Jean de La Fontaine Museum in Château-ThierryJean de La Fontaine Museum in Château-Thierry
©Jean de La Fontaine Museum in Château-Thierry|Mairie Château-Thierry
In the steps of our fabulist...Jean de La Fontaine

Qualified as a free man and dreamer by his contemporaries, he dedicated his life to poetry and its pleasures.
His time, he occupied it between the calm of his hometown, Château-Thierry,
and the worldliness of the great Parisian salons which, each in their own way, inspired his most beautiful texts.

Jean de La Fontaine Museum: The illustrated fables

Jean de La Fontaine Museum in Château-ThierryJean de La Fontaine Museum in Château-Thierry
©Jean de La Fontaine Museum in Château-Thierry
Jean de La Fontaine

Fabulist, philosopher, academician, Jean de La Fontaine is today an emblematic figure of French literary heritage.

A local star...

Did you know that?

His beginnings in poetry

He spent much of his youth following his father, then Master of Waters and Forests of the city. His childhood, spent in contact with nature and its inhabitants, forged his imagination and the bestiary that he would later use in his fables.

At age 20, he embarked on an ecclesiastical career and entered the seminary at the oratory of Paris. However, he was soon expelled because of his amorous readings. He then turned to law studies and met, in parallel, a group of students who loved literature. This was the beginning of his training as a poet.

At the end of his studies, Jean returned to Château-Thierry to marry Marie Héricart, a descendant of a family of magistrates from La Ferté-Milon and a cousin of a certain Jean Racine. From this union was born a son, Charles, whose home can still be seen on rue du château in Château-Thierry.

A timeless poet

Introduced to the court of Nicolas Fouquet, his career was slowed down by the latter’s arrest. Being only slightly appreciated by Louis XIV, he then became a gentleman with the Duchess of Orleans at the Luxembourg Palace. This office, ennobling, ensures him an income and an entry in the Parisian salons. Salons that he seduced with his libertine tales.

In fact, if he is known today for his fables, he wrote the first ones only at the age of 47. He was then inspired by the stories of Aesop, a writer of the sixth century BC. At the time of La Fontaine, fables were out of fashion and were only used for literary teaching. But La Fontaine’s genius lies in the way he shapes these stories, imposing on them a rhythm and a language of his own. A new stylistic treatment that makes all the difference with his contemporaries and makes his work timeless.

Timeless fables

Three collections of fables and several libertine tales were composed and presented in the various literary salons where Jean de La Fontaine shone with his indomitable, isolated and always free spirit. He frequently wrote his stories in his home in Château-Thierry. Despite his success in the capital, Jean de La Fontaine never stopped coming back to his native town to find peace and quiet. Moreover, the town offered him the opportunity to feed his stories thanks to the many gossiping people he liked to listen to in the present-day Place de l’Hôtel de Ville. He was also hired by the Duke of Bouillon, Lord of Château-Thierry, to entertain his wife who was still in the castle.

In debt before fame

But his existence was put to the test when, in debt, he found himself obliged to sell his house, his office as Master of Waters and Forests, and his land. Since royalties did not exist at the time, he lived off the few benefactors he had.

Jean de La Fontaine died in debt and alone at the age of 73, in his small Parisian room.