We must remember that the tribunal which condemned Joan of Arc was a tremendously impressive array of the leading ecclesiastical talents and reputations of the time-almost a synod of the Church. One need not, therefore, be surprised that the verdict of such a tribunal dealt Joan’s reputation a shattering blow. The trial at Rouen was commenced very deliberately and with great publicity; and yet, even seven months after the plan fro trial had been announced, there was no public intervention from Charles VII, from the Archbishop of Reims, or from Rome.
The outcome of the Rome trial was certainly pleasing to the English, yet the idea of a Church trial of Joan originated, not with the English, but with the University of Paris. It seems difficult, despite the almost universal execration to which Joan’s judges have been subjected in modern times, to read the trial record without feeling the deep sincerity of the ecclesiastics in their quarrel with Joan- their shock, for instance, at her male dress! The University was sincerely Burgundian and Anglophile in sympathy, of course, and it pursued Joan with conviction. It stood behind the tribunal which tried her, and which, despite later attempts at evasion on the part of several of its members, found her to be a heretic, a sorceress, schismatic, and apostate. However unintelligible these sentiments may be to modern French patriots and sensibilities, there can be no doubt of their sincerity and good faith, and equally little of their immense moral authority throughout Christendom; for the University of Paris was then at the very height of its immense medieval fame and influence as a theological authority.
It is clear, therefore, that in the two decades following Joan’s death it appeared that her name had been branded, presumably forever, throughout Christendom, in a sentence which did not appear in English, but Galician and Catholic. The Vice-Inquisitor, Jean le Maistre, was a timid and feeble individual, but his signature upon the chief legal instruments of the trial was invaluable throughout all Europe, for it directly implicated the papal power. To say he had done wrong would be to “undermine all human authority.”
(see link at end)…When the writer finally spoke, he did so slowly, carefully.
“Now there’s an illustration, gentlemen — a real illustration. I studied that girl, Joan of Arc, for twelve years, and it never seemed to me that the artists and the writers gave us a true picture of her. They drew a picture of a peasant. Her dress was that of a peasant. But they always missed the face — the divine soul, the pure character, the supreme woman, the wonderful girl. She was only 18 years old, but put into a breast like hers a heart like hers and I think, gentlemen, you would have a girl — like that.”
…Mark Twain’s obsession with Joan of Arc has to rank among the most baffling and least talked about enigmas in American literature. Even for those entrenched within the competitive world of Twain scholarship, stories like the one above are usually treated as interesting, but ultimately trifling, anecdotes, illustrative of the eccentricities of a predictably unconventional man.
The same might also be said of his book about the French heroine. Published in 1896, when its author was 61, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc has long been viewed as something of an aberration, a curio—the type of genre-bending work that a bored, established writer often undertakes in order to buck audience expectations. Narrated by a fictionalized version of Joan’s servant and scribe, Sieur Louis de
e, the book spans the majority of Joan’s life, beginning with her childhood in eastern France and ending with her questionable trial and execution. While other Twain novels such as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The Prince and the Pauper are also set in medieval Europe, far from the author’s more familiar milieu of mid-19th century Missouri, Recollections is unique in its somber tone.
Take the following passage, drawn from the book’s climactic trial scenes:
Of course I had been expecting such news every day for many days; but no matter, the shock of it almost took my breath away and set me trembling like a leaf. I suppose that without knowing it I had been half imagining that at the last moment something would happen, something that would stop this fatal trial: maybe that La Hire would burst in at the gates with his hellions at his back; maybe that God would have pity and stretch forth His mighty hand. But now—now there was no hope.
At the time Recollections was published, Twain was mostly known for humor and satire. And while the early chapters of Recollections have moments of whimsy, such as when Twain’s narrator observes Joan interacting with forest fairies, by the time the Maid of Orleans dons her famous armor, the author has abandoned all fancifulness.
The book has puzzled critics for over a century. Susan K. Harris, a Twain expert who teaches at the University of Kansas, helped produce the novel’s 1996 Oxford University Press edition. As she pointed out to me, “By the time he’s writing Recollections, he’s not a believer. He is anti-Catholic, and he doesn’t like the French. So he writes a book about a French-Catholic-martyr? Ostensibly, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Logical or not, Twain’s passion for Joan of Arc was longstanding, and his public praise of her lavish. Writing in a 1904 Harper’s essay, he referred to her as “by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced.” In the same piece, he christened her “The Miracle Child” and “The Wonder of the Ages.” Read More:http://www.theawl.com/2012/04/the-riddle-of-mark-twains-passion-for-joan-of-arc