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- The Tales and Novels, v1: Joconde - 1/4 -


[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an entire meal of them. D.W.]

THE TALES AND NOVELS OF J. DE LA FONTAINE

TABLE:

LA FONTAINE'S LIFE PREFACE Joconde The Cudgelled and Contented Cuckold The Husband Confessor The Cobbler The Peasant and His Angry Lord The Muleteer The Servant Girl Justified The Three Gossips' Wager The Old Man's Calendar The Avaricious Wife and Tricking Gallant The Jealous Husband The Gascon Punished The Princess Betrothed to the King of Garba The Magick Cup The Falcon The Little Dog The Eel Pie The Magnificent The Ephesian Matron Belphegor The Little Bell The Glutton The Two Friends The Country Justice Alice Sick The Kiss Returned Sister Jane An Imitation of Anacreon Another Imitation of Anacreon PREFACE (To The Second Book) Friar Philip's Geese Richard Minutolo The Monks of Catalonia The Cradle St. Julian's Prayer The Countryman Who Sought His Calf Hans Carvel's Ring The Hermit The Convent Gardener of Lamporechio The Mandrake The Rhemese The Amorous Courtesan Nicaise The Progress of Wit The Sick Abbess The Truckers The Case of Conscience The Devil of Pope-fig Island Feronde The Psalter King Candaules and the Doctor of Laws The Devil in Hell Neighbour Peter's Mare The Spectacles The Bucking Tub The Impossible Thing The Picture The Pack-Saddle The Ear-maker, and the Mould-mender The River Scamander The Confidant Without Knowing It, or the Stratagem The Clyster The Indiscreet Confession The Contract The Quid Pro Quo, or the Mistakes The Dress-maker The Gascon The Pitcher To Promise is One Thing, to Keep It, Another The Nightingale Epitaph of La Fontaine

LIFE OF JEAN DE LA FONTAINE

Jean de La Fontaine was born on the 8th of July, 1621, at Chateau- Thierry, and his family held a respectable position there.

His education was neglected, but he had received that genius which makes amends for all. While still young the tedium of society led him into retirement, from which a taste for independence afterwards withdrew him.

He had reached the age of twenty-two, when a few sounds from the lyre of Malherbe, heard by accident, awoke in him the muse which slept.

He soon became acquainted with the best models: Pheedrus, Virgil, Horace and Terence amongst the Latins; Plutarch, Homer and Plato, amongst the Greeks; Rabelais, Marot and d'Urfe, amongst the French; Tasso, Ariosto and Boccaccio, amongst the Italians.

He married, in compliance with the wishes of his family, a beautiful, witty and chaste woman, who drove him to despair.

He was sought after and cherished by all distinguished men of letters. But it was two Ladies who kept him from experiencing the pangs of poverty.

La Fontaine, if there remain anything of thee, and if it be permitted to thee for a moment to soar above all time; see the names of La Sabliere and of Hervard pass with thine to the ages to come!

The life of La Fontaine was, so to speak, only one of continual distraction. In the midst of society, he was absent from it. Regarded almost as an imbecile by the crowd, this clever author, this amiable man, only permitted himself to be seen at intervals and by friends.

He had few books and few friends.

Amongst a large number of works that he has left, everyone knows his fables and his tales, and the circumstances of his life are written in a hundred places.

He died on the 16th of March, 1695.

Let us keep silence about his last moments, for fear of irritating those who never forgive.

His fellow-citizens honour him in his posterity to this day.

Long after his death, foreigners went to visit the room which he had occupied.

Once a year, I shall go to visit his tomb.

On that day, I shall tear up a fable of La Mothe, a tale of Vergier, or several of the best pages of Grecourt.

He was buried in the cemetery of Saint-Joseph, by the side of Moliere.

That spot will always be held sacred by poets and people of taste.

THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE

TO THE FIRST VOLUME OF THESE TALES

I had resolved not to consent to the printing of these Tales, until after I had joined to them those of Boccaccio, which are those most to my taste; but several persons have advised me to produce at once what I have remaining of these trifles, in order to prevent from cooling the curiosity to see them, which is still in its first ardour. I gave way to this advice without much difficulty, and I have thought well to profit by the occasion. Not only is that permitted me, but it would be vanity on my part to despise such an advantage. It has sufficed me to wish that no one should be imposed upon in my favour, and to follow a road contrary to that of certain persons, who only make friends in order to gain voices in their favour by their means; creatures of the Cabal, very different from that Spaniard who prided himself on being the son of his own works. Although I may still be as much in want of these artifices as any other person, I cannot bring myself to resolve to employ them; however I shall accommodate myself if possible to the taste of the times, instructed as I am by my own experience, that there is nothing which is more necessary. Indeed one cannot say that all seasons are suitable for all classes of books. We have seen the Roundelays, the Metamorphoses, the Crambos, reign one after another. At present, these gallantries are out of date and nobody cares about them: so certain is it that what pleases at one time may not please at another! It only belongs to works of truly solid merit and sovereign beauty, to be well received by all minds and in all ages, without possessing any other passport than the sole merit with which they are filled. As mine are so far distant from such a high degree of perfection, prudence advises that I should keep them in my cabinet unless I choose well my own time for producing them. This is what I have done, or what I have tried to do in this edition, in which I have only added new Tales, because it seemed to me that people were prepared to take pleasure in them. There are some which I have extended, and others which I have abridged, only for the sake of diversifying them and making them less tedious. But I am occupying myself over matters about which perhaps people will take no notice, whilst I have reason to apprehend much more important objections. There are only two principal ones which can be made against me; the one that this book is licentious; the other that it does not sufficiently spare the fair sex. With regard to the first, I say boldly that the nature of what is understood as a tale decided that it should be so, it being an indispensable law according to Horace, or rather according to reason and common sense, that


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