3 AUGUST 1929, Page 19

Had Lorenzo da Ponte lived to-day, psycho-analysts might have saved

him from his persecution-mania, although it is doubtful if he could ever have paid for a course, for he was always hard up, like most artists. But he was born in 1749, and lived in Vienna a century before Herr Freud was heard of. It was between 1785 and 1790, in that city, that he wrote the libretti of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cost fan tutti for Mozart, on which such claims as he has to fame must rest, for he did nothing else remarkable, although much that was adventurous before he died in New York at the age of eighty-nine. Throughout his life, both as priest and layman, we see a procession of wives and mistresses, but there was as much of Micawber as of Benvenuto Cellini in his composition; and the two characters do not blend into a pleasant personality. Had he been more or less of a rascal and seen himself with more of the clarity and cynicism of the Florentine, he might have made a great autobiography, instead of leaving us memoirs which are maudlin in parts and only occasionally diverting. However, we can give all praise to Mr. L. A. Sheppard for the excellent way he has presented his subject and to Messrs. Routledge for the format of the book, which is published at 15s.