From A Gallery or Eccentrics, by Morris Bishop, New York: Minton, Balch & Company, 1928; pp. 205-223.
LORENZO DA PONTE
LORENZO da Ponte, born a Jew in the Ghetto of Ceneda, in Italy, in 1749, was buried in the Catholic cemetery on Eleventh Street, New York, in 1838. In the intervening years he was a priest, a teacher in a Seminary, a scapegrace roisterer in Venice, Poet of the Court opera in Vienna, librettist, for Mozart, of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte, Poet to the Drury Lane Theatre, distiller in New York, grocery-store-keeper in Elizabeth, N. J., and Sunbury, Pa., and the first Professor of Italian in Columbia University.
His was a crowding and aspiring genius, ever unsatisfied. His life was a brilliant series of triumphs of the self leading naturally to failures by every worldly reckoning, for the world esteems continuity, which Lorenzo da Ponte esteemed not at all. Unstable as water, he excelled too diversely. Having once achieved, he would turn and trample his achievement beneath angry feet. A life of being, a life of doing, it was yet a life of having nothing, a life of losing.
His career has recently been retold by Joseph Louis Russo in an ample dissertation in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. One of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy is, perhaps regrettably, that the work of the fledgling Doctor alarm the unlearned reader by its forbidding format, its weight of footnotes, appendices, and justificatory pieces. I am heartened to believe 206 that not too many of our literate nation have already read Dr. Russo’s dissertation, genial and colorful though it is.
Lorenzo da Ponte’s father, Geremia Conegliano, a Jewish tanner of Ceneda, was converted to the Faith and baptized by Monsignor Lorenzo da Ponte, Bishop of Ceneda, on August 29, 1763. The happy convert was divinely rewarded by receiving in marriage, twelve days later, a buxom Christian maiden of seventeen years. Is perhaps in this case the ante hoc a propter hoc?
Grace abounding came at the same time to the four sons of the Jew by his former wife, a fellow-unbeliever. The Bishop, in baptizing them, graciously gave to them his own name of da Ponte; and the handsome Emmanuele, a boy of fourteen, he christened with his own Christian name as well. Not long after, the good Bishop carried his bounty so far as to pay for the entrance of his namesake to the Seminary of Ceneda. There the boy plunged ardently into his studies for the priesthood, and distinguished himself by his aptitude for literary composition in Latin and Italian. His eagerness for learning is attested by his confession that he would steal hides from his father’s shop in order to buy books. Yet we may conjecture that his education was derived not alone from books, for his schoolmate, the poet Colombo, recalls a fight with knives between the two Seminarians for the favors of a lovely village maid.
He continued his studies in the Seminary of Portogruaro, and there took his major orders, although he seems not to have celebrated Mass until 1773. On completing his course of training, in 1771, he was straightway 207 appointed to the chair of rhetoric, and in the following year he was honored with the post of vice-rector. His rivals took with ill grace his rapid elevation, and the fame which came to him for his poetical productions. Da Ponte quotes with complacency his verses on Odors, in which, he says, men discerned a spark of the old Rhetian fire. What time, meanwhile, he could spare from his ecclesiastical labors he spent in Venice, in the embraces of a certain Angela Tiepolo, member of the haughty and ancient Apostolic order of Venetian nobility. At length, wearied by the carpings of the jealous and by absence from Angela, he left his post, in 1773, and established himself in Venice.
These were the years that are dealt with in histories of Venice as the Decadence. The Bride of the Adriatic possessed little but bedraggled finery and a large concupiscence. To her came all those hungry of her beauty, not, as in the days of Ruskin, to sigh over her past, but to possess her. “The Sybaris of Europe,” Foscolo called her; and Algarotti, “the free and blessed country of pleasure and beauty.” In her seven theaters, her two hundred cafés, her numberless private casini, joy made its heedless home. The children of those princely traders who had carried Venetian might to Indus and Cathay now revelled in year-long carnival. The Carnival of Venice! “Six months of the year it lasts,” says Monnier, eloquent with dead gayety,1 “from October to Christmas, from Twelfth Night to Lent; on Ascension Day it starts again for two weeks; and again upon St. Mark’s Day, and whenever a Doge is elected, whenever a Procurator is chosen, on the least occasion always, on the slightest pretext. As long as it 208 endures all the people go about in masks — all the people, from Doge to kitchen-maid. In masks men and women do business and buy fish, write their letters, pay their visits, and plead their causes in court. With a mask over his face a man may say and do as he pleases; for the State hath sanctioned his mask, and will protect it. In his mask he seeks admittance to drawing-rooms, churches, convents, to the ball, the Palace, the Ridotto. There he may take his ease, he may read in his armchair, but he must not forget the law of the Carnival: barriers hold, authority avails, and dignity exists no more; there are no more lordlings now, nor beggars kissing their long sleeves; no more is heard of spy or nun, of sbirro or zentildonna, rope-walker or inquisitor, poor man or alien; there is but one rank, and one character, Sior Maschera; but one costume, and one free people, garmented, steeped, confounded in delight. A scrap of white satin on the face, a black silk hood upon the shoulders; and by virtue of this comic livery, the aristocratic city becomes a democracy; and the loose garb of Laughter levels all her sons.” Folly was queen of Venice; the fool’s cap was one of the city’s emblems. The great Goldoni wrote poems to lap-dogs; a learned priest devoted himself to making a collection of spiders’ webs, thus emulating Elagabalus; a most esteemed institution was the Fool’s Club, the Casino degli Asini, to which a sober lawyer gained admittance by blowing his nose on the violet robe of one of the Canons of St. Mark’s.
Though we may well look askance at da Ponte, the priest, in his gallantries and revelries, we must remember that Folly might give her absolution even to the consecrated. The nuns in the convents of noble women 209 received in their parlors perfumed abbés and fine gentlemen; in carnival-time bands of dancers would assemble there, to frolic and foot it before the brides of Christ, compelled to fidelity behind their own grill. Cassanova’s nun of Murano kept tryst with him, clad in a pink velvet skirted coat with gold spangles, black satin breeches, diamond rings and shoe-buckles, and with an English pistol in her pocket. Two abbesses, avers Monnier, fought with daggers for the Abbé de Pomponne. The Président de Brosses, visiting Venice in 1739, set down: “Now as I write to you, there is a furious contest between three convents of the city, to know which will have the advantage of giving a mistress to the new nuncio who has just arrived. In truth ’twould be to the nuns that I would most readily turn if I had a long sojourn to make here. All those whom I have seen through the grill at mass talking as long as it lasted and laughing together seemed to me of the utmost liveliness, and so clad as to display their beauty most advantageously. They have a charming little coiffure, a simple habit, but of course well-nigh always white, which leaves bare the shoulders and bosom, exactly as do the garments in the Roman style of our comédiennes.”
Hither came young Father da Ponte from his bleak Seminary. “Boiling with my youth, being of a lively temper and, by all testimony, comely of person, I let myself be transported by the usages, by convenience and by example, into pleasure and diversions, forgetting or almost entirely neglecting letters and study.” He rejoined his Angela, “small, dainty, charming, white as snow, with eyes languishing-sweet, and two lovely dimples adorning her cheeks like fresh roses.” The 210 family of Tiepolo was proud and ancient, and had figured in the records of the Republic for more than a thousand years. It had given two doges to Venice; Angela’s uncle had been Inquisitor of State, her grandfather ambassador to Constantinople. Now it had fallen low, to the level of the Barnabotti, or penniless nobles, who lived by selling their vote in the High Council, and by what other devices need might suggest. Angela had a brother, a sad gamester, who, far from treating his sister’s lover with the respect due to the cloth, exacted money from him, weapon in hand. Da Ponte asseverates that the reprehensible actions of this unhappy brother came nigh to ruining the fair reputation which he enjoyed in Venice.
Life in Venice was very sweet for an engaging young cleric of parts. Frequenting the Caffè Menegazzo, he met such poets of undying fame as Gaspare and Carlo Gozzi, Sebstiano Crotta, and Biagio Schiso. Romance sought him out in that city where adventure was a commonplace. A mysterious gondolier beckoned to him; he was summoned to a gondola wherein waited a lovely mask. ’Twas the daughter of a Neapolitan duke; after submitting to his charm, she besought him to wed her. But while he hung irresolute, she was cast into a convent by the State Inquisitors. Again, after losing almost all his money at the Ridotto, he was sunk in despair in the Chamber of Sighs, when an old man asked him for some pennies. He replied magnificently by giving the stranger one of his few sequins. The old man bade him come to his home, that the money might be returned. When at length da Ponte obeyed this behest, his host explained that he had long observed his gallantry and generosity, and therefore chosen 211 him to be his son-in-law. He then dazzled the young man’s eye with the sight of a maiden “who had the air of an angel,” and of an iron chest containing five thousand sequins, to be the dowry. The old man openly confessed the single inconvenience; he was the beggar at the foot of the Bridge of San Gregorio. Da Ponte, shuffling and paltering as ever in his life, made his way homeward. His absence had angered the high-spirited Angela; she greeted him by flinging a bottle of ink at his face. Aiming more truly than did Martin Luther, she attained her object, and badly cut the hand with which he shielded himself. During the night she further manifested her displeasure by cutting off his hair, which hung to his shoulder. In such shameful guise he was unable to leave the house, and thereby lost the beggar’s lovely daughter and his sequins, and likewise his post as tutor to two high-born Venetian lads.
The too happy days in Venice were brought to an end, the censorious will gladly observe, by a moral shock. A fellow-priest, having dined with Lorenzo, stole his cloak, pawned it for eighty lire, and straightway lost the ill-won gold in the Ridotto. Lorenzo reflected sadly that the principles of religion, education, and honor should fail to restrain a man so driven by his passions. “What leads to this woful state? Love and cards! I trembled from head to foot for myself, and on the spot I took the laudable resolution to abandon cards, my mistress, and above all that most dangerous capital.” Thereat he fled from that unrighteous city, as of old did Lot from Sodom. Angela a few days after gave herself to a new lover.
Da Ponte obtained the Post of Professor of Literature 212 in the Seminary of Treviso in 1774, and there remained two years. In the end he was undone by his own genius. Being called upon to write a set of fifteen poems in various meters, in Latin and Italian, he chose as his theme the proposition that man is happier under barbarism than when blessed with civilization. This paradoxical idea, savoring of French infidelity, he developed with many an alarming modern instance, opposing even compulsory military service, the right of a father to choose s daughter’s husband, and society’s demand that he should work who would prefer to sing and dice. The Inquisitor, outraged, brought this loose thinker to trial before the Senate; he was expelled from his post and forbidden further to teach in the realm of Venice. During his trial he dwelt in the house of a benefactor, the eminent Bernardo Memmo. There he continued, until ousted by Memmo’s jealous mistress, who shamelessly complained that Lorenzo had made attempts upon her honor. He retired to Padua and lived for forty-two days on bread and olives; at length he attained a certain prosperity by playing draughts in cafés. He returned to Venice, and was received in the house of Pietro Zaguri, the noble poet whose correspondence with Casanova has recently been published.2 Again da Ponte was ousted, for the reason that he had assisted on the public street a woman pregnant by him, who gave birth on the pavement. Meanwhile his mordant pen was not idle, and the gall that dripped therefrom burned in the wounds of his victims. On May 29, 1779, was found in the lion’s mouth of San Moisè an anonymous denunciation of our hero’s adulterous doings, and on this charge he was shortly banished from 213 the State of Venice by the Prosecutors of Blasphemy. When he penned his recollections in his old age, his memory must have played him false, for he records as the charges that he had eaten ham on Friday and had been absent from Mass on various Sundays. “On this account,” he says, “I abandoned my ungrateful Fatherland and went to Gorizia.”
There he descended at an inn kept by an amiable German hostess who had no Italian. “As we could not speak, we sought to understand one another with glances and gestures. When the fruit came on, she drew forth a knife with a silver blade, peeled a pear, cut off half for me and ate the other half; then she offered me the knife and I did likewise. She drank a glass of wine with me, and taught me to say ‘Gesundheit’; and from the movements of the glass I understood that she wished to tell me to drink to her health, as she was drinking to mine. . . . When we remained alone, she came close to me, and seeking out some words in a book, she put therein some bits of paper and beckoned me to read. It was a German and Italian dictionary; and in the indicated places I read these three words: ‘Ich liebe Sie,’ and I found that they signified ‘I love you.’ As the second half was the Italian dictionary, I looked out the conjunction ‘and,’ and I had her read again: ‘und ich liebe Sie,’ The little scene then became very charming. . . . A the end of a few days I perceived that I had got myself a little vocabulary, almost all composed of love-words and phrases, and this served me well afterwards in the course of my youthful conquests in that city and elsewhere.”
There he lingered nearly two years, well received for the charm of his person and for his poetic gifts. He 214 was admitted to an Arcadian Society whose members, attired as Greek shepherds and shepherdesses, would hunt the woodcock among the yellow acacias of the hills of San Lorenzo, and would then gather in a little temple to recite long martial odes to Apollo and the Muses, and macaronics on the glories of the toupé. He pleased many a noble Maecenas by writing poems in furtherance of their political and private quarrels. More, he gained his first training in the field of his future glory by translating two tragedies for the use of an Italian theatrical company.
Toward the end of 1781 some dastard, whose identity da Ponte shrewdly guesses, wrote him a letter inviting him to the Court of Saxony, in Dresden, where, ’twas said, a high position awaited him. Lorenzo, nothing suspicious, bade farewell to Gorizia, only to find, on arriving in Dresden, that his letter was a forgery. He lived there a difficult year, marked by his collaboration with Mazzola in certain plays for the Opera House, by the production of a series of pious and elegant Psalms, and by an annoying contretemps when he was paying too generous court to a mother and her two daughters.
At the suggestion of his friends, the poet betook himself to Vienna, there to seek his fortune anew. He was well received by the aged Metastasio, the Italian Sophocles, then Caesarian Poet in the Court of Joseph II. The favor of the great soon brought da Ponte the post of Poet of the Italian Theatre; in this function he wrote libretti for the music of Salieri, Martini, and Gazzaniga. In 1783 he made the acquaintance of Wolfgang Mozart. It was concluded between the two that they should write an Italian opera, and at Mozart’s 215 suggestion the Marriage of Figaro was chosen. The work was completed in six weeks, Mozart seizing on the sheets when da Ponte’s ink was scarcely dry. Emperor Joseph, for all his love of the commonalty, would permit no such subversive entertainment to be produced, however much it might delight the reckless court of his sister, Marie Antoinette. All da Ponte’s astuteness was needful to obtain the imperial license. The work when at last presented obtained a vast success, and indeed the tranquillity of Austria seems not to have been disturbed by the social criticism in Figaro’s recitativi.
Triumphs followed upon successes. In 1787 da Ponte performed the task of writing three libretti in sixty-three days, daily delivering sheets to three composers. One of the three was Mozart; the opera was Don Giovanni. Our poet accomplished this feat by working twelve hours a day, with a bottle of Tokay to his right, a box of Sevillian snuff to his left, and his inkstand before him, and with his landlady’s lovely daughter, a maiden of sixteen, by his side to inspire him with her smiles and sighs. Don Giovanni was first represented in Prague in 1788, and in the following year the distinguished collaborators presented Così fan tutte in Vienna.
The death of gracious Joseph in 1790 and the accession of umbrageous, penny-saving Leopold brought disaster to da Ponte. The chivalrous zeal with which he sought to obtain a fitting contract for a lovely singer set the world of the Opera House against him. He was dismissed his post in 1791, on the accusation of intrigues and capricious favoritism. Retiring to Trieste, he dwelt in travail of body and spirit, abandoned 216 by his Emperor and by his lovely singer, accompanied only by thoughts of man’s ingratitude, by two half-brothers and a female friend. With the remnants of his wardrobe he stilled the crying of these hungry mouths. It was during this stay that he met the devout and faithful helpmeet of his life, Nancy Grahl, the daughter of an English merchant settled in Trieste. The destitute poet was giving her Italian lessons; she kept her face veiled with all decorum in the presence of her tutor. He longed to know if her famed beauty equalled the cultivation of her spirit. “Mademoiselle,” said he, “the manner in which you wear your veil is not according to the mode.” “And what is the present mode?” “Thus,” said the audacious poet, discovering her lovely face. Angered, she left the room; yet in the event he was to find that his impertinence had not displeased her. The poet fell victim to her charm, but his courtship suffered the not unwonted peripeties. At one moment Nancy was well-nigh betrothed to an Italian gentleman of Vienna. But the father, John Grahl, high-thinking Britisher, was outraged that the suitor made unsentimental stipulations anent the dowry. “It is my money that Signor Galliano wishes to marry! . . . Da Ponte, do you want her? . . . She is yours.” So Lorenzo married the winsome daughter of the opulent Englishman, who almost immediately after went bankrupt.
Da Ponte and his bride set forth from Trieste, in 1792, happy in the possession of seven hundred florins and a horse and carriage. Paris was their destination, for Emperor Joseph had once assured da Ponte that Marie Antoinette was an admirer of his work. The pair halted at Prague, and visited aged Casanova, librarian 217 at Dux. He received the couple so warmly that da Ponte could not bear to mention certain moneys long due him from the illustrious libertine. Instead of money, Casanova proffered advice: “Go to London, not Paris; and when there, never enter the Italian Café, and never sign your name.” They followed his advice, for at that moment the turbulent French were laying impious hands upon their King. They came to London in the late autumn of 1792, penniless, and took lodgings at No. 7, Silver St., Golden Square, no doubt an especially abject region. A series of reverses followed, which drove the poet to Brussels and the Hague. Within a year, however, he succeeded in obtaining the post of Poet to the Italian Opera in the Drury Lane Theatre.
These were the days of Kemble, Mrs. Siddons, and Sheridan. The Opera House was the most elegant and commodious of Europe. All London was slave to the Opera, to the sweet Italian singers, to the fair ballet-dancers of England and France. If we may be permitted a digression on the theme of plus ça change, we would record the effort of the Bishop of Durham to clothe the naughty nymphs. Their offense was thus condoned by a contemporary:
“’Tis hard for such new-fangled orthodox rules
That our opera troop should be blamed;
Since, like our first parents, they only (poor fools!)
Danced naked and were not ashamed.
Of such capers da Ponte tells us nothing. In the course of twelve years stay in London he wrote at least five operas, now inhumed in oblivion, did a number of translations, made a journey to Italy to engage singers, 218 wrote a series of libellous and obscene pasquinades on his enemies, opened a print-shop, aided in the promotion of a piano factory, set up an Italian book-ship, was arrested thirty times, and fell into bankruptcy.
The cause of his misfortunes, he informs us, was his too soft heart, and ready trust of friendly blandishments. He indorsed large notes of his impresario, William Taylor, at the urging of the Banti, prima donna of the opera and mistress of Taylor. The notes falling due, da Ponte was the sacrifice to Law, for the impresario had slyly rendered himself immune to imprisonment for debt by becoming a Member of Parliament.
Caught in the toils of the law-courts, with disaster looming, da Ponte lifted up his eyes to see if any refuge might await him. Far away across the ocean he descried America, too young to have a memory, too animate with Liberty to cast poor poets into prison. Secretly he set his Nancy and her four children on a Philadelphia clipper; she carried with her six or seven thousand dollars evidently overlooked by the rapacious bailiffs. Six months later, on March 5, 1805, he set sail himself, avoiding a warrant for his arrest by only a few hours.
Thus, at fifty-six, under a heavy burden of failure, the indomitable Venetian sought a strange continent to begin life anew. His introduction to the American character was unpropitious. His captain, Abishai Hayden of Nantucket, a whaler, treated his passengers like sailors and his sailors like whales. Despite forty-four guineas paid in passage money, Lorenzo was fed on salt beef and pork and obliged to sleep on a heap of his own garments.219
When he rejoined his family in New York he found that in such a provincial city there was little scope for the talents of an Italian librettist. Putting aside pride, he opened a grocery store in New York; then, owing to an outbreak of yellow fever, he moved his stock to Elizabeth, New Jersey. He laments in his Memoirs the indignity of weighing out two ounces of tea or half a yard of “pigtail” to cobblers and teamsters with the hand that had written le Nozze di Figaro. Environed by envy, malice, and deceitfulness, he was obliged “rather than lose all, to take, for notes due long before, lame horses, broken carts, disjointed chairs, old shoes, rancid butter, watery cider, rotten eggs, apples, brooms, turnips, potatoes.” At length, early in 1807, he was forced to sell his little house and return to New York, with the hope of living by giving Italian lessons. He was successful in this enterprise, through his good fortune in making the acquaintance of Clement Clarke Moore, the author of the first Hebrew lexicon written in America, and of “’Twas the night before Christmas.” Moore assembled a class among his friends, and da Ponte threw himself into his work with all his old enthusiasm. He anticipated the devices of the modern pedagogist, proscribing all use of English, arranging plays for his pupils to perform, and holding weekly receptions for the discussion of the Italian classics. From his success he even drew a little money; therewith he entered into a partnership with a distiller, who appropriated it with the treachery common to all da Ponte’s associates.
Disheartened at this new revelation of man’s villainy, he determined to abandon the city and seek those sylvan glades where Virtue was still cherished in the bosom 220 of Nature. In June, 1811, he shook the dust of New York from his feet, and transported his family to Sunbury, Pennsylvania, where Nancy’s brother was a physician. He opened a store for the sale of groceries, distilled liquors, and medical supplies. But alas! Even this earthly Paradise abounded with serpents. The sole servant of probity in a population of knaves, traitors, and miscreants, he found himself again, in 1818, in a mire of disaster, with even his household furniture in the hands of the sheriff. He attempted in vain to establish himself in Philadelphia; at last, in the Spring of 1819, he came again to his “dear and forever blessed city of New York,” which shared with Vienna the honor of recognizing his genius. He was seventy years old; all his baggage was his clothing, a set of Italian classics and some volumes from Bodoni’s press; but the air of New York exhilarated him, and he trod her cobbled streets with the high and hopeful dreams of a boy of seventeen.
He at once resumed his classes, assembling under he spell of his eloquence the élite of New York’s fashion. The letters which his pupils addressed to him attest to their proficiency in the language and his rare competence as a teacher. He asserts, and with reason, that the study of Italian in America was initiated and sustained by his efforts. In 1821 he lectured publicly on Italy, nobly defending his country against certain aspersions of the Press. He spent some months as the guest of John R. Livingstone, in the ancestral home at Staatsburg on the Hudson, “among the Muses, the Graces, and the charms of friendship and hospitality.” There he translated Byron’s “Prophecy of Dante” into Italian, sitting under an apple tree and weeping sweet 221 tears. He published a vigorous reply to a cavilling article of Prescott’s in the North American Review upon Italian chivalric poetry. With his son, he opened an Italian bookstore. He published, in 1823, the first edition of his Memoirs. And in 1825 an honor came which cozened the vanity of this ardent old man. He was appointed Professor of Italian Literature in Columbia College, the first professor of this literature in Columbia, and with Pietro Bachi of Harvard, installed in the same year, the first Professor of Italian in the United States. Yet there was a drop of bitterness even in this cup of joy. Columbia College paid him no salary, decreeing that he should be paid by the fees of his pupils. And, pastor sine ovibus he never had any pupils.
In 1825 the operatic troupe of Signor Garcia brought to New York its first experience of Italian opera. His troupe, of no mean quality, included his daughter, Maria, who married a New York banker, Malibran, and who later became one of the world’s most famous singers, whom Musset called, in some of his noblest verses,
Cœur d’ange et de lion, libre oiseau de passage,
Espiègle enfant ce soir, sainte artiste demain.
“Da Ponte introduced himself to Garcia as the author of Don Giovanni (‘my Don Giovanni’ he was fond of saying), and Garcia, clasping him in his arms, danced about the room like a child, singing Fin ch’ han dal vino.”3 Don Giovanni was represented in the Spring of 1826, to the measureless joy of its librettist. 222 The success of the Italian opera roused in him the old eagerness for fame twinned with financial gain. In 1832 he aided in bringing to New York a European operatic company, which came to a notable failure.
The indomitable da Ponte, with all the enterprise of his eighty-four years, borrowed money and built an Opera House, on the corner of Church and Leonard Street. It was opened on Nov. 18, 1833. “The house is superb, and the decorations of the proprietors’ boxes in a style of magnificence which even the extravagance in Europe has not yet equalled,” wrote Philip Hone in his diary. New York was, however, not yet ready to support a permanent opera, nor were its men of wealth prepared to meet the deficits of Art. Da Ponte’s partner disappeared, and this theater was sold to James Wallack. The reward of the old man’s exertion was a new descent into penury.
Meanwhile other woes came to afflict him. Nancy, his faithful wife, died in 1832. His pupils deserted him. As his powers failed his thoughts turned ever backward to the days of his strength; in his poor New York lodgings he heard still the bravi of brilliant audiences, the cries of “author!” from boxes blazoned with royal arms. “I, the poet of Joseph II, the author of thirty-six dramas, the inspiration of Salieri, of Weigl, of Martini, of Winter and Mozart! After twenty-seven years of hard labour, I have no longer a pupil! Nearly ninety years old, I have no more bread in America!’
Conscious that he had lived too long, Lorenzo da Ponte died, on August 17, 1838, at 91 Spring St. He was buried in the Catholic Cemetery on 11th Street, 223 between Ave. A and First Ave. The cemetery has been transferred, the headstone has disappeared, his bones are lost. In death, at any rate, the mistakes from which he suffered were not his own.
1 Venice in the Eighteenth Century, London, 1910.
2 P. Molmenti: Carteggi Casanoviani.
3 Krehbiel: Music and Manners, 178.