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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Jean La Fontaine

  • [The French fabulist; born at Château-Thierry, July 8, 1621; came to Paris under the patronage of the Duchesse de Bouillon, and received a pension from Fouquet; published his first tales, 1664; six books of Fables, 1668; the last six, 1678; member of the Academy; died April, 1695.]
  • Was he a greater genius than Rabelais?

  • A specimen of his mal à propos remarks. A brother of Boileau, who was a doctor of the Sorbonne, pronounced one day, before La Fontaine and two or three others, a long eulogy upon St. Augustine. The fabulist, whose mind had been running upon a very different author, and who had but little idea of the distinction to be observed between writers on sacred and profane subjects, interrupted the doctor to ask whether he thought St. Augustine a greater genius than Rabelais. The theologian contented himself with the reply, “Take care, M. La Fontaine, you have put on your stockings the wrong side out!”
  • At another time Racine took La Fontaine to church, and gave him a Bible, which he opened at the prayer of the Jews in Baruch; becoming interested in the book, which he had perhaps never opened before, he asked his friend, “Who was this Baruch? He was a fine genius!” For some time afterwards his salutation to friends was, “Have you read Baruch?”—LAROUSSE: Fleurs Historiques.
  • His attachment to his friends, says a biographer, was that of a dog to a master. When Mme. de Sablière, who gave the improvident fabulist a home for twenty years, was asked what she had saved from a financial disaster, she replied, “I only kept my dog and cat, and La Fontaine.”
  • He preferred the fables of the ancients to his own, which caused Fontenelle to say, “La Fontaine is stupid enough to think that the ancients had more wit than he” (Il est assez bête pour croire que les anciens ont plus d’esprit que lui); and Mme. de Sablière contrasted his simple and absent nature with his clever writings, by saying, “Mon cher, you would be terribly stupid, if you weren’t so witty.”