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But, as I discovered while researching my new book about him and the women he loved, Casanova was far from being the coldhearted exploiter of women depicted by legend.

Vulnerability Though there were many victims among the 200-plus women he seduced, there were plenty of others who preyed on his generosity, his kindness - and his considerable vulnerability.

There was no more perfect picture of piety than the tall, slender young nun in her simple white habit and gold cross.

Yet from the moment she saw the handsome young man across the chapel of the convent on the island of Murano, her vow of chastity went out of the window into the Venetian lagoon.

Women were quick to take advantage of this, and the nun was a classic example. M., as Casanova named her in Histoire De Ma Vie, the memoir he wrote during his poverty-stricken old age, was the most aggressive sexual predator he ever met.

Casanova would not see her again for more than a year and would never again share her home.

Indeed, it is not too farfetched to say that in affairs of the heart, he was at times more sinned against than sinning.

Moreover, far from being a libidinous brute, he was a proto-feminist whose belief that women were the equal of their menfolk was far ahead of its time.

Abandoned Being abandoned by her left him with emotional scars that would never heal.

Hidden beneath his veneer of proud self-confidence was always a vulnerable child eager for approval and love.

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