Virago, $35 pb, 634 pp
There is something irresistible about trying to trace a connection between notorious lover and memoirist Casanova and notorious lover and poet Lord Byron in Venice – the seductive city where both men worked their way through galleries of women. Casanova estimated that he had had more than one hundred and thirty in 1798, the year of his death, although that was his lifetime’s count, not just the Venetian episodes. Byron, on the other hand, reckoned that he had got through more than two hundred in Venice alone – and in less than two years – before he stopped counting. Between their frenzied trysts was a tantalisingly small gap of thirty-odd years: Casanova was sent into his final exile from Venice in 1782, before Byron was born; Byron arrived in 1816. People who had known the Italian must have met the Englishman.