Mark Twain published a fictionalized account of the life of Joan of Arc in several installments in 1895 and 96. Twain, known for comedic works suck as Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, wrote his piece on Joan of Arc out of genuine adulation for the Maid of Orleans. Twain considered Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc to be his finest work. Below, in honor of Joan of Arc’s feast day, I re-print the beginning of Twain’s fictional “translator’s preface” from Recollections:
To arrive at a just estimate of a renowned man’s character one must judge it by the standards of his time, not ours. Judged by the standards of one century, the noblest characters of an earlier one lose much of their luster; judged by the standards of to-day, there is probably no illustrious man of four or five centuries ago whose character could meet the test at all points. But the character of Joan of Arc is unique. It can be measured by the standards of all times without misgiving or apprehension as to the result. Judged by any of them, it is still flawless, it is still ideally perfect; it still occupies the loftiest place possible to human attainment, a loftier one than has been reached by any other mere mortal.