MRS. BRAY'S "JOAN OF ARC."*
Mns. BRAY has a knack of choosing historical characters that are always welcome, and of investing them with an individuality that her pen alone can furnish ; whilst, as old friends in a new dress, they never fail to secure our sympathy and our respect Of late Tears, she has selected her favourites from French soil ; first, it was the Good St. Louis, the Crusader king ; then Jean Cavalier, the boy-leader of the Camisards ; and now Joan of Arc, the war- rior Maid, battling for her king and country, and wresting town after town from their English foes. Mrs. Bray prefaces her story of Joan of Arc by a succinct résumé of affairs in France, and of the circumstances that culminated in the famous siege of Orleans.
Beginning with the Treaty of Troyes, by which the Dauphin was to be excluded from his naturalsuccession to the throne of France, she touches on-the strange spectacle of the Queen of France siding against her own son, on the King of England marrying that Queen's daughter, and on his triumphal entry into Paris as Regent of France, so soon to be followed by an early death, predicting in his last moments, says Hollingshed, that "Henry born at Mon- mouth was destined to reign briefly and conquer largely, but Henry born at Windsor will reign long and lose all." Then comes an -account of the funeral of Charles VI. of France, of the situation of affairs under the vigorous regency of the Duke of Bedford ; and
that series of struggles for the possession of the soil and
• Joan el Arc. and the rinses of Charles V.U., King of France. By Mrs. Bray. London : 43riffith and Farrar'. 1874.
mastery of France which was so favourable to the English, that that country was brought to the verge of ruin, and her last hope became centred on the town of Orleans. As it was here that Joan of Arc first appeared upon the scene of war, Mrs. Bray pauses in her narrative to take her readers to the little village of Domremi, afterwards so memorable as the birthplace of the Maid of
Orleans. She does not enter into the questions that were so rife across the Channel a few years ago as to her nationality,
as to whether she was a Lorrainer, a- Champenese, or a Barrese, and if being a Barrese, she were French, but proceeds at once to describe the influences and associations of her early life. We are glad -to see that Mrs. Bray has held to the old spelling of the Maid's name, " d'A.rc," in preference to" Dare"; some French historians, and notably Michelet, Henri Martin, and Valet de
Viriville write the name" Darc," and if that spelling be the more accurate, then English writers should write "Joan Dam," and not "Joan of Arc." But " Dare " means nothing. " D'Arc," on the other hand, is the name of a locality, and would imply that one of Joan's ancestors came from the little town of Arc, in Champagne. There is another argument in favour of " d'Are," which was put forward in 1854 by M. Renard. Peter of Arc, Joan's younger
brother, did not adopt the fleurs-de-lys, though Mrs. Bray thinks differently, when the family wasennobled by Charles VU., but pre- ferred retaining a bow (arc) and arrows on his coat-of-arms, proving thereby that he regarded his-name as "of Arc," and not "Dare." We-think, therefore, that good reason can be shown for retaining the traditional spelling of " d'Arc." With regard to -the Maid's Christian name, Mrs. Bray tells us that she was baptised.-at the font of the old church of St. Remi, and -named Jeanne, but in the Proces de Condemnation et de Re'habilitation de 'Jeanne d'Arc, published by the Societe de rilistoire de France,-it is stated that
her real baptismal name was Jeannette, though the French have always called her Jeanne. As a child, writes Mrs. Bray,-
' She was a constant attendant at matins and vespers; was often seen to pray between the hours of service, even in the fields. Whenever opportunity occurred she would steal into the church, throw herself on her knees before the image of the holy Virgin and her infant Son, raise her eyes and hands, and remain wrapt in an ecstasy of devotion. The beautiful painted glass in the old windows had a charm for her that was irresistible, as she gazed on her favourite saints, St. Catherine and St. Margaret, rich in Gothic glory. She delighted in the sweet knoll of the church bells, and would reproach the sacristan if he biped to ring them, and promised him a reward if he would be more regular. When she gathered the flowers of the field, she would make garlands for the holy images; and never failed to bring her offering of a taper on particular days for the shrine of the blessed Virgin."
Thus early did she spend the leisure moments she could snatch from watching her father's sheep. Everything tends to show that from her youngest days she was of an impressionable nature, earnest in all she did, 'serious, and given to reverie, and fond of solitude ; " if to all this are added the zeal and enthusiasm, fanned into intensity by what her " voices " told her, it is not surprising that when the time came for her to start on her appointed mission she should have regarded herself as on no earthly errand sent. It accounts for her being looked upon by her countrymen as an angel sent by Heaven, and by her foes as a witch, in league with fiends ; the success and completeness with which she delivered Orleans, and secured the coronation of the French monarch in the city of Rheims, did but confirm the opinions already expressed as to what manner of woman she was. And when at last she was taken prisoner by the Burgundians and sold to the English, the latter had learnt to consider her as the cause of all their reverses, and in fierce and revengeful mood would be appeased with nothing less than her blood. Her last moments may best be given in Mrs. Brays own words :— " Strange does it seem that when the executioner came to bind her to the stake she was heard repeatedly to call aloud on St. Michael, as if his form, now in the last moments of her life, was before her as it had _been at the commencement of her career, when she declared that it was St. Michael who appeared to convey to her the commands of God. She was bound without the slightest resistance. The executioner approached, the fatal torch in his hand. She screamed, and then spoke in hurried accents to her confessor. A great shout of exultation arose from the
soldiery. In the midst of the tumult she was heard calling upon God, Jesus, Marie! my voices, my voices!' Could there be a doubt, in the moments of expiring life, in the midst of the tortures of her cruel agony, whether she believed in the reality of her mission ? 'Yes,' she repeated, whilst the flames were ascending around her, my voices were of God ! All that I have done was by the command of God. No, my voices did not deceive me : my revelations were of God ' The flames increased, and ascended still higher. The monks -at her side did not heed them,—they thought only of Jeanne; she saw their danger, and bade them descend. They obeyed, but remained at the base of the pile holding up the crucifix, the emblem of her Lord's sufferings, that it might, if possible, be the last thing that met her eyes before her spirit was admitted to the light of the martyr's glory. Nothing more was heard from her but invocations to God, interrupted by the cries of her long-drawn agony. So dense were the clouds of smoke, that at one time she could not be seen. A sudden gust of wind turned the current of the flaming whirlwind, and Jeanne was seen for a few moments. She gave one terrific cry, pronounced the name of Jesus, bowed her head, and the spirit returned to God who gave it. Thus perished Jeanne, the Maid of Orleans."
Had she returned with her parents to her village home, as she desired, after-Jhe coronation, the deed to which Englishmen look back withishame and horror would have remained undone ; but she was prevailed upon to remain with the army she had so often led to victorylandlthe result was that she became, as someone has expressedfit, the heroine of history, instead of the heroine of romance. Through the fierce raging of the war Mrs. Bray guides her readers, and! details in a skilful and graphic way the various conflicts which history has handed down, and in which inch by inch the English 'were driven from the soil of France. By putting Joan of Arc to death, the Duke of Bedford terminated the English ascendancy in France, for "death was her triumph, and from the ashes of her execution-pile at Rouen twee the regeneratediliberty of France."
And whileithis martyrdom was being accomplished in Rouen, where was Charles VIL, the Sovereign for whom she had saved Orleans, and won the crown of France ? If he or any of his leaders had appeared during this scene at the head of a few fol- lowers, the:interruption would undoubtedly have saved the Maid, for all Rouen was with her,—" men as well as women wept and sobbed, while cries and groans of sympathy filled the air;" but eight hundred English men-at-arms were around the Maid, and clamour- ing for her death. The French King's heartless abandonment of her is more tope condemned than even the guilt of Bedford and the English chiefs ; to her he owed everything, yet he neither attempted to ransom her from her Burgundian captors, nor to save her from the vengeance of the English soldiery ; the latter verily believed her to be a sorceress, but Charles had always professed to regard her as a "Heaven-sent deliverer." We do not remember if there is any evidence to show that Henry VI. of England was a witness of the burning of Joan of Arc ; there is no doubt, we believe, that he was in Rouen at the time, probably under the care of the Duke of Bedford, who was soon to crown him King of France in the Cathedral of Notre Dame; but Mrs. Bray is silent on this point. During the twenty years that followed the Maid's death, a revulsion of feeling set in throughout France touching her cruel fate, and a cry was raised that some expiation was due to her memory. Charles VIL had entered Paris in triumph as the lawful Sovereign ; all Normandy had been reconquered ; Castillon had fallen, and in the attack the venerable John Talbot, who for forty years had been the scourge of France, was slain; Bordeaux was the last to succumb ; and France was now all her own save the solitary seaport of Calais. But the French people had not yet recognised the importance of the Maid's great work, which began with the relief of Orleans and terminated in the capture of Bordeaux. And it was not till 1455 that the old and feeble mother of Joan of Arc, entering the Cathedral of Notre Dame, as she leant on the arm of her son Pierre, and being followed by a train of clergy, nobles, and people, "demanded of those prelates who acted under the commission of the Pope to do justice to the memory of her daughter Jeanne d'Arc, accused and put to death, on charges able false and wicked, in the city of Rouen." Then first was full justice awarded in France to the memory of Joan of Arc.
We heartily thank Mrs. Bray for this interesting version of Joan of Arc. It is as good as anything she has written, and in these days of vapid writing, it is pleasant to come across a book penned in the same easy, ,readable style that long ago used to call forth words of praise from Southey. Its substance is taken from authorities of high standing, and the narrative throughout is accurate and trustworthy. Mrs. Bray has represented Joan of Arc as a figure taken out of a niche inactual history, and not, like Schiller in his famous tragedy, as an ideal character. She has shown her to be a girl "tall, stout-limbed, well-looking, and strong from her out-of-door occupation of watching sheep ;" and awshe grew, so did her "imaginings ;" these, assisted by her naturally enthusiastic temperament, her solitude, and her strong religious feelings, caused her to hear the " voices" in which she believed to the last Mrs. Bray has produced a pleasing and true portrait of the Maid of Orleans, bringing out the traits of her character with careful and tender touch, and showing that, in spite of her soldiering, she was still a pure and noble woman.