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Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc

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Mark Twain's work on Joan of Arc is titled in full Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by the Sieur Louis de Conte who is identified further as Joan's page and secretary. The work is fictionally presented as a translation from the manuscript by Jean Francois Alden, or, in the words of the published book, "Freely Translated out of the Ancient French into Modern English from the Original Unpublished Manuscript in the National Archives of France".

The work was originally published as a serialization in Harper's Magazine beginning in 1895 and later published in book form in 1896. It is now in the public domain, and may be found for free on the internet, though the most current edition of the book has been published by Ignatius Press since 1989, and also contains, in an appendix, Mark Twain's essay titled "Saint Joan of Arc".

De Conte is a fictionalized version of Joan of Arc's page Louis de Contes, and provides narrative unity to the story. He is presented as an individual who was with Joan during the three major phases of her life - as a youth in Domremy, as the commander of Charles' army on military campaign, and as a defendant at the trial in Rouen. The book is presented as a translation by Alden of de Conte's memoirs, written in his later years for the benefit of his descendants.

Twain based his descriptions of Joan of Arc on his daughter, Susy Clemens, as he remembered her at the age of seventeen.[1]


I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others need no preparation and got none.

Mark Twain

Twain had a personal fascination with Joan, and initially penned this novel under a pseudonym. It has a very different feel and flow from Twain's other works. There is a distinct lack of humor so prevalent in his other works. This is a mature Twain writing about a subject of his own personal interest.

Twain considered this, his last finished novel, to be his best and most important work, a view not shared by critics then or since. Iconoclastic author George Bernard Shaw, in the preface to his play Saint Joan, accuses Twain of being "infatuated" with Joan of Arc. Shaw says that Twain "romanticizes" the story of Joan, reproducing the legend that the English conducted a trial deliberately rigged to find Joan guilty of witchcraft and heresy. Recent scholarship of the trial transcripts has suggested that Twain's belief may have been closer to the truth than Shaw was willing to accept.[2]


  • Ward, Geoffrey C., Duncan, Dayton, and Burns, Ken, (2001). Mark Twain: An Illustrated Biography. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40561-5.

Notes and sources

  1. Ward Duncan and Burns (2001), p. 159
  2. Joan of Arc: Her Story, by Regine Pérnoud and Marie-Véronique Clin, translated by Jeremy Duquesnay Adams, published by St. Martin's Griffin (New York, 1999) ISBN 0-312-22730-2

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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