The Fables of La Fontaine / translated from the French by Elizur Wright, with notes by J. W. M. Gibbs
The Fables of Jean de La Fontaine
– The Fables of Jean de La Fontaine were issued in several volumes from 1668 to 1694. They are classics of French literature.
Divided into 12 books, there are 239 of the Fables, varying in length from a few lines to some hundred, those written later being as a rule longer than the earlier.
The first collection of Fables Choisies had appeared March 31, 1668, dividing 124 fables into six books over its two volumes. They were dedicated to “Monseigneur” Louis, le Grand Dauphin, the six-year-old son of Louis XIV of France and his queen consort Maria Theresa of Spain. By this time, La Fontaine was 47 and known to readers chiefly as the author of Contes, lively stories in verse, grazing and sometimes transgressing the bounds of contemporary moral standards. The Fables, in contrast, were completely in compliance with these standards.
Eight new fables published in 1671 would eventually take their place in books 7–9 of the second collection. Books 7 and 8 appeared in 1678, while 9–11 appeared in 1679, the whole 87 fables being dedicated to the king's mistress, Madame de Montespan. Between 1682 and 1685 a few fables were published dealing with people in antiquity, such as “The Matron of Ephesus” and “Philemon and Baucis”. Then book 12 appeared as a separate volume in 1694, containing 29 fables dedicated to the king's 12-year-old grandchild, Louis, Duke of Burgundy.
Jean de La Fontaine
– Jean de La Fontaine (8 July 1621 – 13 April 1695) was the most famous French fabulist and one of the most widely read French poets of the 17th century. He is known above all for his Fables, which provided a model for subsequent fabulists across Europe and numerous alternative versions in France, and in French regional languages.
According to Flaubert, he was the only French poet to understand and master the texture of the French language before Victor Hugo. A set of postage stamps celebrating La Fontaine and the Fables was issued by France in 1995.
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