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Jean de La Fontaine was born at Château-Thierry, in the Champagne region of France, the eldest son in a prosperous middle-class family. He was educated at the Collège (grammar school) de Reims, and in 1641 entered the Seminary of Saint-Magloire. However, after a short novitiate, he realized he did not want to become a priest. After that, he apparently studied law. In 1647, he married 15-year-old Marie Héricart, an heiress, with whom he had a child. They did not get along well, and La Fontaine lived mostly in Paris. He obtained powerful and generous patrons, such as Nicolas Fouquet, the wealthy Minister of Finance for King Louis XIV, who supplied a pension to support his writing. He moved in literary circles and for 20 years was a member of the household of Madame de La Sablière, whose famous salon was a gathering place of scholars, philosophers, and writers. Among his early works were a translation of the Roman poet Terence and some lively poems addressed to Marie Mancini, the niece of Cardinal Mazarin. In 1664, he published the first book of his Contes et nouvelles en vers (Tales and Novels in Verse). His masterwork, The Fables, first appeared in 1668 and eventually filled 12 volumes. During his career, La Fontaine had his problems with the censor, and some opposition from the king for his irreligious and unconventional character, but he was elected to the Académie française in 1683.
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