Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Part 1


[Qu. Hev., No. 138. March, 1842.]

1. Collection des Chroniques Nationales Francaises. Par M. Buchon. 36 vols. Paris, 1826.
2. Collection Complete des Memoires relatifs a l'Histoire de France. Par M. Petitot, Premiere Serie, 52 vols. Seconde Serie, par MM. Petitot et Monmerque, 78 vols. Paris 1819-1829.
3. Collection des Memoires relatifs a l' Histoire de France. Par M. Guizot. 30 vols. Paris, 1823-1835.
4. Archives Curieuses de Histoire de France. Premiere Serie, 15 vols. Seconde Serie, 12 vols. Paris, 1834-1841.
5. Proces de Jeanne d'Arc. Par Jules Quicherat. Premier tome. Paris, 1841.

If we compare the progress of historical publications in France and England during the last twenty or thirty years we shall find but little ground for selfgratulation. Our Record Commission comprised most able men: it was animated by the best intentions; but in its results it has brought forth only misshapen and abortive works--all begun apparently without rule or method--scarce any yet completed, and scarce any deserving to be so--all of different forms and sizes--and alike only in the enormous amoimt of the expense incurred, and the almost utter worthlessness of the information afforded. Never before, according to the farmer's phrase, was there so much cry and so much cost with so little wool. Amongst the French, on the contrary, there have been--without the need of government grants or government commissions--some well-combined undertakings to collect, arrange, and publish the most valuable documents in their language, from their early chronicles down to their modem memoirs. These have been printed in regular succession, and in one uniform and convenient size, affording to the public a clear and excellent type, combined with a moderate price. We do not pretend to have read at any time all or nearly all the two hundred volumes which our title-page displays. Some of their contents also were known to us from former and separate publications; but so far as our reading in this edition is extended, we have found the biographical introductions clear, critical, and able, and the text, while not overlaid, suficiently explained, with notes. We think very great praise is due to the various editors, MM. Buchon, Petitot, Monmerque, and last, not least, that eminent writer no less than statesman, M. Guizot. And we heartily commend these volumes to the purchase and perusal of all who value French history--to the emulation of all who value our own.

To review in a few pages several hundred volumes and several hundred years would be a vain and frivolous attempt. We shall prefer to single out somci one period and some one subject, which we shall endeavour to illustrate, not only from the publications now before us, but from whatever other sources may supply. Let us take one of the most remarkable characters in ancient or modem times, Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans. The eighth volume of M. Petitot's 'Collection' contains many ancient documents referring to her history,--an original letter, for example, from the Sire de Laval to his mother, describing her appearance at Court--and some memoirs written, beyond all doubt, by a contemporary, since the writer refers to information which he received from the chiefs at the siege of Orleans : nay, written probably, as M. Petitot conjectures from their abrupt termination, in the very year of that siege.

But these are by no means the only nor the most important documents to be consulted. It is well known that at the trial in 1431 Joan was herself examined at great length, together with many other witnesses. A new trial of "revision," with the view to clear her memory from the stain of the first, was undertaken by order of King Charles in 1456; and at this second trial several of her kinsmen, of her attendants, of her companions in arms, appeared to give their testimony. Now, manuscript copies of all these remarkable depositions exist in the public libraries, both of Paris and Geneva. They have been illustrated by MM. de Laverdy and Lebrun de Charmettes, and more recently by the superior skill of De Barante and Sismondi.* Of these last we shall especially avail ourselves ; and by combining and comparing such original records, many of them descending to the most familiar details, and nearly all unknown till more recent times, we hope make the English reader, at least, better acquainted than he may hitherto have been with the real character and history of the heroine.

* De Barante, 'Histoire des Dues de Bourgognc,' vol. v. pp. 270--360, and vol. vi. pp. 1--140 ; Sismondi, 'Histoire des Francais;' vol. xiii, pp. 115--194,


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