THE 17th CENTURY AND EARLIER

“The great century,” the 17th is called, as much for its literature and cultural sophistication as for the grandeur of Louis XIV. 

Our key writers are …

Molière, born and bred in Les Halles, in “Molière Country,” which also includes the Louvre and Palais-Royal, where all his great comedies were performed … 

Jean Racine, Molière’s young friend, quickly to become his enemy … 

Mme de La Fayette for her groundbreaking fiction … 

Mme de Sévigné for her celebrated letters, the epitome of the grand siècle’s unsurpassed elegance of expression. 

Other women who made import marks are the great salon hostesses, most notably the pioneer, Mme de Rambouillet, Madeleine de Scudéry, the most literary, and the courtesan Ninon de Lenclos, the raciest.    

François Rabelais, the free-thinking lay priest who invented the French novel, dominates 16th century, along with his exuberant heroes Gargantua, Pantagruel, and Panurge.

François Villon, thief, priest-killer, doctor of theology, and one of the most haunting poets of all time, dominates the 15th century.  

And going back to the 12th century, the monk Pierre Abélard, his era’s most eminent theologian, paid dearly for falling passionately in love with his young student Hélöise, as recounted by him in The Story of My Misfortunes.