In 1664 La Fontaine published his first collection of fables, and it gave him immediately the very highest rank as a fabulist. Shortly after, he published a tale entitled “Psyche and Cupid.” He was now without money and a home. The duchess of Orleans added him to her suite, and gave him a pension. She soon died, however, and he was again left homeless. A woman by the name of de la Sabliere now invited him to her house, and with her he lived the next twenty years. She was a woman of great refinement and taste, but was singularly situated. She lived apart from her husband, and had her lover. She gave parties which the most distinguished men in France attended, and La Fontaine was very happy while in her house. He was oppressed by no care or anxiety, and had nothing to do but to read and write when it suited him. He wrote several operas, and actually fell asleep during the first performance of one of them at the theater!
In 1683 he was elected a member of the French Academy. He had forgotten his old friends at Thierry, and indeed did not know his own son. He attended the funeral of a friend, one day, and ten days after it had so completely escaped his memory, that he called to visit the man. He was lionized, greatly to his displeasure. Attending one day at a dinner given by somebody who cared nothing for his genius, but wished the eclat that would result from entertaining a great man, La Fontaine talked little, eat very heartily, and when dinner was over, got his hat to go. The host remonstrated: “The distance is short—you will be too early,” he said. “I’ll take the longest road,” replied La Fontaine.
After twenty years of easy existence, La Fontaine was suddenly deprived of his home. Madame de la Sabliere had been living all this time with her lover. He now deserted her. At the same time her husband was deserted by his mistress, which so affected him that he took poison and died. These events had so great an effect upon Madame de la Sabliere that she also died.
The duchess of Bouillon was now in England, and she invited La Fontaine to join her there; but he was now too old, and could not undertake such a journey. Madame d’Hevvart, the wife of a rich man, gave him an apartment in her house, where he remained during the rest of his days. He was now getting infirm, and the Jesuits turned their eyes toward him. He had thus far lived without a profession of religion, and a life of loose morality. The Jesuits cared little for his want of good morals, but in many of his books he had ridiculed the church and the clergy. It was important, therefore, to make him confess his sins. Father Poujet, a shrewd and subtle Jesuit, was sent to converse with him. In a very short time he contrived to insinuate himself into the confidence of the simple poet. He acknowledged, one after another, the truths of religion, and he was called on to make expiations and a public confession. He was easily persuaded to burn his operas, and to