The ingenuity and carelessness of the supreme fabulist became proverbial, at least as much as his prose. When he remained without means of subsistence, he composed himself his epitaph: ‘Here lies Jean, who left as he had come. He ate income and capitals, believing the riches were not necessary at all. He spent his time well: he made two parts of it and passed one sleeping and the other doing nothing’. But certainly his spirit – more darkly meditative than the late Baroque era during which he lived could have understood – is to be found in the scant consideration that he had of his own fables: he preferred ancient fable artists; to the point that Fontenelle – the nephew of the two Corneille – could say: ‘What a fool, that La Fontaine! Imagine that he seriously believes the ancients had more brain than him!’

Dario Agazzi for SAFT