Joan Of Arc
The historical novel is one of those flexible inventions which can he fitted to
the mood or genius of any writer, and can be either story or history in the
proportion he prefers. Walter Scott, who contrived it, tested its elasticity as
fully as any of the long line of romancers who have followed him in every land
and language. It has been a favorite form with readers from the first, and it
will be to the last, because it gives them the feeling that to read so much
about people who once lived and figured in human events is not such a waste of
time as to read of people who never lived at all, or figured in anything but the
author\'s fancy. With a race like ours, which always desires a reason, or at
least an excuse, for enjoying itself, this feeling no doubt availed much for
fiction, and helped to decide the fate of the novel favorably when its
popularity was threatened by the good, stupid Anglo-Saxon conscience. Probably
it had the largest share in establishing fiction as a respectable literary form,
and in giving it the primacy which it now enjoys. Without the success of the
monstrous fables which the gentle Sir Walter palmed off upon his generation in
the shape of historical fiction, we should hardly have revered as masters in a
beautiful art the writers who have since swayed our emotions. Jane Austen, Miss

Edgeworth, Hawthorne, Thackeray, George Eliot, Mr. Henry James, might have
sought a hearing from serious persons in vain for the truth that was in them if
the historical novel had not established fiction in the respect of our race as a
pleasure which might be enjoyed without self- reproach, or as the sugar of a
pill which would be none the less powerful in its effects upon the system
because it was agreeable to take. It would be interesting to know, but not very
pertinent to inquire, how far our great humorist\'s use of the historical form in
fiction was prompted by love of it, or by an instinctive perception that it was
the only form in which he could hope to deliver a message of serious import
without being taken altogether in jest. But, at any rate, we can be sure that in
each of Mark Twain\'s attempts of this sort, in the Prince and the Pauper, in the

Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur\'s Court, and in the Personal Recollections of

Joan of Arc, he was taken with the imaginative -- that is to say, the true --
nature of his theme, and that he made this the channel of the rich vein of
poetry which runs through all his humor and keeps it sound whether it is
grotesque or whether it is pathetic in effect. The first of these three books is
addressed to children, but it is not children who can get the most out of it;
the last is offered to the sympathy and intelligence of men and women, and yet I
should not be surprised if it made its deepest and most lasting appeal to the
generous heart of youth. But I think that the second will remain the enduring
consolation of old and young alike, and will be ranged in this respect and as a
masterpiece of humor beside the great work of Cervantes. Since the Ingenious

Gentleman of La Mancha there is nothing to compare with the Yankee at the Court
of King Arthur, and I shall be very much disappointed in posterity if it does
not agree with me. In that colossally amusing scheme, that infinitely suggestive
situation, the author was hampered by no such distinct records as he has had to
grapple with in his Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc. He could launch
himself into a realm of fable and turn it into fact by virtue of his own strong
and vivid reality while in a scene whose figures and events are all ascertained
by history his fancy has had to work reversely, and transmute the substance into
the airy fabric of romance. The result will not be accepted without difficulty
by two sorts of critics: the sort who would have had him stick closer to the
conventional ideal of the past, as it has been derived from other romancers, and
the sort who would have had him throw that altogether away and trust to his own
divinations of its life and spirit from the events as set down and from his
abundant knowledge of human