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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
A Poet’s Old Age
By Carlo Goldoni (1707–1793)
 
From the ‘Memoirs of Carlo Goldoni’: Translation of John Black

I RETURN to my regimen,—you will say here also, perhaps, that I ought to omit it: you are in the right; but all this is in my head, and I must be delivered of it by degrees; I cannot spare you a single comma. After dinner I am not fond of either working or walking. Sometimes I go to the theatre, but I am most generally in parties till nine o’clock in the evening. I always return before ten o’clock. I take two or three small cakes with a glass of wine and water, and this is the whole of my supper. I converse with my wife till midnight; I very soon fall asleep, and pass the night tranquilly.  1
  It sometimes happens to me, as well as every other person, to have my head occupied with something capable of retarding my sleep. In this case I have a certain remedy to lull myself asleep, and it is this: I had long projected a vocabulary of the Venetian dialect, and I had even communicated my intention to the public, who are still in expectation of it. While laboring at this tedious and disgusting work, I soon discovered that it threw me asleep. I laid it therefore aside, and I profited by its narcotic faculty. Whenever I feel my mind agitated by any moral cause, I take at random some word of my national language and translate it into Tuscan and French. In the same manner I pass in review all the words which follow in the alphabetical order, and I am sure to fall asleep at the third or fourth version. My recipe has never once failed me. It is not difficult to demonstrate the cause and effect of this phenomenon. A painful idea requires to be replaced by an opposite or indifferent idea; and the agitation of the mind once calmed, the senses become tranquil and are deadened by sleep.  2
  But this remedy, however excellent, might not be useful to every one. A man of too keen and feeling a disposition would not succeed. The temperament must be such as that with which nature has favored me. My moral qualities bear a resemblance to my physical: I dread neither cold nor heat, and I neither allow myself to be inflamed by rage nor intoxicated by joy….  3
  I am now arrived at the year 1787, which is the eightieth of my age, and that to which I have limited the course of my Memoirs. I have completed my eightieth year; my work is also finished. All is over, and I proceed to send my volumes to the press. This last chapter does not therefore touch on the events of the current year; but I have still some duties to discharge. I must begin with returning thanks to those persons who have reposed so much confidence in me as to honor me with their subscriptions.  4
  I do not speak of the kindness and favors of the King and court; this is not the place to mention them. I have named in my work some of my friends and even some of my protectors. I beg pardon of them: if I have done so without their permission, it is not through vanity; the occasion has suggested it; their names have dropped from my pen, the heart has seized on the instant, and the hand has not been unwilling. For example, the following is one of the fortunate occasions I allude to. I was unwell a few days ago; the Count Alfieri did me the honor to call on me; I knew his talents, but his conversation impressed on me the wrong which I should have done in omitting him. He is a very intelligent and learned literary man, who principally excels in the art of Sophocles and Euripides, and after these great models he has framed his tragedies. They have gone through two editions in Italy, and are at present in the press of Didot at Paris. I shall enter into no details respecting them, as they may be seen and judged of by every one.  5
  During my convalescence M. Caccia, a banker in Paris, my friend and countryman, sent me a book addressed to him from Italy for me. It was a collection of French epigrams and madrigals, translated into Italian by the Count Roncali, of the city of Brescia in the Venetian dominions. This charming poet has merely translated the thoughts; he has said the same things in fewer words, and he has fallen upon as brilliant and striking points in his own language as those of his originals.  6
  I had the honor of seeing M. Roncali twelve years ago at Paris, and he allows me to hope that I shall have the good fortune to see him again. This is infinitely flattering to me; but I earnestly entreat him to make haste, as my career is far advanced, and what is still worse, I am extremely fatigued. I have undertaken too long and too laborious a work for my age, and I have employed three years on it, always dreading lest I should not have the pleasure of seeing it finished. However, I am still in life, thanks to God, and I flatter myself that I shall see my volumes printed, distributed, and read. If they be not praised, I hope at least they will not be despised. I shall not be accused of vanity or presumption in daring to hope for some share of favor for my Memoirs; for had I thought that I should absolutely displease, I would not have taken so much pains; and if in the good and ill which I say of myself, the balance inclines to the favorable side, I owe more to nature than to study. All the application employed by me in the construction of my pieces has been that of not disfiguring nature, and all the care taken by me in my Memoirs has been that of telling only the truth. The criticism of my pieces may have the correction and improvement of comedy in view; but the criticism of my Memoirs will be of no advantage to literature. However, if any writer should think proper to employ his time on me for the sole purpose of vexing me, he would lose his labor. I am of a pacific disposition; I have always preserved my coolness of character; at my age I read little, and I read only amusing books.  7
 
 
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