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Jean de La Fontaine

Jean de La Fontaine

Château-Thierry 1621 -
Paris 1695


The French writer Jean de La Fontaine was born in Château-Thierry on July 8, 1621. Up until his tenth year of school, he stayed in the place of his birth, and he finished his schooling in Paris in 1636. Five years later, La Fontaine began to study theology with the Order of the Oratorians, but he left the order after his novitiate in 1643.
From 1645 to 1647 he studied law and in 1647 married a 14-year-old in Château-Thierry. At this point he moved to Paris for good and had contacts to literary circles.
In 1654, Jean de La Fontaine’s first work appeared, "L’Eunuque", an unwritten play by Publius Terentius Afer (around 190–159/158). He wrote his first original work, the small epic "Adonis", in 1658 and dedicated it to the French Minister of Finance Nicolas Fouquet (1615–80).
In 1662, Fouquet fell into disgrace with King Louis XIV (1638–1715) and was imprisoned. La Fontaine fled to Limoges, and there he completed his verse stories that were published in 1665 and 1666 as "Comtes et nouvelles en vers". In 1664, the first two fairy tales "Joconde" and "Le Cocu battu et content" were published.
From 1664 to 1672, the writer found himself in Paris, and was housed by his new patron Marguerite de Lorrain (1615-72), the widow of Gaston d’Orlean (1608–60), in the Palais du Luxembourg. Here Jean de La Fontaine wrote his main work, the fables.
These appeared in 1668 as "Fables choisies, mises en vers par M. de La Fontaine" in two volumes. Beginning in 1672, he was a long-term guest of the banker’s widow Marguerite de la Sablière (1640–93). The writer had difficulties with increasing censorship: a newly-published selection of the Comtes et nouvelles was banned. In the years 1667 and 69, volumes four and five of the Fables choisies appeared. In 1683, La Fontaine was appointed to the Académie Française.
In addition, the Comédie Française staged the play "Le Rendez-Vous", which was only performed four times and is no longer extant. In 1692, he published a revised complete edition of the "Comtes". In the same year, he became very ill and turned from now on to religion.
Jean de La Fontaine died in Paris in the year 1695.


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