Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

The Life of Joan of Arc
By Anatole France

MY first duty should be to make known the authorities for this history. But L'Averdy, Buchon, J. Quicherat, Vallet de Viriville, Siméon Luce, Boucher de Molandon, MM. Robillard de Beaurepaire, Lanéry d'Arc, Henri Jadart, Alexandre Sorel, Germain Lefèvre-Pontalis, L. Jarry, and many other scholars have published and expounded various documents for the life of Joan of Arc. I refer my readers to their works which in themselves constitute a voluminous literature,[2] and without entering on any new examination of these documents, I will merely indicate rapidly and generally the reasons for the use I have chosen to make of them. They are: first, the trial which resulted in her condemnation; second, the chronicles; third, the trial for her rehabilitation; fourth, letters, deeds, and other papers.

[Pg viii] First, in the trial[3] which resulted in her condemnation the historian has a mine of rich treasure. Her cross-examination cannot be too minutely studied. It is based on information, not preserved elsewhere, gathered from Domremy and the various parts of France through which she passed. It is hardly necessary to say that all the judges of 1431 sought to discover in Jeanne was idolatry, heresy, sorcery and other crimes against the Church. Inclined as they were, however, to discern evil in every one of the acts and in each of the words of one whom they desired to ruin, so that they might dishonour her king, they examined all available information concerning her life. The high value to be set upon the Maid's replies is well known; they are heroically sincere, and for the most part perfectly lucid. Nevertheless they must not all be interpreted literally. Jeanne, who never regarded either the bishop or the promoter as her judge, was not so simple as to tell them the whole truth. It was very frank of her to warn them that they would not know all.[4] That her memory was curiously defective must also be admitted. I am aware that the clerk of the court was astonished that after a fortnight she should remember exactly the answers she had given in her cross-examination.[5] That may be possible, although she did not always say the same thing. It is none the less certain that after the lapse of a year she retained but an indistinct recollection of some of the important acts of her life. Finally, her constant hallucinations generally rendered her[Pg ix] incapable of distinguishing between the true and the false.

The record of the trial is followed by an examination of Jeanne's sayings in articulo mortis.[6] This examination is not signed by the clerks of the court. Hence from a legal point of view the record is out of order; nevertheless, regarded as a historical document, its authenticity cannot be doubted. In my opinion the actual occurrences cannot have widely differed from what is related in this unofficial report. It tells of Jeanne's second recantation, and of this recantation there can be no question, for Jeanne received the communion before her death. The veracity of this document was never assailed,[7] even by those who during the rehabilitation trial pointed out its irregularity.[8]

Secondly, the chroniclers of the period, both French and Burgundian, were paid chroniclers, one of whom was attached to every great baron. Tringant says that his master did not expend any money in order to obtain mention in the chronicles,[9] and that therefore he is omitted from them. The earliest chronicle in which the Maid occurs is that of Perceval de Cagny, who was in the service of the house of Alençon and Duke John's master of the house.[10] It was drawn up in the year 1436, that is, only six years after Jeanne's death. But it was not[Pg x] written by him. According to his own confession he had "not half the sense, memory, or ability necessary for putting this, or even a matter of less than half its importance, down in writing."[11] This chronicle is the work of a painstaking clerk. One is not surprised to find a chronicler in the pay of the house of Alençon representing the differences concerning the Maid, which arose between the Sire de la Trémouille and the Duke of Alençon, in a light most unfavourable to the King. But from a scribe, supposed to be writing at the dictation of a retainer of Duke John, one would have expected a less inaccurate and a less vague account of the feats of arms accomplished by the Maid in company with him whom she called her fair duke. Although this chronicle was written at a time when no one dreamed that the sentence of 1431 would ever be revoked, the Maid is regarded as employing supernatural means, and her acts are stripped of all verisimilitude by being recorded in the manner of a hagiography. Further, that portion of the chronicle attributed to Perceval de Cagny, which deals with the Maid, is brief, consisting of twenty-seven chapters of a few lines each. Quicherat is of opinion that it is the best chronicle of Jeanne d'Arc[12] existing, and the others may indeed be even more worthless.

Gilles le Bouvier,[13] king at arms of the province of Berry, who was forty-three in 1429, is somewhat more judicious than Perceval de Cagny; and, in spite of some confusion of dates, he is better in[Pg xi]formed of military proceedings. But his story is of too summary a nature to tell us much.

Jean Chartier,[14] precentor of Saint-Denys, held the office of chronicler of France in 1449. Two hundred years later he would have been described as historiographer royal. His office may be divined from the manner in which he relates Jeanne's death. After having said that she had been long imprisoned by the order of John of Luxembourg, he adds: "The said Luxembourg sold her to the English, who took her to Rouen, where she was harshly treated; in so much that after long delay, they had her publicly burnt in that town of Rouen, without a trial, of their own tyrannical will, which was cruelly done, seeing the life and the rule she lived, for every week she confessed and received the body of Our Lord, as beseemeth a good catholic."[15] When Jean Chartier says that the English burned her without trial, he means apparently that the Bailie of Rouen did not pronounce sentence. Concerning the ecclesiastical trial and the two accusations of lapse and relapse he says not a word; and it is the English whom he accuses of having burnt a good Catholic without a trial. This example proves how seriously the condemnation of 1431 embarrassed the government of[Pg xii] King Charles. But what can be thought of a historian who suppresses Jeanne's trial because he finds it inconvenient? Jean Chartier was extremely weak-minded and trivial; he seems to believe in the magic of Catherine's sword and in Jeanne's loss of power when she broke it;[16] he records the most puerile of fables. Nevertheless it is interesting to note that the official chronicler of the Kings of France, writing about 1450, ascribes to the Maid an important share in the delivery of Orléans, in the conquest of fortresses on the Loire and in the victory of Patay, that he relates how the King formed the army at Gien "by the counsel of the said maid,"[17] and that he expressly states that Jeanne caused[18] the coronation and consecration. Such was certainly the opinion which prevailed at the Court of Charles VII. All that we have to discover is whether that opinion was sincere and reasonable or whether the King of France may not have deemed it to his advantage to owe his kingdom to the Maid. She was held a heretic by the heads of the Church Universal, but in France her memory was honoured, rather, however, by the lower orders than by the princes of the blood and the leaders of the army. The services of the latter the King was not desirous to extol after the revolt of 1440. During this Praguerie,[19] the Duke of Bourbon, the Count of Vendôme, the Duke of Alençon, whom the Maid called her fair duke,[Pg xiii] and even the cautious Count Dunois had been seen joining hands with the plunderers and making war on the sovereign with an ardour they had never shown in fighting against the English.

"Le Journal du Siège"[20] was doubtless kept in 1428 and 1429; but the edition that has come down to us dates from 1467.[21] What relates to Jeanne before her coming to Orléans is interpolated; and the interpolator was so unskilful as to date Jeanne's arrival at Chinon in the month of February, while it took place on March 6, and to assign Thursday, March 10, as the date of the departure from Blois, which did not occur until the end of April. The diary from April 28 to May 7 is less inaccurate in its chronology, and the errors in dates which do occur may be attributed to the copyist. But the facts to which these dates are assigned, occasionally in disagreement with financial records and often tinged with the miraculous, testify to an advanced stage of Jeanne's legend. For example, one cannot possibly attribute to a witness of the siege the error made by the scribe concerning the fall of the Bridge of Les Tourelles.[22] What is said on page 97 of P. Charpentier's and C. Cuissart's edition concerning the relations of the inhabitants and the men-at-arms seems out of place, and may very likely have been inserted there to efface the memory of the grave dissensions which had occurred during the last week. From the 8th of May the diary ceases to be a diary; it becomes a series of extracts borrowed from Chartier,[Pg xiv] from Berry, and from the rehabilitation trial. The episode of the big fat Englishman slain by Messire Jean de Montesclère at the Siege of Jargeau is obviously taken from the evidence of Jean d'Aulon in 1446; and even this plagiarism is inaccurate, since Jean d'Aulon expressly says he was slain at the Battle of Les Augustins.[23]

The chronicle entitled La Chronique de la Pucelle,[24] as if it were the chief chronicle of the heroine, is taken from a history entitled Geste des nobles François, going back as far as Priam of Troy. But the extract was not made until the original had been changed and added to. This was done after 1467. Even if it were proved that La Chronique de la Pucelle is the work of Cousinot, shut up in Orléans during the siege, or even of two Cousinots, uncle and nephew according to some, father and son according to others, it would remain none the less true that this chronicle is largely copied from Jean Chartier, the Journal du Siège and the rehabilitation trial. Whoever the author may have been, this work reflects no great credit upon him: no very high praise can be given to a fabricator of tales, who, without appearing in the slightest degree aware of the fact, tells the same stories twice over, introducing each time different and contradictory circumstances. La Chronique de la Pucelle ends abruptly with the King's return to Berry after his defeat before Paris.

Le Mystère du siège[25] must be classed with the[Pg xv] chronicles. It is in fact a rhymed chronicle in dialogue, and it would be extremely interesting for its antiquity alone were it possible to do what some have attempted and to assign to it the date 1435. The editors, and following them several scholars, have believed it possible to identify this poem of 20,529 lines with a certain mistaire[26] played on the sixth anniversary of the delivery of the city. They have drawn their conclusions from the following circumstances: the Maréchal de Rais, who delighted to organise magnificent farces and mysteries, was in Duke Charles's city expending vast sums[27] there from September, 1434, till August, 1435; in 1439 the city purchased out of its municipal funds "a standard and a banner, which had belonged to Monseigneur de Reys and had been used by him to represent the manner of the storming of Les Tourelles and their capture from the English."[28] From such a statement it is impossible to prove that in 1435 or in 1439, on May 8, there was acted a play having the Siege for its subject and the Maid for its heroine. If, however, we take "the manner of the storming of Les Tourelles" to mean a mystery rather than a pageant or some other form of entertainment, and if we consider the certain mistaire of 1435 as indicating a representation of that siege which had been laid and raised by the English, we shall thus arrive at a mystery of the siege. But even then[Pg xvi] we must examine whether it be that mystery the text of which has come down to us.

Among the one hundred and forty speaking personages in this work is the Maréchal de Rais. Hence it has been concluded that the mystery was written and acted before the lawsuit ended by that sentence to which effect was given above the Nantes Bridge, on October 20, 1440. How, indeed, it has been asked, after so ignominious a death could the vampire of Machecoul have been represented to the people of Orléans as fighting for their deliverance? How could the Maid and Blue Beard be associated in a heroic action? It is hard to answer such a question, because we cannot possibly tell how much of that kind of thing could be tolerated by the barbarism of those rude old times. Perhaps our text itself, if properly examined, will be found to contain internal evidence as to whether it is of an earlier or later date than 1440.

The bastard of Orléans was created Count of Dunois on July 14, 1439.[29] The lines of the mystery, in which he is called by this title, cannot therefore be anterior to that date. They are numerous, and, by a singularity which has never been explained, are all in the first third of the book. When Dunois reappears later he is the Bastard again. From this fact the editors of 1862 concluded that five thousand lines were prefixed to the primitive text subsequently, although they in no way differ from the rest, either in language, style, or prosody. But may the rest of the poem be assigned to 1435 or 1439?

That is not my opinion. In the lines 12093 and 12094 the Maid tells Talbot he will die by the hand of the King's men. This prophecy must have been[Pg xvii] made after the event: it is an obvious allusion to the noble captain's end, and these lines must have been written after 1453.

Six years after the siege no clerk of Orléans would have thought of travestying Jeanne as a lady of noble birth.

In line 10199 and the following of the "Mistère du Siège" the Maid replies to the first President of the Parlement of Poitiers when he questions her concerning her family:

"As for my father's mansion, it is in the Bar country; and he is of gentle birth and rank right noble, a good Frenchman and a loyal."[30]

Before a clerk would write thus, Jeanne's family must have been long ennobled and the first generation must have died out, which happened in 1469; there must have come into existence that numerous family of the Du Lys, whose ridiculous pretensions had to be humoured. Not content with deriving their descent from their aunt, the Du Lys insisted on connecting the good peasant Jacquot d'Arc with the old nobility of Bar.

Notwithstanding that Jeanne's reference to "her father's mansion" conflicts with other scenes in the same mystery, this lengthy work would appear to be all of a piece.

It was apparently compiled during the reign of Louis XI, by a citizen of Orléans who was a fair master of his subject. It would be interesting to[Pg xviii] make a more detailed study of his authorities than has been done hitherto. This poet seems to have known a Journal du siège very different from the one we possess.

Was his mystery acted during the last thirty years of the century at the festival instituted to commemorate the taking of Les Tourelles? The subject, the style, and the spirit are all in harmony with such an occasion. But it is curious that a poem composed to celebrate the deliverance of Orléans on May 8 should assign that deliverance to May 9. And yet this is what the author of the mystery does when he puts the following lines into the mouth of the Maid:

"Remember how Orléans was delivered in the year one thousand four hundred and twenty-nine, and forget not also that of May it was the ninth day."[31]

Such are the chief chroniclers on the French side who have written of the Maid. Others who came later or who have only dealt with certain episodes in her life, need not be quoted here; their testimony will be best examined when we come to that of the facts in detail. Placing on one side any information to be obtained from La Chronique de l'établissement de la fête,[32] from La Relation[33] of the Clerk of La[Pg xix] Rochelle and other contemporary documents, we are now in a position to realise that if we depended on the French chroniclers for our knowledge of Jeanne d'Arc we should know just as much about her as we know of Sakya Muni.

We shall certainly not find her explained by the Burgundian chroniclers. They, however, furnish certain useful information. The earliest of these Burgundian chroniclers is a clerk of Picardy, the author of an anonymous chronicle, called La Chronique des Cordeliers,[34] because the only copy of it comes from a house of the Cordeliers at Paris. It is a history of the world from the creation to the year 1431. M. Pierre Champion[35] has proved that Monstrelet made use of it. This clerk of Picardy knew divers matters, and was acquainted with sundry state documents. But facts and dates he curiously confuses. His knowledge of the Maid's military career is derived from a French and a popular source. A certain credence has been attached to his story of the leap from Beaurevoir; but his account if accurate destroys the idea that Jeanne threw herself from the top of the keep in a fit of frenzy or despair.[36] And it does not agree with what Jeanne said herself.

Monstrelet,[37] "more drivelling at the mouth than[Pg xx] a mustard-pot,"[38] is a fountain of wisdom in comparison with Jean Chartier. When he makes use of La Chronique des Cordeliers he rearranges it and presents its facts in order. What he knew of Jeanne amounts to very little. He believed that she was an inn servant. He has but a word to say of her indecision at Montépilloy, but that word, to be found nowhere else, is extremely significant. He saw her in the camp at Compiègne; but unfortunately he either did not realise or did not wish to say what impression she made upon him.

Wavrin du Forestel,[39] who edited additions to Froissart, Monstrelet, and Mathieu d'Escouchy, was at Patay; he never saw Jeanne there. He knows her only by hearsay and that but vaguely. We do not therefore attach great importance to what he relates concerning Robert de Baudricourt, who, according to him, indoctrinated the Maid and taught her how to appear "inspired by Divine Providence."[40] On the other hand, he gives valuable information concerning the war immediately after the deliverance of Orléans.

Le Fèvre de Saint-Rémy, Counsellor to the Duke of Burgundy and King-at-arms of the Golden Fleece,[41] was possibly at Compiègne when Jeanne was taken; and he speaks of her as a brave girl.

[Pg xxi]

Georges Chastellain copies Le Fèvre de Saint Remy.[42]

The author of Le Journal ascribed to un Bourgeois de Paris,[43] whom we identify as a Cabochien clerk, had only heard Jeanne spoken of by the doctors and masters of the University of Paris. Moreover he was very ill-informed, which is regrettable. For the man stands alone in his day for energy of feeling and language, for passion of wrath and of pity, and for intense sympathy with the people.

I must mention a document which is neither French nor Burgundian, but Italian. I refer to the Chronique d'Antonio Morosini, published and annotated with admirable erudition by M. Germain Lefèvre-Pontalis. This chronicle, or to be more precise, the letters it contains, are very valuable to the historian, but not on account of the veracity of the deeds here attributed to the Maid, which on the contrary are all imaginary and fabulous. In the Chronique de Morosini,[44] every single fact concerning Jeanne is presented in a wrong character and in a false light. And yet Morosini's correspondents are men of business, thoughtful, subtle Venetians. These letters reveal how there were being circulated throughout Christendom a whole multitude of fictitious stories, imitated some from the Romances of Chivalry, others from the Golden Legend, con[Pg xxii]cerning that Demoiselle as she is called, at once famous and unknown.

Another document, the diary of a German merchant, one Eberhard de Windecke,[45] a conscientious and clever edition of which has also been published by M. Germain Lefèvre-Pontalis, presents the same phenomenon. Nothing here related of the Maid is even probable. As soon as she appears a whole cycle of popular stories grow up round her name. Eberhard obviously delights to relate them. Thus we learn from these good foreign merchants that at no period of her existence was Jeanne known otherwise than by fables, and that if she moved multitudes it was by the spreading abroad of countless legends which sprang up wherever she passed and made way before her. And indeed, there is much food for thought in that dazzling obscurity, which from the very first enwrapped the Maid, in those radiant clouds of myth, which, while concealing her, rendered her all the more imposing.

Thirdly, with its memoranda, its consultations, and its one hundred and forty depositions, furnished by one hundred and twenty-three deponents, the rehabilitation trial forms a very valuable collection of documents.[46] M. Lanéry d'Arc has done well to publish in their entirety the memoranda of the doctors as well as the treatise of the Archbishop of Embrun, the propositions of Master Heinrich von Gorcum and the Sibylla Francica.[47] From the trial[Pg xxiii] of 1431 we learn what theologians on the English side thought of the Maid. But were it not for the consultations of Théodore de Leliis and of Paul Pontanus and the opinions included in the later trial we should not know how she was regarded by the doctors of Italy and France. It is important to ascertain what were the views held by the whole Church concerning a damsel condemned during her lifetime, when the English were in power, and rehabilitated after her death when the French were victorious.

Doubtless many matters were elucidated by the one hundred and twenty-three witnesses heard at Domremy, at Vaucouleurs, at Toul, at Orléans, at Paris, at Rouen, at Lyon, witnesses drawn from all ranks of life—churchmen, princes, captains, burghers, peasants, artisans. But we are bound to admit that they come far short of satisfying our curiosity, and for several reasons. First, because they replied to a list of questions drawn up with the object of establishing a certain number of facts within the scope of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The Holy Inquisitor who conducted the trial was curious, but his curiosity was not ours. This is the first reason for the insufficiency of the evidence from our point of view.[48]

But there are other reasons. Most of the witnesses appear excessively simple and lacking in discernment. In so large a number of men of all ages and of all ranks it is sad to find how few were equipped with lucid and judicial minds. It would seem as if the human intellect of those days was enwrapped in twilight and incapable of seeing anything distinctly. Thought as well as speech was curiously puerile. Only a slight acquaintance with this dark age is[Pg xxiv] enough to make one feel as if among children. Want and ignorance and wars interminable had impoverished the mind of man and starved his moral nature. The scanty, slashed, ridiculous garments of the nobles and the wealthy betray an absurd poverty of taste and weakness of intellect.[49] One of the most striking characteristics of these small minds is their triviality; they are incapable of attention; they retain nothing. No one who reads the writings of the period can fail to be struck by this almost universal weakness.

By no means all the evidence given in these one hundred and forty depositions can be treated seriously. The daughter of Jacques Boucher, steward to the Duke of Orléans, depones in the following terms: "At night I slept alone with Jeanne. Neither in her words or her acts did I ever observe anything wrong. She was perfectly simple, humble, and chaste."[50]

This young lady was nine years old when she perceived with a discernment somewhat precocious that her sleeping companion was simple, humble, and chaste.

That is unimportant. But to show how one may sometimes be deceived by the witnesses whom one would expect to be the most reliable, I will quote Brother Pasquerel.[51] Brother Pasquerel is Jeanne's chaplain. He may be expected to speak as one who has seen and as one who knows. Brother Pasquerel places the examination at Poitiers before the audience[Pg xxv] granted by the King to the Maid in the château of Chinon.[52]

Forgetting that the whole relieving army had been in Orléans since May 4, he supposes that, on the evening of Friday the 6th, it was still expected.[53] From such blunders we may judge of the muddled condition of this poor priest's brain. His most serious shortcoming, however, is the invention of miracles. He tries to make out that when the convoy of victuals reached Orléans, there occurred, by the Maid's special intervention, and in order to carry the barges up the river, a sudden flood of the Loire which no one but himself saw.[54]

The evidence of Dunois[55] is also somewhat deceptive. We know that Dunois was one of the most intelligent and prudent men of his day, and that he was considered a good speaker. In the defence of Orléans and in the coronation campaign he had displayed considerable ability. Either his evidence must have seriously suffered at the hands of the translator and the scribes, or he must have caused it to be given by his chaplain. He speaks of the "great number of the enemy" in terms more appropriate to a canon of a cathedral or a woollen draper than to a captain entrusted with the defence of a city and expected to know the actual force of[Pg xxvi] the besiegers. All his evidence dealing with the transport of victuals on April 28 is well-nigh unintelligible. And Dunois is unable to state that Troyes was the first stage in the army's march from Gien.[56] Relating a conversation he held with the Maid after the coronation, he makes her speak as if her brothers were awaiting her at Domremy, whereas they were with her in France.[57] Curiously blundering, he attempts to prove that Jeanne had visions by relating a story much more calculated to give the impression that the young peasant girl was an apt feigner and that at the request of the nobles she reproduced one of her ecstasies, like the Esther of the lamented Doctor Luys.[58]

In that portion of this work which deals with the rehabilitation trial I have given my opinion of the evidence of the clerks of the court, of the usher Massieu, of the Brothers Isambard de la Pierre and Martin Ladvenu.[59] All these burners of witches and avengers of God worked as heartily at Jeanne's rehabilitation as they had at her condemnation.

In many cases and often on events of importance, the evidence of witnesses is in direct conflict with the truth. A woollen draper of Orléans, one Jean Luillier, comes before the commissioners and as bold as brass maintains that the garrison could not hold out against so great a besieging force.[60] Now this statement is proved to be false by the most authentic documents, which show that the English round Orléans were very weak and that their resources were greatly reduced.[61]

[Pg xxvii]

When the evidence given at the second trial has obviously been dressed up to suit the occasion, or even when it is absolutely contrary to the truth, we must blame not only those who gave it, but those who received it. In its elicitation the latter were too artful. This evidence has about as much value as the evidence in a trial by the Inquisition. In certain matters it may represent the ideas of the judges as much as those of the witnesses.

What the judges in this instance were most desirous to establish was that Jeanne had not understood when she was spoken to of the Church and the Pope, that she had refused to obey the Church Militant because she believed the Church Militant to be Messire Cauchon and his assessors. In short, it was necessary to represent her as almost an imbecile. In ecclesiastical procedure this expedient was frequently adopted. And there was yet another reason, a very strong one, for passing her off as an innocent, a damsel devoid of intelligence. This second trial, like the first, had been instituted with a political motive; its object was to make known that Jeanne had come to the aid of the King of France not by devilish incitement, but by celestial inspiration. Consequently in order that divine wisdom might be made manifest in her she must be shown to have had no wisdom of her own. On this string the examiners were constantly harping. On every occasion they drew from the witnesses the statement that she was simple, very simple. Una simplex bergereta,[62] says one. Erat multum simplex et ignorans,[63] says another.

But since, despite her ignorance, this innocent damsel had been sent of God to deliver or to capture[Pg xxviii] towns and to lead men at arms, there must needs be innate in her a knowledge of the art of war, and in battle she must needs manifest the strength and the counsel she had received from above. Wherefore it was necessary to obtain evidence to establish that she was more skilled in warfare than any man.

Damoiselle Marguerite la Touroulde makes this affirmation.[64] The Duke of Alençon declares that the Maid was apt alike at wielding the lance, ranging an army, ordering a battle, preparing artillery, and that old captains marvelled at her skill in placing cannon.[65] The Duke quite understands that all these gifts were miraculous and that to God alone was the glory. For if the merit of the victories had been Jeanne's he would not have said so much about them.

And if God had chosen the Maid to perform so great a task, it must have been because in her he beheld the virtue which he preferred above all others in his virgins. Henceforth it sufficed not for her to have been chaste; her chastity must become miraculous, her chastity and her moderation in eating and drinking must be exalted into sanctity. Wherefore the witnesses are never tired of stating: Erat casta, erat castissima. Ille loquens non credit aliquam mulierem plus esse castam quam ista Puella erat. Erat sobria in potu et cibo. Erat sobria in cibo et potu.[66]

[Pg xxix]

The heavenly source of such purity must needs have been made manifest by Jeanne's possessing singular immunities. And on this point there is a mass of evidence. Rough men at arms, Jean de Novelompont, Bertrand de Poulengy, Jean d'Aulon; great nobles, the Count of Dunois and the Duke of Alençon, come forward and affirm on oath that in them Jeanne never provoked any carnal desires. Such a circumstance fills these old captains with astonishment; they boast of their past vigour and wonder that for once their youthful ardour should have been damped by a maid. It seems to them most unnatural and humanly impossible. Their description of the effect Jeanne produced upon them recalls Saint Martha's binding of the Tarascon beast. Dunois in his evidence is very much occupied with miracles. He points to this one as, to human reason, the most incomprehensible of all. If he neither desired nor solicited this damsel, of this unique fact he can find but one explanation, it is that Jeanne was holy, res divina. When Jean de Novelompont and Bertrand de Poulengy describe their sudden continence, they employ identical forms of speech, affected and involved. And then there comes a king's equerry, Gobert Thibaut, who declares that in the army there was much talk of this divine grace, vouchsafed to the Armagnacs[67] and denied to English and Burgundians, at least, so the behaviour of a certain knight of Picardy, and of one Jeannotin, a tailor of Rouen, would lead us to believe.[68]

Such evidence obviously answers to the ideas of the judges, and turns, so to speak, on theological rather than on natural facts.[Pg xxx]

In inquisitorial inquiries there abound such depositions as those of Jean de Novelompont and of Bertrand de Poulengy, containing passages drawn up in identical terms. But I must admit that in the rehabilitation trial they are rare, partly because the witnesses were heard at long intervals of time and in different countries, and partly because in the Maid's case no elaborate proceedings were necessary owing to her adversaries not being represented.

It is to be regretted that all the evidence given at this trial, with the exception of that of Jean d'Aulon, should have been translated into Latin. This process has obscured fine shades of thought and deprived the evidence of its original flavour.

Sometimes the clerk contents himself with saying that the depositions of a witness were like those of his predecessor. Thus on the raising of the siege of Orléans all the burgesses depone like the woollen draper, who himself was not thoroughly conversant with the circumstances in which his town had been delivered. Thus the Sire de Gaucourt, after a brief declaration, gives the same evidence as Dunois, although the Count had related matters so strikingly individual that it seems strange they should have been common to two witnesses.[69]

Certain evidence would appear to have been cut short. Brother Pasquerel's abruptly comes to an end at Paris. This circumstance, if we did not possess his signature at the conclusion of the Latin letter to the Hussites, would lead us to believe that the good Brother left the Maid immediately after the attack on La Porte Saint-Honoré. It surely cannot have chanced that in so long a series of questions and answers not one word was said of the departure from[Pg xxxi] Sully or of the campaign which began at Lagny and ended at Compiègne.[70]

We conclude, therefore, that in the study of this voluminous evidence we must exercise great judgment and that we must not expect it to enlighten us on all the circumstances of Jeanne's life.

Fourthly. On certain points of the Maid's history the only exact information is to be obtained from account-books, letters, deeds, and other authentic documents of the period. The records published by Siméon Luce and the lease of the Château de l'Île inform us of the circumstances among which Jeanne grew up.[71] Neither the two trials nor the chronicles had revealed the terrible conditions prevailing in the village of Domremy from 1412 to 1425.

The fortress accounts kept at Orléans[72] and the documents of the English administration[73] enable us[Pg xxxii] to estimate approximately the respective forces of defenders and besiegers of the city. On this point also they enable us to correct the statements of chroniclers and witnesses in the rehabilitation trial.

From the letters in the archives at Reims, copied by Rogier in the seventeenth century, we learn how Troyes, Châlons, and Reims surrendered to the King. From these letters also we see how very far from accurate is Jean Chartier's account of the capitulation of the city and how insufficient, especially considering the character of the witness, is the evidence of Dunois on this subject.[74]

Four or five records throw a faint light here and there on the obscurity which shrouds the unfortunate campaign on the Aisne and the Oise.

The registers of the chapter of Rouen, the wills of canons and sundry other documents, discovered by M. Robillard de Beaurepaire in the archives of Seine-Inférieure, serve to correct certain errors in the two trials.[75]

How many other detached papers, all valuable to the historian, might I not enumerate! Surely this is another reason for mistrusting records false or falsified, as, for example, the patent of nobility of Guy de Cailly.[76]

Rapid as this examination of authorities has been, I think nothing essential has been omitted. To[Pg xxxiii] sum up, even in her lifetime the Maid was scarce known save by fables. Her oldest chroniclers were devoid of any critical sense, for the early legends concerning her they relate as facts.

The Rouen trial, certain accounts, a few letters, sundry deeds, public and private, are the most trustworthy documents. The rehabilitation trial is also useful to the historian, provided always that we remember how and why that trial was conducted.

By means of such records we may attain to a pretty accurate knowledge of Jeanne d'Arc's life and character.

The salient fact which results from a study of all these authorities is that she was a saint. She was a saint with all the attributes of fifteenth-century sanctity. She had visions, and these visions were neither feigned nor counterfeited. She really believed that she heard the voices which spoke to her and came from no human lips. These voices generally addressed her clearly and in words she could understand. She heard them best in the woods and when the bells were ringing. She saw forms, she said, like myriads of tiny shapes, like sparks on a dazzling background. There is no doubt she had visions of another nature, since she tells us how she beheld Saint Michael in the guise of a prud'homme, that is as a good knight, and Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, wearing crowns. She saw them saluting her; she kissed their feet and inhaled their sweet perfume.

What does this mean if not that she was subject to hallucinations of hearing, sight, touch, and smell? But the most strongly affected of her senses was her hearing. She says that her voices appear to her; she sometimes calls them her council. She hears[Pg xxxiv] them very plainly unless there is a noise around her. Generally she obeys them; but sometimes she resists. We may doubt whether her visions were really so distinct as she makes out. Because she either could not, or would not, she never gave her judges at Rouen any very clear or precise description of them. The angel she described most in detail was the one which brought the crown, and which she afterwards confessed to have seen only in imagination.

At what age did she become subject to these trances? We cannot say exactly. But it was probably towards the end of her childhood, notwithstanding that according to Jean d'Aulon, childhood was a state out of which she never completely developed.[77]

Although it is always hazardous to found a medical diagnosis on documents purely historical, several men of science have attempted to define the pathological conditions which rendered the young girl subject to false perceptions of sight and hearing.[78] Owing to the rapid strides made by psychiatry during recent years, I have consulted an eminent man of science, who is thoroughly conversant with the present stage attained by this branch of pathology, to which he has himself rendered important service. I asked Doctor Georges Dumas, Professor at the Sorbonne, whether sufficient material exists for science to make a retrospective diagnosis of Jeanne's case. He replied to my inquiry in a letter which appears as the first Appendix to this work.[79]

[Pg xxxv]

With such a subject I am not qualified to deal. But it does lie within my province to make an observation concerning the hallucinations of Jeanne d'Arc, which has been suggested to me by a study of the documents. This observation is of infinite significance. I shall be careful to restrict it to the limits prescribed by the object and the nature of this work.

Those visionaries, who believe they are entrusted with a divine mission, are distinguished by certain characteristics from other inspired persons. When mystics of this class are studied and compared with one another, resemblances are found to exist which may extend to very slight details: certain of their words and acts are identical. Indeed as we come to recognise how vigorous is the determinism controlling the actions of these visionaries, we are astonished to find the human machine, when impelled by the same mysterious agent, performing its functions with inevitable uniformity. To this group of the religious Jeanne belongs. In this connection it is interesting to compare her with Saint Catherine of Sienna,[80] Saint Colette of Corbie,[81] Yves Nicolazic, the peasant of Kernanna,[82] Suzette Labrousse, the inspired woman of the Revolution Church,[83] and[Pg xxxvi] with many other seers and seeresses of this order, who all bear a family likeness to one another.

Three visionaries especially are closely related to Jeanne. The earliest in date is a vavasour of Champagne, who had a mission to speak to King John; of this holy man I have written sufficiently in the present work. The second is a farrier of Salon, who had a mission to speak to Louis XIV; the third, a peasant of Gallardon, named Martin, who had a mission to speak to Louis XVIII. Articles on the farrier and the farmer, who both saw apparitions and showed signs to their respective kings, will be found in the appendices at the end of this work.[84] In spite of difference in sex, the points of similarity between Jeanne d'Arc and these three men are very close and very significant; they are inherent in the very nature of Jeanne and her fellow visionaries; and the variations, which at a first glance might seem to separate widely the latter from Jeanne, are æsthetic, social, historical, and consequently external and contingent. Between them and her there are of course striking contrasts in appearance and in fortune. They were entirely wanting in that charm which she never failed to exercise; and it is a fact that while they failed miserably she grew in strength and flowered in legend. But it is the duty of the scientific mind to recognise common characteristics, proving identity of origin alike in the noblest individual and in the most wretched abortion of the same species.

The free-thinkers of our day, imbued as they are,[Pg xxxvii] for the most part, with transcendentalism, refuse to recognise in Jeanne not merely that automatism which determines the acts of such a seeress, not only the influence of constant hallucination, but even the suggestions of the religious spirit. What she achieved through saintliness and devoutness, they make her out to have accomplished by intelligent enthusiasm. Such a disposition is manifest in the excellent and erudite Quicherat, who all unconsciously introduces into the piety of the Maid a great deal of eclectic philosophy. This point was not without its drawbacks. It led free-thinking historians to a ridiculous exaggeration of Jeanne's intellectual faculties, to the absurdity of attributing military talent to her and to the substitution of a kind of polytechnic phenomenon for the fifteenth century's artless marvel. The Catholic historians of the present day when they make a saint of the Maid are much nearer to nature and to truth. Unfortunately the Church's idea of saintliness has grown insipid since the Council of Trent, and orthodox historians are disinclined to study the variations of the Catholic Church down the ages. In their hands therefore she becomes sanctimonious and bigoted. So much so that in a search for the most curiously travestied of all the Jeannes d'Arc we should have been driven to choose between their miraculous protectress of Christian France, the patroness of officers, the inimitable model of the pupils of Saint-Cyr, and the romantic Druidess, the inspired woman-soldier of the national guard, the patriot gunneress of the Republicans, had there not arisen a Jesuit Father to create an ultramontane Jeanne d'Arc.[85]

[Pg xxxviii]

On the subject of Jeanne's sincerity I have raised no doubts. It is impossible to suspect her of lying; she firmly believed that she received her mission from her voices. But whether she were not unconsciously directed is more difficult to ascertain. What we know of her before her arrival at Chinon comes to very little. One is inclined to believe that she had been subject to certain influences; it is so with all visionaries: some unseen director leads them. Thus it must have been with Jeanne. At Vaucouleurs she was heard to say that the Dauphin held the kingdom in fief (en commende).[86] Such a term she had not learnt from the folk of her village. She uttered a prophecy which she had not invented and which had obviously been fabricated for her.

She must have associated with priests who were faithful to the cause of the Dauphin Charles, and who desired above all things the end of the war. Abbeys were being burned, churches pillaged, divine[Pg xxxix] service discontinued.[87] Those pious persons who sighed for peace, now that they saw the Treaty of Troyes failing to establish it, looked for the realisation of their hopes to the expulsion of the English. And the wonderful, the unique point about this young peasant girl—a point suggesting the ecclesiastic and the monk—is not that she felt herself called to ride forth and fight, but that in "her great pity" she announced the approaching end of the war, by the victory and coronation of the King, at a time when the nobles of the two countries, and the men-at-arms of the two parties, neither expected nor desired the war ever to come to an end.

The mission, with which she believed the angel had entrusted her and to which she consecrated her life, was doubtless extraordinary, marvellous; and yet it was not unprecedented: it was no more than saints, both men and women, had already endeavoured to accomplish in human affairs. Jeanne d'Arc arose in the decline of the great Catholic age, when sainthood, usually accompanied by all manner of oddities, manias, and illusions, still wielded sovereign power over the minds of men. And of what miracles was she not capable when acting according to the impulses of her own heart, and the grace of her own mind? From the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries God's servants perform wondrous works. Saint Dominic, possessed by holy wrath, exterminates heresy with fire and sword; Saint Francis of Assisi for the nonce founds poverty as an institution of society; Saint Antony of Padua defends merchants and artisans against the avarice and cruelty of nobles and bishops; Saint Catherine brings the Pope back[Pg xl] to Rome. Was it impossible, therefore, for a saintly damsel, with God's aid, to re-establish within the hapless realm of France that royal power instituted by our Lord Himself and to bring to his coronation a new Joash snatched from death for the salvation of the holy people?

Thus did pious French folk, in the year 1428, regard the mission of the Maid. She represented herself as a devout damsel inspired by God. There was nothing incredible in that. When she announced that she had received revelations touching the war from my Lord Saint Michael, she inspired the men-at-arms of the Armagnac party and the burghers of the city of Orléans with a confidence as great as could have been communicated to the troops, marching along the Loire in the winter of 1871, by a republican engineer who had invented a smokeless powder or an improved form of cannon. What was expected from science in 1871 was expected from religion in 1428, so that the Bastard of Orléans would as naturally employ Jeanne as Gambetta would resort to the technical knowledge of M. de Freycinet.

What has not been sufficiently remarked upon is that the French party made a very adroit use of her. The clerks at Poitiers, while inquiring at great length into her religion and her morals, brought her into evidence. These Poitiers clerks were no monks ignorant of the world; they constituted the Parliament of the lawful King; they were the banished members of the University, men deeply involved in political affairs, compromised by revolutions, despoiled and ruined, and very impatient to regain possession of their property. They were directed by the cleverest man in the King's Coun[Pg xli]cil, the Duke Archbishop of Reims, the Chancellor of the kingdom. By the ceremoniousness and the deliberation of their inquiries, they drew upon Jeanne the curiosity, the interest, and the hopes of minds lost in amazement.[88]

The defences of the city of Orléans consisted in its walls, its trenches, its cannon, its men-at-arms, and its money. The English had failed both to surround it and to take it by assault. Convoys and companies passed between their bastions. Jeanne was introduced into the town with a strong relieving army. She brought flocks of oxen, sheep, and pigs. The townsfolk believed her to be an angel of the Lord. Meanwhile the men and the money of the besiegers were waxing scant. They had lost all their horses. Far from being in a position to attempt a new attack, they were not likely to be able to hold out long in their bastions. At the end of April there were four thousand English before Orléans and perhaps less, for, as it was said, soldiers were deserting every day; and companies of these deserters went plundering through the villages. At the same time the city was defended by six thousand men-at-arms and archers, and by more than three thousand men of the town bands. At Saint Loup, there were fifteen hundred French against four hundred English; at Les Tourelles, there were five thousand French against four or five hundred English. By their retreat from Orléans the Godons abandoned to their fate the small garrisons of Jargeau, Meung, and Beau[Pg xlii]gency.[89] The Battle of Patay gives us some idea of the condition of the English army. It was no battle but a massacre, and one which Jeanne only reached in time to mourn over the cruelty of the conquerors. And yet the King, in his letters to his good towns, attributed to her a share in the victory. Evidently the Royal Council made a point of glorifying its Holy Maid.

But at heart what did they really think, those who employed her, those Regnaults de Chartres, those Roberts le Maçon, those Gérards Machet? They were certainly in no position to discuss the origin of the illusions which enveloped her. And, albeit there were atheists even among churchmen, to the majority there would be nothing to cause astonishment in the appearance of Saint Michael, the Archangel. In those days nothing appeared more natural than a miracle. But a miracle vanishes when closely observed. And they had the damsel before their very eyes. They perceived that good and saintly as she was, she wielded no supernatural power.

While the men-at-arms and all the common folk welcomed her as the maid of God and an angel sent from heaven for the salvation of the realm, these good lords thought only of profiting from the sentiments of confidence which she inspired and in which they had little share. Finding her as ignorant as possible, and doubtless deeming her less intelligent than she really was, they intended to do as they liked with her. They must soon have discovered that it was not always easy. She was a saint, saints are intractable. What were the true relations between[Pg xliii] the Royal Council and the Maid? We do not know; and it is a mystery which will never be solved. The judges at Rouen thought they knew that she received letters from Saint Michael.[90] It is possible that her simplicity was sometimes taken advantage of. We have reason for believing that the march to Reims was not suggested to her in France; but there is no doubt that the Chancellor of the kingdom, Messire Regnault de Chartres, Archbishop of Reims, eagerly desired his restoration to the see of the Blessed Saint Remi and the enjoyment of his benefices.

The coronation campaign was really nothing but a series of negotiations, backed by an army. Its object was to show the good towns a king saintly and pacific. Had there been any idea of fighting, the campaign would have been directed against Paris or against Normandy.

At the inquiry of 1456, five or six witnesses, captains, magistrates, ecclesiastics, and an honest widow, gave evidence that Jeanne was well versed in the art of war. They agreed in saying that she rode a horse and wielded a lance better than any one. A master of requests stated that she amazed the army by the length of time she could remain in the saddle. Such qualities we are not entitled to deny her, neither can we dispute the diligence and the ardour which Dunois praised in her, on the occasion of a demonstration by night before Troyes.[91] As to the opinion that this damsel was clever in arraying and leading an army and especially skilled in the management of artillery, that is more difficult to credit and would require to be vouched for by some one more trustworthy than the poor Duke of Alençon, who was never considered a very rational person.[92] What we[Pg xliv] have said about the rehabilitation trial sufficiently explains this curious glorification of the Maid. It was understood that Jeanne's military inspiration came from God. Henceforth there was no danger of its being too much admired and it came to be praised somewhat at random.

After all the Duke of Alençon was quite moderate when he represented her as a distinguished artillery-woman. As early as 1429, a humanist on the side of Charles VII asserted in Ciceronian language that in military glory she equalled and surpassed Hector, Alexander, Hannibal and Cæsar: "Non Hectore reminiscat et gaudeat Troja, exultet Græcia Alexandro, Annibale Africa, Italia Cæsare et Romanis ducibus omnibus glorietur, Gallia etsi ex pristinis multos habeat, hac tamen una Puella contenta, audebit se gloriari et laude bellica caeteris nationibus se comparare, verum quoque, si expediet, se anteponere."[93]

For ever praying and for ever wrapped in ecstasy, Jeanne never observed the enemy; she did not know the roads; she paid no heed to the number of troops engaged; she did not take into account either the height of walls or the breadth of trenches. Even to-day officers are to be heard discussing the Maid's military tactics.[94] Those tactics were simple; they consisted in preventing men from blaspheming against God and consorting with light women. She believed that for their sins they would be destroyed,[Pg xlv] but that if they fought in a state of grace they would win the victory. Therein lay all her military science, save that she never feared danger.[95] She displayed a courage which was at once proud and gentle; she was more valiant, more constant, more noble than the men and in that worthy to lead them. And is it not admirable and rare to find such heroism united to such innocence?

Certain of the leaders indeed, and notably the princes of the blood royal, knew no more than she. The art of war in those days resolved itself into the art of riding. Any idea of marching along converging lines, of concentrated movements, of a campaign methodically planned, of a prolonged effort with a view to some great result was unknown. Military tactics were nothing more than a collection of peasants' stratagems and a few rules of chivalry. The freebooters, captains, and soldiers of fortune were all acquainted with the tricks of the trade, but they recognised neither friend nor foe; and their one desire was pillage. The nobles affected great concern for honour and praise; in reality they thought of nothing but gain. Alain Chartier said of them: "They cry 'to arms,' but they fight for money."[96]

Seeing that war was to last as long as life, it was waged with deliberation. Men-at-arms, horse-soldiers and foot, archers, cross-bowmen, Armagnacs as well as English and Burgundians, fought with no great ardour. Of course they were brave: but they were cautious too and were not ashamed to confess it. Jean Chartier, precentor of Saint-Denys, chronicler of the Kings of France, relating how on a day[Pg xlvi] the French met the English near Lagny, adds: "And there the battle was hard and fierce, for the French were barely more than the English."[97] These simple folk, seeing that one man is as good as another, admitted the risk of fighting one to one. Their minds had not fed on Plutarch as had those of the Revolution and the Empire. And for their encouragement they had neither the carmagnoles of Barrère, nor the songs of Marie-Joseph Chénier, nor the bulletins of la grande armée. Why did these captains, these men-at-arms go and fight in one place rather than in another seems to be a natural question.... Because they wanted goods.

This perpetual warfare was not sanguinary. During what was described as Jeanne d'Arc's mission, that is from Orléans to Compiègne, the French lost barely a few hundred men. The English suffered much more heavily, because they were the fugitives, and in a rout it was the custom for the conquerors to kill all those who were not worth holding to ransom. But battles were rare, and so consequently were defeats, and the number of the combatants was small. There were but a handful of English in France. And they may be said to have fought only for plunder. Those who suffered from the war were those who did not fight, burghers, priests, and peasants. The peasants endured terrible hardships, and it is quite conceivable that a peasant girl should have displayed a firmness in war, a persistence and an ardour unknown throughout the whole of chivalry.

It was not Jeanne who drove the English from France. If she contributed to the deliverance of Orléans, she retarded the ultimate salvation of France by causing the opportunity of conquering[Pg xlvii] Normandy to be lost through the coronation campaign. The misfortunes of the English after 1428 are easily explained. While in peaceful Guyenne they engaged in agriculture, in commerce, in navigation, and set the finances in good order, the country which they had rendered prosperous was strongly attached to them. On the banks of the Seine and the Loire it was very different; there they had never taken root; in numbers they were always too few, and they had never obtained any hold on the country. Shut up in fortresses and châteaux, they did not cultivate the country enough to conquer it, for one must work on the land if one would take possession of it. They left it waste and abandoned it to the soldiers of fortune by whom it was ravaged and exhausted. Their garrisons, absurdly small, were prisoners in the country they had conquered. The English had long teeth, but a pike cannot swallow an ox. That they were too few and that France was too big had been plainly seen after Crécy and after Poitiers. Then, after Verneuil, during the troubled reign of a child, weakened by civil discord, lacking men and money, and bound to keep in subjection the countries of Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, were they likely to succeed better? In 1428, they were but a handful in France, and to maintain themselves there they depended on the help of the Duke of Burgundy, who henceforth deserted them and wished them every possible harm.

They lacked means alike for the capture of new provinces and the pacification of those they had already conquered. The very character of the sovereignty their princes claimed, the nature of the rights they asserted, which were founded on institutions common to the two countries, rendered the[Pg xlviii] organisation of their conquest difficult without the consent and even, one may say, without the loyal concurrence and friendship of the conquered. The Treaty of Troyes did not subject France to England, it united one country to the other. Such a union occasioned much anxiety in London. The Commons did not conceal their fear that Old England might become a mere isolated province of the new kingdom.[98] France for her part did not concur in the union. It was too late. During all the time that they had been making war on these Coués[99] they had grown to hate them. And possibly there already existed an English character and a French character which were irreconcilable. Even in Paris, where the Armagnacs were as much feared as the Saracens, the Godons[100] met with very unwilling support. What surprises us is not that the English should have been driven from France, but that it should have happened so slowly. Does this amount to saying that the young saint had no part whatever in the work of deliverance? By no means. Hers was the nobler, the better part; the part of sacrifice; she set the example of the highest courage and displayed heroism in a form unexpected and charming. The King's cause, which was indeed the national cause, she served in two ways: by giving confidence to the men-at-arms of her party, who believed her to be a bringer of good fortune, and by striking fear into the English, who imagined her to be the devil.

[Pg xlix]

Our best historians cannot forgive the ministers and captains of 1428 for not having blindly obeyed the Maid. But that was not at all the advice given at the time by the Archbishop of Embrun to King Charles; he, on the contrary, recommended him not to abandon the means inspired by human reason.[101]

It has frequently been repeated that the lords and captains were jealous of her, especially old Gaucourt.[102] But such a statement shows an absolute ignorance of human nature. They were envious one of another; this and no other sentiment was the jealousy that made them tolerate the Maid's assuming the title of commander in war.[103]

Those secret intrigues on the part of the King and his captains, who are said to have plotted together the destruction of the saint, I admit having found it impossible to discover. To certain historians they appear very obvious: for my part, do what I may, I cannot discern them. The Chamberlain, the Sire de la Trémouille, had no pretensions to nobility of character; and the Chancellor Regnault de Chartres was hard-hearted, but what strikes me is that the Sire de la Trémouille refused to give up this valuable damsel to the Duke of Alençon when he asked for her, and that the Chancellor retained her in order to make use of her.[104] I am not of the opinion that Jeanne was a prisoner at Sully. I be[Pg l]lieve that when she went to join the Chancellor, who employed her until her capture by the Burgundians, she quitted the castle in estate, with trumpeters, and banners flying. After the girl saint he employed a boy saint, a shepherd who had stigmata; which proves that he did not regret having made use of a devout person to fight against the King's enemies and to recover his own archbishopric.

The excellent Quicherat and the magnanimous Henri Martin are very hard on the Government of 1428. According to them it was a treacherous Government. Yet the only reproach they bring against Charles VII and his councillors is that they did not understand the Maid as they themselves understood her. But such an understanding has required the lapse of four hundred years. To arrive at the illuminated ideas of a Quicherat and a Henri Martin concerning Jeanne d'Arc, three centuries of absolute monarchy, the Reformation, the Revolution, the wars of the Republic and of the Empire, and the sentimental Neo-Catholicism of '48, have all been necessary. Through all these brilliant prisms, through all these succeeding lights do romantic historians and broad-minded paleographers view the figure of Jeanne d'Arc; and we ask too much from the poor Dauphin Charles, from La Trémouille, from Regnault de Chartres, from the Lord of Trèves, from old Gaucourt, when we require them to have seen Jeanne as centuries have made and moulded her.[105]

This, however, remains: after having made so much use of her, the Royal Council did nothing to save her.[Pg li]

Must the disgrace of such neglect fall upon the whole Council and upon the Council alone? Who ought really to have interfered? And how? What ought King Charles to have done? Should he have offered to ransom the Maid? She would not have been surrendered to him at any price. As for capturing her by force, that is a mere child's dream. Had they entered Rouen, the French would not have found her there; Warwick would always have had time to put her in a place of safety, or to drown her in the river. Neither money nor arms would have availed to recapture her.

But this was no reason for standing with folded arms. Influence could have been brought to bear on those who were conducting the trial. Doubtless they were all on the side of the Godons; that old Cabochien of a Pierre Cauchon was very much committed to them; he detested the French; the clerks, who owed allegiance to Henry VI, were naturally inclined to please the Great Council of England which disposed of patronage; the doctors and masters of the University of France greatly hated and feared the Armagnacs. And yet the judges of the trial were not all infamous prevaricators; the chapter of Rouen lacked neither courage nor independence.[106] Among those members of the University who were so bitter against Jeanne, there were men highly esteemed for doctrine and character. They for the most part believed this trial to be a purely religious one. By dint of seeking for witches, they had come to find them everywhere. These females, as they called them, they were sending to the stake every[Pg lii] day, and receiving nothing but thanks for it. They believed as firmly as Jeanne in the possibility of the apparitions which she said had been vouchsafed to her, only they were persuaded either that she lied or that she saw devils. The Bishop, the Vice-Inquisitor and the assessors, to the number of forty and upwards, were unanimous in declaring her heretical and devilish. There were doubtless many who imagined that by passing sentence against her they were maintaining Catholic orthodoxy and unity of obedience against the abettors of schism and heresy; they wished to judge wisely. And even the boldest and the most unscrupulous, the Bishop and the Promoter, would not have dared too openly to infringe the rules of ecclesiastical justice in order to please the English. They were priests, and they preserved priestly pride and respect for formality. Here was their weak point; in this respect for formality they might have been struck. Had the other side instituted vigorous legal proceedings, theirs might possibly have been thwarted, arrested, and the fatal sentence prevented. If the metropolitan of the Bishop of Beauvais, the Archbishop of Reims, had intervened in the trial, if he had suspended his suffragan for abuse of authority, or some other reason, Pierre Cauchon would have been greatly embarrassed; if, as he decided to do later, King Charles VII had brought about the intervention of the mother and brothers of the Maid; if Jacques d'Arc and la Romée had protested in due form against an action so manifestly one-sided; if the register of Poitiers[107] had been[Pg liii] sent for inclusion among the documents of the trial; if the high prelates subject to King Charles VII had asked for a safe conduct in order to come and give evidence in Jeanne's favour at Rouen; finally, if the King, his Council, and the whole Church of France had demanded an appeal to the Pope, as they were legally entitled to do, then the trial might have had a different issue.

But they were afraid of the University of Paris. They feared lest Jeanne might be after all what so many learned doctors maintained her to be, a heretic, a miscreant seduced by the prince of darkness. Satan transforms himself into an angel of light, and it is difficult to distinguish the true prophets from the false. The hapless Maid was deserted by the very clergy whose croziers had so recently been carried before her; of all the Poitiers masters not one was found to testify in the château of Rouen to that innocence which they had officially recognised eighteen months before.

It would be very interesting to trace the reputation of the Maid down the ages. But to do so would require a whole book. I shall merely indicate the most striking revolutions of public opinion concerning her. The humanists of the Renaissance display no great interest in her: she was too Gothic for them. The Reformers, for whom she was tainted with idolatry, could not tolerate her picture.[108] It seems strange to us to-day, but it is none the less certain, and in conformity with all we know of French feeling for royalty, that whilst the monarchy endured it was the memory of Charles VII that kept alive the memory of Jeanne d'Arc and saved her[Pg liv] from oblivion.[109] Respect due to the Prince generally hindered his faithful subjects from too closely inquiring into the legends of Jeanne as well as into those of the Holy Ampulla, the cures for King's evil, the oriflamme and all other popular traditions relating to the antiquity and celebrity of the royal throne of France. In 1609, when in a college of Paris, the Maid was the subject of sundry literary themes in which she was unfavourably treated,[110] a certain lawyer, Jean Hordal, who boasted that he came of the same race as the heroine, complained of these academic disputes as being derogatory to royal majesty—"I am greatly astonished," he said, "that ... public declamations against the honour of France, of King Charles VII and his Council,[111] should be suffered in France." Had Jeanne not been so closely associated with royalty, her memory would have been very much neglected by the wits of the seventeenth century. In the minds of scholars, Catholics and Protestants alike, who considered the life of St. Margaret as mere superstition,[112] her[Pg lv] apparitions did her harm. In those days even the Sorbonagres themselves were expurgating the martyrology and the legends of saints. One of them, Edmond Richer, like Jeanne a native of Champagne, the censor of the university in 1600, and a zealous Gallican, wrote an apology for the Maid who had defended the Crown of Charles VII.[113] with her sword. Albeit a firm upholder of the liberties of the French Church, Edmond Richer was a good Catholic. He was pious and of sound doctrine; he firmly believed in angels, but he did not believe either in Saint Catherine or Saint Margaret, and their appearing to the Maid greatly embarrassed him. He solved the difficulty by supposing that the angels had represented themselves to the Maid as the two saints, whom in her ignorance she devoutly worshipped. The hypothesis seemed to him satisfactory, "all the more so," he said, "because the Spirit of God, which governs the Church, accommodates himself to our infirmity." Thirty or forty years later, another doctor of the Sorbonne, Jean de Launoy, who was always ferreting after saints, completed the discrediting of Saint Catherine's legend.[114] The voices of Domremy were falling into disrepute.

Take Chapelain, for example, whose poem was first published in 1656. Chapelain is unconsciously burlesque; he is a Scarron without knowing it. It[Pg lvi] is none the less interesting to learn from him that he merely treated his subject as an occasion for glorifying the Bastard of Orléans. He expressly says in his preface: "I did not so much regard her (the Maid) as the chief character of the poem, who, strictly speaking, is the Comte de Dunois." Chapelain was in the pay of the Duc de Longueville, a descendant of Dunois.[115] It is of Dunois that he sings; "the illustrious shepherdess" contributes the marvellous element to his poem, and, according to the good man's own expression, furnishes les machines nécessaires for an epic. Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret are too commonplace to be included among ces machines. Chapelain tells us that he took particular care so to arrange his poem that "everything which happens in it by divine favour might be believed to have taken place through human agency carried to the highest degree to which nature is capable of ascending." Herein we discern the dawn of the modern spirit.

Bossuet also is careful not to mention Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret. The four or five quarto pages which he devotes to Jeanne d'Arc in his "Abrégé de l'Histoire de France pour l'instruction du Dauphin"[116] are very interesting, not for his statement of facts, which is confused and inexact,[117] but for the care the author takes to represent the miraculous deeds attributed to Jeanne in an inciden[Pg lvii]tal and dubious manner. In Bossuet's opinion, as in Gerson's, these things are matters of edification, not of faith. Writing for the instruction of a prince, Bossuet was bound to abridge; but his abridgment goes too far when, representing Jeanne's condemnation to be the work of the Bishop of Beauvais, he omits to say that the Bishop of Beauvais pronounced this sentence with the unanimous concurrence of the University of Paris, and in conjunction with the Vice-Inquisitor.[118]

The eighteenth-century philosophers did not descend on France like a cloud of locusts; they were the result of two centuries of the critical spirit. If the story of Jeanne d'Arc contained too much monkish superstition for their taste, it was because they had learned their ecclesiastical history from the Baillets and the Tillemonts, who were pious indeed, but very critical of legends. Voltaire, writing of Jeanne, jeered at the rascally monks and their[Pg lviii] dupes. But if we quote the lines of La Pucelle, why not also the article[119] in the Dictionnaire Philosophique, which contains three pages of profounder truth and nobler thought than certain voluminous modern works in which Voltaire is insulted in clerical jargon?

It was precisely at the end of the eighteenth century that Jeanne began to be better known and more justly appreciated, first through a little book, which the Abbé Lenglet du Fresnoy derived almost wholly from the unpublished history of old Richer,[120] then by l'Averdy's erudite researches into the two trials.[121]

Nevertheless humanism, and after humanism the Reformation, and after the Reformation Cartesianism, and after Cartesianism experimental philosophy had banished the old credulity from thoughtful minds. When the Revolution came, the bloom had already long faded from the flower of Gothic legend.[Pg lix] It seemed as if the glory of Jeanne d'Arc, so intimately related to the traditions of the royal house of France, could not survive the monarchy, and as if the tempest which scattered the royal ashes of Saint Denys and the treasure of Reims, would also bear away the frail relics and the venerated images of the saint of the Valois. The new régime did indeed refuse to honour a memory so inseparable from royalty and from religion. The festival of Jeanne d'Arc at Orléans, shorn of ecclesiastical pomp in 1791, was discontinued in 1793. Later the Maid's history appeared somewhat too Gothic even to the emigrés; Chateaubriand did not dare to introduce her into his "Génie du Christianisme."[122]

But in the year XI the First Consul, who had just concluded the Concordat and was meditating the restoration of all the pageantry of the coronation, reinstituted the festival of the Maid with its incense and its crosses. Glorified of old in Charles VII's letters to his good towns, Jeanne was now exalted in Le Moniteur by Bonaparte.[123]

Only by constant transformation do the figures of poetry and history live in the minds of nations. Humanity cannot be interested in a personage of old time unless it clothe it in its own sentiments and in its own passions. After having been associated with the monarchy of divine right, the memory of[Pg lx] Jeanne d'Arc came to be connected with the national unity which that monarchy had rendered possible; in Imperial and Republican France she became the symbol of la patrie. Certainly the daughter of Isabelle Romée had no more idea of la patrie as it is conceived to-day than she had of the idea of landed property which lies at its base. She never imagined anything like what we call the nation. That is something quite modern; but she did conceive of the heritage of kings and of the domain of the House of France. And it was there, in that domain and in that heritage, that the French gathered together before forming themselves into la patrie.

Under influences which it is impossible for us exactly to discover, the idea came to her of re-establishing the Dauphin in his inheritance; and this idea appeared to her so grand and so beautiful that in the fulness of her very ingenuous pride, she believed it to have been suggested to her by angels and saints from Paradise. For this idea she gave her life. That is why she has survived the cause for which she suffered. The very highest enterprises perish in their defeat and even more surely in their victory. The devotion, which inspired them, remains as an immortal example. And if the illusion, under which her senses laboured, helped her to this act of self-consecration, was not that illusion the unconscious outcome of her own heart? Her foolishness was wiser than wisdom, for it was that foolishness of martyrdom, without which men have never yet founded anything great or useful. Cities, empires, republics rest on sacrifice. It is not without reason therefore, not without justice that, transformed by enthusiastic imagination, she became the symbol of la patrie in arms.[Pg lxi]

In 1817, Le Brun de Charmettes,[124] a royalist jealous of imperial glory, wrote the first patriotic history of Jeanne d'Arc. The history is an able work. It has been followed by many others, conceived in the same spirit, composed on the same plan, written in the same style. From 1841 to 1849, Jules Quicherat, by his publication of the two trials and the evidence, worthily opened an incomparable period of research and discovery. At the same time, Michelet in the fifth volume of his "Histoire de France," wrote pages of high colour and rapid movement, which will doubtless remain the highest expression of the romantic art as applied to the Maid.[125]

But of all the histories written between 1817 and 1870, or at least of all those with which I have made acquaintance, for I have not attempted to read them all, the most discerning in my opinion is the fourth book of Vallet de Viriville's "Histoire de Charles VII" in which his chief preoccupation is to place the Maid in that group of visionaries to which she really belongs.[126]

Wallon's book has been widely circulated if not widely read. A monotonous, conscientious work moderately enthusiastic, it owes its success to its unimpeachable exactitude.[127] If there must be an orthodox Jeanne d'Arc to suit fashionable persons, then for such a purpose, M. Marius Sepet's representation of the Maid would be equally exact and more graceful.[128]

[Pg lxii]

After the war of 1871, the twofold influence of the patriotic spirit, exalted by defeat, and the revival of Catholicism among the middle class gave a new impetus to admiration of the Maid. Arts and letters completed the transfiguration of Jeanne.

Catholics, like the learned Canon Dunand,[129] vie in zeal and enthusiasm with free-thinking idealists like M. Joseph Fabre.[130] By reproducing the two trials in a very artistic manner, in modern French and in a direct form of speech, M. Fabre has popularised the most ancient and the most touching impression of the Maid.[131]

From this period date almost innumerable works of erudition, among which must be noted those of Siméon Luce, which henceforth no one who would treat of Jeanne's early years can afford to neglect.[132]

We are equally indebted to M. Germain Lefèvre-Pontalis for his fine editions and his discerning studies so eruditely graceful and exact.

Throughout this period of romantic and Neo-Catholic enthusiasm the arts of painting and sculpture produced numerous representations of Jeanne, which had hitherto been very rare. Now everywhere were to be found Jeanne in armour and on horseback, Jeanne in prayer, Jeanne in captivity, Jeanne suffering martyrdom. Of all these images expressing in different manners and with varying merit the taste and the sentiment of the period, one[Pg lxiii] work only appears great and true, and of striking beauty: Rude's Jeanne d'Arc beholding a vision.[133]

The word patrie did not exist in the days of the Maid. People spoke of the kingdom of France.[134] No one, not even jurists, knew exactly what were its limits, which were constantly changing. The diversity of laws and customs was infinite, and quarrels between nobles were constantly arising. Nevertheless, men felt in their hearts that they loved their native land and hated the foreigner. If the Hundred Years' War did not create the sentiment of nationality in France, it fostered it. In his "Quadrilogue Invectif" Alain Chartier represents France, indicated by her robe sumptuously adorned with the emblems of the nobility, of the clergy and of the tiers état, but lamentably soiled and torn, adjuring the three orders not to permit her to perish. "After the bond of the Catholic faith," she says to them, "Nature has called you before all things to unite for the salvation of your native land, and for the defence of that lordship under which God has caused you to be born and to live."[135] And these are not the mere maxims of a humourist versed in the virtues of antiquity. On the hearts of humble Frenchmen it was laid to serve the country of their birth. "Must the King be driven from his kingdom, and must we become English?" cried a man-at-arms of Lorraine in 1428.[136] The subjects of the Lilies, as well as those of the Leopard, felt it incumbent upon[Pg lxiv] them to be loyal to their liege lord. But if any change for the worse occurred in the lordships to which they belonged, they were quite ready to make the best of it, because a lordship must increase or decrease, according to power and fortune, according to the good right or the good pleasure of the holder; it may be dismembered by marriages, or gifts, or inheritance, or alienated by various contracts. On the occasion of the Treaty of Bretigny, which seriously narrowed the dominions of King John, the folk of Paris strewed the streets with grass and flowers as a sign of rejoicing.[137] As a matter of fact, nobles changed their allegiance as often as it was necessary. Juvénal des Ursins relates in his Journal[138] how at the time of the English conquest of Normandy, a young widow was known to quit her domain with her three children in order to escape doing homage to the King from beyond the seas. But how many Norman nobles were like her in refusing to swear fealty to the former enemies of the kingdom? The example of fidelity to the king was not always set by those of his own family. The Duke of Bourbon, in the name of all the princes of the blood royal, prisoners with him in the hands of the English, proposed to Henry V that they should go and negotiate in France for the cession of Harfleur, promising that if the Royal Council met them with refusal they would acknowledge Henry V to be King of France.[139]

Every one thought first of himself. Whoever possessed land owed himself to his land; his neighbour was his enemy. The burgher thought only of[Pg lxv] his town. The peasant changed his master without knowing it. The three orders were not yet united closely enough to form, in the modern sense of the word, a state.

Little by little the royal power united the French. This union became stronger in proportion as royalty grew more powerful. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, that desire to think and act in common, which creates great nations, became very strong among us—at least in those families which furnished officers to the Crown—and it even spread among the lower orders of society. Rabelais introduces François Villon and the King of England into a tale so inflamed with military bravado that it might have been told over the camp fire in an almost identical manner by one of Napoleon's grenadiers.[140] In his preface to the poem we have just quoted, Chapelain writes of the occasions when "la patrie who is our common mother, has need of all her children." Already the old poet expresses himself like the author of the Marseillaise.[141]

It cannot be denied that the feeling for la patrie did exist under the old régime. The impulse imparted to this sentiment by the Revolution was none the less immense. It added to it the idea of national unity and national territorial integrity. It extended to all the right of property hitherto reserved to a small number, and thus, so to speak, divided la patrie among the citizens. While rendering the peasant capable of possessing, the new régime imposed upon him the obligations of defending his actual or potential possessions. Recourse to arms is a necessity alike for whomsoever acquires or wishes[Pg lxvi] to acquire territory. Hardly had the Frenchman come to enjoy the rights of a man and of a citizen, hardly had he entered into possession or thought he might enter into possession of a home and lands of his own, when the armies of the Coalition arrived "to drive him back to ancient slavery." Then the patriot became a soldier. Twenty-three years of warfare, with the inevitable alternations of victories and defeats, built up our fathers in their love of la patrie and their hatred of the foreigner.

Since then, as the result of industrial progress, there have arisen in one country and another, rivalries which are every day growing more bitter. The present methods of production by multiplying antagonism among nations, have given rise to imperialism, to colonial expansion and to armed peace.

But how many contrary forces are at work in this formidable creation of a new order of things! In all countries the great development of trade and manufactures has given birth to a new class. This class, possessing nothing, having no hope of ever possessing anything, enjoying none of the good things of life, not even the light of day, does not share the fear which haunted the peasant and burgher of the Revolution, of being despoiled by an enemy coming from abroad; the members of this new class, having no wealth to defend, regard foreign nations with neither terror nor hatred. At the same time over all the markets of the world there have arisen financial powers, which, although they often affect respect for old traditions, are by their very functions essentially destructive of the national and patriotic spirit. The universal capitalist system has created in France, as everywhere else, the internationalism of the workers and the cosmopolitanism of the financiers.[Pg lxvii]

To-day, just as two thousand years ago, in order to discern the future, we must regard not the enterprises of the great but the confused movements of the working classes. The nations will not indefinitely endure this armed peace which weighs so heavily upon them. Every day we behold the organising of an universal community of workers.

I believe in the future union of nations, and I long for it with that ardent charity for the human race, which, formed in the Latin conscience in the days of Epictetus and Seneca, and through so many centuries extinguished by European barbarism, has been revived in the noblest breasts of modern times. And in vain will it be argued against me that these are the mere dream-illusions of desire: it is desire that creates life and the future is careful to realise the dreams of philosophers. Nevertheless, that we to-day are assured of a peace that nothing will disturb, none but a madman would maintain. On the contrary, the terrible industrial and commercial rivalries growing up around us indicate future conflicts, and there is nothing to assure us that France will not one day find herself involved in a great European or world conflagration. Her obligation to provide for her defence increases not a little those difficulties which arise from a social order profoundly agitated by competition in production and antagonism between classes.

An absolute empire obtains its defenders by inspiring fear; democracy only by bestowing benefits. Fear or interest lies at the root of all devotion. If the French proletariat is to defend the Republic heroically in the hour of peril, then it must either be happy or have the hope of becoming so. And what use is it to deceive ourselves? The lot of the[Pg lxviii] workman to-day is no better in France than in Germany, and not so good as in England or America.

On these important subjects I have not been able to forbear expressing the truth as it appears to me; there is a great satisfaction in saying what one believes useful and just.

It now only remains for me to submit to my readers a few reflections on the difficult art of writing history, and to explain certain peculiarities of form and language which will be found in this work.

To enter into the spirit of a period that has passed away, to make oneself the contemporary of men of former days, deliberate study and loving care are necessary. The difficulty lies not so much in what one must know as in what one must not know. If we would really live in the fifteenth century, how many things we must forget: knowledge, methods, all those acquisitions which make moderns of us. We must forget that the earth is round, and that the stars are suns, and not lamps suspended from a crystal vault; we must forget the cosmogony of Laplace, and believe in the science of Saint Thomas, of Dante, and of those cosmographers of the Middle Age who teach the Creation in seven days and the foundation of kingdoms by the sons of Priam, after the destruction of Great Troy. Such and such a historian or paleographer is powerless to make us understand the contemporaries of the Maid. It is not knowledge he lacks, but ignorance—ignorance of modern warfare, of modern politics, of modern religion.

But when we have forgotten, as far as possible, all that has happened since the youth of Charles VII,[Pg lxix] in order to think like a clerk in exile at Poitiers, or a burgher at Orléans serving on the ramparts of his city, we must recover all our intellectual resources in order to embrace the entirety of events, and discover that sequence between cause and effect which escape the clerk or the burgher. "I have contracted my horizon," says the Chatterton of Alfred de Vigny, when he explains how he is conscious of nothing that has happened since the days of the old Saxons. But Chatterton wrote poems, pseudo chronicles, and not history. The historian must alternately contract his horizon and widen it. If he undertake to tell an old story, he must needs successively—or sometimes at one and the same moment—assume the credulity of the folk he restores to life, and the discernment of the most accomplished critic. By a strange process, he must divide his personality. He must be at once the ancient man and the modern man; he must live on two different planes, like that curious character in a story by Mr. H.G. Wells, who lives and moves in a little English town, and all the time sees herself at the bottom of the ocean.

I have carefully visited cities and countries in which the events I propose to relate took place. I have seen the valley of the Meuse amidst the flowers and perfumes of spring, and I have seen it again beneath a mass of mist and cloud. I have travelled along the smiling banks of the Loire, so full of renown; through La Beauce, with its vast horizons bordered with snow-topped mountains; through l'Île-de-France, where the sky is serene; through La Champagne, with its stony hills covered with those low vines which, trampled upon by the coronation army, bloomed again into leaves and fruit, says the legend, and by St. Martin's Day yielded a late but[Pg lxx] rich vintage.[142] I have lingered in barren Picardy, along the Bay of the Somme so sad and bare beneath the flight of its birds of passage. I have wandered through the fat meadows of Normandy to Rouen with its steeples and towers, its ancient charnel houses, its damp streets, its last remaining timbered houses with high gables. I have imagined these rivers, these lands, these châteaux and these towns as they were five hundred years ago.

I have accustomed my gaze to the forms assumed by the beings and the objects of those days. I have examined all that remains of stone, of iron, or of wood worked by the hands of those old artisans, who were freer and consequently more ingenious than ours, and whose handicraft reveals a desire to animate and adorn everything. To the best of my ability I have studied figures carved and painted, not exactly in France—for there, in those days of misery and death, art was little practised—but in Flanders, in Burgundy, in Provence, where the workmanship is often in a style at once affected and naif, and frequently beautiful. As I gazed at the old miniatures, they seemed to live before me, and I saw the nobles in the absurd magnificence of their étoffes à tripes,[143] the dames and the damoiselles somewhat devilish with their horned caps and their pointed shoes; clerks seated at the desk, men-at-arms riding their chargers and merchants their mules, husbandmen performing from April till March all the tasks of the rural calendar; peasant women, whose broad coifs are still worn by nuns. I drew near to these folk, who were our fellows, and who yet differed[Pg lxxi] from us by a thousand shades of sentiment and of thought; I lived their lives; I read their hearts.

It is hardly necessary to say that there exists no authentic representation of Jeanne. In the art of the fifteenth century all that relates to her amounts to very little: hardly anything remains—a small piece of bestion tapestry, a slight pen-and-ink figure on a register, a few illuminations in manuscripts of the reigns of Charles VII, Louis XI, and Charles VIII, that is all. I have found it necessary to contribute to this very meagre iconography of Jeanne d'Arc, not because I had anything to add to it, but in order to expunge the contributions of the forgers of that period. In Appendix IV, at the end of this work, will be found the short article in which I point out the forgeries which, for the most part, are already old, but had not been previously denounced. I have limited my researches to the fifteenth century, leaving to others the task of studying those pictures of the Renaissance in which the Maid appears decked out in the German fashion, with the plumed hat and slashed doubtlet of a Saxon ritter or a Swiss mercenary.[144] I cannot say who served as a prototype for these portraits, but they closely resemble the woman accompanying the mercenaries in La Danse des morts, which Nicholas Manuel painted at Berne, on the wall of the Dominican Monastery, between 1515 and 1521.[145] In le Grand[Pg lxxii] Siècle Jeanne d'Arc becomes Clorinda, Minerva, Bellona in ballet costume.[146]

To my mind a continuous story is more likely than any controversy or discussion to make my subject live, and bring home its verities to my readers. It is true that the documents relating to the Maid do not lend themselves very easily to this kind of treatment. As I have just shown, they may nearly all be regarded as doubtful from several points of view, and objections to them arise at every moment. Nevertheless, I think that by making a cautious and judicious use of these documents one may obtain material sufficient for a truthful history of considerable extent. Besides, I have always indicated the sources of my facts, so that every one may judge for himself of the trustworthiness of my authorities.

In the course of my story I have related many incidents which, without having a direct relation to Jeanne, reveal the spirit, the morals, and the beliefs of her time. These incidents are usually of a religious order. They must necessarily be so, for Jeanne's story—and I cannot repeat it too often—is the story of a saint, just like that of Colette of Corbie, or of Catherine of Sienna.

I have yielded frequently, perhaps too frequently, to the desire to make the reader live among the men and things of the fifteenth century. And in order not to distract him suddenly from them, I have avoided suggesting any comparison with other periods, although many such occurred to me.

My history is founded on the form and substance of ancient documents; but I have hardly ever introduced into it literal quotations; I believe that[Pg lxxiii] unless it possesses a certain unity of language a book is unreadable, and I want to be read.

It is neither affectation of style nor artistic taste that has led me to adhere as far as possible to the tone of the period and to prefer archaic forms of language whenever I thought they would be intelligible, it is because ideas are changed when words are changed and because one cannot substitute modern for ancient expressions without altering sentiments and characters.

I have endeavoured to make my style simple and familiar. History is too often written in a high-flown manner that renders it wearisome and false. Why should we imagine historical facts to be out of the ordinary run of things and on a scale different from every-day humanity?

The writer of a history such as this is terribly tempted to throw himself into the battle. There is hardly a modern account of these old contests, in which the author, be he ecclesiastic or professor, does not with pen behind ear, rush into the mêlée by the side of the Maid. Even at the risk of missing the revelation of some of the beauties of her nature, I deem it better to keep one's own personality out of the action.

I have written this history with a zeal ardent and tranquil; I have sought truth strenuously, I have met her fearlessly. Even when she assumed an unexpected aspect, I have not turned from her. I shall be reproached for audacity, until I am reproached for timidity.

I have pleasure in expressing my gratitude to my illustrious confrères, MM. Paul Meyer and Ernest Lavisse, who have given me valuable advice. I owe much to M. Petit Dutaillis for certain kindly observations which I have taken into consideration.[Pg lxxiv] I am also greatly indebted to M. Henri Jadart, Secretary of the Reims Academy; M. E. Langlois, Professor at the Faculté des Lettres of Lille; M. Camille Bloch, some time archivist of Loiret, M. Noël Charavay, autographic expert, and M. Raoul Bonnet.

M. Pierre Champion, who albeit still young is already known as the author of valuable historical works, has placed the result of his researches at my disposal with a disinterestedness I shall never be able adequately to acknowledge. He has also carefully read the whole of my work. M. Jean Brousson has given me the advantage of his perspicacity which far surpasses what one is entitled to expect from one's secretary.

In the century which I have endeavoured to represent in this work, there was a fiend, by name Titivillus. Every evening this fiend put into a sack all the letters omitted or altered by the copyists during the day. He carried them to hell, in order that, when Saint Michael weighed the souls of these negligent scribes, the share of each one might be put in the scale of his iniquities. Should he have survived the invention of printing, surely this most properly meticulous fiend must to-day be assuming the heavy task of collecting the misprints scattered throughout the books which aspire to exactitude; it would be very foolish of him to trouble about others. As occasion requires he will place those misprints to the account of reader or author. I am infinitely indebted to my publishers and friends MM. Calmann, Lévy and to their excellent collaborators for the care and experience they have employed in lightening the burden, which Titivillus will place on my back on the Day of Judgment.

Paris, February, 1908.


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