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Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc
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Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by the Sieur Louis de Conte is an 1896 novel by Mark Twain that recounts the life of Joan of Arc. It is Twain's last completed novel, published when he was 61 years old. The novel is presented as a translation (by "Jean Francois Alden") of memoirs by Louis de Conte, a fictionalized version of Joan of Arc's page, Louis de Contes. The novel is divided into 3 sections according to Joan of Arc's development: a youth in Domremy, a commander of the army of Charles VII of France, and a defendant at trial in Rouen. Originally, the novel was published as a serialization in Harper's Magazine beginning in April 1895. Twain, aware of his reputation as a comic, asked that each installment appear anonymously so that readers will treat the piece seriously. Regardless, his authorship soon became known, and the book edition published by Harper and Brothers in May 1896 credited Mark Twain. Distinctly lacking the humor prevalent in his other works, this novel has a different tone and flow from Twain's other works. He had a personal fascination with Joan of Arc that began in the early 1850s when he found a leaf from her biography and asked his brother Henry if she was a real person. Twain claimed to have worked harder on this book than any other. In a letter to H.H. Rogers he said, "I have never done any work before that cost so much thinking and weighing and measuring and planning and cramming ... on this last third I have constantly used five French sources and five English ones, and I think no telling historical nugget in any of them has escaped me." The published book lists eleven official sources as "authorities examined in verification of the truthfulness of this narrative." Despite Twain's claim of devoting 14 years towards the book's creation, historians today agree that the bulk of Twain's investigation was conducted during his prolonged stay in Europe during the early 1890s, which included multiple stops in France. Twain seems to have drawn most of his information from two sources: the fifth volume of Jules Michelet's epic Histoire de France and Jules Quicherat's own Proces de condamnation et de rehabilitation de Jeanne d'Arc. At this time, Joan of Arc's story was relatively unknown especially in English-speaking nations, which makes Twain's research noteworthy. Twain based his descriptions of Joan of Arc on his daughter, Susy Clemens, as he remembered her at the age of seventeen. Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 - April 21, 1910), better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called "The Great American Novel." Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which provided the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. After an apprenticeship with a printer, he worked as a typesetter and contributed articles to the newspaper of his older brother, Orion Clemens. He later became a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River before heading west to join Orion in Nevada. He referred humorously to his singular lack of success at mining, turning to journalism for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. In 1865, his humorous story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," was published, based on a story he heard at Angels Hotel in Angels Camp, California, where he had spent some time as a miner. The short story brought international attention, and was even translated into classic Greek. His wit and satire, in prose and in speech, earned praise from critics and peers, and he was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty."
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