The Four Friends

Jean De La Fontaine (1621-1695)

One of the great figures of the age of Louis XIV, Jean de La Fontaine was born at Chateau-Thierry in 1621. He studied at Rheims and Paris, though he returned to his home afterward. In 1647 he married and entered the government service.

He left his wife shortly after his marriage, and placed himself under the protection of several persons of rank and power. In 1668 the first collection of his Fables was pub­lished, and the following year his Tales in verse. He wrote a romance and several plays besides, was elected to membership in the French Academy, and died in 1695.

La Fontaine’s Fables are by all counts his greatest achievement. These are, in the words of Lanson, “a picture of human life and French society.” Based on disop and Phasdrus and the other fabulists, the little masterpieces of La Fontaine are highly artistic literary perfor­mances. The Four Friends represents the ultimate perfection of this type of