Civility as a concept, or an ideal, didn’t take hold in England until the 16th century – when the national mood, insofar as we can speak of one, was a mixture of bravado and temerity. Eyeing the cultural achievements of France and Italy, and uneasily measuring themselves against the Romans and Greeks, early modern English thinkers worried that their customs, society and language were ruder and less polished than those of their Continental counterparts. The translator Thomas Hoby called for writers to translate important works in order to enrich their own language, so that ‘we alone of the worlde maye not bee styll counted barbarous in our tunge, as in time out of minde we have bene in our maners’. For Hoby and his contemporaries, civility could be a matter of the way people interacted, the ‘civil conversation’ prized by Stefano Guazzo, author of an influential book on manners and behaviour translated into English in the 1580s.
Source: London Review of Books –