Saturday, February 19, 2011

Great Women of History - MADAME DE STAËL - The Woman In Literature

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A. D. 1766-1817.

It was two hundred years after woman began to reign in the great cities of Europe as queen of society, before she astonished the world by brilliant literary successes. Some of the most famous women who adorned society recorded their observations and experiences for the benefit of posterity; but these productions were generally in the form of memoirs and letters, which neither added to nor detracted from the splendid position they occupied because of their high birth, wit, and social fascinations. These earlier favorites were not courted by the great because they could write, but because they could talk, and adorn courts, like Madame de Sévigné. But in the eighteenth century a class of women arose and gained great celebrity on account of their writings, like Hannah More, Miss Burney, Mrs. Macaulay, Madame Dacier, Madame de la Fayette,--women who proved that they could do something more than merely write letters, for which women ever have been distinguished from the time of Héloïse.
At the head of all these women of genius Madame de Staël stands pre-eminent, not only over literary women, but also over most of the men of letters in her age and country. And it was only a great age which could have produced such a woman, for the eighteenth century was more fruitful in literary genius than is generally supposed. The greatest lights, indeed, no longer shone,--such men as Shakspeare, Bacon, Milton, Corneille, Racine, Boileau, Molière,--but the age was fruitful in great critics, historians, philosophers, economists, poets, and novelists, who won immortal fame, like Pope, Goldsmith, Johnson, Addison, Gibbon, Bentley, Hume, Robertson, Priestley, Burke, Adam Smith, in England; Klopstock, Goethe, Herder, Schiller, Lessing, Handel, Schlegel, Kant, in Germany; and Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Marmontel, D'Alembert, Montesquieu, Rollin, Buffon, Lavoisier, Raynal, Lavater, in France,--all of whom were remarkable men, casting their fearless glance upon all subjects, and agitating the age by their great ideas. In France especially there was a notable literary awakening. A more brilliant circle than ever assembled at the Hôtel de Rambouillet met in the salons of Madame Geoffrin and Madame de Tencin and Madame du Deffand and Madame Necker, to discuss theories of government, political economy, human rights,--in fact, every question which moves the human mind. They were generally irreligious, satirical, and defiant; but they were fresh, enthusiastic, learned, and original They not only aroused the people to reflection, but they were great artists in language, and made a revolution in style.
It was in this inquiring, brilliant, yet infidel age that the star of Madame de Staël arose, on the eve of the French Revolution. She was born in Paris in 1766, when her father--Necker--was amassing an enormous fortune as a banker and financier, afterwards so celebrated as finance minister to Louis XVI. Her mother,--Susanne Curchod,--of humble Swiss parentage, was yet one of the remarkable women of the day, a lady whom Gibbon would have married had English prejudices and conventionalities permitted, but whose marriage with Necker was both fortunate and happy. They had only one child, but she was a Minerva. It seems that she was of extraordinary precocity, and very early attracted attention. As a mere child Marmontel talked with her as if she were twenty-five. At fifteen, she had written reflections on Montesquieu's "Spirit of Laws," and was solicited by Raynal to furnish an article on the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. So brilliant a girl was educated by her wealthy parents without regard to expense and with the greatest care. She was fortunate from the start, with unbounded means, surrounded with illustrious people, and with every opportunity for improvement both as to teachers and society,--doubtless one important cause of her subsequent success, for very few people climb the upper rounds of the ladder of literary fame who are obliged to earn their living; their genius is fettered and their time is employed on irksome drudgeries.
Madame de Staël, when a girl, came very near losing her health and breaking her fine constitution by the unwise "cramming" on which her mother insisted; for, although a superior woman, Madame Necker knew very little about the true system of education, thinking that study and labor should be incessant, and that these alone could do everything. She loaded her daughter with too many restraints, and bound her by a too rigid discipline. She did all she could to crush genius out of the girl, and make her a dictionary, or a machine, or a piece of formality and conventionalism. But the father, wiser, and with greater insight and truer sympathy, relaxed the cords of discipline, unfettered her imagination, connived at her flights of extravagance, and allowed her to develop her faculties in her own way. She had a remarkable fondness for her father,--she adored him, and clung to him through life with peculiar tenderness and devotion, which he appreciated and repaid. Before she was twenty she wrote poetry as a matter of course. Most girls do,--I mean those who are bright and sentimental; still, she produced but indifferent work, like Cicero when he was young, and soon dropped rhyme forever for the greater freedom of prose, into which she poured from the first all the wealth of her poetic soul. She was a poet, disdaining measure, but exquisite in rhythm,--for nothing can be more musical than her style.
As remarked in the lecture on Madame Récamier, it is seldom that people acquire the art of conversation till middle life, when the mind is enriched and confidence is gained. The great conversational powers of Johnson, Burke, Mackintosh, Coleridge, Wilkes, Garrick, Walpole, Sydney Smith, were most remarkable in their later years, after they had read everything and seen everybody. But Madame de Staël was brilliant in conversation from her youth. She was the delight of every circle, the admiration of the most gifted men,--not for her beauty, for she was not considered beautiful, but for her wit, her vivacity, her repartee, her animated and sympathetic face, her electrical power; for she could kindle, inspire, instruct, or bewitch. She played, she sang, she discoursed on everything,--a priestess, a sibyl, full of inspiration, listened to as an oracle or an idol. "To hear her," says Sismondi, "one would have said that she was the experience of many souls mingled into one, I looked and listened with transport. I discovered in her features a charm superior to beauty; and if I do not hear her words, yet her tones, her gestures, and her looks convey to me her meaning." It is said that though her features were not beautiful her eyes were remarkable,--large, dark, lustrous, animated, flashing, confiding, and bathed in light. They were truly the windows of her soul; and it was her soul, even more than her intellect, which made her so interesting and so great. I think that intellect without soul is rather repulsive than otherwise, is cold, critical, arrogant, cynical,--something from which we flee, since we find no sympathy and sometimes no toleration from it. The soul of Madame de Staël immeasurably towered above her intellect, great as that was, and gave her eloquence, fervor, sincerity, poetry,--intensified her genius, and made her irresistible.
It was this combination of wit, sympathy, and conversational talent which made Madame de Staël so inordinately fond of society,--to satisfy longings and cravings that neither Nature nor books nor home could fully meet. With all her genius and learning she was a restless woman; and even friendship, for which she had a great capacity, could not bind her, or confine her long to any one place but Paris, which was to her the world,--not for its shops, or fashions, or churches, or museums and picture-galleries, or historical monuments and memories, but for those coteries where blazed the great wits of the age, among whom she too would shine and dazzle and inspire. She was not without heart, as her warm and lasting friendships attest; but the animating passion of her life was love of admiration, which was only equalled by a craving for sympathy that no friendship could satisfy,--a want of her nature that reveals an ardent soul rather than a great heart; for many a warm-hearted woman can live contentedly in retirement, whether in city or country,--which Madame de Staël could not, not even when surrounded with every luxury and all the charms of nature.
Such a young lady as Mademoiselle Necker--so gifted, so accomplished, so rich, so elevated in social position--could aspire very high. And both her father and mother were ambitious for so remarkable a daughter. But the mother would not consent to her marriage with a Catholic, and she herself insisted on a permanent residence in Paris. It was hard to meet such conditions and yet make a brilliant match; for, after all, her father, though minister, was only a clever and rich Swiss financier,--not a nobleman, or a man of great family influence. The Baron de Staël-Holstein, then secretary to the Swedish embassy, afterwards ambassador from Sweden, was the most available suitor, since he was a nobleman, a Protestant, and a diplomatist; and Mademoiselle Necker became his wife, in 1786, at twenty years of age, with a dowry of two millions of francs. Her social position was raised by this marriage, since her husband was a favorite at court, and she saw much of the Queen and of the great ladies who surrounded her.
But the marriage was not happy. The husband was extravagant and self-indulgent; the wife panted for beatitudes it was not in his nature to give. So they separated after a while, but were not divorced. Both before and after that event, however, her house was the resort of the best society of the city, and she was its brightest ornament. Thither came Grimm, Talleyrand, Barnave, Lafayette, Narbonne, Sieyès,--all friends. She was an eye-witness to the terrible scenes of the Revolution, and escaped judicial assassination almost by miracle. At last she succeeded in making her escape to Switzerland, and lived a while in her magnificent country-seat near Geneva, surrounded with illustrious exiles. Soon after, she made her first visit to England, but returned to Paris when the violence of the Revolution was over.
She returned the very day that Napoleon, as First Consul, had seized the reins of government, 1799. She had hailed the Revolution with transport, although she was so nearly its victim. She had faith in its ideas. She believed that the people were the ultimate source of power. She condoned the excesses of the Revolution in view of its aspirations. Napoleon gained his first great victories in defence of its ideas. So at first, in common with the friends of liberty, she was prepared to worship this rising sun, dazzled by his deeds and deceived by his lying words. But she no sooner saw him than she was repelled, especially when she knew he had trampled on the liberties which he had professed to defend. Her instincts penetrated through all the plaudits of his idolaters. She felt that he was a traitor to a great cause,--was heartless, unboundedly ambitious, insufferably egotistic, a self-worshipper, who would brush away everything and everybody that stood in his way; and she hated him, and she defied him, and her house became the centre of opposition, the headquarters of enmity and wrath. What was his glory, as a conqueror, compared with the cause she loved, trodden under foot by an iron, rigid, jealous, irresistible despotism? Nor did Napoleon like her any better than she liked him,--not that he was envious, but because she stood in his way. He expected universal homage and devotion, neither of which would she give him. He was exceedingly irritated at the reports of her bitter sayings, blended with ridicule and sarcasm. He was not merely annoyed, he was afraid. "Her arrows," said he, "would hit a man if he were seated on a rainbow." And when he found he could not silence her, he banished her to within forty leagues of Paris. He was not naturally cruel, but he was not the man to allow so bright a woman to say her sharp things about him to his generals and courtiers. It was not the worst thing he ever did to banish his greatest enemy; but it was mean and cruel to persecute her as he did after she was banished.
So from Paris--to her the "hub of the universe"--Madame de Staël, "with wandering steps and slow, took her solitary way." Expelled from the Eden she loved, she sought to find some place where she could enjoy society,--which was the passion of her life. Weimar, in Germany, then contained a constellation of illustrious men, over whom Goethe reigned, as Dr. Johnson once did in London. Thither she resolved to go, after a brief stay at Coppet, her place in Switzerland; and her ten years' exile began with a sojourn among the brightest intellects of Germany. She was cordially received at Weimar, especially by the Court, although the dictator of German literature did not like her much. She was too impetuous, impulsive, and masculine for him. Schiller and Wieland and Schlegel liked her better, and understood her better. Her great works had not then been written, and she had reputation chiefly for her high social position and social qualities. Possibly her exceeding vivacity and wit seemed superficial,--as witty French people then seemed to both Germans and English. Doubtless there were critics and philosophers in Germany who were not capable of appreciating a person who aspired to penetrate all the secrets of art, philosophy, religion, and science then known who tried to master everything, and who talked eloquently on everything,--and that person a woman, and a Frenchwoman. Goethe was indeed an exception to most German critics, for he was an artist, as few Germans have been in the use of language, and he, like Humboldt, had universal knowledge; yet he did not like Madame de Staël,--not from envy: he had too much self-consciousness to be envious of any man, still less a woman. Envy does not exist between the sexes: a musician may be jealous of a musician; a poet, of a poet; a theologian, of a theologian; and it is said, a physician has been known to be jealous of a physician. I think it is probable that the gifted Frenchwoman overwhelmed the great German with her prodigality of wit, sarcasm, and sentiment, for he was inclined to coldness and taciturnity.
Madame de Staël speaks respectfully of the great men she met at Weimar; but I do not think she worshipped them, since she did not fully understand them,--especially Fichte, whom she ridiculed, as well as other obscure though profound writers, who disdained style and art in writing, for which she was afterwards so distinguished. I believe nine-tenths of German literature is wasted on Europeans for lack of clearness and directness of style; although the involved obscurities which are common to German philosophers and critics and historians alike do not seem to derogate from their literary fame at home, and have even found imitators in England, like Coleridge and Carlyle. Nevertheless, obscurity and affectation are eternal blots on literary genius, since they are irreconcilable with art, which alone gives perpetuity to learning,--as illustrated by the classic authors of antiquity, and such men as Pascal, Rousseau, and Macaulay in our times,--although the pedants have always disdained those who write clearly and luminously, and lost reverence for genius the moment it is understood; since clear writing shows how little is truly original, and makes a disquisition on a bug, a comma, or a date seem trivial indeed.
Hitherto, Madame de Staël had reigned in _salons_, rather than on the throne of letters. Until her visit to Germany, she had written but two books which had given her fame,--one, "On Literature, considered in its Relations with Social Institutions," and a novel entitled "Delphine,"--neither of which is much read or prized in these times. The leading idea of her book on literature was the perfectibility of human nature,--not new, since it had been affirmed by Ferguson in England, by Kant in Germany, and by Turgot in France, and even by Roger Bacon in the Middle Ages. But she claimed to be the first to apply perfectibility to literature. If her idea simply means the ever-expanding progress of the human mind, with the aids that Providence has furnished, she is doubtless right. If she means that the necessary condition of human nature, unaided, is towards perfection, she wars with Christianity, and agrees with Rousseau. The idea was fashionable in its day, especially by the disciples of Rousseau, who maintained that the majority could not err. But if Madame de Staël simply meant that society was destined to progressive advancement, as a matter of fact her view will be generally accepted, since God rules this world, and brings good out of evil. Some maintain we have made no advance over ancient India in either morals or literature or science, or over Greece in art, or Rome in jurisprudence; and yet we believe the condition of humanity to-day is superior to what it has been, on the whole, in any previous age of our world. But let us give the credit of this advance to God, and not to man.
Her other book, "Delphine," published in 1802, made a great sensation, like a modern first-class novel, but was severely criticised. Sydney Smith reviewed it in a slashing article. It was considered by many as immoral in its tendency, since she was supposed to attack marriage. Sainte-Beuve, the greatest critic of the age, defends her against this charge; but the book was doubtless very emotional, into which she poured all the warmth of her ardent and ungoverned soul in its restless agitation and cravings for sympathy,--a record of herself, blasted in her marriage hopes and aspirations. It is a sort of New Héloïse, and, though powerful, is not healthy. These two works, however, stamped her as a woman of genius, although her highest triumphs were not yet won.
With the éclat of these two books she traversed Germany, studying laws, literature, and manners, assisted in her studies by August v. Schlegel (the translator of Shakspeare), who was tutor to her children, on a salary of twelve thousand francs a year and expenses. She had great admiration for this distinguished scholar, who combined with his linguistic attainments an intense love of art and a profound appreciation of genius, in whatever guise it was to be found. With such a cicerone she could not help making great acquisitions. He was like Jerome explaining to Paula the history of the sacred places; like Dr. Johnson teaching ethics to Hannah More; like Michael Angelo explaining the principles of art to Vittoria Colonna. She mastered the language of which Frederick the Great was ashamed, and, for the first time, did justice to the German scholars and the German character. She defended the ideal philosophy against Locke and the French materialists; she made a remarkable analysis of Kant; she warmly praised both Goethe and Schiller; she admired Wieland; she had a good word for Fichte, although she had ridiculed his obscurities of style.
The result of her travels was the most masterly dissertation on that great country that has ever been written,--an astonishing book, when we remember it was the first of any note which had appeared of its kind. To me it is more like the history of Herodotus than any book of travels which has appeared since that accomplished scholar traversed Asia and Africa to reveal to his inquisitive countrymen the treasures of Oriental monarchies. In this work, which is intellectually her greatest, she towered not only over all women, but over all men who have since been her competitors. It does not fall in with my purpose to give other than a passing notice of this masterly production in order to show what a marvellous woman she was, not in the realm of sentiment alone, not as a writer of letters, but as a critic capable of grasping and explaining all that philosophy, art, and literature have sought to accomplish in that _terra incognita_, as Germany was then regarded. She revealed a new country to the rest of Europe; she described with accuracy its manners and customs; she did justice to the German intellect; she showed what amazing scholarship already existed in the universities, far surpassing both Paris and Oxford. She appreciated the German character, its simplicity, its truthfulness, its sincerity, its intellectual boldness, its patience, its reserved power, afterwards to be developed in war,--qualities and attainments which have since raised Germany to the foremost rank among the European nations.
This brilliant Frenchwoman, accustomed to reign in the most cultivated social circles of Paris, shows a remarkable catholicity and breadth of judgment, and is not shocked at phlegmatic dulness or hyperborean awkwardness, or laughable simplicity; because she sees, what nobody else then saw, a patience which never wearies, a quiet enthusiasm which no difficulty or disgust destroys, and a great insight which can give richness to literature without art, discrimination to philosophy without conciseness, and a new meaning to old dogmas. She ventures to pluck from the forbidden tree of metaphysics; and, reckless of the fiats of the schools, she entered fearlessly into those inquiries which have appalled both Greek and schoolman. Think of a woman making the best translation and criticism of Kant which had appeared until her day! Her revelations might have found more value in the eyes of pedants had she been more obscure. But, as Sir James Mackintosh says, "Dullness is not accuracy, nor is an elegant writer necessarily superficial." Divest German metaphysics of their obscurities, and they might seem commonplace; take away the clearness of French writers, and they might pass for profound. Clearness and precision, however, are not what the world expects from its teachers. It loves the fig-trees with nothing but leaves; it adores the _stat magni nominis umbra_. The highest proof of severe culture is the use of short and simple words on any subject whatever; and he who cannot make his readers understand what he writes about does not understand his subject himself.
I am happy to have these views corroborated by one of the best writers that this country has produced,--I mean William Matthews:--
"The French, who if not the most original are certainly the acutest and most logical thinkers in the world, are frequently considered frivolous and shallow, simply because they excel all other nations in the difficult art of giving literary interest to philosophy; while, on the other hand, the ponderous Germans, who living in clouds of smoke have a positive genius for making the obscure obscurer, are thought to be original, because they are so chaotic and clumsy. But we have yet to learn that lead is priceless because it is weighty, or that gold is valueless because it glitters. The Damascus blade is none the less keen because it is polished, nor the Corinthian shaft less strong because it is fluted and its capital curved."
The production of such a woman, in that age, in which there is so much learning combined with eloquence, and elevation of sentiment with acute observation, and the graces of style with the spirit of philosophy,--candid, yet eulogistic; discriminating, yet enthusiastic,--made a great impression on the mind of cultivated Europe. Napoleon however, with inexcusable but characteristic meanness, would not allow its publication. The police seized the whole edition--ten thousand--and destroyed every copy. They even tried to get possession of the original copy, which required the greatest tact on the part of the author to preserve, and which she carried with her on all her travels, for six years, until it was finally printed in London.
Long before this great work was completed,--for she worked upon it six years,--Madame de Staël visited, with Sismondi, that country which above all others is dear to the poet, the artist, and the antiquarian. She entered that classic and hallowed land amid the glories of a southern spring, when the balmy air, the beautiful sky, the fresh verdure of the fields, and the singing of the birds added fascination to scenes which without them would have been enchantment. Châteaubriand, the only French writer of her day with whom she stood in proud equality, also visited Italy, but sang another song; she, bright and radiant, with hope and cheerfulness, an admirer of the people and the country as they were; he, mournful and desponding, yet not less poetic, with visions of departed glory which the vast debris of the ancient magnificence suggested to his pensive soul, O Italy, Italy! land of associations, whose history never tires; whose antiquities are perpetual studies; whose works of art provoke to hopeless imitation; whose struggles until recently were equally chivalric and unfortunate; whose aspirations have ever been with liberty, yet whose destiny has been successive slaveries; whose hills and plains and vales are verdant with perennial loveliness, though covered with broken monuments and deserted cities; where monks and beggars are more numerous than even scholars and artists,--glory in debasement, and debasement in glory, reminding us of the greatness and misery of man; alike the paradise and the prison of the world; the Minerva and the Niobe of nations,--never shall thy wonders be exhausted or thy sorrows be forgotten!
"E'en in thy desert what is like to thee? Thy very weeds are beautiful; thy wastes More rich than other lands' fertility; Thy wreck a glory, and thy ruin grand."
In this unfortunate yet illustrious land, ever fresh to travellers, ever to be hallowed in spite of revolutions and assassinations, of popes and priests, of semi-infidel artists and cynical savants, of beggars and tramps, of filthy hotels and dilapidated villas, Madame de Staël lingered more than a year, visiting every city which has a history and every monument which has antiquity; and the result of that journey was "Corinne,"--one of the few immortal books which the heart of the world cherishes; which is as fresh to-day as it was nearly one hundred years ago,--a novel, a critique, a painting, a poem, a tragedy; interesting to the philosopher in his study and to the woman in her boudoir, since it is the record of the cravings of a great soul, and a description of what is most beautiful or venerated in nature or art. It is the most wonderful book ever written of Italy,--with faults, of course, but a transcript of profound sorrows and lofty aspirations. To some it may seem exaggerated in its transports; but can transports be too highly colored? Can any words be as vivid as a sensation? Enthusiasm, when fully expressed, ceases to be a rapture; and the soul that fancies it has reached the heights of love or beauty or truth, claims to comprehend the immortal and the infinite.
It is the effort of genius to express the raptures and sorrows of a lofty but unsatisfied soul, the glories of the imperishable in art and life, which gives to "Corinne" its peculiar charm. It is the mirror of a wide and deep experience,--a sort of "Divine Comedy," in which a Dante finds a Beatrice, not robed in celestial loveliness, coursing from circle to circle and star to star, explaining the mysteries of heaven, but radiant in the beauty of earth, and glowing with the ardor of a human love. Every page is masculine in power, every sentence is condensed thought, every line burns with passion; yet every sentiment betrays the woman, seeking to reveal her own boundless capacities of admiration and friendship, to be appreciated, to be loved with that fervor and disinterestedness which she was prepared to lavish on the object of her adoration. No man could have made such revelations, although it may be given to him to sing a greater song. While no woman could have composed the "Iliad," or the "Novum Organum," or the "Critique of Pure Reason," or "Othello," no man could have written "Corinne" or "Adam Bede."
In painting Corinne, Madame de Staël simply describes herself, as she did in "Delphine," with all her restless soul-agitations; yet not in too flattering colors, since I doubt if there ever lived a more impassioned soul, with greater desires of knowledge, or a more devouring thirst for fame, or a profounder insight into what is lofty and eternal, than the author of "Corinne." Like Héloïse, she could love but one; yet, unlike Héloïse, she could not renounce, even for love, the passion for admiration or the fascinations of society. She does not attempt to disguise the immense sacrifices which love exacts and marriage implies, but which such a woman as Héloïse is proud to make for him whom she deems worthy of her own exalted sentiments; and she shows in the person of Corinne how much weakness may coexist with strength, and how timid and dependent is a woman even in the blaze of triumph and in the enjoyment of a haughty freedom. She paints the most shrinking delicacy with the greatest imprudence and boldness, contempt for the opinions and usages of society with the severest self-respect; giving occasion for scandal, yet escaping from its shafts; triumphant in the greatness of her own dignity and in the purity of her unsullied soul. "Corinne" is a disguised sarcasm on the usages of society among the upper classes in Madame de Staël's day, when a man like Lord Neville is represented as capable of the most exalted passion, and almost ready to die for its object, and at the same time is unwilling to follow its promptings to an honorable issue,--ready even, at last, to marry a woman for whom he feels no strong attachment, or even admiration, in compliance with expediency, pride, and family interests.
But "Corinne" is not so much a romance as it is a description of Italy itself, its pictures, its statues, its palaces, its churches, its antiquities, its literature, its manners, and its aspirations; and it is astonishing how much is condensed in that little book. The author has forestalled all poets and travellers, and even guidebooks; all successive works are repetitions or amplifications of what she has suggested. She is as exhaustive and condensed as Thucydides; and, true to her philosophy, she is all sunshine and hope, with unbounded faith in the future of Italy,--an exultant prophet as well as a critical observer.
This work was published in Paris in 1807, when Napoleon was on the apex of his power and glory; and no work by a woman was ever hailed with greater enthusiasm, not in Paris merely, but throughout Europe. Yet nothing could melt the iron heart of Napoleon, and he continued his implacable persecution of its author, so that she was obliged to continue her travels, though travelling like a princess. Again she visited Germany, and again she retired to her place near Geneva, where she held a sort of court, the star of which, next to herself, was Madame Récamier, whose transcendent beauty and equally transcendent loveliness of character won her admiration and friendship.
In 1810 Madame de Staël married Rocca, of Italian or Spanish origin, who was a sickly and dilapidated officer in the French army, little more than half her age,--he being twenty-five and she forty-five,--a strange marriage, almost incredible, if such marriages were not frequent. He, though feeble, was an accomplished man, and was taken captive by the brilliancy of her talk and the elevation of her soul. It is harder to tell what captured her, for who can explain the mysteries of love? The marriage proved happy, however, although both parties dreaded ridicule, and kept it secret. The romance of the thing--if romance there was--has been equalled in our day by the marriages of George Eliot and Miss Burdett Coutts. Only very strong characters can afford to run such risks. The caprices of the great are among the unsolved mysteries of life. A poor, wounded, unknown young man would never have aspired to such an audacity had he not been sure of his ground; and the probability is that she, not he, is to be blamed for that folly,--if a woman is to be blamed for an attachment which the world calls an absurdity.
The wrath of Napoleon waxing stronger and stronger, Madame de Staël felt obliged to flee even from Switzerland. She sought a rest in England; but England was hard to be reached, as all the Continent save Russia was in bondage and fear. She succeeded in reaching Vienna, then Russia, and finally Sweden, where she lingered, as it was the fashion, to receive attentions and admiration from all who were great in position or eminent for attainments in the northern capitals of Europe. She liked even Russia; she saw good everywhere, something to praise and enjoy wherever she went. Moscow and St. Petersburg were equally interesting,--the old and the new, the Oriental magnificence of the one, the stupendous palaces and churches of the other. Romanzoff, Orloff, the Empress Elizabeth, and the Emperor Alexander himself gave her distinguished honors and hospitalities, and she saw and recorded their greatness, and abandoned herself to pleasures which were new.
After a delightful winter in Stockholm, she sailed for England, where she arrived in safety, 1813, twenty years after her first visit, and in the ninth of her exile. Her reception in the highest circles was enthusiastic. She was recognized as the greatest literary woman who had lived. The Prince Regent sought her acquaintance; the greatest nobles feted her in their princely palaces. At the house of the Marquis of Lansdowne, at Lord Jersey's, at Rogers's literary dinners, at the reunions of Holland House, everywhere, she was admired and honored. Sir James Mackintosh, the idol and oracle of English society at that time, pronounced her the most intellectual woman who had adorned the world,--not as a novelist and poet merely, but as philosopher and critic, grappling with the highest questions that ever tasked the intellect of man. Byron alone stood aloof; he did not like strong-minded women, any more than Goethe did, especially if they were not beautiful. But he was constrained to admire her at last. Nobody could resist the fascination and brilliancy of her conversation. It is to be regretted that she did not write a book on England, which on the whole she admired, although it was a little too conventional for her. But she was now nearly worn out by the excitements and the sorrows of her life. She was no longer young. Her literary work was done. And she had to resort to opium to rally from the exhaustion of her nervous energies.
On the fall of Napoleon, Madame de Staël returned to Paris,--the city she loved so well; the city so dear to all Frenchmen and to all foreigners, to all gay people, to all intellectual people, to all fashionable people, to all worldly people, to all pious people,--to them the centre of modern civilization. Exile from this city has ever been regarded as a great calamity,--as great as exile was to Romans, even to Cicero. See with what eagerness Thiers himself returned to this charmed capital when permitted by the last Napoleon! In this city, after her ten years' exile, Madame de Staël reigned in prouder state than at any previous period of her life. She was now at home, on her own throne as queen of letters, and also queen of society. All the great men who were then assembled in Paris burned their incense before her,--Châteaubriand, Lafayette, Talleyrand, Guizot, Constant, Cuvier, Laplace. Distinguished foreigners swelled the circle of her admirers,--Blücher, Humboldt, Schlegel, Canova, Wellington, even the Emperor of Russia. The Restoration hailed her with transport; Louis XVIII. sought the glory of her talk; the press implored her assistance; the salons caught inspiration from her presence. Never was woman seated on a prouder throne. But she did not live long to enjoy her unparalleled social honors. She was stifled, like Voltaire, by the incense of idolaters; the body could no longer stand the strain of the soul, and she sunk, at the age of fifty-one, in the year 1817, a few months before her husband Rocca, whom, it appears, she ever tenderly loved.
Madame de Staël died prematurely, as precocious people generally do,--like Raphael, Pascal, Schiller, I may add Macaulay and Mill; but she accomplished much, and might have done more had her life been spared, for no one doubts her genius,--perhaps the most remarkable female writer who has lived, on the whole. George Sand is the only Frenchwoman who has approached her in genius and fame. Madame de Staël was novelist, critic, essayist, and philosopher, grasping the profoundest subjects, and gaining admiration in everything she attempted. I do not regard her as pre-eminently a happy woman, since her marriages were either unfortunate or unnatural. In the intoxicating blaze of triumph and admiration she panted for domestic beatitudes, and found the earnest cravings of her soul unsatisfied. She sought relief from herself in society, which was a necessity to her, as much as friendship or love; but she was restless, and perpetually travelling. Moreover, she was a persecuted woman during the best ten years of her life. She had but little repose of mind or character, and was worldly, vain, and ambitious. But she was a great woman and a good woman, in spite of her faults and errors; and greater in her womanly qualities than she was in her writings, remarkable as these were. She had a great individuality, like Dr. Johnson and Thomas Carlyle. And she lives in the hearts of her countrymen, like Madame Récamier; for it was not the beauty and grace of this queen of society which made her beloved, but her good-nature, amiability, power of friendship, freedom from envy, and generous soul.
In the estimation of foreigners--of those great critics of whom Jeffrey and Mackintosh were the representatives--Madame de Staël has won the proud fame of being the most powerful writer her country has produced since Voltaire and Rousseau. Historically she is memorable for inaugurating a new period of literary history. With her began a new class of female authors, whose genius was no longer confined to letters and memoirs and sentimental novels. I need not enumerate the long catalogue of illustrious literary women in the nineteenth century in France, in Germany, in England, and even in the United States. The greatest novelist in England, since Thackeray, was a woman. One of the greatest writers on political economy, since Adam Smith, was a woman. One of the greatest writers in astronomical science was a woman. In America, what single novel ever equalled the success of "Uncle Tom's Cabin"? What schools are better kept than those by women? And this is only the beginning, since it is generally felt that women are better educated than men, outside of the great professions. And why not, since they have more leisure for literary pursuits than men? Who now sneers at the intellect of a woman? Who laughs at blue-stockings? Who denies the insight, the superior tact, the genius of woman? What man does not accept woman as a fellow-laborer in the field of letters? And yet there is one profession which they are more capable of filling than men,--that of physicians to their own sex; a profession most honorable, and requiring great knowledge, as well as great experience and insight.
Why may not women cope with men in the proudest intellectual tournaments? Why should they not become great linguists, and poets, and novelists, and artists, and critics, and historians? Have they not quickness, brilliancy, sentiment, acuteness of observation, good sense, and even genius? Do not well-educated women speak French before their brothers can translate the easiest lines of Virgil? I would not put such gentle, refined, and cultivated creatures,--these flowers of Paradise, spreading the sweet aroma of their graces in the calm retreats from toil and sin,--I would not push them into the noisy arena of wrangling politics, into the suffocating and impure air of a court of justice, or even make them professors in a college of unruly boys; but because I would not do them this great cruelty, do I deny their intellectual equality, or seek to dim the lustre of the light they shed, or hide their talents under the vile bushel of envy, cynicism, or contempt? Is it paying true respect to woman to seek to draw her from the beautiful sphere which she adorns and vivifies and inspires,--where she is a solace, a rest, a restraint, and a benediction,--and require of her labors which she has not the physical strength to perform? And when it is seen how much more attractive the wives and daughters of favored classes have made themselves by culture, how much more capable they are of training and educating their children, how much more dignified the family circle may thus become,--every man who is a father will rejoice in this great step which women have recently made, not merely in literary attainments, but in the respect of men. Take away intellect from woman, and what is she but a toy or a slave? For my part, I see no more cheering signs of the progress of society than in the advancing knowledge of favored women. And I know of no more splendid future for them than to encircle their brows, whenever they have an opportunity, with those proud laurels which have ever been accorded to those who have advanced the interests of truth and the dominion of the soul,--which laurels they have lately won, and which both reason and experience assure us they may continue indefinitely to win.
Miss Luyster's Memoirs of Madame de Staël; Mémoires Dix Années d'Exil; Alison's Essays; M. Shelly's Lives; Mrs. Thomson's Queens of Society; Sainte-Beuve's Nouveaux Lundis; Lord Brougham on Madame de Staël; J. Bruce's Classic Portraits; J. Kavanagh's French Women of Letters; Biographic Universelle; North American Review, vols. x., xiv., xxxvii.; Edinburgh Review, vols. xxi., xxxi., xxxiv., xliii.; Temple Bar, vols. xl., lv.; Foreign Quarterly, vol. xiv.; Blackwood's Magazine, vols. iii., vii., x.; Quarterly Review, 152; North British Review, vol. xx.; Christian Examiner, 73; Catholic World, 18.
Lectures by John Lord
Thirty-five years ago, inspired by the writings of Georgette Heyer, and little more than fresh out of high school, I wrote a Regency Romance novel entitled, A Very Merry Chase, which I finally published last year.  Then and now history in all it’s forms was my first love–especially women’s history. These days I have two degrees in history; however a graduate degree in women’s studies was not an option at the university where I received my MA so I had to make do with a more generalized degree. Thus, in every class I made up for the lack by researching the condition of women in each age that I studied. I have always been fascinated by women’s history, so I thought I would start sharing some of the lost treasures that I uncover. I believe that most people have curious minds and like glimpses of how the world was, and how things were perceived in the past. I firmly believe in the idea that we must remember history in order to learn from it, grow and hopefully cut down on the number of stupid mistakes that random impulse and intellectual curiosity and greed and a thousand other human motivators lead us to make.
 Smiles and Good Fortune,
Teresa Thomas Bohannon
Author of the Regency Romance novel, A Very Merry Chase
Founder of The LadyWeb Family Of Informational & Educational Websites
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent.
– W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

Friday, February 18, 2011

Great Women of History - Joan of Arc - The Heroic Woman

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A.D. 1412-1431.

Perhaps the best known and most popular of heroines is Joan of Arc, called the Maid of Orleans. Certainly she is one of the most interesting characters in the history of France during the Middle Ages; hence I select her to illustrate heroic women. There are not many such who are known to fame; though heroic qualities are not uncommon in the gentler sex, and a certain degree of heroism enters into the character of all those noble and strongly marked women who have attracted attention and who have rendered great services. It marked many of the illustrious women of the Bible, of Grecian and Roman antiquity, and especially those whom chivalry produced in mediaeval Europe; and even in our modern times intrepidity and courage have made many a woman famous, like Florence Nightingale. In Jewish history we point to Deborah, who delivered Israel from the hands of Jabin; and to Jael, who slew Sisera, the captain of Jabin's hosts; and to Judith, who cut off the head of Holofernes. It was heroism, which is ever allied with magnanimity, that prompted the daughter of Jephtha to the most remarkable self-sacrifice recorded in history. There was a lofty heroism in Abigail, when she prevented David from shedding innocent blood. And among the Pagan nations, who does not admire the heroism of such women as we have already noticed? Chivalry, too, produced illustrious heroines in every country of Europe. We read of a Countess of March, in the reign of Edward III., who defended Dunbar with uncommon courage against Montague and an English army; a Countess of Montfort shut herself up in the fortress of Hennebon, and successfully defied the whole power of Charles of Blois; Jane Hatchett repulsed in person a considerable body of Burgundian troops; Altrude, Countess of Bertinora, advanced with an army to the relief of Ancona; Bona Lombardi, with a body of troops, liberated her husband from captivity; Isabella of Lorraine raised an army for the rescue of her husband; Queen Philippa, during the absence of her husband in Scotland, stationed herself in the Castle of Bamborough and defied the threats of Douglas, and afterwards headed an army against David, King of Scotland, and took him prisoner, and shut him up in the Tower of London.
But these illustrious women of the Middle Ages who performed such feats of gallantry and courage belonged to the noble class; they were identified with aristocratic institutions; they lived in castles; they were the wives and daughters of feudal princes and nobles whose business was war, and who were rough and turbulent warriors, and sometimes no better than robbers, but who had the virtues of chivalry, which was at its height during the wars of Edward III. And yet neither the proud feudal nobles nor their courageous wives and daughters took any notice of the plebeian people, except to oppress and grind them down. No virtues were developed by feudalism among the people but submission, patience, and loyalty.
And thus it is extraordinary that such a person should appear in that chivalric age as Joan of Arc, who rose from the humblest class, who could neither read nor write,--a peasant girl without friends or influence, living among the Vosges mountains on the borders of Champagne and Lorraine. She was born in 1412, in the little obscure village of Domremy on the Meuse, on land belonging to the French crown. She lived in a fair and fertile valley on the line of the river, on the other side of which were the Burgundian territories. The Lorraine of the Vosges was a mountainous district covered with forests, which served for royal hunting parties. The village of Domremy itself was once a dependency of the abbey of St. Remy at Rheims. This district had suffered cruelly from the wars between the Burgundians and the adherents of the Armagnacs, one of the great feudal families of France in the Middle Ages.
Joan, or Jeanne, was the third daughter of one of the peasant laborers of Domremy. She was employed by her mother in spinning and sewing, while her sisters and brothers were set to watch cattle. Her mother could teach her neither to read nor write, but early imbued her mind with the sense of duty. Joan was naturally devout, and faultless in her morals; simple, natural, gentle, fond of attending the village church; devoting herself, when not wanted at home, to nursing the sick,--the best girl in the village; strong, healthy, and beautiful; a spirit lowly but poetic, superstitious but humane, and fond of romantic adventures. But her piety was one of her most marked peculiarities, and somehow or other she knew more than we can explain of Scripture heroes and heroines.
One of the legends of that age and place was that the marches of Lorraine were to give birth to a maid who was to save the realm,--founded on an old prophecy of Merlin. It seems that when only thirteen years old Joan saw visions, and heard celestial voices bidding her to be good and to trust in God; and as virginity was supposed to be a supernal virtue, she vowed to remain a virgin, but told no one of her vow or her visions. She seems to have been a girl of extraordinary good sense, which was as marked as her religious enthusiasm.
The most remarkable thing about this young peasant girl is that she claimed to have had visions and heard voices which are difficult to be distinguished from supernatural,--something like the daemon of Socrates. She affirmed that Saint Michael the Archangel appeared to her in glory, also Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, encouraging her in virtue, and indicating to her that a great mission was before her, that she was to deliver her king and country. Such claims have not been treated with incredulity or contempt by French historians, especially Barante and Michelet, in view of the wonderful work she was instrumental in accomplishing.
At this period France was afflicted with that cruel war which had at intervals been carried on for nearly a century between the English and French kings, and which had arisen from the claims of Edward I to the throne of France. The whole country was distracted, forlorn, and miserable; it was impoverished, overrun, and drained of fighting men. The war had exhausted the resources of England as well as those of France. The population of England at the close of this long series of wars was less than it was under Henry II. Those wars were more disastrous to the interests of both the rival kingdoms than even those of the Crusades, and they were marked by great changes and great calamities. The victories of Crécy, Poictiers, and Agincourt--which shed such lustre on the English nation--were followed by reverses, miseries, and defeats, which more than balanced the glories of Edward the Black Prince and Henry V. Provinces were gained and lost, yet no decisive results followed either victory or defeat. The French kings, driven hither and thither, with a decimated people, and with the loss of some of their finest provinces, still retained their sovereignty.
At one time, about the year 1347, Edward III. had seemed to have attained the supreme object of his ambition. France lay bleeding at his feet; he had won the greatest victory of his age; Normandy already belonged to him, Guienne was recovered, Aquitaine was ceded to him, Flanders was on his side, and the possession of Brittany seemed to open his way to Paris. But in fourteen years these conquests were lost; the plague scourged England, and popular discontents added to the perplexities of the once fortunate monarch. Moreover, the House of Commons had come to be a power and a check on royal ambition. The death of the Black Prince consummated his grief and distraction, and the heroic king gave himself up in his old age to a disgraceful profligacy, and died in the arms of Alice Pierce, in the year 1377.
Fifty years pass by, and Henry V. is king of England, and renews his claim to the French throne. The battle of Agincourt (1415) gives to Henry V. the same _éclat_ that the victory of Crécy had bestowed on Edward III. Again the French realm is devastated by triumphant Englishmen. The King of France is a captive; his Queen is devoted to the cause of Henry, the Duke of Burgundy is his ally, and he only needs the formal recognition of the Estates to take possession of the French throne. But in the year 1422, in the midst of his successes, he died of a disease which baffled the skill of all his physicians, leaving his kingdom to a child only nine years old, and the prosecution of the French war to his brother the Duke of Bedford, who was scarcely inferior to himself in military genius.
At this time, when Charles VI. of France was insane, and his oldest son Louis dead, his second son Charles declared himself King of France, as Charles VII. But only southern France acknowledged Charles, who at this time was a boy of fifteen years. All the northern provinces, even Guienne and Gascony, acknowledged Henry VI., the infant son of Henry V. of England. Charles's affairs, therefore, were in a bad way, and there was every prospect of the complete conquest of France. Even Paris was the prey alternately of the Burgundians and the Armagnacs, the last of whom were the adherents of Charles the Dauphin,--the legitimate heir to the throne. He held his little court at Bourges, where he lived as gaily as he could, sometimes in want of the necessaries of life. His troops were chiefly Gascons, Lombards, and Scotch, who got no pay, and who lived by pillage. He was so hard pressed by the Duke of Bedford that he meditated a retreat into Dauphiné. It would seem that he was given to pleasures, and was unworthy of his kingdom, which he nearly lost by negligence and folly.
The Duke of Bedford, in order to drive Charles out of the central provinces, resolved to take Orleans, which was the key to the south,--a city on the north bank of the Loire, strongly fortified and well provisioned. This was in 1428. The probabilities were that this city would fall, for it was already besieged, and was beginning to suffer famine.
In this critical period for France, Joan of Arc appeared on the stage, being then a girl of sixteen (some say eighteen) years of age. Although Joan, as we have said, was uneducated, she yet clearly comprehended the critical condition of her country, and with the same confidence that David had in himself and in his God when he armed himself with a sling and a few pebbles to confront the full-armed giant of the Philistines, inspired by her heavenly visions she resolved to deliver France. She knew nothing of war; she had not been accustomed to equestrian exercises, like a woman of chivalry; she had no friends; she had never seen great people; she was poor and unimportant. To the eye of worldly wisdom her resolution was perfectly absurd.
It was with the greatest difficulty that Joan finally obtained an interview with Boudricourt, the governor of Vaucouleurs; and he laughed at her, and bade her uncle take her home and chastise her for her presumption. She returned to her humble home, but with resolutions unabated. The voices encouraged her, and the common people believed in her. Again, in the red coarse dress of a peasant girl, she sought the governor, claiming that God had sent her. There was something so strange, so persistent, so honest about her that he reported her case to the King. Meanwhile, the Duke of Lorraine heard of her, and sent her a safe-conduct, and the people of Vaucouleurs came forward and helped her. They gave her a horse and the dress of a soldier; and the governor, yielding to her urgency, furnished her with a sword and a letter to the King. She left without seeing her parents,--which was one of the subsequent charges against her,--and prosecuted her journey amid great perils and fatigues, travelling by night with her four armed attendants.
After twelve days Joan reached Chinon, where the King was tarrying. But here new difficulties arose: she could not get an interview with the King; it was opposed by his most influential ministers and courtiers. "Why waste precious time," said they, "when Orleans is in the utmost peril, to give attention to a mad peasant-girl, who, if not mad, must be possessed with a devil: a sorceress to be avoided; what can she do for France?" The Archbishop of Rheims, the prime-minister of Charles, especially was against her. The learned doctors of the schools derided her claims. It would seem that her greatest enemies were in the Church and the universities. "Not many wise, not many mighty are called." The deliverers of nations in great exigencies rarely have the favor of the great. But the women of the court spoke warmly in Joan's favor, for her conduct was modest and irreproachable; and after two days she was admitted to the royal castle, the Count of Vendôme leading her to the royal presence. Charles stood among a crowd of nobles, all richly dressed; but in her visions this pure enthusiast had seen more glories than an earthly court, and she was undismayed. To the King she repeated the words which had thus far acted liked a charm: "I am Joan the Maid, sent by God to save France;" and she demanded troops. But the King was cautious; he sent two monks to her native village to inquire all about her, while nobles and ecclesiastics cross-questioned her. She was, however, treated courteously, and given in charge to the King's lieutenant, whose wife was a woman of virtue and piety. Many distinguished people visited her in the castle to which she was assigned, on whom she made a good impression by her modesty, good sense, and sublime enthusiasm. It was long debated in the royal council whether she should be received or rejected; but as affairs were in an exceedingly critical condition, and Orleans was on the point of surrender, it was concluded to listen to her voice.
It must be borne in mind that the age was exceedingly superstitious, and the statesmen of the distracted and apparently ruined country probably decided to make use of this girl, not from any cordial belief in her mission, but from her influence on the people. She might stimulate them to renewed efforts. She was an obscure and ignorant peasant-girl, it was true, but God might have chosen her as an instrument. In this way very humble people, with great claims, have often got the ear and the approval of the wise and powerful, as instruments of Almighty Providence. When Moody and Sankey first preached in London, it was the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief-Justice--who happened to be religious men--that, amid the cynicism of ordinary men of rank, gave them the most encouragement, and frequently attended their meetings.
And the voices which inspired the Maid of Orleans herself,--what were these? Who can tell? Who can explain such mysteries? I would not assert, nor would I deny, that they were the voices of inspiration. What is inspiration? It has often been communicated to men. Who can deny that the daemon of Socrates was something more than a fancied voice? When did supernatural voices first begin to utter the power of God? When will the voices of inspiration cease to be heard on earth? In view of the fact that _she did_ accomplish her mission, the voices which inspired this illiterate peasant to deliver France are not to be derided. Who can sit in judgment on the ways in which Providence is seen to act? May He not choose such instruments as He pleases? Are not all His ways mysterious, never to be explained by the reason of man? Did not the occasion seem to warrant something extraordinary? Here was a great country apparently on the verge of ruin. To the eye of reason and experience it seemed that France was to be henceforth ruled, as a subjugated country, by a foreign power. Royal armies had failed to deliver her. Loyalty had failed to arouse the people. Feudal envies and enmities had converted vassals into foes. The Duke of Burgundy, the most powerful vassal of France, was in arms against his liege lord. The whole land was rent with divisions and treasons. And the legitimate king, who ought to have been a power, was himself feeble, frivolous, and pleasure-seeking amid all his perils. _He_ could not save the country. Who could save it? There were no great generals. Universal despair hung over the land. The people were depressed. Military resources were insufficient. If France was to be preserved as an independent and powerful monarchy, something extraordinary must happen to save it. The hope in feudal armies had fled. In fact, only God could rescue the country in such perils and under such forlorn circumstances.
Joan of Arc believed in God,--that He could do what He pleased, that He was a power to be supplicated; and she prayed to Him to save France, since princes could not save the land, divided by their rivalries and jealousies and ambitions. And the conviction, after much prayer and fasting, was impressed upon her mind--no matter how, but it _was_ impressed upon her--that God had chosen _her_ as His instrument, that it was her mission to raise the siege of Orleans, and cause the young Dauphin to be crowned king at Rheims. This conviction gave her courage and faith and intrepidity. How could she, unacquainted with wars and sieges, show the necessary military skill and genius? She did not pretend to it. She claimed no other wisdom than that which was communicated to her by celestial voices. If she could direct a military movement in opposition to leaders of experience, it was only because this movement was what was indicated by an archangel. And so decided and imperative was she, that royal orders were given to obey her. One thing was probable, whether a supernatural wisdom and power were given her or not,--she yet might animate the courage of others, she might stimulate them to heroic action, and revive their hopes; for if God was with them, who could be against them? What she had to do was simply this,--to persuade princes and nobles that the Lord would deliver the nation. Let the conviction be planted in the minds of a religious people that God is with them, and in some way will come to their aid if they themselves will put forth their own energies, and they will be almost sure to rally. And here was an inspired woman, as they supposed, ready to lead them on to victory, not by her military skill, but by indicating to them the way as an interpreter of the Divine will. This was not more extraordinary than the repeated deliverances of the Hebrew nation under religious leaders.
The signal deliverance of the French at that gloomy period from the hands of the English, by Joan of Arc, was a religious movement. The Maid is to be viewed as a religious phenomenon; she rested her whole power and mission on the supposition that she was inspired to point out the way of deliverance. She claimed nothing for herself, was utterly without vanity, ambition, or pride, and had no worldly ends to gain. Her character was without a flaw. She was as near perfection as any mortal ever was: religious, fervent, unselfish, gentle, modest, chaste, patriotic, bent on one thing only,--to be of service to her country, without reward; and to be of service only by way of encouragement, and pointing out what seemed to her to be the direction of God.
So Joan fearlessly stood before kings and nobles and generals, yet in the modest gentleness of conscious virtue, to direct them what to do, as a sort of messenger of Heaven. What was rank or learning to her? If she was sent by a voice that spoke to her soul, and that voice was from God, what was human greatness to her? It paled before the greatness which commissioned her. In the discharge of her mission all men were alike in her eyes; the distinctions of rank faded away in the mighty issues which she wished to bring about, even the rescue of France from foreign enemies, and which she fully believed she could effect with God's aid, and in the way that He should indicate.
Whether the ruling powers fully believed in her or not, they at last complied with her wishes and prayers, though not until she had been subjected to many insults from learned priests and powerful nobles, whom she finally won by her modest and wise replies. Said one of them mockingly: "If it be God's will that the English shall quit France, there is no need for men-at-arms." To whom she replied: "The men-at-arms must fight, and God shall give the victory." She saw no other deliverance than through fighting, and fighting bravely, and heroically, as the means of success. She was commissioned, she said, to stimulate the men to fight,--not to pray, but to fight. She promised no rescue by supernatural means, but only through natural forces. France was not to despond, but to take courage, and fight. There was no imposture about her, only zeal and good sense, to impress upon the country the necessity of bravery and renewed exertions.
The Maid set out for the deliverance of the besieged city in a man's attire, deeming it more modest under her circumstances, and exposing her to fewer annoyances. She was arrayed in a suit of beautiful armor, with a banner after her own device,--white, embroidered with lilies,--and a sword which had been long buried behind the altar of a church. Under her inspiring influence an army of six thousand men was soon collected, commanded by the ablest and most faithful generals who remained to the King, and accompanied by the Archbishop of Rheims, who, though he had no great faith in her claims, yet saw in her a fitting instrument to arouse the people from despair. Before setting out from Blois she dictated a letter to the English captains before the besieged city, which to them must have seemed arrogant, insulting, and absurd, in which she commanded them in God's name to return to their own country, assuring them that they fought not merely against the French, but against Him, and hence would be defeated.
The French captains had orders to obey their youthful leader, but not seeing the wisdom of her directions to march to Orleans on the north side of the Loire, they preferred to keep the river between them and the forts of the English. Not daring to disobey her, they misled her as to the position of Orleans, and advanced by the south bank, which proved a mistake, and called forth her indignation, since she did not profess to be governed by military rules, but by divine direction. The city had been defended by a series of forts and other fortifications of great strength, all of which had fallen into the hands of the besiegers; only the walls of the city remained. Joan succeeded in effecting an entrance for herself on a white charger through one of the gates, and the people thronged to meet her as an angel of deliverance, with the wildest demonstrations of joy. Her first act was to repair to the cathedral and offer up thanks to God; her next was to summon the enemy to retire. In the course of a few days the French troops entered the city with supplies. They then issued from the gates to retake the fortifications, which were well defended, cheered and encouraged by the heroic Maid, who stimulated them to daring deeds. The French were successful in their first assault, which seemed a miracle to the English yeomen, who now felt that they were attacked by unseen forces. Then other forts were assailed with equal success, Joan seeming like an inspired heroine, with her eyes flashing, and her charmed standard waving on to victory. The feats of valor which the French performed were almost incredible. Joan herself did not fight, but stimulated the heroism of her troops. The captains led the assault; the Maid directed their movements. After most of the forts were retaken, the troops wished to rest. Joan knew no rest, nor fear, nor sense of danger. She would hear of no cessation from bloody strife until all the fortifications were regained. At the assault on the last fort she herself was wounded; but she was as insensible to pain as she was to fear. As soon as her wound was dressed she hurried to the ramparts, and encouraged the troops, who were disposed to retire. By evening the last fort or bastile was taken, and the English retired, baffled and full of vengeance. The city was delivered. The siege was raised. Not an Englishman survived south of the Loire.
But only part of the mission of this heroic woman was fulfilled. She had delivered Orleans and saved the southern provinces. She had now the more difficult work to perform of crowning the King in the consecrated city, which was in the hands of the enemy, as well as the whole country between Orleans and Rheims. This task seemed to the King and his court to be absolutely impossible. So was the raising of the siege of Orleans, according to all rules of war. Although priests, nobles, and scholars had praised the courage and intrepidity of Joan, and exhorted the nation to trust her, since God seemed to help her, yet to capture a series of fortified cities which were in possession of superior forces seemed an absurdity. Only the common people had full faith in her, for as she was supposed to be specially aided by God, nothing seemed to them an impossibility. They looked upon her as raised up to do most wonderful things,--as one directly inspired. This faith in a girl of eighteen would not have been possible but for her exalted character. Amid the most searching cross-examinations from the learned, she commanded respect by the wisdom of her replies. Every inquiry had been made as to her rural life and character, and nothing could be said against her, but much in her favor; especially her absorbing piety, gentleness, deeds of benevolence, and utter unselfishness.
There was, therefore, a great admiration and respect for this girl, leading to the kindest and most honorable treatment of her from both prelates and nobles. But it was not a chivalric admiration; she did not belong to a noble family, nor did she defend an institution. She was regarded as a second Deborah, commissioned to deliver a people. Nor could a saint have done her work. Bernard could kindle a crusade by his eloquence, but he could not have delivered Orleans; it required some one who could excite idolatrous homage. Only a woman, in that age, was likely to be deified by the people,--some immaculate virgin. Our remote German ancestors had in their native forests a peculiar reverence for woman. The priestesses of Germanic forests had often incited to battle. Their warnings or encouragements were regarded as voices from Heaven. Perhaps the deification and worship of the Virgin Mary--so hearty and poetical in the Middle Ages--may have indirectly aided the mission of the Maid of Orleans. The common people saw one of their own order arise and do marvellous things, bringing kings and nobles to her cause. How could she thus triumph over all the inequalities of feudalism unless divinely commissioned? How could she work what seemed to be almost miracles if she had not a supernatural power to assist her? Like the _regina angelorum_, she was _virgo castissima_. And if she was unlike common mortals, perhaps an inspired woman, what she promised would be fulfilled. In consequence of such a feeling an unbounded enthusiasm was excited among the people. They were ready to do her bidding, whether reasonable or unreasonable to them, for there was a sacred mystery about her,--a reverence that extorted obedience. Worldly-wise statesmen and prelates had not this unbounded admiration, although they doubtless regarded her as a moral phenomenon which they could not understand. Her advice seemed to set aside all human prudence. Nothing seemed more rash or unreasonable than to undertake the conquest of so many fortified cities with such feeble means. It was one thing to animate starving troops to a desperate effort for their deliverance; it was another to assault fortified cities held by the powerful forces which had nearly completed the conquest of France.
The King came to meet the Maid at Tours, and would have bestowed upon her royal honors, for she had rendered a great service. But it was not honors she wanted. She seemed to be indifferent to all personal rewards, and even praises. She wanted only one thing,--an immediate march to Rheims. She even pleaded like a sensible general. She entreated Charles to avail himself of the panic which the raising of the siege of Orleans had produced, before the English could recover from it and bring reinforcements. But the royal council hesitated. It would imperil the King's person to march through a country guarded by hostile troops; and even if he could reach Rheims, it would be more difficult to take the city than to defend Orleans. The King had no money to pay for an army. The enterprise was not only hazardous but impossible, the royal counsellors argued. But to this earnest and impassioned woman, seeing only one point, there was no such thing as impossibility. The thing _must_ be done. The council gave reasons; she brushed them away as cobwebs. What is impossible for God to do? Then they asked her if she heard the voices. She answered, Yes; that she had prayed in secret, complaining of unbelief, and that the voice came to her, which said, "Daughter of God, go on, go on! I will be thy help!" Her whole face glowed and shone like the face of an angel.
The King, half persuaded, agreed to go to Rheims, but not until the English had been driven from the Loire. An army was assembled under the command of the Duke of Alençon, with orders to do nothing without the Maid's advice. Joan went to Selles to prepare for the campaign, and rejoined the army mounted on a black charger, while a page carried her furled banner. The first success was against Jargeau, a strongly fortified town, where she was wounded; but she was up in a moment, and the place was carried, and Joan and Alençon returned in triumph to Orleans. They then advanced against Baugé, another strong place, not merely defended by the late besiegers of Orleans, but a powerful army under Sir John Falstaff and Talbot was advancing to relieve it. Yet Baugé capitulated, the English being panic-stricken, before the city could be relieved. Then the French and English forces encountered each other in the open field: victory sided with the French; and Falstaff himself fled, with the loss of three thousand men. The whole district then turned against the English, who retreated towards Paris; while a boundless enthusiasm animated the whole French army.
Soldiers and leaders now were equally eager for the march to Rheims; yet the King ingloriously held back, and the coronation seemed to be as distant as ever. But Joan with unexampled persistency insisted on an immediate advance, and the King reluctantly set out for Rheims with twelve thousand men. The first great impediment was the important city of Troyes, which was well garrisoned. After five days were spent before it, and famine began to be felt in the camp, the military leaders wished to raise the siege and return to the south. The Maid implored them to persevere, promising the capture of the city within three days. "We would wait six," said the Archbishop of Rheims, the chancellor and chief adviser of the King, "if we were certain we could take it." Joan mounted her horse, made preparations for the assault, cheered the soldiers, working far into the night; and the next day the city surrendered, and Charles, attended by Joan and his nobles, triumphantly entered the city.
The prestige of the Maid carried the day. The English soldiers dared not contend with one who seemed to be a favorite of Heaven. They had heard of Orleans and Jargeau. Chalons followed the example of Troyes. Then Rheims, when the English learned of the surrender of Troyes and Chalons, made no resistance; and in less than a month after the march had begun, the King entered the city, and was immediately crowned by the Archbishop, Joan standing by his side holding her sacred banner. This coronation was a matter of great political importance. Charles had a rival in the youthful King of England. The succession was disputed. Whoever should first be crowned in the city where the ancient kings were consecrated was likely to be acknowledged by the nation.
The mission of Joan was now accomplished. She had done what she promised, amid incredible difficulties. And now, kneeling before her anointed sovereign, she said, "Gracious King, now is fulfilled the pleasure of God!" And as she spoke she wept. She had given a king to France; and she had given France to her king. Not by might, not by power had she done this, but by the Spirit of the Lord. She asked no other reward for her magnificent service than that her native village should be forever exempt from taxation. Feeling that the work for which she was raised up was done, she would willingly have retired to the seclusion of her mountain home, but the leaders of France, seeing how much she was adored by the people, were not disposed to part with so great an instrument of success.
And Joan, too, entered with zeal upon those military movements which were to drive away forever the English from the soil of France. Her career had thus far been one of success and boundless enthusiasm; but now the tide turned, and her subsequent life was one of signal failure. Her only strength was in the voices which had bidden her to deliver Orleans and to crown the King. She had no genius for war. Though still brave and dauntless, though still preserving her innocence and her piety, she now made mistakes. She was also thwarted in her plans. She became, perhaps, self-assured and self-confident, and assumed prerogatives that only belonged to the King and his ministers, which had the effect of alienating them. They never secretly admired her, nor fully trusted her. Charles made a truce with the great Duke of Burgundy, who was in alliance with the English. Joan vehemently denounced the truce, and urged immediate and uncompromising action; but timidity, or policy, or political intrigues, defeated her counsels. The King wished to regain Paris by negotiation; all his movements were dilatory. At last his forces approached the capital, and occupied St. Denis. It was determined to attack the city. One corps was led by Joan; but in the attack she was wounded, and her troops, in spite of her, were forced to retreat. Notwithstanding the retreat and her wound, however, she persevered, though now all to no purpose. The King himself retired, and the attack became a failure. Still Joan desired to march upon Paris for a renewed attack; but the King would not hear of it, and she was sent with troops badly equipped to besiege La Charité, where she again failed. For four weary months she remained inactive. She grew desperate; the voices neither encouraged nor discouraged her. She was now full of sad forebodings, yet her activity continued. She repaired to Compiègne, a city already besieged by the enemy, which she wished to relieve. In a sortie she was outnumbered, and was defeated and taken prisoner by John of Luxemburg, a vassal of the Duke of Burgundy.
The news of this capture produced great exhilaration among the English and Burgundians. Had a great victory been won, the effect could not have been greater. It broke the spell. The Maid was human, like other women; and her late successes were attributed not to her inspiration, but to demoniacal enchantments. She was looked upon as a witch or as a sorceress, and was now guarded with especial care for fear of a rescue, and sent to a strong castle belonging to John of Luxemburg. In Paris, on receipt of the news, the Duke of Bedford caused _Te Deums_ to be sung in all the churches, and the University and the Vicar of the Inquisition demanded of the Duke of Burgundy that she should be delivered to ecclesiastical justice.
The remarkable thing connected with the capture of the Maid was that so little effort was made to rescue her. She had rendered to Charles an inestimable service, and yet he seems to have deserted her; neither he nor his courtiers appeared to regret her captivity,--probably because they were jealous of her. Gratitude was not one of the virtues of feudal kings. What sympathy could feudal barons have with a low-born peasant girl? They had used her; but when she could be useful no longer, they forgot her. Out of sight she was out of mind; and if remembered at all, she was regarded as one who could no longer provoke jealousy. Jealousy is a devouring passion, especially among nobles. The generals of Charles VII. could not bear to have it said that the rescue of France was effected, not by their abilities, but by the inspired enthusiasm of a peasant girl. She had scorned intrigues and baseness, and these marked all the great actors on the stage of history in that age. So they said it was a judgment of Heaven upon her because she would not hear counsel. "No offer for her ransom, no threats of vengeance came from beyond the Loire." But the English, who had suffered most from the loss of Orleans, were eager to get possession of her person, and were willing even to pay extravagant rewards for her delivery into their hands. They had their vengeance to gratify. They also wished it to appear that Charles VII. was aided by the Devil; that his cause was not the true one; that Henry VI. was the true sovereign of France. The more they could throw discredit and obloquy upon the Maid of Orleans, the better their cause would seem. It was not as a prisoner of war that the English wanted her, but as a victim, whose sorceries could only be punished by death. But they could not try her and condemn her until they could get possession of her; and they could not get possession of her unless they bought her. The needy John of Luxemburg sold her to the English for ten thousand livres, and the Duke of Burgundy received political favors.
The agent employed by the English in this nefarious business was Couchon, the Bishop of Beauvais, who had been driven out of his city by Joan,--an able and learned man, who aspired to the archbishopric of Rouen. He set to work to inflame the University of Paris and the Inquisition against her. The Duke of Bedford did not venture to bring his prize to Paris, but determined to try her in Rouen; and the trial was intrusted to the Bishop of Beauvais, who conducted it after the forms of the Inquisition. It was simply a trial for heresy.
Joan tried for heresy! On that ground there was never a more innocent person tried by the Inquisition. Her whole life was notoriously virtuous. She had been obedient to the Church; she had advanced no doctrines which were not orthodox. She was too ignorant to be a heretic; she had accepted whatever her spiritual teacher had taught her; in fact, she was a Catholic saint. She lived in the ecstasies of religious faith like a Saint Theresa. She spent her time in prayer and religious exercises; she regularly confessed, and partook of the sacraments of the Church. She did not even have a single sceptical doubt; she simply affirmed that she obeyed voices that came from God.
Nothing could be more cruel than the treatment of this heroic girl, and all under the forms of ecclesiastical courts. It was the diabolical design of her enemies to make it appear that she had acted under the influence of the Devil; that she was a heretic and a sorceress. Nothing could be more forlorn than her condition. No efforts had been made to ransom her. She was alone, and unsupported by friends, having not a single friendly counsellor. She was carried to the castle of Rouen and put in an iron cage, and chained to its bars; she was guarded by brutal soldiers, was mocked by those who came to see her, and finally was summoned before her judges predetermined on her death. They went through the forms of trial, hoping to extort from the Maid some damaging confessions, or to entangle her with their sophistical and artful questions. Nothing perhaps on our earth has ever been done more diabolically than under the forms of ecclesiastical law; nothing can be more atrocious than the hypocrisies and acts of inquisitors. The judges of Joan extorted from her that she had revelations, but she refused to reveal what these had been. She was asked whether she was in a state of grace. If she said she was not, she would be condemned as an outcast from divine favor; if she said she was, she would be condemned for spiritual pride. All such traps were set for this innocent girl. But she acquitted herself wonderfully well, and showed extraordinary good sense. She warded off their cunning and puerile questions. They tried every means to entrap her. They asked her in what shape Saint Michael had appeared to her; whether or no he was naked; whether he had hair; whether she understood the feelings of those who had once kissed her feet; whether she had not cursed God in her attempt to escape at Beauvoir; whether it was for her merit that God sent His angel; whether God hated the English; whether her victory was founded on her banner or on herself; when had she learned to ride a horse.
The judges framed seventy accusations against her, mostly frivolous, and some unjust,--to the effect that she had received no religious training; that she had worn mandrake; that she dressed in man's attire; that she had bewitched her banner and her ring; that she believed her apparitions were saints and angels; that she had blasphemed; and other charges equally absurd. Under her rigid trials she fell sick; but they restored her, reserving her for a more cruel fate. All the accusations and replies were sent to Paris, and the learned doctors decreed, under English influence, that Joan was a heretic and a sorceress.
After another series of insulting questions, she was taken to the market-place of Rouen to receive sentence, and then returned to her gloomy prison, where they mercifully allowed her to confess and receive the sacrament. She was then taken in a cart, under guard of eight hundred soldiers, to the place of execution; rudely dragged to the funeral pile, fastened to a stake, and fire set to the faggots. She expired, exclaiming, "Jesus, Jesus! My voices, my voices!"
Thus was sacrificed one of the purest and noblest women in the whole history of the world,--a woman who had been instrumental in delivering her country, but without receiving either honor or gratitude from those for whom she had fought and conquered. She died a martyr to the cause of patriotism,--not for religion, but for her country. She died among enemies, unsupported by friends or by those whom she had so greatly benefited, and with as few religious consolations as it was possible to give. Never was there greater cruelty and injustice inflicted on an innocent and noble woman. The utmost ingenuity of vindictive priests
never extorted from her a word which criminated her, though they subjected her to inquisitorial examinations for days and weeks. Burned as an infidel, her last words recognized the Saviour in whom she believed; burned as a witch, she never confessed to anything but the voices of God. Her heroism, even at the stake, should have called out pity and admiration; but her tormentors were insensible to both. She was burned really from vengeance, because she had turned the tide of conquest. "The Jews," says Michelet, "never exhibited the rage against Jesus that the English did against the Pucelle," in whom purity, sweetness, and heroic goodness dwelt. Never was her life stained by a single cruel act. In the midst of her torments she did not reproach her tormentors. In the midst of her victories she wept for the souls of those who were killed; and while she incited others to combat, she herself did not use her sword. In man's attire she showed a woman's soul. Pity and gentleness were as marked as courage and self-confidence.
It is one of the most insolvable questions in history why so little effort was made by the French to save the Maid's life. It is strange that the University of Paris should have decided against her, after she had rendered such transcendent services. Why should the priests of that age have treated her as a witch, when she showed all the traits of an angel? Why should not the most unquestioning faith have preserved her from the charge of heresy? Alas! she was only a peasant girl, and the great could not bear to feel that the country had been saved by a peasant. Even chivalry, which worshipped women, did not come to Joan's aid. How great must have been feudal distinctions when such a heroic woman was left to perish! How deep the ingratitude of the King and his court, to have made no effort to save her!
Joan made one mistake: after the coronation of Charles VII. she should have retired from the field of war, for her work was done. Such a transcendent heroism could not have sunk into obscurity. But this was not to be; she was to die as a martyr to her cause.
After her death the English carried on war with new spirit for a time, and Henry VI. of England was crowned in Paris, at Notre Dame. He was crowned, however, by an English, not by a French prelate. None of the great French nobles even were present. The coronation was a failure. Gradually all France was won over to the side of Charles. He was a contemptible monarch, but he was the legitimate King of France. All classes desired peace; all parties were weary of war. The Treaty of Arras, in 1435, restored peace between Charles and Philip of Burgundy; and in the same year the Duke of Bedford died. In 1436 Charles took possession of Paris. In 1445 Henry VI. married Margaret of Anjou, a kinswoman of Charles VII. In 1448 Charles invaded Normandy, and expelled the English from the duchy which for four hundred years had belonged to the kings of England. Soon after Guienne fell. In 1453 Calais alone remained to England, after a war of one hundred years.
At last a tardy justice was done to the memory of her who had turned the tide of conquest. The King, ungrateful as he had been, now ennobled her family and their descendants, even in the female line, and bestowed upon them pensions and offices. In 1452, twenty years after the martyrdom, the Pope commissioned the Archbishop of Rheims and two other prelates, aided by an inquisitor, to inquire into the trial of Joan of Arc. They met in Notre Dame. Messengers were sent into the country where she was born, to inquire into her history; and all testified--priests and peasants--to the moral beauty of her character, to her innocent and blameless life, her heroism in battle, and her good sense in counsel. And the decision of the prelates was that her visions came from God; that the purity of her motives and the good she did to her country justified her in leaving her parents and wearing a man's dress. They pronounced the trial at Rouen to have been polluted with wrong and calumny, and freed her name from every shadow of disgrace. The people of Orleans instituted an annual religious festival to her honor. The Duke of Orleans gave a grant of land to her brothers, who were ennobled. The people of Rouen raised a stone cross to her memory in the market-place where she was burned. In later times, the Duchess of Orleans, wife of the son and heir of Louis Philippe, modelled with her own hands an exquisite statue of Joan of Arc. But the most beautiful and impressive tribute which has ever been paid to her name and memory was a _fête_ of three days' continuance, in 1856, on the anniversary of the deliverance of Orleans, when the celebrated Bishop Dupanloup pronounced one of the most eloquent eulogies ever offered to the memory of a heroine or benefactor. That ancient city never saw so brilliant a spectacle as that which took place in honor of its immortal deliverer, who was executed so cruelly under the superintendence of a Christian bishop,--one of those iniquities in the name of justice which have so often been perpetrated on this earth. It was a powerful nation which killed her, and one equally powerful which abandoned her.
But the martyrdom of Joan of Arc is an additional confirmation of the truth that it is only by self-sacrifice that great deliverances have been effected. Nothing in the moral government of God is more mysterious than the fate which usually falls to the lot of great benefactors. To us it seems sad and unjust; and nothing can reconcile us to the same but the rewards of a future and higher life. And yet amid the flames there arise the voices which save nations. Joan of Arc bequeathed to her country, especially to the common people, some great lessons; namely, not to despair amid great national calamities; to believe in God as the true deliverer from impending miseries, who, however, works through natural causes, demanding personal heroism as well as faith. There was great grandeur in that peasant girl,--in her exalted faith at Domremy, in her heroism at Orleans, in her triumph at Rheims, in her trial and martyrdom at Rouen. But unless she had suffered, nothing would have remained of this grandeur in the eyes of posterity. The injustice and meanness with which she was treated have created a lasting sympathy for her in the hearts of her nation. She was great because she died for her country, serene and uncomplaining amid injustice, cruelty, and ingratitude,--the injustice of an ecclesiastical court presided over by a learned bishop; the cruelty of the English generals and nobles; the ingratitude of her own sovereign, who made no effort to redeem her. She was sold by one potentate to another as if she were merchandise,--as if she were a slave. And those graces and illuminations which under other circumstances would have exalted her into a catholic saint, like an Elizabeth of Hungary or a Catherine of Sienna, were turned against her, by diabolical executioners, as a proof of heresy and sorcery. We repeat again, never was enacted on this earth a greater injustice. Never did a martyr perish with more triumphant trust in the God whose aid she had so uniformly invoked. And it was this triumphant Christian faith as she ascended the funeral pyre which has consecrated the visions and the voices under whose inspiration the Maid led a despairing nation to victory and a glorious future.
Monstrelets' Chronicles; Cousinot's Chronique de la Pucelle; Histoire et Discours du Siège, published by the city of Orleans in 1576; Sismondi's Histoire des Français; De Barante's Histoire des Dues de Bourgogne; Michelet and Henri Martin's Histories of France; Vallet de Viriville's Histoire de Charles VII.; Henri Wallon; Janet Tuckey's Life of Joan of Arc, published by Putnam, 1880.
Lectures by John Lord
Thirty-five years ago, inspired by the writings of Georgette Heyer, and little more than fresh out of high school, I wrote a Regency Romance novel entitled, A Very Merry Chase, which I finally published last year. Then and now history in all it’s forms was my first love–especially women’s history. These days I have two degrees in history; however a graduate degree in women’s studies was not an option at the university where I received my MA so I had to make do with a more generalized degree. Thus, in every class I made up for the lack by researching the condition of women in each age that I studied. I have always been fascinated by women’s history, so I thought I would start sharing some of the lost treasures that I uncover... and besides the truth of the matter is, most of women’s history was never written, and if was written it was downplayed, so in many cases our only real source of insight into a woman’s station in life were stories and women's journal articles written by men, and sometimes women, for upper class ladies to read. I believe that most people have curious minds and like glimpses of how the world was, and how things were perceived in the past. I firmly believe in the idea that we must remember history in order to learn from it, grow and hopefully cut down on the number of stupid mistakes that random impulse and intellectual curiosity and greed and a thousand other human motivators lead us to make.
Smiles and Good Fortune,
Teresa Thomas Bohannon
Author of the Regency Romance novel, A Very Merry Chase
Founder of The LadyWeb Family Of Informational & Educational Websites

It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent.
– W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915