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her strange case. To some she has been a miracle and as such excites a romantic or religious fervor. To others she has been a puzzling problem of psychology and as such arouses a sort of scientific curiosity.
"To be frank," wrote Anatole France, "the critic should say: 'Sir, I am going to speak of myself a propos of Shakespeare, of Racine, of Pascal, or of Goethe. It is indeed, an excellent opportunity.'" So might he have added “of Joan
If this is true of critics, then how much more so of dramatists, poets, novelists. (Anatole France would include historians as well.) They have all spoken of themselves a propos of Joan of Arc. It has, indeed, been an excellent opportunity.
Chapelain in the seventeenth century bored his world with a tiresome Joan, at whose expense Voltaire enjoyed his own malicious fun. Voltaire entitled his burlesque La Pucelle d'Orleans but used it chiefly to attack "l'infâme"superstition, bigotry, and intolerance. He was mainly occupied with the love affairs of Charles VII and Agnes Sorel and saved his satire for Joan's judges and for the saintly machinery of the miracle.
Even some [the judges] as long heads might be treated
Voltaire, moreover, takes great pleasure in proposing, in his most mock heroic manner, three new candidates for Hell. Number One is Clovis, the first Christian king of France; Number Two is Constantine, the first Christian emperor; Number Three is no other than Dominic, the saint and founder of the Inquisition. A work such as Voltaire's, a mocking poetic skit, written to entertain a circle of bons vivants, cannot, however, be compared with the serious work of the nineteenth century.
It is in the nineteenth century that Joan becomes the object of serious historical research, Quicherat's five volumes serving as the foundation for most of the later studies. Joan, however, was also the theme for romantic titillations
and the butt of certain skeptic scoffers. With Schiller she became romantic, with Michelet, lovable, with Mark Twain, sentimental. Anatole France robbed her of her halo, which Andrew Lang hastened gallantly to return. Bernard Shaw has explained her in the light of his pet modern ideas, and Joseph Delteil claims to behold her still on the streets of Paris, a typist in a poke hat.
Of them all, those presenting greatest contrast are the studies of Anatole France, Bernard Shaw, and Joseph Delteil. Delteil's work has recently received the Prix Femina in Paris, a guaranty of novelty rather than of permanent value. In 1908 appeared, in two volumes, the Life of Joan of Arc by Anatole France, at which he had worked for some twenty years. Divided in interest between the Maid and Rabelais, whom he had enthroned on equal pedestals in his library, he chose the Maid. He chose her for various reasons; because of the charm which the simple always held for his dilettante complexity, because of the attraction which the inexplicable always exerted over his rational skepticism. He chose her because above all she was France and in his heart he loved her for her gaiety, her bold directness.
Moreover, Anatole France did not wish the priests to monopolize her universal figure. In his Life he is led by his hatred of them even to disfigure his heroine in a vain attempt to snatch her from their hands. His story is not unified in tone. It changes, now Voltairian in its irony, now sincere in its poetic artistry, at times naïve in the simplicity of its telling, at others bitter in its suspicion of fraud. His descriptions of Domremy, of the chapel and the fountain, evoke the memory of France, the artist. His tales of the saints, however, included in generous numbers, are shot with mockery. He writes of the sacred ampoule of Rheims: "And on the day of consecration this ampoule, with the permission of God, happens always to be full." He speaks with his tongue in his cheek of the miracles of Saint Catherine of Fierbois.
Perhaps these miracles [prisoners' escapes] might have been less frequent if the English had kept a greater force in France, but they lacked men in Normandy, shut themselves up in cities, abandoned the country-side to the partisans who ravaged the land, carried off convoys and in this manner greatly favored the intervention of Madame Saint Catherine.
With all his eighteenth-century license, the unctous Jérôme Coignard says little that is more malicious than the Francian rendering of Orleans' prayerful state.
In those days God made himself greatly to be feared; He was almost as terrible as in the days of the Philistines. The poor sinners were afraid of being ill received, should they address themselves to Him in their afflictions; it was better, so they believed, to take a diagonal way and have recourse to the intercession of Our Lady and the Saints. God respected His Mother and made an effort to please Her on all occasions. Likewise He showed deference to the Blessed seated beside Him in Paradise and He willingly listened to the requests which they brought Him.
The thesis of Anatole France, if such there be, is that Joan was made to function by the men of the Church. "Let us not be too greatly moved to discover these pious frauds without which the marvels of the Maid would not have been produced. Much art and even a little artfulness are always necessary to accredit innocence." He claims that Joan was never given command of the army, that she knew little of military science and was rather the "porte-bonheur," the symbol of hope to the needy and credulous French. It was not she who really drove the English from France and although she helped free Orleans, still, by her own insistence (inspired by the clergy) on the consecration at Rheims, she rather retarded than aided the recovery of Normandy. Her mission, its inspiration, and its results he would criticize. From her own courage and power of sacrifice, however, he would in no way detract.
she did better than the others, not because she knew more; she knew less than they. But she had a greater heart. When each was thinking of himself, she alone thought of them all; when each was safeguarding himself, she sought for herself no protection, having in advance made offer of herself in full without stint or measure. And this child who, like all human creatures, feared suffering and death, to whom her Voices, her presentiments, had announced that she would be wounded, went straight on and remained beneath the shots of the arrows and the lead of the culverines, erect on the edge of the moat, her standard in her hand, to rally the combatants.
Even Andrew Lang can wax no more eloquent in praise of the Maid herself. At the trial in Rouen the skeptic's voice is not only warm with pity but ringing with indignation. "Tortured both by the princes of the Church and ruffians of the army, she endured in body and spirit suffering intolerable to ordinary human nature; she endured it and neither her constancy, her faith nor her divine hope, one might almost add, nor her gaiety were affected by it." At war with the Church this skeptic Janus is at peace with Joan. "Her folly was wiser than wisdom, for it was the folly of martyrdom without which men have yet founded nothing great nor useful in the world. Cities, empires, republics repose on sacrifice."
"Anatole France is not anti-Joan," wrote Bernard Shaw in the preface to his play. "He is anti-mystic, anti-clerical, and fundamentally unable to believe that there ever was any such person as the real Joan." Shaw not only gives his interpretation of the Maid, but defines her ideal biographer. The latter must be "free from nineteenth century prejudices and biases, must understand the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire much more intimately than our Whig historians have ever understood · them, and must be capable of throwing off sex partialities and their romance and regarding woman as the female of the species and not as a different kind of animal with specific
charms and specific imbecility." Is Bernard Shaw this ideal biographer?
To him Joan is a visualizer, "a born boss," "mentally excessive with a passion for soldiering and masculine life." "She is a sane and shrewd country girl of extraordinary strength of mind and hardihood of body." She is "one of the first Protestant martyrs," "judicially burnt, ostensibly for a number of capital crimes which we no longer punish as such but essentially for what we call unwomanly and insufferable presumption."
Shaw would defend her as a superior mind and will, endowed with an unusually vivid imagination and an appetite for evolution. The unusual imagination explains her visions; the evolutionary appetite her sacrifice. The lesson that she brings, for there is always a lesson with G. B. S., is that were this "pioneer of rational dressing for women" to return to earth today, she would again be persecuted. Intolerance has not vanished and "all evolution in thought and conduct first appear as heresies and misconduct." People are today as credulous as those of the Middle Ages; only today our credulity is expressed on other
Outshawing Shaw in his rather successful effort to "épater le bourgeois," Joseph Delteil dedicates his strange mixture of fantastic hors d'oeuvres, his "book of love," to "simple souls, to foolish hearts, to children, to virgins, to angels
Can the dots be indicative of a desire to swell the list at a future date? The present list of patrons and patronesses bids well to include all those to whom this book of love will forever remain a closed mystery.
The evident purpose of the author is to project a modern Joan upon the screen, reincarnated from the ranks of French working girls. His Joan is a cinematographic heroine snapped in strange "close-ups," a comic figure which cannot be taken seriously. Surely such was not the author's purpose. He intended to make her human, a living figure, and he has succeeded in making her earthy and of the flesh. To him she is "a big peasant girl of France, moulded of