Jean de La Fontaine 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. The works of La Fontaine, the total bulk of which is considerable, fall no less naturally than traditionally into three divisions, the Fables, the Contes and the miscellaneous works. Of these the first may be said to be known universally, the second to be known to all lovers of French literature, the third to be with a few exceptions practically forgotten. La Fontaine's Fables, first published in 1668, are choice in every sense: utterly correct, balanced, exquisite in rhyme, natural and easy, droll, witty, knowing, sage. They were an immediate success and many generations of French students have learned them by heart at school.