18 AUGUST 1866, Page 20


Wno amongst us has not at one time or another heard an oft told tale, with the repetition of which our very ear wearied, narrated with a freshness and, by force of some subtle sympathy in the mind of the narrator, with a vividness which invested the stale facts with a wholly new interest ? We think Miss Parr has accomplished just this in the story before us. We confess to hav- ing taken up these volumes with a languid foreboding that we knew the whole history by heart, and could find nothing new, nor have we. No hidden facts are brought forward to satisfy the appetite of the curious, and there is no fountain of fresh thought opened up at which the student may slake his thirst. The writing is not heavy, but neither is it brilliant, and yet we venture to assert that no one will read these volumes through without a conviction that his trouble is repaid, that the picture he has so often studied is somehow hung in a new light. There are several causes at work to produce this result external to the subject. It is Miss Parr's merit or good fortune that she has written at a moment when men turn eagerly to all kinds of mental photography. More and more is it becoming the creed of the English nineteenth century that " The individual dwindles, and the whole is more and more." And almost in proportion to a man's acceptance of this creed is his admiration for the individualism of a medimval age. It is true no doubt that the masses are of more consequence than the few, that a company with its irresponsibility is more powerful than a single individual, and that every " enthusiasm of hu- manity," from the liberation of a nation to the sick man's club, is the better for federation, but the crowd oppresses us none the less. We are not free, but parts of a whole, of a whole we would fain help, but whose weight crushes us, till we turn a more than half regretful look back to the men who single-handed and alone dared work out their own distinctive destiny, even winning, as they mostly did, but a crown of thorns. Then the history before us falls in with much that snits the taste for intellectual introspection of the present hour. The baptism of suffering through which all ab- solutely great natures pass is no new problem, but it is one which Englishmen have for the moment (probably a short one) leisure to analyze, and with which by force of their own mental condition they have a keen sympathy. It is worth while, too, while using the machinery their genius or their wisdom set in motion to see the "hand that made the engine, or those that with the fineness of their souls by reason guide his execution." The village maid of Domremy awoke France from a lethargy into which she has never again fallen, and proved the vitality of heroism even in the France of 1412. It is a strange story, when one thinks of it. No wonder, when then, as now, " Heaven's great ones were slandered by earth's little," men refused to believe the story in its simplicity. The village girl of seventeen, unable even to write, spinning in the cottage home or leading sheep to pasture, and all the while living " a second life within her laborious actual life, a life more real and absorbing, the life of her soul, which by great powers and great sufferings was to be annealed for a great destiny." As usual, the vessel into which the divine wine was to be poured was first emptied. Home and early friends, and all that makes life dear to most women, the Maid gave up, in obedience, as she said (and who is high enough to say she dreamed ?) to the heavenly message. The voices which she called her council she heard in every sound of nature, " in the ripple of the fountain of Domremy, "in the breathings of every wind." Possibly even in this life the pure in heart and single in purpose may be recipients of a wisdom which to the eye and ear of ordinary " middlingness" sounds strangely like hallucination. Probably in Jeanne d'Arc's case her vivid imagination induced her to clothe all outward notice of the burning enthusiasm, the inward voice, that moved her in parable. If so, the mode of expression she chose, and to which she to the end adhered, was in itself no mean evidence of much occult wisdom. The men who, she wanted to help her would have had little confidence in her skill but for their belief in her Heaven, sent powers ; and the English feared not her, but the devil by whose aid they firmly believed she worked. It is worth noticing, that utter inability on the part of the English to believe that any power from above could be against them, and yet with all the force of ignorance to fear a power from below still more. " What, sent from God against them Nay, sent of the devil, rather," laughed Suffolk, Talbot, and Glasdale. " Sent of the devil," muttered the men. " That was still worse, worse ! Had the powers of hell never prevailed ? Why, their luck was beginning The !ye and Death of fame d Arc, called The Maid. By Harriet Parr. London: Smith, Elder, and Co. 1866.

to change already." The description of the state of feeling in the English camp before Orleans is very good :-

" In the camp before Orleans was the flower of their armies ; heroes who had fought with Henry V.; men whose backs no enemy had ever seen ; graybeard warriors, and sons of such graybeards, who did not know what fear was ; the best bone and muscle that England bred, the- stoutest hearts that beat under mail. And now all this glory, honour, might, was to vanish. A reverse was to come upon them : a reverse sudden, swift, to themselves utterly inexplicable, save on the theory that God or the devil fought with their adversaries. They were superstitious-pious soldiery ; they were assured that they did well in taking away the dominion of France from her false and cruel princes they had been so long prosperous, that it was impossible for them to conceive of God going over to the other side. When therefore terror fell upon them, with defeat, humiliation, grievous destruction, they referred all their calamities to satanic agency; and as the mediaeval• Satan was a very real and practical power amongst men, they gave way before him, supposing that he was to reign for a season, and that their turn and God's would come again by and by."

That turn has not yet come. " It is more than four centuries. gone, but Orleans still keeps the day of its deliverance, a festival in honour of God and the Maid," but the hour of success gave birth to her first foreboding for her own future. The King's most intimate councillors could not wholly disguise their jealousy, and henceforth Jeanne, whoiad known no fear, " feared naught but treachery." It was at the moment when all looked brightest she was " conscious of treason in the air." But the dim foreboding which the very weight of her own glory was sure to press on her never for an instant swayed her purpose. Charles was to be crowned at Rheims; till then she could know no rest, and through a sea of difficulty she fought his way, and the future of France was changed. In Charles she saw and worshipped only her own high ideal, the King divinely appointed to• rule France, unite its dismembered provinces, and spread peace and prosperity through the length and breadth of the land, and as far as Charles was concerned she was leaning on a reed that bent with every wind of pleasure or fear that blew upon him. His retreat from Paris must have been to her a bitter blow. Happily no disaster ever shook her faith in the ultimate result of her work—the stake itself never did that—but when we look at her for an instant, with her swift-glancing eye and intuitive foresight guiding or urging on her soldiers to certain victory, see her standing alone on the brink of the moat before Saint Pierre le Moustier, when her men had fled, urging on her imaginary army to the attack, till the very force of her hallucina- tion (or possibly subtle wisdom) recalled her panic-stricken soldiers, and her army was no longer a phantom, and its victory no imaginary one. Then trace her course at another moment, multitudes thronging to catch sight of her, following her with blessings, hailing her as their deliverer, and believing her very touch conveyed a blessing ; watch her meeting with the King after the great victory without which " Charles, seventh of the name," had never mounted the throne of France, her journey one triumph, and the people thinking the King would have em- braced her for the joy he felt ; and then to know that when the first dark hour should fall upon her she would find "no friend who would pay a ransom for her or try a rescue ;" that before the year was fairly out she should be sold to her enemies, and Burgundy and Jean of Luxembourg quietly pocket the price of her blood ; and looking yet further on some five and twenty years, when her name was once more honoured and use- less crosses erected to her memory, we are painfully reminded that the stern sarcasm has lost none of its force through the pro- gress of the ages, "Your fathers killed the prophets, but ye build their sepulchres." Popular history ascribes her death to the Eng- lish, but Frerichmen sold her, and French priests condemned her_ MissParr has not told the old story over again altogether in vain ; from the hour the Maid was sold her book is filled with the tedious details of what Pierre Cauchon was pleased to call " a beautiful trial," tedious with a lengthened accuracy which sometimes stamps conviction on the brain—not the first hasty conclusion, " the people were not worthy for whom all this was done," but the conviction that there was noble blood still in the race that could give her birth, that the Voice which told her of a nobler destiny for France, was not silenced when she perished.