Courtin’s Suite de la Civilité constitutes one of the most influential and ubiquitous works of the courtesy genre in the seventeenth century.
Suite de la Civilité adopts a philosophical tone and looks beyond the finer points of conduct. The issues of human nature, of vengeance and honour concerned Courtin too. The bons sens of man is treated as a sacred thing, equal in importance to his own bodily mortality and to injure it should be seen as tantamount to murder; Courtin is far from timid in defending the subject of his writings. However time and again he promotes patience and tranquility. Rather than react harshly to perceived insults one should embrace a toleration of (perhaps imagined) enemies. “C’est donc par où s’exprime la méprise, et cette énumération nous fait voir combien on se préoccupe, en prenant souvent de gaieté de cœur pour injure, des actions et des paroles qui ne sont nullement offençantes ni injurieuses”.
This appeal to humility and restraint is present in many of the works on display. The dilemma was whether to foster peace at increasingly fractious courts or, as a reflection of true Christian sentiment, to “turn the other cheek”. These works fulfill both courtly and Christian duties in many cases, leaving the reader to follow at times indistinguishable paths.