Home  »  The World’s Wit and Humor  »  A Female ‘Solicitor of Lawsuits’

The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Carlo Goldoni (1707–1793)

A Female ‘Solicitor of Lawsuits’

From The “Memoirs”

THE ADVOCATES at Venice are by regulation obliged to live in the district called Della Roba, where I accordingly engaged apartments, my mother and aunt remaining with me. I dressed up in my professional gown, the same as that worn by the patricians, pulled on an enormous wig, and anxiously waited for the day of my induction at court. This induction does not take place without ceremony. The novice must have two supporters, whom he selects from among the old advocates he knows best.

I chose two of my neighbors, both trusted friends, and we went together. I had to stand between them at the foot of the great staircase in the hall of the courts. For half an hour I was compelled to make so many bows and contortions that my back felt as if it was broken, and my wig had become as shaggy as a lion’s mane. Every one who passed found some remark to make about me. Some observed that I was a boy whose face looked as if he might possibly have a little sense; others said I was a newly appointed sweeper of the courts; some kissed me, others jeered at me. At last I ascended, and sent my servant in quest of a gondola, not daring to make my appearance in the street in this costume. I ordered him to meet me in the hall of the great council, where I took a seat on a bench, and where I saw everybody pass, without being noticed by anybody.

I began to reflect on the profession I had chosen. There are generally two hundred and forty advocates on the list at Venice. Of these, ten or twelve are of the first rank, about twenty belong to the second, and all the rest are obliged to hunt for clients, the pettifogging attorneys being quite willing to play hound for the sake of a share in the quarry. I had vivid fears, as I was last on the list, and I regretted the chanceries I had left. But, on the other hand, no pursuit looked so honorable and lucrative as the advocate’s. A noble Venetian, a patrician, a member of the republic, who would never condescend to be a merchant, banker, physician, or professor at a university, has no hesitation in embracing the calling of an advocate, which he follows in the courts, greeting the other advocates as his “brothers.” Everything depended on good fortune, and why should I be less lucky than any one else? The attempt had to be made, and it was incumbent upon me to plunge into the chaos of the bar, where perseverance and integrity are supposed to be crowned with success.

While thus engaged in musing and building castles in the air, I observed a fair, plump woman of about thirty, with a tolerable figure, flat nose, and roguish eyes, advancing in my direction. She wore a profusion of jewelry about her neck, arms, hands, and ears, and a dress which proclaimed her one of the lower orders, though in easy circumstances. She first saluted, and then accosted me.

“Good day, sir,” she said.

“Good day, madam,” I replied.

The conversation being thus opened, the rest of it ran as follows:

“Will you allow me to pay you my compliments?”

“On what?”

“Why, on your admission to the courts. I could not help seeing you as you made your obeisances. Upon my word, you look handsome.”

“Ah, you admire my costume? Do you think I look well in it?”

“The dress does not count at all. Signor Goldoni looks handsome in anything.”

“Then you know me, madam?”

“Well, did I not see you four years ago in the land of litigation, in a long wig and a short robe?”

“Yes, you are right; I was then with an attorney.”

“With Signor Indric.”

“Do you know my uncle, then?”

“I? I know every soul in the place, from the doge himself down to the messengers of the courts.”

“Are you married?”


“Are you a widow?”


“Have you any employment?”


“But from your appearance you seem a respectable woman.”

“So I am, sir.”

“Ah, then you have some private means?”

“Oh, no; none at all.”



“But, madam, you are well dressed; how do you manage to live?”

“I am a court-girl, and make my living by the courts.”

“How very curious! You belong to the courts, you say?”

“Yes, sir; my father was employed there.”

“What did he do?”

“He listened at the doors, and carried good news to those expecting pardons or favorable sentences. He had good legs, so he was always first. My mother and I spent most of our time there too. She was not proud; she took commissions, and accepted money for them. I was born and brought up in those gilded halls; you see, I have gems all over me.”

“Your story is quite remarkable. So you follow in the footsteps of your mother?”

“No, sir; I do something else.”

“And what may that be?”

“I solicit lawsuits.”

“Solicit lawsuits? I do not understand.”

“I am as well known as Barabbas. It is generally understood that I am on friendly terms with all the advocates and attorneys, so that numbers of people come to me and ask me to recommend them barristers or counsel. Those who have recourse to me are not rich, as a rule, and therefore I apply to the new lawyers without briefs, who are glad of any opportunity to make their names public. Are you aware, sir, that, such as you see me, I have made the fortune of at least a dozen of the most famous advocates at this bar? You ought to feel encouraged, for, with your permission, I shall be the making of you too.”

“Very well, madam, we will see. Have you any promising affair in hand at present?”

“Oh, yes, several—some of them superb. For instance, I have a widow suspected of receiving stolen goods; I have another woman who wants the validity of the fictitious date on her marriage certificate sustained; I have girls wanting marriage portions allotted to them; I have wives trying to secure a divorce; I have people of rank threatened with suit by their creditors—in fact, as you see, you have only to choose!”