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Grammatical, Explanatory, and Etymological Notes
FRANCIS TARVER, M.A., Oxon.
FRENCH MASTER AT ETON COLLEGE
LIBRAIRIE HACHETTE & Cie
LIFE AND WRITINGS
JEAN DE LA FONTAINE.
JEAN DE LA FONTAINE was born July 8, 1621, at Château- Birth, July 8.
1621. Thierry. His father, Charles de la Fontaine, was Commissioner of Waters and Forests, and his mother's maiden name was Françoise Pidoux. The poet's family was an ancient one, and had some pretensions to nobility. His early education was conducted at a village school, and afterwards at Rheims, town for which he always entertained a great affection.
A certain Canon of Soissons, by name Héricart, fancying that he saw in the young man an inclination for the clerical profession, endeavoured to develope this inclination, and young Jean de la Fontaine was sent to the seminary of St. Magloire in 1641, Enters Seminary where, however, he only remained for one year, not having (as at St. Magloire
1641. we learn from a subsequent letter to his wife) been either able or willing to master sufficient theology to render him fit for holy orders. The indolent life of pleasure which La Fontaine led after leaving the seminary proved how little fitted he would have been for the Church. Several anecdotes are related at this period of his life of the carelessness and forgetfulness which characterised him throughout. One will be sufficient to paint the man.
Returning one day from Paris to Château-Thierry on horseback with some family papers of great importance attached to his saddle, he let them fall. They were picked up soon aster by the driver of the mails, and upon his overtaking and asking La Fontaine if he had not lost anything, lie replied that he was perfectly sure that he had not ; but on seeing the packet exclaimed that his whole property depended upon it. La Fon- Taste for Poetry taine seems to have reached his twenty-second year before he first developed in
1643. showed any signs of a taste for poetry. His hearing an ode of
* La Fontaine thus speaks of Rheims in his “ Contes,” üü., 4 :
Il n'est cité que je préfère à Reims;