Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695) was the most famous French fabulist and probably the most widely read French poet of the 17th century. According to Flaubert, he was the only French poet to understand and master the texture of the French language before Hugo. A set of postage stamps celebrating La Fontaine and the Fables was issued by France in 1995. It was not until he was past thirty that his literary career began. The reading of Malherbe, it is said, first awoke poetical fancies in him, but for some time he attempted nothing but trifles in the fashion of the time. His first serious work was a translation or adaptation of the Eunuchus of Terence (1654). At this time the Maecenas of French letters was the Superintendent Fouquet. He wrote a ballad, Les Rieurs du Beau-Richard, and this was followed by many small pieces of occasional poetry addressed to various personages from the king downwards. His works fall no less naturally than traditionally into three divisions, the Fables, the Contes and the miscellaneous works.