Mark Twain’s work on Joan of Arc is titled in full “Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by the Sieur Louis de Conte.” De Conte is identified as Joan’s page and secretary. For those who’ve always wanted to “get behind” the Joan of Arc story and to better understand just what happened, Twain’s narrative makes the story personal and very accessible.
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in the words of the published book, “Freely Translated out of the Ancient French into Modern English from the Original Unpublished Manuscript in the National Archives of France.”
It was originally published as a serialization in Harper’s Magazine beginning in 1895 and later published in book form in 1896. However the Harper’s editors decided to cut 12 chapters that describe much of Joan’s Great Trial, saying the chapters were not suitable for serialization since, “They will not bear mutilation or interruption, but must be read as a whole, as one reads a drama.” This recording contains the complete text!
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.
Twain said, “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 needed no preparation and got none.” (Summary by Wikipedia and John Greenman)
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