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Jean de La Fontaine

Born 8 July 1621(1621-07-08)
Château-Thierry, Champagne. 1
Died 13 April 1695 (aged 73)
Paris, France
Occupation Fabulist, Poet
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Jean de La Fontaine (July 8, 1621 – April 13, 1695) was the most famous French fabulist and one of the most widely read French poets of the 17th century.

According to Flaubert, he was the only French poet to understand and master the texture of the French language before Hugo. A set of postage stamps celebrating La Fontaine and the Fables was issued by France in 1995. A film of his life was released in France in April 2007 (Jean de La Fontaine - le défi starring Laurent Deutsch).

Contents

Biography

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Early years

La Fontaine was born at Château-Thierry in Champagne. His father was Charles de La Fontaine, maître des eaux et forêts - a kind of deputy-ranger - of the duchy of Château-Thierry; his mother was Françoise Pidoux. Both sides of his family were of the highest provincial middle class; though they were not noble, his father was fairly wealthy.

Jean, the eldest child, was educated at the collège (grammar school) of Reims, and at the end of his school days he entered the Oratory in May 1641, and the seminary of Saint-Magloire in October of the same year; but a very short sojourn proved to him that he had mistaken his vocation. He then apparently studied law, and is said to have been admitted as avocat (lawyer).

Family life

He was, however, settled in life, or at least might have been so, somewhat early. In 1647 his father resigned his rangership in his favor, and arranged a marriage for him with Marie Héricart, a girl of fourteen, who brought him twenty thousand livres, and expectations. She seems to have been both beautiful and intelligent, but the two did not get along well together. There appears to be absolutely no ground for the vague scandal as to her conduct, which was, for the most part, raised long afterwards by gossips or personal enemies of La Fontaine. All that can be positively said against her is that she was a negligent housewife and an inveterate novel reader; La Fontaine himself was constantly away from home, was certainly not strict in point of conjugal fidelity, and was so bad a man of business that his affairs became involved in hopeless difficulty, and a separation de biens had to take place in 1658. This was a perfectly amicable transaction for the benefit of the family; by degrees, however, the pair, still without any actual quarrel, ceased to live together, and for the greater part of the last forty years of La Fontaine's life he lived in Paris while his wife dwelt at Chateau Thierry, which, however, he frequently visited. One son was born to them in 1653, and was educated and taken care of wholly by his mother.

Career in Paris

Even in the earlier years of his marriage La Fontaine seems to have been much in Paris, but it was not until about 1656 that he became a regular visitor to the capital. The duties of his office, which were only occasional, were compatible with this non-residence. It was not until he was past thirty that his literary career began. The reading of Malherbe, it is said, first awoke poetical fancies in him, but for some time he attempted nothing but trifles in the fashion of the time - epigrams, ballades, rondeaux, etc.

His first serious work was a translation or adaptation of the Eunuchus of Terence (1654). At this time the Maecenas of French letters was the Superintendent Fouquet, to whom La Fontaine was introduced by Jacques Jannart, a connection of his wife's. Few people who paid their court to Fouquet went away empty-handed, and La Fontaine soon received a pension of 1000 livres (1659), on the easy terms of a copy of verses for each quarters receipt. He also began a medley of prose and poetry, entitled Le Songe de Vaux, on Fouquet's famous country house.

It was about this time that his wife's property had to be separately secured to her, and he seems by degrees to have had to sell everything that he owned; but, as he never lacked powerful and generous patrons, this was of small importance to him. In the same year he wrote a ballad, Les Rieurs du Beau-Richard, and this was followed by many small pieces of occasional poetry addressed to various personages from the king downwards.

Fouquet soon incurred the royal displeasure, but La Fontaine, like most of his literary proteges, was not unfaithful to him, the well-known elegy Pleurez, Nymphes de Vaux, being by no means the only proof of his devotion. Indeed it is thought not improbable that a journey to Limoges in 1663 in company with Jannart, and of which we have an account written to his wife, was not wholly spontaneous, as it certainly was not on Jannart's part.

Just at this time his affairs did not look promising. His father and he had assumed the title of esquire, to which they were not strictly entitled, and, some old edicts on the subject having been put in force, an informer procured a sentence against the poet fining him 2000 livres. He found, however, a new protector in the duke and still more in the duchess of Bouillon, his feudal superiors at Chateau Thierry, and nothing more is heard of the fine.

Some of La Fontaine's liveliest verses are addressed to the duchess, Marie Anne Mancini, the youngest of Mazarin's nieces, and it is even probable that the taste of the duke and duchess for Ariosto had something to do with the writing of his first work of real importance, the first book of the Contes, which appeared in 1664. He was then forty-three years old, and his previous printed productions had been comparatively trivial, though much of his work was handed about in manuscript long before it was regularly published.

Years of fame

Portrait of La Fontaine attributed to François de Troy

It was about this time that the quartet of the Rue du Vieux Colombier, so famous in French literary history, was formed. It consisted of La Fontaine, Racine, Boileau and Molière, the last of whom was almost of the same age as La Fontaine, the other two considerably younger. Chapelain was also a kind of outsider in the coterie. There are many anecdotes, some pretty obviously apocryphal, about these meetings. The most characteristic is perhaps that which asserts that a copy of Chapelain's unlucky Pucelle always lay on the table, a certain number of lines of which was the appointed punishment for offences against the company. The coterie furnished under feigned names the personages of La Fontaine's version of the Cupid and Psyche story, which, however, with Adonis, was not printed till 1669.

Meanwhile the poet continued to find friends. In 1664 he was regularly commissioned and sworn in as gentleman to the duchess dowager of Orléans, and was installed in the Luxembourg. He still retained his rangership, and in 1666 we have something like a reprimand from Colbert suggesting that he should look into some malpractices at Chateau Thierry. In the same year appeared the second book of the Contes, and in 1668 the first six books of the Fables, with more of both kinds in 1671. In this latter year a curious instance of the docility with which the poet lent himself to any influence was afforded by his officiating, at the instance of the Port-Royalists, as editor of a volume of sacred poetry dedicated to the Prince of Conti.

A year afterwards his situation, which had for some time been decidedly flourishing, showed signs of changing very much for the worse. The duchess of Orléans died, and he apparently had to give up his rangership, probably selling it to pay debts. But there was always a providence for La Fontaine. Madame de la Sablière, a woman of great beauty, of considerable intellectual power and of high character, invited him to make his home in her house, where he lived for some twenty years. He seems to have had no trouble whatever about his affairs thenceforward; and could devote himself to his two different lines of poetry, as well as to that of theatrical composition.

French Academy

In 1682 he was, at more than sixty years of age, recognized as one of the first men of letters of France. Madame de Sévigné, one of the soundest literary critics of the time, and by no means given to praise mere novelties, had spoken of his second collection of Fables published in the winter of 1678 as divine; and it is pretty certain that this was the general opinion. It was not unreasonable, therefore, that he should present himself to the Académie française, and, though the subjects of his Contes were scarcely calculated to propitiate that decorous assembly, while his attachment to Fouquet and to more than one representative of the old Frondeur party made him suspect to Colbert and the king, most of the members were his personal friends.

He was first proposed in 1682, but was rejected for Marquis de Dangeau. The next year Colbert died and La Fontaine was again nominated. Boileau was also a candidate, but the first ballot gave the fabulist sixteen votes against seven only for the critic. The king, whose assent was necessary, not merely for election but for a second ballot in case of the failure of an absolute majority, was ill-pleased, and the election was left pending. Another vacancy occurred, however, some months later, and to this Boileau was elected. The king hastened to approve the choice effusively, adding, Vous pouvez incessamment recevoir La Fontaine, il a promis d'etre sage.

His admission was indirectly the cause of the only serious literary quarrel of his life. A dispute took place between the Academy and one of its members, Antoine Furetière, on the subject of the latter's French dictionary, which was decided to be a breach of the Academy's corporate privileges. Furetire, a man of no small ability, bitterly assailed those whom he considered to be his enemies, and among them La Fontaine, whose unlucky Contes made him peculiarly vulnerable, his second collection of these tales having been the subject of a police condemnation. The death of the author of the Roman Bourgeois, however, put an end to this quarrel.

Shortly afterwards La Fontaine had a share in a still more famous affair, the celebrated Ancient-and-Modern squabble in which Boileau and Charles Perrault were the chiefs, and in which La Fontaine (though he had been specially singled out by Perrault for favorable comparison with Aesop and Phaedrus) took the Ancient side. About the same time (1685–1687) he made the acquaintance of the last of his many hosts and protectors, Monsieur and Madame d'Hervart, and fell in love with a certain Madame Ulrich, a lady of some position but of doubtful character. This acquaintance was accompanied by a great familiarity with Vendôme, Chaulieu and the rest of the libertine coterie of the Temple; but, though Madame de la Sablière had long given herself up almost entirely to good works and religious exercises, La Fontaine continued an inmate of her house until her death in 1693.

What followed is told in one of the best known of the many stories bearing on his childlike nature. Hervart on hearing of the death, had set out at once to find La Fontaine. He met him in the street in great sorrow, and begged him to make his home at his house. J'y allais was La Fontaines answer. He had already undergone the process of conversion during a severe illness the year before. An energetic young priest, M. Poucet, had brought him, not indeed to understand, but to acknowledge the impropriety of the Contes, and it is said that the destruction of a new play of some merit was demanded and submitted to as a proof of repentance.

A pleasant story is told of the young duke of Burgundy, Fenelon's pupil, who was then only eleven years old, sending 50 louis to La Fontaine as a present of his own motion. But, though La Fontaine recovered for the time, he was broken by age and infirmity, and his new hosts had to nurse rather than to entertain him, which they did very carefully and kindly. He did a little more work, completing his Fables among other things; but he did not survive Madame de la Sablière much more than two years, dying on 13 April 1695, at the age of seventy-three. When the Père Lachaise Cemetery opened in Paris, Lafontaine's remains were moved there. His wife survived him nearly fifteen years.

Anecdotes

The curious personal character of La Fontaine, like that of some other men of letters, has been enshrined in a kind of legend by literary tradition. At an early age his absence of mind and indifference to business gave a subject to Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux. His later contemporaries helped to swell the tale, and the 18th century finally accepted it, including the anecdotes of his meeting his son, being told who he was, and remarking, Ah, yes, I thought I had seen him somewhere!, of his insisting on fighting a duel with a supposed admirer of his wife, and then imploring him to visit at his house just as before; of his going into company with his stockings wrong side out, &c., with, for a contrast, those of his awkwardness and silence, if not positive rudeness in company.

It ought to be remembered, as a comment on the unfavourable description by Jean de La Bruyère, that La Fontaine was a special friend and ally of Benserade, La Bruyere's chief literary enemy. But after all deductions much will remain, especially when it is remembered that one of the chief authorities for these anecdotes is Louis Racine, a man who possessed intelligence and moral worth, and who received them from his father, La Fontaine's attached friend for more than thirty years. Perhaps the best worth recording of all these stories is one of the Vieux Colombier quartet, which tells how Molière, while Racine and Boileau were exercising their wits upon le bonhomme or le bon (by both which titles La Fontaine was familiarly known), remarked to a bystander, Nos beaux esprits ont beau faire, ils n'effaceront pas le bonhomme. They have not.

La Fontaine's works

The numerous works of La Fontaine fall into three traditional divisions: the Fables, the Contes and the miscellaneous works. Of these the first may be said to be known universally, the second to be known to all lovers of French literature, the third to be with a few exceptions practically forgotten.

18th-century illustration to La Fontaine's fable The Sculptor and the Statue of Jupiter by Charles-Nicolas Cochin

The Fables exhibit the versatility and fecundity of the author's talent more fully than any of his other work. La Fontaine had many predecessors in the fable, especially in the beast fable. The poet took inspiration from Aesop, Horace, Boccaccio and Ariosto and Tasso, Machiavelli's comedies and ancient Indian literature, such as the Panchatantra:

"This is the second book of fables that I present to the public... I must acknowledge that the greatest part is inspired from Pilpay, the Indian sage." ("Je dirai par reconnaissance que j’en dois la plus grande partie à Pilpay sage indien.") — Jean de La Fontaine, Avertissement to the Second Compilation of Fables (1678).

The first collection of 124 Fables Choisies had appeared March 31, 1668, wisely 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. In this first issue, comprising what are now called the first six books, La Fontaine adhered to the path of his predecessors with some closeness; but in the later collections he allowed himself far more liberty, and it is in these parts that his genius is most fully manifested.

The boldness of the politics is as much to be considered as the ingenuity of the moralizing, as the intimate knowledge of human nature displayed in the substance of the narratives, or as the artistic mastery shown in their form. It has sometimes been objected that the view of human character which La Fontaine expresses is unduly dark, and resembles too much that of La Rochefoucauld, for whom the poet certainly had a profound admiration. It may only be said that satire (and La Fontaine is eminently a satirist) necessarily concerns itself with the darker rather than with the lighter shades.

Perhaps the best criticism ever passed upon La Fontaine's Fables is that of Silvestre de Sacy, to the effect that they supply delights to three different ages: the child rejoices in the freshness and vividness of the story, the eager student of literature in the consummate art with which it is told, the experienced man of the world in the subtle reflections on character and life which it conveys. Nor has any one, with the exception of a few paradoxers like Rousseau and a few sentimentalists like Lamartine, denied that the moral tone of the whole is as fresh and healthy as its literary interest is vivid. The book has therefore naturally become a standard French reader both at home and abroad. It is no small testimony to its merit that not even this use (or misuse) has interfered with its popularity.

La Fontaine's Fables provided a model for subsequent fabulists, including Poland's Ignacy Krasicki and Russia's Ivan Krylov.

Further reading

  • Young La Fontaine: A Study of His Artistic Growth in His Early Poetry and First Fables, by Philip A. Wadsworth. Pub. Northwestern University Press, 1952.
  • Oeuvres diverses de Jean de La Fontaine, edited by Pierre Clarac. Pub. Gallimard ("Bibliothèque de la Pléiade"), 1958. The standard, fully annotated edition of LF's prose and minor poetry.
  • O Muse, fuyante proie ...: essai sur la poésie de La Fontaine, by Odette de Mourgues. Pub. Corti, 1962. Seminal.
  • Le Monde littéraire de La Fontaine, by Jean-Pierre Collinet. Pub. PUF, 1970
  • The Esthetics of Negligence: La Fontaine's Contes, by John C. Lapp. Pub. Cambridge University Press, 1971.
  • [La Fontaine] l'Esprit Créateur 21.4 (1981); guest-editor: David Lee Rubin.
  • Patterns of Irony in the Fables of La Fontaine, by Richard Danner. Pub. Ohio University Press, 1985.
  • La Fontaine: Fables, 2 volumes, edited by Marc Fumaroli. Pub. Imprimerie Nationale, 1985. Brilliant introductory essays and notes on texts.
  • La Fontaine, by Marie-Odile Sweetser. Pub. G.K. Hall (Twayne World Authors Series 788), 1987.
  • Oeuvres complètes de Jean de La Fontaine: Fables et Contes, edited by Jean-Pierre Collinet. Pub. Gallimard ("Bibliothèque de la Pléiade"), 1991. The standard fully annotated edition of these works.
  • A Pact with Silence: Art and Thought in the Fables of Jean de La Fontaine, by David Lee Rubin. Pub. Ohio State U Press, 1991.
  • La Fabrique des Fables, by Patrick Dandrey. Pub. Klincksieck, 1991.
  • Figures of the Text: Reading and Writing (in) La Fontaine, by Michael Vincent. Pub. John Benjamins (Purdue University Monographs in Romance Literatures), 1992.
  • La Fontaine's Bawdy: Of Libertines, Louts, and Lechers, selections from the Contes et nouvelles, transl. Norman Shapiro. Pub. Princeton University Press, 1992; repr. Black Widow Press, forthcoming.
  • Lectures de La Fontaine, by Jules Brody. Pub. Rookwood Press, 1995.
  • Refiguring La Fontaine: Tercentenary Essays, edited by Anne L. Birberick. Pub. Rookwood Press, 1996.
  • Reading Under Cover: Audience and Authority in Jean La Fontaine, by Anne L. Birberick. Pub. Bucknell University Press, 1998.
  • Cognitive Space and Patterns of Deceit in La Fontaine's Contes, by Catherine M. Grisé. Pub: Rookwood Press, 1998.
  • In La Fontaine's Labyrinth: a Thread through the Fables, by Randolph Paul Runyon. Pub. Rookwood Press, 2000.
  • Poet and the King: Jean de La Fontaine and His Century, by Marc Fumaroli; Jean Marie Todd (transl.). Pub. U. of Notre Dame, 2002.
  • The Shape of Change: Essays on La Fontaine and Early Modern French Literature in Honor of David Lee Rubin, edited by Anne L. Birberick and Russell J. Ganim. Pub. Rodopi, 2002.
  • La Fontaine à l'école républicaine: Du poète universel au classique scolaire, by Ralph Albanese, Jr. Pub. Rookwood Press 2003.
  • The Complete Fables of Jean de La Fontaine, Norman Shapiro (transl.). Pub. U of Illinois Press, 2007.
  • La Fontaine's Complete Tales in Verse, An Illustrated And Annotated Translation, by Randolph Paul Runyon. Pub. McFarland & Company, 2009.

External links


Cultural offices
Preceded by
Jean-Baptiste Colbert
Seat 24
Académie française

1684–1695
Succeeded by
Jules de Clérambault

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I of animals make choice that men may get instruction from their voice.

Jean de La Fontaine (1621-07-081695-04-13) is the most famous French fabulist and probably the most widely read French poet of the 17th century.

Contents

Sourced

History some truths contains, which well may serve for lessons.
  • People must help one another; it is nature's law.
    • "L'Ane et le Chien", as quoted in On a Darkling Plain (1995) by Richard Lee Byers, p. 94
  • Everyone calls himself a friend, but only a fool relies on it; nothing is commoner than the name, nothing rarer than the thing.
    • "Parole de Socrate", as quoted in The Wordsworth Book of Humorous Quotations (1998), edited by C. Robertson
  • Everyone believes very easily whatever they fear or desire.
    • As quoted in Subcontact : Slap the Face of Fear and Wake Up Your Subconscious‎ (2001) by Dian Benson, p. 149
    • Variant: Everyone believes very easily whatever he fears or desires.
  • To live lightheartedly but not recklessly; to be gay without being boisterous; to be courageous without being bold; to show trust and cheerful resignation without fatalism — this is the art of living.
    • As quoted in From Grandmother with Love (2005) by Becky Kelly and Patrick Regan, p. 53

Fables (1668–1679)

Learn now that every flatterer lives at the cost of those who give him credit.
  • L'histoire, encore que mensongère,
    Contient des vérités qui servent de leçons.
    Tout parle en mon ouvrage, et même les poissons.
    Ce qu'ils disent s'adresse à tout tant que nous sommes;
    Je me sers d'animaux pour instruire les hommes.
    • History some truths contains, which well may serve
      For lessons.
      In my work you will observe
      Ev'ry thing speaks — yea e'en the very fish —
      And what they say, to ev'ry man a dish
      Serves up; and I of animals make choice
      That men may get instruction from their voice.
    • Book I (1668), Dedication "To Monseigneur the Dauphin"
  • Je vais t'entretenir de moindres aventures,
    Te tracer en ces vers de légères peintures;
    Et si de t'agréer je n'emporte le prix,
    J'aurai du moins d'honneur de l'avoir entrepris.
    • For thee I'll trace in verses which I write
      Some sketches, paintings which indeed are light,
      And if the prize of pleasing thee I do not bear away,
      At least, the honour I shall have of having tried I say.
    • Book I (1668), Dedication "To Monseigneur the Dauphin"
  • La fourmi n'est pas prêteuse;
    C'est là son moindre défaut.
    • The ant is no lender; that is the least of her faults.
    • Book I (1668), fable 1.
  • Apprenez que tout flatteur
    Vit aux dépens de celui qui l'écoute.
    • Be advised that all flatterers live at the expense of those who listen to them.
    • Book I (1668), fable 2. Variant translations: Learn now that every flatterer lives at the cost of those who give him credit.
      In exchange for your cheese I will give you a piece of advice for the future — Do not trust flatterers.
      Every flatterer lives at the expense of him who listens to him.
The opinion of the strongest is always the best.
  • Nous n'écoutons d'instincts que ceux qui sont les nôtres,
    Et ne croyons le mal que quand il est venu.
    • 'Tis thus we heed no instincts but our own;
      Believe no evil till the evil's done.
    • Book I (1668), fable 8
  • La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure.
    • The opinion of the strongest is always the best.
    • Variant: The argument of the strongest is always the best.
    • Book I (1668), fable 10
  • Plutôt souffrir que mourir,
    C'est la devise des hommes.
    • Better to suffer than to die: that is mankind's motto.
    • Variant: Rather suffer than die is man's motto.
    • Book I (1668), fable 16
By the work one knows the workman.
  • A l'oeuvre on connaît l'artisan.
    • By the work one knows the workman.
    • Book I (1668), fable 21 (The Hornets And The Bees)
    • Variant: The artist by his work is known.
  • Je plie, et ne romps pas.
    • I bend but do not break.
    • Book I (1668), fable 22
  • Les délicats sont malheureux:
    Rien ne saurait les satisfaire.
    • The fastidious are unfortunate; nothing satisfies them.
    • Book II (1668), fable 1
Patience and time do more than strength or passion.
  • Il faut, autant qu'on peut, obliger tout le monde:
    On a souvent besoin d'un plus petit que soi.
    • One should oblige everyone to the extent of one's ability. One often needs someone smaller than oneself.
    • Variant: One often has need of one inferior to himself.
    • Book II (1668), fable 11
  • Patience et longueur de temps
    Font plus que force ni que rage.
    • Patience and time do more than strength or passion.
    • Book II (1668), fable 11
  • C'est double plaisir de tromper le trompeur.
    • It is a double pleasure to deceive the deceiver.
    • Book II (1668), fable 15
    • Variant: It is twice the pleasure to deceive the deceiver.
  • [On] est bien fou de cerveau
    Qui prétend contenter tout le monde et son père.
    • It is impossible to please all the world and one's father.
    • Book III (1668), fable 1
  • En toute chose il faut considérer la fin.
    • In everything one must consider the end.
    • Book III (1668), fable 5
  • There is nothing useless to men of sense: clever people turn everything to account.
    • Book V (1668), fable 2
Dressed in the lion's skin, the ass spread terror far and wide.
  • Il ne faut jamais
    Vendre la peau de l'ours qu'on ne l'ait mis par terre.
    • Never sell the bear's skin before one has killed the beast.
    • Book V (1668), fable 20
  • De la peau du lion l'â s'étant vêtu,
    Était craint partout à la ronde.
    • Dressed in the lion's skin, the ass spread terror far and wide.
    • Book V (1668), fable 21
Beware, as long as you live, of judging people by appearances.
  • Garde-toi, tant que tu vivras,
    De juger les gens sur la mine.
    • Beware, as long as you live, of judging people by appearances.
    • Book VI (1668), fable 5
  • Rien ne sert de courir; il faut partir à point.
    • To win a race, the swiftness of a dart availeth not without a timely start.
    • Book VI (1668), fable 10
  • Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera.
    • Help thyself and Heaven will help thee.
    • Book VI (1668), fable 17
  • Sur les ailes du Temps la tristesse s'envole.
    • On the wings of Time grief flies away.
    • Variant: Sadness flies away on the wings of time.
    • Book VI (1668), fable 21
Kindness effects more than severity.
  • L’enseigne fait la chalandise.
    • The sign brings customers.
    • Book VII (1678–1679), fable 16
  • Plus fait douceur que violence.
    • Kindness effects more than severity.
    • Book VI (1678-1679), fable 3
  • La mort ne surprend point le sage:
    Il est toujours prêt à partir.
    • Death never takes the wise man by surprise, he is always ready to go.
    • Book VIII (1678-1679), fable 1
  • Rien ne pèse tant qu'un secret.
    • Nothing weighs on us so heavily as a secret.
    • Book VIII (1678-1679), fable 6
  • Rien n'est si dangereux qu'un ignorant ami;
    Mieux vaudrait un sage ennemi.
    • Nothing is as dangerous as an ignorant friend; a wise enemy is to be preferred.
    • Variant: Nothing is more dangerous than a friend without discretion; even a prudent enemy is preferable.
    • Book VIII (1678-1679), fable 10
  • On rencontre sa destinée
    Souvent par des chemins qu’on prend pour l’éviter.
    • Our destiny is frequently met in the very paths we take to avoid it.
    • Book VIII (1678–1679), fable 16 (The Horoscope)
    • Variant: A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.
  • Laissez dire les sots: le savoir a son prix.
    • Let ignorance talk as it will, learning has its value.
    • Book VIII (1678-1679), fable 19
Man is so made that when anything fires his soul, impossibilities vanish.
  • Les gens sans bruit sont dangereux.
    • People who make no noise are dangerous.
    • Book VIII (1678–1679), fable 23
  • L'homme est ainsi bâti: Quand un sujet l'enflamme
    L'impossibilité disparaît à son âme.
    • Man is so made that when anything fires his soul, impossibilities vanish.
    • Book VIII (1678-1679), fable 25
  • Il connaît l’univers, et ne se connaît pas.
    • He knows the universe, and himself he does not know.
    • Book VIII (1678–1679), fable 26
  • Ventre affamé n'a point d'oreilles.
    • A hungry stomach cannot hear.
    • Book IX (1678–1679), fable 18

Misattributed

  • We must laugh before we are happy, for fear we die before we laugh at all.

External links

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