[Joan of Arc Tending Her Flock]
Engraver: E. Dalziel
1862, rpt. 1910
8 cm wide by 12.3 cm high
From "England Under Henry the Sixth, Part Two," chapter 22 in Dickens's A Child's History of England in the Centenary Edition
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
[You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
In a remote village among some wild hills in the province of Lorraine, there lived a countryman whose name was JACQUES D'ARC. He had a daughter, JOAN OF ARC, who was at this time in her twentieth year. She had been a solitary girl from her childhood; she had often tended sheep and cattle for whole days where no human figure was seen or human voice heard; and she had often knelt, for hours together, in the gloomy, empty, little village chapel, looking up at the altar and at the dim lamp burning before it, until she fancied that she saw shadowy figures standing there, and even that she heard them speak to her. The people in that part of France were very ignorant and superstitious, and they had many ghostly tales to tell about what they had dreamed, and what they saw among the lonely hills when the clouds and the mists were resting on them. So, they easily believed that Joan saw strange sights, and they whispered among themselves that angels and spirits talked to her. [Chapter 22, "England Under Henry the Sixth"]
Clearly Dickens as a Francophile and an Englishman is in a quandary here, for he apparently believes that the French should have the right manage their own affairs, and not be subject to arbitrary rule by foreigners; however, he natural inclination is to side with the soldiers of his own nation. A further problem for the narrator is his acceptance of Joan of Arc's purity of intention in conflict with his natural religious scepticism about "voices" and miracles. Dickens, nevertheless, admires the girl of humble origins who, as The Maid of Orleans, helped free the French nation from foreign occupation. To get a sense of Dickens's ambivalence one should consider two further passages from A Child's History of England as these reveal his feelings about the value of the humble life she renounced to free her country, and the perfidy of those who followed Joan and those who benefited from her idealism, courage, and self-sacrifice. Historians might well accuse Dickens of editorialising and poeticizing, but then he was both a journalist and an imaginative artist activated by a zealous desire for social reform. He was, moreover, inherently a Romantic of the Wordsworth and Rousseau schools of thought in that he genuinely believed that one was more likely to find virtue situated in a humble cottage than an ostentatious palace. Thus, Marcus Stone's illustration emphasizes Joan's peasant origins rather than her martial exploits as the Maid of Orleans. Stone depicts her in the Christian iconographical tradition as the good shepherd, an ironic characterisation since she achieved fame as a virago, a warrior first, a saint long afterwards.
Passage One: An Effusion on the Faithlessness of Princes and the Fickleness of Kings
Ah! happy had it been for the Maid of Orleans, if she had resumed her rustic dress that day, and had gone home to the little chapel and the wild hills, and had forgotten all these things, and had been a good man's wife, and had heard no stranger voices than the voices of little children!
It was not to be, and she continued helping the King (she did a world for him, in alliance with Friar Richard), and trying to improve the lives of the coarse soldiers, and leading a religious, an unselfish, and a modest life, herself, beyond any doubt. Still, many times she prayed the King to let her go home; and once she even took off her bright armour and hung it up in a church, meaning never to wear it more. But, the King always won her back again — while she was of any use to him — and so she went on and on and on, to her doom. [After the Coronation of Charles the Seventh]
Passage Two: An Editorial Digression on False Rulers as "Monsters of Ingratitude"
From the moment of her capture, neither the French King nor one single man in all his court raised a finger to save her. It is no defence of them that they may have never really believed in her, or that they may have won her victories by their skill and bravery. The more they pretended to believe in her, the more they had caused her to believe in herself; and she had ever been true to them, ever brave, ever nobly devoted. But, it is no wonder, that they, who were in all things false to themselves, false to one another, false to their country, false to Heaven, false to Earth, should be monsters of ingratitude and treachery to a helpless peasant girl.
In the picturesque old town of Rouen, where weeds and grass grow high on the cathedral towers, and the venerable Norman streets are still warm in the blessed sunlight though the monkish fires that once gleamed horribly upon them have long grown cold, there is a statue of Joan of Arc, in the scene of her last agony, the square to which she has given its present name. I know some statues of modern times — even in the World's metropolis, I think — which commemorate less constancy, less earnestness, smaller claims upon the world's attention, and much greater impostors. [Conclusion of "Chapter 22, Part 2"]
Joan, The Shepherdess
Marcus Stone's character study of a tranquil but pensive Joan tending her sheep is in marked contrast to the Joan in shining armour, riding a white war-horse and waving a sacred sword as she comes to the relief of the besieged city of Orleans. The illustration apparently lacks the conflict and action of many of Stone's previous illustrations for the children's book. Indeed, it resembles somewhat Stone's study of a plainly dressed Alfred the Great, lost in thought before the kitchen fire, dreaming of the day that he might free England from Danish domination. However, the clenched hands suggest that the future Maid of Orleans, if not hearing mystical voices (for Dickens would not likely have sanctioned young Marcus Stone's depicting Joan's entertaining a vision of Saints Michael, Catherine, and Margaret), is considering the plight of her poor country. The illustrator suggests the simplicity and innocence of Joan by the fur jacket she wears (which connects her in her innocence and lack of guile to her half-dozen charges pasturing behind her), but emphasizes her thoughtfulness by the tilt of her head and her peasant background by her bare feet.
Avery, Gillian, ed. Charles Dickens: "A Holiday Romance" and Other Writings for Children with All the Original Illustrations. Everyman edition. London: J. M. Dent, 1995.
Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980.
Dickens, Charles. A Child's History of England in Works. Centenary Edition. 36 vols. London: Chapman and Hall; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910-12.
Last modified 19 March 2013