Andrew Lang notes that "Charles Perrault did many things well, above all the things that he had not been taught to do, and he did best of all the thing which nobody expected him to have done. A vivid, genial and indomitable character and humor made him one of the best-liked men of his age." He calls Perrault "a truant from school, a deserter of the Bar, an architect without professional training, a man of letters by inclination, a rebel against the tyranny of the classics, and immortal by a kind of accident."
When he was in school in Paris, Perrault was always at the head of his class. He enjoyed exercises in verse. In the class of Philosophy, he was deeply interested, wrangling with his teacher, and maintaining, characteristically, that his arguments were better than the stock themes "because they were new." He and a friend soon contrived a course of study for themselves, reading together as chance or taste directed. In 1651, he took his licenses at Orleans, where degrees were granted with scandalous readiness. Perrault and his friends wakened the learned doctors in the night, returned ridiculous answers to their questions, chinked their money in their bags,--and passed. The same month they were all admitted to the Bar. His legal reading was speculative, and he proposed the idea of codifying the various customs; but the task waited for Napoleon. Wearying of the Bar he accepted a place under his brother, Receiver-General (of taxes) of Paris.
In 1657, Perrault directed the construction of a house for his brother. The skill and taste he showed led to his becoming a subaltern in the superintendence of the Royal buildings in 1663. He received an appointment, and edited panegyrics on the king and made designs for tapestries. During his tenure in this position he also succeeded in saving the Tuileries gardens for the people of Paris, when it was proposed to reserve them to Royal use.
When he retired from public service after a twenty year career, he devoted himself to the education of his children, who were day-students at local schools.
In 1691, Perrault published anonymously his earliest attempt at storytelling, "La Marquise de Salusses, ou la Patience e Griselidis," the first of his many renditions of traditional fairy tales, which would enter into the classical literature of France, achieving popularity with both aristocratic and non-aristocratic audiences.
This biography was entirely culled from Andrew Lang's introduction to Perrault's Popular Tales (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1888) vii-xvi.