The Devil Tales and Novels, Complete

The Devil World

Book 14
谷月社
2
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TO THE FIRST VOLUME OF THESE TALES

I had resolved not to consent to the printing of these Tales, until after I had joined to them those of Boccaccio, which are those most to my taste; but several persons have advised me to produce at once what I have remaining of these trifles, in order to prevent from cooling the curiosity to see them, which is still in its first ardour. I gave way to this advice without much difficulty, and I have thought well to profit by the occasion. Not only is that permitted me, but it would be vanity on my part to despise such an advantage. It has sufficed me to wish that no one should be imposed upon in my favour, and to follow a road contrary to that of certain persons, who only make friends in order to gain voices in their favour by their means; creatures of the Cabal, very different from that Spaniard who prided himself on being the son of his own works. Although I may still be as much in want of these artifices as any other person, I cannot bring myself to resolve to employ them; however I shall accommodate myself if possible to the taste of the times, instructed as I am by my own experience, that there is nothing which is more necessary. Indeed one cannot say that all seasons are suitable for all classes of books. We have seen the Roundelays, the Metamorphoses, the Crambos, reign one after another. At present, these gallantries are out of date and nobody cares about them: so certain is it that what pleases at one time may not please at another! It only belongs to works of truly solid merit and sovereign beauty, to be well received by all minds and in all ages, without possessing any other passport than the sole merit with which they are filled. As mine are so far distant from such a high degree of perfection, prudence advises that I should keep them in my cabinet unless I choose well my own time for producing them. This is what I have done, or what I have tried to do in this edition, in which I have only added new Tales, because it seemed to me that people were prepared to take pleasure in them. There are some which I have extended, and others which I have abridged, only for the sake of diversifying them and making them less tedious. But I am occupying myself over matters about which perhaps people will take no notice, whilst I have reason to apprehend much more important objections. There are only two principal ones which can be made against me; the one that this book is licentious; the other that it does not sufficiently spare the fair sex. With regard to the first, I say boldly that the nature of what is understood as a tale decided that it should be so, it being an indispensable law according to Horace, or rather according to reason and common sense, that one must conform one's self to the nature of the things about which one writes. Now, that I should be permitted to write about these as so many others have done and with success I do not believe it can be doubted; and people cannot condemn me for so doing, without also condemning Ariosto before me and the Ancients before Ariosto. It may be said that I should have done better to have suppressed certain details, or at least to have disguised them. Nothing was more easy, but it would have weakened the tale and taken away some of its charm: So much circumspection is only necessary in works which promise great discretion from the beginning, either by their subject or by the manner in which they are treated. I confess that it is necessary to keep within certain limits, and that the narrowest are the best; also it must be allowed me that to be too scrupulous would spoil all. He who would wish to reduce Boccaccio to the same modesty as Virgil, would assuredly produce nothing worth having, and would sin against the laws of propriety by setting himself the task to observe them. For in order that one may not make a mistake in matters of verse and prose, extreme modesty and propriety are two very different things. Cicero makes the latter consist in saying what is appropriate one should say, considering the place, the time, and the persons to whom one is speaking. This principle once admitted, it is not a fault of judgment to entertain the people of to-day with Tales which are a little broad. Neither do I sin in that against morality.


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About the author

In 1682 he was, at more than sixty years of age, recognized as one of the foremost men of letters of France. Madame de Sévigné, one of the soundest literary critics of the time, and by no means given to praise mere novelties, had spoken of his second collection of Fables published in the winter of 1678 as divine; and it is pretty certain that this was the general opinion. It was not unreasonable, therefore, that he should present himself to the Académie française, and, though the subjects of his Contes were scarcely calculated to propitiate that decorous assembly, while his attachment to Fouquet and to more than one representative of the old Frondeur party made him suspect to Colbert and the king, most of the members were his personal friends.

He was first proposed in 1682, but was rejected for Marquis de Dangeau. The next year Colbert died and La Fontaine was again nominated. Boileau was also a candidate, but the first ballot gave the fabulist sixteen votes against seven only for the critic. The king, whose assent was necessary, not merely for election but for a second ballot in case of the failure of an absolute majority, was ill-pleased, and the election was left pending. Another vacancy occurred, however, some months later, and to this Boileau was elected. The king hastened to approve the choice effusively, adding, Vous pouvez incessamment recevoir La Fontaine, il a promis d'etre sage.

His admission was indirectly the cause of the only serious literary quarrel of his life. A dispute took place between the Academy and one of its members, Antoine Furetière, on the subject of the latter's French dictionary, which was decided to be a breach of the Academy's corporate privileges. Furetière, a man of no small ability, bitterly assailed those whom he considered to be his enemies, and among them La Fontaine, whose unlucky Contes made him peculiarly vulnerable, his second collection of these tales having been the subject of a police condemnation. The death of the author of the Roman Bourgeois, however, put an end to this quarrel.

Shortly afterwards La Fontaine had a share in a still more famous affair, the celebrated Ancient-and-Modern squabble in which Boileau and Charles Perrault were the chiefs, and in which La Fontaine (though he had been specially singled out by Perrault for better comparison with Aesop and Phaedrus) took the Ancient side. About the same time (1685–1687) he made the acquaintance of the last of his many hosts and protectors, Monsieur and Madame d'Hervart, and fell in love with a certain Madame Ulrich, a lady of some position but of doubtful character. This acquaintance was accompanied by a great familiarity with Vendôme, Chaulieu and the rest of the libertine coterie of the Temple; but, though Madame de la Sablière had long given herself up almost entirely to good works and religious exercises, La Fontaine continued an inmate of her house until her death in 1693.

What followed is told in one of the best known of the many stories bearing on his childlike nature. Hervart on hearing of the death, had set out at once to find La Fontaine. He met him in the street in great sorrow, and begged him to make his home at his house. J'y allais was La Fontaine's answer.

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Additional Information

Publisher
谷月社
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Published on
Jan 8, 2016
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Pages
656
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Ghost
Literary Collections / General
Poetry / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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