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PAGE 2

Joan Of Arc
by [?]

Great was the throne of France even in those days, and great was he that sate upon it: but well Joanna knew that not the throne, nor he that sate upon it, was for her; but, on the contrary, that she was for them; not she by them, but they by her, should rise from the dust. Gorgeous were the lilies of France, and for centuries had the privilege to spread their beauty over land and sea, until, in another century, the wrath of God and man combined to wither them; but well Joanna knew, early at Domremy she had read that bitter truth, that the lilies of France would decorate no garland for her. Flower nor bud, bell nor blossom, would ever bloom for her.

But stop. What reason is there for taking up this subject of Joanna precisely in this spring of 1847? Might it not have been left till the spring of 1947? or, perhaps, left till called for? Yes, but it is called for; and clamorously. You are aware, reader, that amongst the many original thinkers, whom modern France has produced, one of the reputed leaders is M. Michelet. All these writers are of a revolutionary cast; not in a political sense merely, but in all senses; mad, oftentimes, as March hares; crazy with the laughing-gas of recovered liberty; drunk with the wine-cup of their mighty Revolution, snorting, whinnying, throwing up their heels, like wild horses in the boundless pampas, and running races of defiance with snipes, or with the winds, or with their own shadows, if they can find nothing else to challenge. Some time or other, I, that have leisure to read, may introduce you, that have not, to two or three dozen of these writers; of whom I can assure you beforehand that they are often profound, and at intervals are even as impassioned as if they were come of our best English blood, and sometimes (because it is not pleasant that people should be too easy to understand) almost as obscure as if they had been suckled by transcendental German nurses. But now, confining our attention to M. Michelet–who is quite sufficient to lead a man into a gallop, requiring two relays, at least, of fresh readers,–we in England–who know him best by his worst book, the book against Priests, etc., which has been most circulated–know him disadvantageously. That book is a rhapsody of incoherence. M. Michelet was light-headed, I believe, when he wrote it: and it is well that his keepers overtook him in time to intercept a second part. But his History of France is quite another thing. A man, in whatsoever craft he sails, cannot stretch away out of sight when he is linked to the windings of the shore by towing ropes of history. Facts, and the consequences of facts, draw the writer back to the falconer’s lure from the giddiest heights of speculation. Here, therefore–in his France,–if not always free from flightiness, if now and then off like a rocket for an airy wheel in the clouds, M. Michelet, with natural politeness, never forgets that he has left a large audience waiting for him on earth, and gazing upwards in anxiety for his return: return, therefore, he does. But History, though clear of certain temptations in one direction, has separate dangers of its own. It is impossible so to write a History of France, or of England–works becoming every hour more indispensable to the inevitably-political man of this day–without perilous openings for assault. If I, for instance, on the part of England, should happen to turn my labors into that channel, and (on the model of Lord Percy going to Chevy Chase)–

—-“A vow to God should make
My pleasure in the Michelet woods
Three summer days to take,”

–probably from simple delirium, I might hunt M. Michelet into delirium tremens. Two strong angels stand by the side of History, whether French History or English, as heraldic supporters: the angel of Research on the left hand, that must read millions of dusty parchments, and of pages blotted with lies; the angel of Meditation on the right hand, that must cleanse these lying records with fire, even as of old the draperies of asbestos were cleansed, and must quicken them into regenerated life. Willingly I acknowledge that no man will ever avoid innumerable errors of detail: with so vast a compass of ground to traverse, this is impossible: but such errors (though I have a bushel on hand, at M. Michelet’s service) are not the game I chase: it is the bitter and unfair spirit in which M. Michelet writes against England. Even that, after all, is but my secondary object: the real one is Joanna, the Pucelle d’Orleans for herself.