When, therefore, Anatole France published his exhaustive biography of the maid of Domremy, a book in which he followed, with exaggerated minuteness and innumerable footnotes, every step of Joan's physical career at the expense of her spiritual life, which he was inclined to cheapen, Lang wrote feelingly, and with some contempt, of the performance, inviting the author of the Personal Recollections to come to the rescue of their heroine. "Compare every one of his statements with the passages he cites from authorities, and make him the laughter of the world" he wrote. "If you are lazy about comparing I can make you a complete set of what the authorities say, and of what this amazing novelist says that they say. When I tell you that he thinks the Epiphany (January 6, Twelfth Night) is December 25th--Christmas Day-you begin to see what an egregious ass he is. Treat him like Dowden, and oblige"--a reference to Mark Twain's defense of Harriet Shelley, in which he had heaped ridicule on Dowden's Life of the Poet--a masterly performance; one of the best that ever came from Mark Twain's pen.
Lang's suggestion would seem to have been a welcome one.
To Andrew Lang, in London:
NEW YORK, April 25, 1908. DEAR MR. LANG,--I haven't seen the book nor any review of it, but only not very-understandable references to it--of a sort which discomforted me, but of course set my interest on fire. I don't want to have to read it in French--I should lose the nice shades, and should do a lot of gross misinterpreting, too. But there'll be a translation soon, nicht wahr? I will wait for it. I note with joy that you say: "If you are lazy about comparing, (which I most certainly am), I can make you a complete set of what the authorities say, and of what this amazing novelist says that they say."
Ah, do it for me! Then I will attempt the article, and (if I succeed in doing it to my satisfaction,) will publish it. It is long since I touched a pen (3 1/2 years), and I was intending to continue this happy holiday to the gallows, but--there are things that could beguile me to break this blessed Sabbath. Yours very sincerely, S. L. CLEMENS.
Certainly it is an interesting fact that an Englishman--one of the race that burned Joan--should feel moved to defend her memory against the top-heavy perversions of a distinguished French author.
But Lang seems never to have sent the notes. The copying would have been a tremendous task, and perhaps he never found the time for it. We may regret to-day that he did not, for Mark Twain's article on the French author's Joan would have been at least unique.
Samuel Clemens could never accustom himself to the loss of his wife. From the time of her death, marriage-which had brought him his greatest joy in life-presented itself to him always with the thought of bereavement, waiting somewhere just behind. The news of an approaching wedding saddened him and there was nearly always a somber tinge in his congratulations, of which the following to a dear friend is an example:
To Father Fitz-Simon, in Washington:
June 5, '08. DEAR FATHER FITZ-SIMON,--Marriage--yes, it is the supreme felicity of life, I concede it. And it is also the supreme tragedy of life. The deeper the love the surer the tragedy. And the more disconsolating when it comes.
And so I congratulate you. Not perfunctorily, not lukewarmly, but with a fervency and fire that no word in the dictionary is strong enough to convey. And in the same breath and with the same depth and sincerity, I grieve for you. Not for both of you and not for the one that shall go first, but for the one that is fated to be left behind. For that one there is no recompense.--For that one no recompense is possible.