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merston once characterised as members of “the Pope's brass band :”—Geo. Henry Moore, bearing nature’s stamp of a disappointed man, and fond of rebuking Protestant intolerance with an intolerance more intense ;—M'Guire, an Irish newspaper editor, with a rich brogue, whose exaggerated metaphors and fiery denunciations might drive an Irish mob to pikes and the green flag, but move the House of Commons to nothing more serious than laughter ;— Isaac Butt, not quite the orator he was thought to be ;M'Mahon, and others. Upon this bench is usually seen Mr. Cairns, a chancery barrister in a full tide of practice, the best debater among the lawyers in the House-clear, methodical, and convincing,—who always damages the party or the measure he rises to attack. It is not very clear why Mr. Cairns does not sit with his party, and why he suffers the gangway to keep up a quasi-distance between him and Mr. Disraeli. The same question is asked relative to Mr. Thomas Baring, who is usually found in close proximity to Mr. Serjeant Shee, on the third bench. It was only on Mr. Baring's refusal to take the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer that Mr. Disraeli accepted it. He is still supposed to give his party the benefit of his opinions on finance, but with characteristic modesty courts the obscurity of a back bench. Mr. Beresford, once the whipper-in of the opposition, but latterly a martyr to gout, and, out of humour with his party because they won't give him a good cry to go to the country with, is usually found in this region. Nor must Sir Henry Willoughby be forgotten, whose passion is finance, and whose dreams are haunted by visions of irregular or unexplained balances in the Exchequer, which he explains under the confusing influence of his nightmare.
The “ questions” are over. A dozen members have given notice that on a particular day named, or on some early day before or after Easter, they will call the attention of the House to the reform of the representation, or the tax on hair-powder, or the adoption of the Maine Liquor Law. The Speaker has read the Queen's speech, while the hearts of the gentlemen in military uniform thumped audibly against their breasts. He sits down, and calls upon one of them. The bell has rung; the curtain is drawn up: the Session of 1857 has commenced ; and the meandering stream of talk will flow on, now rapidly, and sometimes sluggishly enough, until it is interrupted by a prorogation or a dissolution.
JOAN OF ARC.
The history of this work, by M. Abel Desjardins , is soon told. Amongst the deep and searching investigations which have been made of late years by our continental neighbours, into the history of France, a very considerable share of attention has been naturally enough given to their national heroine, Joan of Arc. The most conspicuous of these special researches have been those of M. Jules Quicherat, who has devoted ten years to an examination of all the documents concerning her which are preserved in the King's Library at Paris. The result of these researches-said to be a work worthy of a Benedictine—has been published in five thick octavos, which contain everything of any interest in relation to the subject. But a work of that bulk and character is, from its very nature, only available to
. "Vie de Jeanne d'Arc. Par Abel Desjardins, Professeur d'histoire à la Faculté des Lettres de Dijon.” D'après les Documents nouvellement publiés." (Paris : Didot frères.)
men of learning. It was desirable that a life of Joan of Arc, founded entirely upon those authentic materials, should be written for the popular use; and this is what has been done in the work before us, with admirable taste and skill, by M. Abel Desjardins. He makes no statement of any moment without a reference to the volume and the page of M. Quicherat's publication, by which it is supported; so that his appendix of references, as a consequence of this minute fidelity, amounts upon the whole to very nearly half as many pages as the life which it authenticates. It is one of the many merits of the work, that this necessity of following old, and often ill-written, documents with close conformity, has not at all impeded the freedom or the grace of M. Desjardins' own agreeable style.
The story of Joan of Arc, as our author tells it, is a very sweet and sad one. The charm that binds our hearts to her in her heroic days, and bids us weep for her as she wins her martyr's crown, begins to exercise itself even in the earliest dawn of her attractive and uncommon infancy. The loving and devout nature, with all its strange and solemn earnestness of feeling and of faith, is quite as visible in the child's pursuits and aspirations as in the most wonderful of the noble-hearted heroine's achievements. To labour and to pray were the two lessons that her mother taught her, and they struck root deeply in her being. Another important intiuence, the love of her native land-came to her from her father. Altogether, her parents were no common people. The mother's piety and the father's patriotism bore fruit which has made their poor cottage-home in Domremy memorable for ever. In that miserable hamlet in a far-off valley of the land, when evening grouped the family around their lowly hearth, a faithful thought was given to the state of France; and, amidst the hardship of their own daily lot of toil and want, they mourned over the misfortunes of their country, and prayed for its deliverance from the double curse of a distracted and divided government, helpless for defence on the one hand, and, on the other, foreign invaders of the soil, pillaging and ravaging at will. Their own personal sufferings, grievous as they often might be, were never allowed to harden them against this great national affliction. And whilst these nightly colloquies were fostering the poor child's love of France, other colloquies, unheard by mortal ears, were fostering her love of God. In a chapel on the green hill-side, before her father's door, it was her great delight to indulge in those services by which the Roman Catholic Church encourages devotion ; and often-stealing from her young companions, as they danced and played on the grassy slope, or in the adjacent wood-she found a deeper joy in carrying her hoarded offering into the sanctuary, and pouring forth at the Virgin's feet her heart-felt thanksgivings and prayers. And heavenly voices, as she fondly thought, soon answered her. It was in her father's garden, at noon on a summer-day, that the child—she was then only in her thirteenth yeu-heard for the first time, in fear and awe, the voice of the archangel urging her to a virtuous and a pious life, promising her God's aid, and impressing on her, above all else, that she must go forth to the assistance of the realm of France. This, however, was but the beginning of a long succession of what Joan, at least, had amplest faith in as Divine communications. From that time she continued to be visited, as often as twice or three times within a week, by the archangel Michael, and by Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, and the constant burden of their sweet and solemn messages was evermore the same. And “she believed in these voices,” in the words of her own eloquent assurance on her trial, “ as she believed in the Christian faith : she believed that they came from God, and by His command, as she believed that our Saviour has re. deemed us from the sufferings of hell.”
This was Joan's invincible conviction. But whether we agree with her and with her biographer in believing that she had in very truth a supernatural mission to fulfil, or regard her mysterious messages of counsel and command as delusions generated by an overheated imagination and an unenlightened devotion, it will be in either case clear that she had, in addition to the inspiration of her love of France, that still grander inspiration of a faith in God, which has in many another noble instance given birth to undertakings as romantic and successes as complete as hers. The efficacy of this faith was manifested first amidst the humble cares and occupations of her daily life at Domremy. She proved its temper well by the unwearied industry with which she plied her needle and her spinningwheel, or performed the common duties of the household; by her obedience and her affection to her parents ; by her charitable succour to the poor ; by her constancy and earnestness in prayer; and, in a word, by the whole tenor of a life-passed, be it observed, not, as is commonly supposed, as a shepherd-girl in the fields, but under a pious mother's eye at home-so striking for its goodness and its purity, as to win for her the admiration and esteem of peasants, priests, and nobles of the neighbourhood that she dwelt in and adorned. And this was no short or slight novitiate : it continued throughout five years—during which there was no deviation from this beautiful blamelessness of conduct, and no cessation of the voices which, with an ever-increasing urgency, impelled her to set forth upon the crowning work they had commanded her to do.
It was in the beginning of her eighteenth year that Joan departed from Domremy on her strange and perilous expedition. By the very greatness of her undertaking we may estimate the truth and strength of her dependence on Divine aid for its accomplishment. The untaught and inexperienced peasant-girl, with no protection but her purpose and her purity and faith, began a journey of a hundred and fifty leagues, throughout a district overrun by the insolent and unrestrained soldiers of a victorious army of invaders, in order—as the consummation of her enterprize—to deliver France from her triumphant enemies, and to confer the crown, and the powers of actual sovereignty, upon that discredited Dauphin whom she had been taught by her mysterious visitants to look upon as rightful inheritor of the throne. As, with this intent, the maiden quitted her hamlet-home, how miserably inadequate, in any human judgment, must her means have seemed in relation to that momentous end !
But it was Joan's good fortune to win new credit and support at every pause upon her way. At Vaucouleurs, her first resting-place, many believed in the reality of her mission; the captain of the place somewhat reluctantly accorded her an escort and a sword; and the common people zealously subscribed to provide for her a horse and a man's dress, which she regarded as an indispensable equipment on her journey. Above all, the two chiefs of her escort were so penetrated with her own undoubting faith, that, on arriving at the Dauphin's court, they manifested the utmost enthusiasm in making known to all whom they approached, how marvellously they had been preserved upon their perilous route, how matchless and how manifold were the heroine's virtues, and how complete was their own belief that her commission came from God.
It must be confessed that the train of events which followed Joan's arrival at the Dauphin's court were not ill-calculated, in a credulous age, to give currency to this conviction of her guides. At her first interview she recognised the Dauphin in the midst of all his courtiers. Subjected to the strict and stern assay of bishops, counsellors, and university doctors, she came forth from it like fine gold from the fire. When asked for signs of the divine mission she laid claim to, her noble answer was, “ Lead me, in God's name, to Orleans : it is there that I will give signs which shall make all believe in me.” The wisest advisers of the Dauphin owned her inspiration, and urged their master to adventure on the enterprise to which this prophetess of victory invited him. Their recommendations overcame his scruples; and thus the first marvellous step in Joan's career-her attainment of the royal acknowledgment of her mission, and of the mastery of the instruments her undertaking called for-was happily accomplished. The redemption of the kingdom was confided to the saintly peasant-girl.
There was no slackness in preparing for the expedition, when it had been with judicious hesitation once determined on. Clothed in the suit of armour which the Dauphin had provided for her; mounted on the warhorse which had been presented to her by the Duke of Alençon, and equipped with her embroidered and emblazoned standard, and with the sword, dug by her direction, from a knight's tomb—" which was dear to her, because it seemed to her to have been blessed and consecrated by her venerated patroness, Saint Catherine, Joan soon found herself at the head of a band of grim and hardy soldiers, who received her with enthusiasm, and submitted with alacrity to the discipline of strict morality and solemn prayer which she enforced. It was at day-dawn of a beautiful morning in the spring of the year 1429, that her army, singing the hymn of Veni, Creator, began its march towards Orleans. On the evening of the third day it arrived within sight of the beleaguered city, which Joan entered at nightfall : and never, probably, was any mortal succour welcomed with a heartier delight. The fame of her heavenly mission had outstripped her own advance, and had filled the city with an atmosphere of joyous faith and trust. The streets were bright with the light of a thousand torches; men of all conditions-rich and poor, nobles, priests, and citizens, captains, and the soldiers they commanded-crowded hurriedly to meet her; and all the population of the place, male and female, rejoiced “as though they had seen Divinity itself descend amongst them.”
The common hope which had occasioned this commotion of delight was not disappointed. Within six days she had, in spite of the impediments which were thrown in her way by the professional commanders of the troops, obtained her first victory over the besiegers. This was the prelude to other and more important successes. After a brief interval of religious observance and repose, as morning broke on the second day afterwards, Joan, at the head of her little army, left the ramparts, to be again successful in a harder and a bloodier combat. Much, however, yet remained to do which the military chiefs esteemed it madness to attempt without reinforcements. Scarcely had they come to this decision in their council, when Joan, who had been also seeking guidance from a wiser source, announced her resolution to resume the conflict on the following day. parations for the assault were made without a moment's pause. The furious strife began betimes on the next morning, and was continued with a fluctuating fortune until night. More than once the inspiration of the heroine saved her party from defeat. Placing with her own hand the first ladder on the English rampart, she received a broad and deep wound, and was carried fainting from the field ; but no sooner was her wound dressed,
and she was made aware of the consternation which her fall had given rise to, than she was again armed and mounted, and encouraging her wearied soldiers in their unrelenting work. At length, as the day waned, the courage of her troops began to waver, and then it was that Joan, withdrawing for a while in fervent prayer, returned to animate them to a last triumphant effort. As her standard touched the rampart, a white dove flew over her, and, availing herself of the augury, she cried out to her followers, “ Enter, children; they are ours !” The impulse was an irresistible one, and the siege of Orleans was from that moment raised. The English commander, Talbot, set fire to his works on the following morning, and retired from them with the ruins of his army. At the same time, Joan “assembled at the foot of an altar raised in the open air, outside the city's walls, the whole of that population whom she had delivered in three days. The majestic hymn Te Deum burst forth from their united voices, and ascended towards heaven, just as the last battalions of the English were disappearing at the horizon."
Great as the public faith in Joan had been before, what bounds could be put to it after this unparalleled success? No wonder that the path she travelled by to meet the Dauphin was crowded by a grateful people anxious to behold her; no wonder that the women kneeled before her on her way, and the poor pressed forward eagerly to touch her armour, or to kiss her feet and hands; no wonder, even, to those who understood the simplicity of that piety from which her power arose, that these tokens of an admi. ration and a gratitude without bounds afflicted and alarmed, instead of gratifying, her; and that, in the midst of them, she sighed with her whole soul for solitary self-communing !
In spite, however, of the unexpected triumph of the French arms, there were amongst the advisers of the Dauphin many who were still afraid of depending upon Joan's guidance in an immediate march to Rheims. The country to be passed through was in the possession of the English and Burgundian troops; and commanders who had learned the art of war painfully, and by a long and dearly-bought experience, had naturally some reluctance in confronting enemies so powerful with what were, in any military estimate, at least, inferior and inadequate forces. They had not faith enough in Joan's announcement of a Divine arm outstretched to help them, or not philosophy enough to understand the influence of that faith in inspiring with a tenfold strength the sinews of the men who fought, as they believed, with saints and angels battling in their van. Her endeavours to surmount this obstacle were eager and unceasing. Casting herself, on one occasion, on her knees before the Dauphin and his council
, she besought them, with a passionate earnestness, to put their trust in Him whose aid was promised them through her, and not to cast from them the great deliverance He had placed within their reach. The eloquent appeal persuaded them "Renouncing the calculations of human wisdom, they suffered themselves to be carried away by an enthusiasm which came from God.”
The campaign which followed this decision was a succession of triumphs. In twice as many days, four strongly-fortified places had either yielded to her or been taken by force ; she had been victorious in the hard-fought and important battle of Patay; and three memorable captains of the English Suffolk, Scales, and Talbot-had become her prisoners. And all this had been achieved, not by the great commanders and the veteran knights who were her companions in the strife, but—as they themselves were the readiest to bear witness—by the wisdom, and the courage, and the military skill of