La Fontaine

La Fontaine

[Fr. la fawn-ten]
La Fontaine, Henri, 1854-1943, Belgian jurist and statesman. A senator from 1894 to 1936, he headed the International Peace Bureau from 1907 and was awarded the 1913 Nobel Peace Prize. His writings on international law were extensive.
La Fontaine, Jean de, 1621-95, French poet, whose celebrated fables place him among the masters of world literature. He was born at Château-Thierry to a bourgeois family. A restless dilettante as a youth, he settled at last in Paris. His marriage (1647) terminated in 1658, and from 1673 to 1693 he lived in the household of Mme de La Sablière, one of his several patrons. La Fontaine's masterpiece is the collection of Fables choisies, mises en vers [selected fables versified] (1668-94), comprising 12 books of some 230 fables drawn largely from Aesop. Each fable is a short tale of beasts behaving like men; each serves as a comment on human behavior. Although their charm and simple facade have made them popular with children, many are sophisticated satires and serious commentaries on French society. Their wit, acumen, and brilliance of verse and narrative have assured their worldwide success; they ran into 37 editions before La Fontaine's death. Among his other works are Contes et nouvelles en vers (4 vol., 1664-74, tr. Tales and Novels in Verse, 1934), humorous and often ribald verse tales drawn from Boccaccio, Ariosto, and others. He also wrote comedies and librettos for opera, poems on classical themes, and long original poems, notably the Élégie aux nymphes de Vaux (1671), a complaint on the disgrace (1661) of his patron Fouquet.

See English translations of the fables by J. Auslander and J. Le Clercq (1930), E. Marsh (1933), M. Moore (1954), and J. Mitchie (1982); biography by A. E. Mackay (1973); study by P. A. Wadsworth (1952, repr. 1970).

Doué-la-Fontaine, Maine-et-Loire, France, is a small town and commune of less than 8,000 residents located in the heart of Anjou, a few kilometers from the great châteaux of the Loire Valley.


The town was already Vetus Doadum ("Old Doadum"), Teotuadum castrum, in Late Antiquity, identifiable in a document of 631 as Castrum Doe. The foundations of a 6th-century circular baptistery beside the natural springs has been uncovered beneath the ruins of the pre-Romanesque church of Saint-Léger, itself destroyed in the 17th century. It was the site of a Gallo-Roman villa that was inherited by the Carolingians. In his villa here, Theoduadum palatium, Louis the Pious was informed of the death of his father Charlemagne in 814 and hurried to Aachen to be crowned. The villa was turned into a motte in the 10th century, around which the village developed, in part in excavated troglodyte dwellings. In 1055 the site was identified as Doedus, then Docium in 1177.

Doué-la-Fontaine is the site of the oldest habitable donjon (keep) in France, dating back to the year 900. No traces of Doué's medieval fortifications remains, save the names of "gates" given to certain streets. The castle is widely believed to have been the first european castle to be built out of stone (at around 950).

Nearby are the troglodyte dwellings, where the inhabitants took refuges from the Normans, and commercial mushroom-growing caves. The stone of Doué-la-Fontaine was quarried for sarcophagi 4 km from the town. The Zoo of Doué-la-Fontaine is partly built within the network of the troglodytes sites and dwellings. Recently, a cave containing sarcophagi was unearthed.

In 1793, Doué-la-Fontaine was the site of massacres during the counter-Revolutionary Revolt in the Vendée, suppressed by General Santerre.


Known as the rose capital of France, a "Festival of the Rose" is held in July of each year where in one park alone more than 800 varieties can be seen.

Famous people born in Doué-la-Fontaine


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