While research into eighteenth century Venice was fun for its own sake, I’m delighted that Siren BookStrand have accepted the novella for which it was undertaken. Titled Carnevale, it’s due to be published on July 30th, and follows the fortunes of Peregrine (Perry) Sinclair, an English gentleman visiting Venice as part of his Grand Tour.
I’m in the midst of the sequel to Carnevale at the moment. Continued reading around the subject of Venice led me to John Addington Symonds’ memoirs. They’re interesting in their own right, but I was particularly struck by his love affair with Angelo Fusato, a gondolier. Symonds was fascinated by Angelo from the moment he first laid eyes on him:
The image of the marvellous being I had seen for those few minutes on the Lido burned itself into my brain and kept me waking all the next night. I did not even know his name; but I knew where his master lived. In the morning I rose from my bed unrefreshed, haunted by the vision which seemed to grow in definiteness and to coruscate with phosphorescent fire. A trifle which occurred that day made me feel that my fate could not be resisted, and also allowed me to suspect that the man himself was not unapproachable. Another night of storm and longing followed. I kept wrestling with the anguish of unutterable things, in the deep darkness of the valley of vain desire — soothing my smarting sense of the impossible with idle pictures of what it would be to share the life of this superb being in some lawful and simple fashion.
In these waking dreams I was at one time a woman whom he loved, at another a companion in his trade — always somebody and something utterly different from myself; and as each distracting fancy faded in the void of fact and desert of reality, I writhed in the clutches of chimaera, thirsted before the tempting phantasmagoria of Maya. My good sense rebelled, and told me that I was morally a fool and legally a criminal. But the love of the impossible rises victorious after each fall given it by sober sense.
I would love to know what trifle occurred that made Symonds think Angelo might not be unapproachable! The following day, Symonds learned Angelo’s name and arranged to meet him. Symonds expressed his surprise at Angelos’ willingness to do so, for he was not then aware that gondoliers were accustomed to selling their sexual services. And they retired to Symonds’ bed together:
I am not dreaming. He was surely here And sat beside me on this hard low bed; For we had wine before us, and I said — "Take gold: 'twill furnish forth some better cheer". He was all clothed in white; a gondolier; White trousers, white straw hat upon his head, A cream-white shirt loose-buttoned, a silk thread Slung with a charm about his throat so clear. Yes, he was here. Our four hands, laughing, made Brief havoc of his belt, shirt, trousers, shoes: Till, mother-naked, white as lilies, laid There on the counterpane, he bade me use Even as I willed his body. But Love forbade — Love cried, "Less than Love's best thou shalt refuse!"
I have wanted for some time to write the love story of two of the secondary characters in Carnevale, a Venetian nobleman and his gondolier. Having read this, and also about the shenanigans of Lord Byron’s “muscular young gondolier”, I think that wish is fast becoming a necessity.