a kind of leprosy; but that did not prevent him having a
  492. good appetite, writing, and enjoying all his bodily and intellectual
  493. faculties; he talked well and amusingly. He never went into society, as,
  494. besides his personal disfigurement, he was tormented with an
  495. irresistible and frequent desire of scratching himself, now in one
  496. place, and now in another; and as all scratching is accounted an
  497. abominable thing in Paris, he preferred to be able to use his
  498. fingernails to the pleasures of society. He was pleased to say that,
  499. believing in God and His works, he was persuaded his nails had been
  500. given him to procure the only solace he was capable of in the kind of
  501. fury with which he was tormented.
  503. "You are a believer, then, in final causes? I think you are right, but
  504. still I believe you would have scratched yourself if God had forgotten
  505. to give you any nails."
  507. My remarks made him laugh, and he then began to speak of our common
  508. business, and I soon found him to be a man of intellect. He was the
  509. elder of the two brothers, and a bachelor. He was expert in all kinds of
  510. calculations, an accomplished financier, with a universal knowledge of
  511. commerce, a good historian, a wit, a poet, and a man of gallantry. His
  512. birthplace was Leghorn, he had been in a Government office at Naples,
  513. and had come to Paris with M. de l'Hopital. His brother was also a man
  514. of learning and talent, but in every respect his inferior.
  516. He shewed me the pile of papers, on which he had worked out all the
  517. problems referring to the lottery.
  519. "If you think you can do without me," said he, "I must compliment you on
  520. your abilities; but I think you will find yourself mistaken, for if you
  521. have no practical knowledge of the matter and no business men to help
  522. you, your theories will not carry you far. What will you do after you
  523. have obtained the decree? When you speak before the council, if you take
  524. my advice, you will fix a date after which you are not to be held
  525. responsible--that is to say, after which you will have nothing more to
  526. do with it. Unless you do so, you will be certain to encounter trifling
  527. and procrastination which will defer your plan to the Greek Kalends. On
  528. the other hand, I can assure you that M. du Vernai would be very glad to
  529. see us join hands:"
  531. Very much inclined to take these gentlemen into partnership, for the
  532. good reason that I could not do without them, but taking care that they
  533. should suspect nothing, I went down with the younger brother, who
  534. introduced me to his wife before dinner. I found present an old lady
  535. well known at Paris under the name of General La Mothe, famous for her
  536. former beauty and her gout, another lady somewhat advanced in years, who
  537. was called Baroness Blanche, and was still the mistress of M. de Vaux,
  538. another styled the President's lady, and a fourth, fair as the dawn,
  539. Madame Razzetti, from Piedmont, the wife of one of the violin players at
  540. the opera, and said to be courted by M. de Fondpertuis, the
  541. superintendent of the opera.
  543. We sat down to dinner, but I was silent and absorbed, all my thoughts
  544. being monopolized by the lottery. In the evening, at Silvia's, I was
  545. pronounced absent and pensive, and so I was in spite of the sentiment
  546. with which Mademoiselle Baletti inspired me--a sentiment which every day
  547. grew in strength.
  549. I set out for Versailles next morning two hours before day-break, and
  550. was welcomed by M. de Bernis, who said he would bet that but for him I
  551. should never have discovered my talent for finance.
  553. "M. de Boulogne tells me you astonished M. du Vernai, who is generally
  554. esteemed one of the acutest men in France. If you will take my advice,
  555. Casanova, you will keep up that acquaintance and pay him assiduous
  556. court. I may tell you that the lottery is certain to be established,
  557. that it will be your doing, and that you ought to make something
  558. considerable out of it. As soon as the king goes out to hunt, be at hand
  559. in the private apartments, and I will seize a favourable moment for
  560. introducing you to the famous marquise. Afterwards go to the Office for
  561. Foreign Affairs, and introduce yourself in my name to the Abbe de la
  562. Ville. He is the chief official there, and will give you a good
  563. reception."
  565. M. de Boulogne told me that, as soon as the council of the military
  566. school had given their consent, he would have the decree for the
  567. establishment of the lottery published, and he urged me to communicate
  568. to him any ideas which I might have on the subject of finance.
  570. At noon Madame de Pompadour passed through the private apartments with
  571. the Prince de Soubise, and my patron hastened to point me out to the
  572. illustrious lady. She made me a graceful curtsy, and told me that she
  573. had been much interested in the subject of my flight.
  575. "Do you go," said she, "to see your ambassador?"
  577. "I shew my respect to him, madam, by keeping away."
  579. "I hope you mean to settle in France."
  581. "It would be my dearest wish to do so, madam, but I stand in need of
  582. patronage, and I know that in France patronage is only given to men of
  583. talent, which is for me a discouraging circumstance."
  585. "On the contrary, I think you have reason to be hopeful, as you have
  586. some good friends. I myself shall be delighted if I can be of any
  587. assistance to you."
  589. As the fair marquise moved on, I could only stammer forth my gratitude.
  591. I next went to the Abbe de la Ville, who received me with the utmost
  592. courtesy, and told me that he would remember me at the earliest
  593. opportunity.
  595. Versailles was a beautiful spot, but I had only compliments and not
  596. invitations to expect there, so after leaving M. de la Ville I went to
  597. an inn to get some dinner. As I was sitting down, an abbe of excellent
  598. appearance, just like dozens of other French abbes, accosted me
  599. politely, and asked me if I objected to our dining together. I always
  600. thought the company of a pleasant man a thing to be desired, so I
  601. granted his request; and as soon as he sat down he complimented me on
  602. the distinguished manner in which I had been treated by M. de la Ville.
  603. "I was there writing a letter," said he, "and I could hear all the
  604. obliging things the abbe said to you. May I ask, sir, how you obtained
  605. access to him?"
  607. "If you really wish to know, I may be able to tell you."
  609. "It is pure curiosity on my part."
  611. "Well, then, I will say nothing, from pure prudence."
  613. "I beg your pardon."
  615. "Certainly, with pleasure."
  617. Having thus shut the mouth of the curious impertinent, he confined his
  618. conversation to ordinary and more agreeable topics. After dinner, having
  619. no further business at Versailles, I made preparations for leaving, on
  620. which the abbe begged to be of my company. Although a man who frequents
  621. the society of abbes is not thought much more of than one who frequents
  622. the society of girls. I told him that as I was going to Paris in a
  623. public conveyance--far from its being a question of permission--I should
  624. be only too happy to have the pleasure of his company. On reaching Paris
  625. we parted, after promising to call on each other, and I went to Silvia's
  626. and took supper there. The agreeable mistress of the house complimented
  627. me on my noble acquaintances, and made me promise to cultivate their
  628. society.
  630. As soon as I got back to my own lodging, I found a note from M. du
  631. Vernai, who requested me to come to the military school at eleven
  632. o'clock on the next day, and later in the evening Calsabigi came to me
  633. from his brother, with a large sheet of paper containing all the
  634. calculations pertaining to the lottery.
  636. Fortune seemed to be in my favour, for this tabular statement came to me
  637. like a blessing from on high. Resolving, therefore, to follow the
  638. instructions which I pretended to receive indifferently. I went to the
  639. military school, and as soon as I arrived the conference began. M.
  640. d'Alembert had been requested to be present as an expert in arithmetical
  641. calculations. If M. du Vernai had been the only person to be consulted,
  642. this step would not have been necessary; but the council contained some
  643. obstinate heads who were unwilling to give in. The conference lasted
  644. three hours.
  646. After my speech, which only lasted half an hour, M. de Courteuil summed
  647. up my arguments, and an hour was passed in stating objections which I
  648. refuted with the greatest ease. I finally told them that no man of
  649. honour and learning would volunteer to conduct the lottery on the
  650. understanding that it was to win every time, and that if anyone had the
  651. impudence to give such an undertaking they should turn him out of the
  652. room forthwith, for it was impossible that such an agreement could be
  653. maintained except by some roguery.
  655. This had its effect, for nobody replied; and M. du Vernai remarked that
  656. if the worst came to the worst the lottery could be suppressed. At this
  657. I knew my business was done, and all present, after signing a document
  658. which M. du Vernai gave them, took their leave, and I myself left
  659. directly afterwards with a friendly leave-taking from M. du Vernal.
  661. M. Calsabigi came to see me the next day, bringing the agreeable news
  662. that the affair was settled, and that all that was wanting was the
  663. publication of the decree.
  665. "I am delighted to hear it," I said, "and I will go to M. de Boulogne's
  666. every day, and get you appointed chief administrator as soon as I know
  667. what I have got for myself."
  669. I took care not to leave a stone unturned in this direction, as I knew
  670. that, with the great, promising and keeping a promise are two different
  671. things. The decree appeared a week after. Calsabigi was made
  672. superintendent, with an allowance of three thousand francs for every
  673. drawing, a yearly pension of four thousand francs for us both, and the
  674. chief of the lottery. His share was a much larger one than mine, but I
  675. was not jealous as I knew he had a greater claim than I. I sold five of
  676. the six offices that had been allotted to me for two thousand francs
  677. each, and opened the sixth with great style in the Rue St. Denis,
  678. putting my valet there as a clerk. He was a bright young Italian, who
  679. had been valet to the Prince de la Catolica, the ambassador from Naples.
  681. The day for the first drawing was fixed, and notice was given that the
  682. winning numbers would be paid in a week from the time of drawing at the
  683. chief office.
  685. With the idea of drawing custom to my office, I gave notice that all
  686. winning tickets bearing my signature would be paid at my office in
  687. twenty-four hours after the drawing. This drew crowds to my office and
  688. considerably increased my profits, as I had six per cent. on the
  689. receipts. A number of the clerks in the other offices were foolish
  690. enough to complain to Calsabigi that I had spoilt their gains, but he
  691. sent them about their business telling them that to get the better of me
  692. they had only to do as I did--if they had the money.
  694. My first taking amounted to forty thousand francs. An hour after the
  695. drawing my clerk brought me the numbers, and shewed me that we had from
  696. seventeen to eighteen thousand francs to pay, for which I gave him the
  697. necessary funds.
  699. Without my thinking of it I thus made the fortune of my clerk, for every
  700. winner gave him something, and all this I let him keep for himself.
  702. The total receipts amounted to two millions, and the administration made
  703. a profit of six hundred thousand francs, of which Paris alone had
  704. contributed a hundred thousand francs. This was well enough for a first
  705. attempt.
  707. On the day after the drawing I dined with Calsabigi at M. du Vernai's,
  708. and I had the pleasure of hearing him complain that he had made too much
  709. money. Paris had eighteen or twenty ternes, and although they were small
  710. they increased the reputation of the lottery, and it was easy to see
  711. that the receipts at the next drawing would be doubled. The mock
  712. assaults that were made upon me put me in a good humour, and Calsabigi
  713. said that my idea had insured me an income of a hundred thousand francs
  714. a year, though it would ruin the other receivers.
  716. "I have played similar strokes myself," said M. du Vernai, "and have
  717. mostly succeeded; and as for the other receivers they are at perfect
  718. liberty to follow M. Casanova's example, and it all tends to increase
  719. the repute of an institution which we owe to him and to you."
  721. At the second drawing a terne of forty thousand francs obliged me to
  722. borrow money. My receipts amounted to sixty thousand, but being obliged
  723. to deliver over my chest on the evening before the drawing, I had to pay
  724. out of my own funds, and was not repaid for a week.
  726. In all the great houses I went to, and at the theatres, as soon as I was
  727. seen, everybody gave me money, asking me to lay it out as I liked and to
  728. send them the tickets, as, so far, the lottery was strange to most
  729. people. I thus got into the way of carrying about me tickets of all
  730. sorts, or rather of all prices, which I gave to people to choose from,
  731. going home in the evening with my pockets full of gold. This was an
  732. immense advantage to me, as kind of privilege which I enjoyed to the
  733. exclusion of the other receivers who were not in society, and did not
  734. drive a carriage like myself--no small point in one's favour, in a large
  735. town where men are judged by the state they keep. I found I was thus
  736. able to go into any society, and to get credit everywhere.
  738. I had hardly been a month in Paris when my brother Francis, with whom I
  739. had parted in 1752, arrived from Dresden with Madame Sylvestre. He had
  740. been at Dresden for four years, taken up with the pursuit of his art,
  741. having copied all the battle pieces in the Elector's Galley. We were
  742. both of us glad to meet once more, but on my offering to see what my
  743. great friends could do for him with the Academicians, he replied with
  744. all an artist's pride that he was much obliged to me, but would rather
  745. not have any other patrons than his talents. "The French," said he,
  746. "have rejected me once, and I am far from bearing them ill-will on that
  747. account, for I would reject myself now if I were what I was then; but
  748. with their love of genius I reckon on a better reception this time."
  750. His confidence pleased me, and I complimented him upon it, for I have
  751. always been of the opinion that true merit begins by doing justice to
  752. itself.
  754. Francis painted a fine picture, which on being exhibited at the Louvre,
  755. was received with applause. The Academy bought the picture for twelve
  756. thousand francs, my brother became famous, and in twenty-six years he
  757. made almost a million of money; but in spite of that, foolish
  758. expenditure, his luxurious style of living, and two bad marriages, were
  759. the ruin of him.
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