Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/La Fontaine, Jean de
LA FONTAINE, JEAN DE, one of the classics of French literature; born in Château-Thierry, Champagne, France, July 8, 1621. He was about 22 years old when his literary ambition was awakened by the odes of Malherbe. A niece of Cardinal Mazarin admired his verses, and carried him to Paris; and there, speedily welcomed into the best literary and aristocratic circles, he spent the last 35 years of his life. The first volume of his “Tales” appeared in 1664; a second was added in 1671. The 12 books of his “Fables” were published in equal parts in 1668 and 1678. It is through them that La Fontaine is universally known. He is an inimitable teller of small stories. His personal character, strange mixture of childish simplicity and finesse which is perceptible in his poems, made him at once the pet and the laughing-stock of his friends and patrons. During the last two years of his life the religious sentiments of his early youth revived. He was admitted to the French Academy in 1684, conjointly with his friend Boileau, and died in Paris, April 13, 1695.