Painted portrait of French poet Jean de la Fontaine.

Jean de La Fontaine

(1621 - 1695)

While still holding the sinecureal post of master of waters and forests in 1668, Jean de La Fontaine published the first part of his twelve-volume Fables, now considered a masterpiece of French literature. The stories, rendered in verse, are based on Aesop’s fables and East Asian folk tales. Believing that the poet was too risqué, Louis XIV initially opposed La Fontaine’s induction into the French Academy, but relented in 1684. “You may elect Monsieur de La Fontaine,” the king judged. “He has promised to be good.” A prolific poet and dramatist, La Fontaine proclaimed a year before his death, “I would die of boredom if I couldn’t keep writing.” 

All Writing

It is impossible to please all the world and one’s father.

—Jean de La Fontaine, 1668

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