The count proved to be a fine-looking young man of an agreeable presence. He said that he lived in the embassy, that his excellency had read my letter, and though he grieved not to receive me publicly he should be delighted to see me in private, for he both knew and esteemed me.
Young Manucci told me that he was a Venetian, and that he knew me by name, as he often heard his father and mother lamenting my fortune. Before long it dawned upon me that this Count Manucci was the son of that Jean Baptiste Manucci who had served as the spy of the State Inquisitors and had so adroitly managed to get possession of my books of magic, which were in all probability the chief corpus delicti.
I did not say anything to him, but I was certain that my guess was correct. His mother was the daughter of a valet de chambre, and his father was a poor mechanic. I asked the young man if he were called count at the embassy, and he said he bore the title in virtue of a warrant from the elector-palatine. My question skewed him that I knew his origin, and he began to speak openly to me; and knowing that I was acquainted with the peculiar tastes of M. de Mocenigo, the ambassador, he informed me laughingly that he was his pathic.
"I will do my best for you," he added; and I was glad to hear him say so, for an Alexis should be able to obtain almost anything from his Corydon. We embraced, and he told me as we parted that he would expect me at the embassy in the afternoon, to take coffee in his room; the ambassador, he said, would certainly come in as soon as he heard of my presence.
I went to the embassy, and had a very kind reception from the ambassador, who said he was deeply grieved not to be able to receive me publicly. He admitted that he might present me at Court without compromising himself, but he was afraid of making enemies.
"I hope soon to receive a letter from a friend of mine, which will authorise your excellency producing me."
"I shall be delighted, in that case, to present you to all the Spanish ministers."
This Mocenigo was the same that acquired such a reputation at Paris by his leanings to pederasty, a vice or taste which the French hold in horror. Later on, Mocenigo was condemned by the Council of Ten to ten years' imprisonment for having started on an embassy to Vienna without formal permission. Maria Theresa had intimated to the Venetian Government that she would not receive such a character, as his habits would be the scandal of her capital. The Venetian Government had some trouble with Mocenigo, and as he attempted to set out for Vienna they exiled him and chose another ambassador, whose morals were as bad, save that the new ambassador indulged himself with Hebe and not Ganymede, which threw a veil of decency over his proceedings.
In spite of his reputation for pederasty, Mocenigo was much liked at Madrid. On one occasion I was at a ball, and a Spaniard noticing me with Manucci, came up to me, and told me with an air of mystery that that young man was the ambassador's wife. He did not know that the ambassador was Manucci's wife; in fact, he did not understand the arrangement at all. "Where ignorance is bliss!" etc. However, in spite of the revolting nature of this vice, it has been a favourite one with several great men. It was well-known to the Ancients, and those who indulged in it were called Hermaphrodites, which symbolises not a man of two sexes but a man with the passions of the two sexes.
I had called two or three times on the painter Mengs, who had been painter in ordinary to his Catholic majesty for six years, and had an excellent salary. He gave me some good dinners. His wife and family were at Rome, while he basked in the royal favours at Madrid, enjoying the unusual privilege of being able to speak to the king whenever he would. At Mengs's house I trade the acquaintance of the architect Sabatini, an extremely able man whom the king had summoned from Naples to cleanse Madrid, which was formerly the dirtiest and most stinking town in Europe, or, for the matter of that, in the world.