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                Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc Book I
                                                                       by Mark Twain copyright 1896
                                                                                            Reviewed by Maurice A. Williams

Found in
Historical Romances
Mark Twain
c. 1994
Penguin Books USA
Joan of Arc is on pages 545 through 611

For anyone interested in how much fiction and how much historical fact is in Twain’s Joan of Arc, here are page by page notes that I took when researching his book.

The following are purely fictional characters invented by Mark Twain:
The Paladin (title for King’s helper) Edmund Aubrey, a childhood friend of Joan’s.
Noel Rainguesson, another childhood friend of Joan’s
Maire Aubrey, Edmund’s father and mayor of Domremy
Pere de Fronte, priest in Joan’s village of Domremy
Theophile Benoist, village madmani Domremy

The following named characters are based upon real historical characters:
La Hire – Etienne de Vignolles, born in 1390
The Bastard – Dunois of Orleans, a general
Robert de Baudricant, governor of Vancouleun and first to accept Joan’s mission.
Laxart, Joan’s uncle
Comte de Richmount.
Duke D’Alencon

545 Translator’s preface (by Jean Francois Alden, a pseudonym for Mark Twain)

555 BOOK I - In Domremy

555 Narrator is Sieur Louis de Conte (a fictional character), of noble birth (pseudonym for Mark Twain) portrayed as Joan’s lifelong friend and her page and secretary. [There is a real historical character named Louis de Counts, fifteen or sixteen years old, who was assigned to Joan as her page (Pernoud Her Story, p. 25)] De Conte was born in Neufchateau in Jan 1410, 2 years before Joan was born [born 6 Jan 1412]. Mobs and plagues in Paris. In 1415, Agincourt happened. [The Battle of Agincourt[a] was a major English victory against a numerically superior French army in the Hundred Years' War. The battle occurred on Friday 25 October 1415 (Saint Crispin's Day, November 3), in northern France. Henry V's victory had a crippling effect on France and started a new period in the war, during which Henry married the French king's daughter and his son was made heir to the throne of France. However, his battlefield successes were not capitalized on by his heir, Henry VI.] Young Louis de Conte became a guest of the fictional Pere Guillaume Fronte, who taught him to read and write [probably named after Messire Guillaume Front the historical parish priest and confessor of Joan (Pernoud Herself and Her Witnesses, p. 17)]. Mention of Joan’s family and childhood friends: Joan’s family - Jacques de Arc (father), Isabel de Arc nee Romee (mother), Pierre (8 yrs. Old) [born in 1412-1413], Jacques (10 yrs. Old), and Jean (7 yrs. Old) (brothers), and Catherine (sister) (I yr old) 3 years younger than Joan. [Pernoud (Her Story, p. 265) has Joan born in around 6 Jan 1412], Friends: Pierre Morel, Noel Rainguesson, Edmund Aubrey (whose father was maire), Etienne Roze, Haumette, and Little Mengette.

557 Twain’s story entions John Huss and three popes in the Church. [Huss [born around 1369] is famed for having been burned at the stake (on July 6, 1415) for heresy against the doctrines of the Catholic Church, including those on ecclesiology (the branch of theology concerned with the nature, constitution and functions of a church), the Eucharist (the Christian sacrament commemorating the Last Supper by consecrating bread and wine), and other theological topics. Hus was a key predecessor to the Protestant movement of the 16th century, and his teachings had a strong influence on the states of Europe, most immediately in the approval for the existence of a reformist Bohemian religious denomination, and, more than a century later, on Martin Luther himself. Between 1420 and 1431, the Hussite forces defeated five consecutive papal crusades against followers of Hus. Their defense and rebellion against Roman Catholics became known as the Hussite Wars.] [The Western Schism or Papal Schism was a split within the Catholic Church from 1378 to 1417. Two men simultaneously claimed to be the true pope. Driven by politics rather than any theological disagreement, the schism was ended by the Council of Constance (1414–1418). The simultaneous claims to the papal chair of two different men hurt the reputation of the office. The Western Schism is occasionally called the Great Schism, though this term is more often applied to the East–West Schism of 1054].

558 Twain explains “evidence” as “bones” and applies it to “dragons” and “fairies.”

559 Pierre Morel (childhood friend) smells a dragon. Pere Guillaume Fronte (fictional parish priest, but Pernoud Herself and Her Witnesses, p. 17 states that a Messire Guillaume Front was parish priest and her confessor in Domremy). Beech Tree where faires gather (L’Arbre Fee de Bourlemont). [Pernoud Herself and Her Witnesses, p. 21-22 and p. 178, mentions this”Ladies” tree.] Twain mentions the tree again on p. 772 and 773.

562 Songs about the fairies.

563 Edmond Aubrey’s mother (fictional) spied the faires.

564 Pere de Fronte exorcised the area surrounding the tree.

565 Young Joan tells Pere de Fronte that she thought it not fair.

566 Joan helps de Fronte apply ashes to his head.

567 Joan tells de Fronte that she did not hang something on the tree because, if the fairies were friends of the Fiend, she thought it sinful to show them honor. (Episode with Fronte is probably fictional, but Joan’s statement about it being sinful is true Pernoud Herself and Her Witnesses, p. 178).

568 Father Pere de Fronte springs his trap.

569 Joan escapes the trap [probably a fictional Episode].

571 Once, during a particularity hard winter, a cold and hungry stranger enters Joan’s house. Joan wants to give him some food.

573 Her father says “No” because they have so little for themselves. Joan gives a reason why it is correct to give him some food. The Father thought this was a poor reason.

574 Aubrey, the maire (fictional mayor of Domremy), broke in with a long defense of what Joan said.

576 Joan’s father relents and tells Joan she can give the man some food, but she had already given him her food. [Pernoud Herself and Her Witnesses, p. 18, mentions a similar historical event about Joan].

578 A black flag, meaning dreadful news, is brought to Domremy

579 It is about the Treaty of Troyes made between France, England, and the Burgundians. The Queen of France, (wife to Charles VI) gave her daughter Catherine in marriage to Henry of England [the black flag announcement is probably fictional, but the Treaty of Troyes is historical].

580 Charles VI is to reign as King of France until he dies. Then Henry V of England is to become regent of France until a child of his is old enough to inherit the throne. This eldest child will become monarch of England and France. (A couple years later Charles VI dies).

581 Noel Rainguesson, Marie Dupont, Cecile Letellier, Pierre Morel Little Mengette (childhood friends; some are fictional; others I don’t know)

582 Theophile Benoist, a madman, comes out from behind the fairie tree with an axe.

583 Everyone runs, but Joan subdues Benoist. (Probably a fictional episodes used by Twain to illustrate Joan’s character--Twain also introduces “the Stranger” on pages 571-6 to develop Joan’s character). Twain mentions Theophile Benoist again on page 679 and again on 699 (probably a fictional character].

587 A Burgundian priest arrived and told the people that Charles VI had died. He urged the people to shout “God grant long life to Henry, king of England, our Sovereign Lord.”

588 Joan said: “I would rather your head struck from your body If God willed it.” [Joan did say “I only knew one Burgundian there and I could have wished his head cut off--however, only if it pleased God.” Pernoud Herself and Her Witnesses, p. 20]. Louis de Conte said this was the only harsh word that Joan ever offered in her life. In spring, 1428, the Burgundians attacked Domremy. Joan, sixteen, and comely and beautiful, led her people to Neufchateau to escape destruction [true (Pernoud Herself and Her Witnesses, p. 21)].

589 Joan was deeply religious. Twain write: “Her religion made her inwardly content and joyous. Her face had a sweetness and serenity that justly influenced her spiritual nature. If sometimes she seemed troubled, it came from distress for her country, no part of the distress can be charged to her religion.” When the people returned to Domremy, they found a considerable part of it destroyed, and they found the madman, Theophile Benoist, hacked and stabbed to death in his cage. Also Domremy had been heavily taxed for a long time.

591 The fictiobnal Paladin, around twenty at the time, angrily criticized the French generals, he said: “Look at Dunois, Bastard of Orleans—call him a general! . . . and look at Saintrailles—pooh! and that blustering La Hire, now what a general that is!” Then for the next few pages, Joan mused (accurately) about the future fate of all her childhood companions.

594 Joan becomes serious and concerned about France.

596 Louis de Conte tells her the situation of France is hopeless and goes into a long explanation why.

598 Joan begins to assure de Conte that France will be saved by God (This scene with the fictional de Conte is based on an actual prophecy widely known in France during the time of Joan of Arc Pernoud Herself and Her Witnesses, p. 44).

599 Louis de Conte chances upon Joan by the Fairie Tree praying, sitting on a natural seat of branches. He notices a shadow-like image of a robed thing with wings slowly gliding along the grass toward the tree. Joan seems to recognize it.

600 Joan says: “But I am so young . . . how can I talk with men, with soldiers . . . I a girl and ignorant, knowing nothing of arms, riding horse . . . Yet—if it is commanded.”

601 Louis de Conte, realizing that he has intruded upon a mystery of God, silently goes away (This scene with Louis de Conte is frobably fictional, but Joan really did have visions).

602 Joan calls Louis de Conte and assures him that he was not dreaming. She confides that she had been having visions for nearly three years. She decides to tell him her secret.

603 The shadowy figure is St. Michael. He told Joan the time is now. Joan may tell Louis, but Louis has to keep it secret for a few days yet.

608 Louis, whom Mark Twain portrays as a young man of noble birth and, therefore has access to the governor, is to proceed Joan to Vaucouleurs and visit Robert de Baudricourt, governor of Vaucouleurs to commission Joan to go to the Dauphin with an armed escort [True, the first meeting with Robert de Baudricourt will be 13 May 1424]. She will go to her Uncle Laxart and ask him to accompany her to Vaucouleurs. Robert de Baudricourt does not believe her and tells Uncle Laxart to take this child home and whip her soundly [True (Pernoud Herself and Her Witnesses, p. 33)].

610 The people of Domremy ridicule Joan all summer long. Her father said “rather than see her unsex herself and go away with armies, he would require her brothers to drown her; and that if they should refuse, he would do it with his own hands. [He really said “Truly, if I knew that that must happen which I fear in the matter of my daughter, I had rather you drowned her. And if you did not do it, I would drown her myself, Pernoud Herself and Her Witnesses, p. 23].

611 At summer’s end, the Paladin had the effrontery to pretend that Joan had engaged herself to him several years ago, and now he claims ratification of the engagement. The case went to ecclesiastical court and, without any counsel and examining only witnesses for the prosecution, Joan defeats the case. After this victory, the people stopped ridiculing her, and even her father relented and said he was proud of her. [The fictional character The Paladin did not do this, but there was a “certain man at the city of Toul” that did bring this case against Joan. (Pernoud Herself and Her Witnesses, p. 23)].

Thus ends "Joan of Arc, Book I". Mark Twain will write two more books about Joan. In all three books he will cover her entire career. Mark Twain will use the fictional Louis de Conte to serve as an eye-witness observer of her entire career and to serve as a vehicle for Mark Twain to introduce his own commentary on the events in Joan's life.

Maurice A. Williams

Joan of Arc: By Herself and Her Witnesses, 1990, Regine Pernoud (Author)

Joan of Arc: Her Story, 1999, Regine Pernoud, Marie-Veronique Clin (Authors), Jeremy duQuesnay (Translator)

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