La Fontaine and His Friends: A Biography
Mackay, Agnes Ethel
This is indeed a biography -- not comprehensive, to be sure, but accurate and lively. La Fontaine comes alive in these pages. I am happy to learn here of what it was that got Fouquet into trouble and what came of his arrest. I have learned of the meeting of the famous foursome about 1659: Moliere, Racine, Boileau, and La Fontaine. Moliere was the natural leader of this group that met for meals several times a week. Their intention was to introduce into their works le beau, le naturel et le vrai while maintaining their respect for the ancients (80). Moliere was the natural leader of the group. Moliere and Racine experienced a rupture in their relationship about 1665. There is an account here of a famous -- but perhaps only fictional -- picnic among the four at Versailles, reported in La Fontaine's Psyche. There is more here than I had known of Madame de La Sabliere and her circle. She played an important role in La Fontaine's life, and he missed her when she gave herself to religion and the service of the sick. His admission into the Academy in 1684 was stormy, and Mackay makes sense of the troubles here. Those who want more specifically on the fables will find it gathered here in the book's last chapter, Chapter XIII. At the finish of each chapter there is a translation of the French passages quoted in the chapter. Along the way there are a number of photographs of historically relevant personages and places. This is a helpful book!