Very few people know that Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) wrote a major work on Joan of Arc. Still fewer know that he considered it not only his most important but also his best work. He spent twelve years in research and many months in France doing archival work and then made several attempts until he felt he finally had the story he wanted to tell. He reached his conclusion about Joan’s unique place in history only after studying in detail accounts written by both sides, the French and the English.
Because of Mark Twain’s antipathy to institutional religion, one might expect an anti-Catholic bias toward Joan or at least toward the bishops and theologians who condemned her. Instead one finds a remarkably accurate biography of the life and mission of Joan of Arc told by one of this country’s greatest storytellers. The very fact that Mark Twain wrote this book and wrote it the way he did is a powerful testimony to the attractive power of the Catholic Church’s saints. This is a book that really will inform and inspire.
“ I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none.”
“Mark Twain comes furtively like Nicodemus at night with this tribute to one of God’s saints. In doing so he tells a secret about himself. It is as though the man in a white suit and a cloud of cigar smoke thought there just might be a place where people in white robes stand in clouds of incense.”
Fr. George Rutler, Author, The Cure d’Ars Today
“Twain’s understanding of history and Joan’s place in it accounts for his regarding his book Joan of Arc as worth all of his other books together.”
Edward Wagenknecht, The Man and His Work
“Joan of Arc is the lone example that history affords of an actual, real embodiment of all the virtues demonstrated by Huck and Jim and of all that Twain felt to be noble in man, Joan is the ideal toward which mankind strives. Twain had to tell her story because she is the sole concrete argument against the pessimistic doctrines of his deterministic philosophy.”
Robert Wiggins, Mark Twain: Jackleg Novelist