To write about margins in any period might immediately imply a sense of relegation to the sidelines or mere tokenism. Yet in the seventeenth century, the centralising impetus of both Louis XIII's chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu, and, after him, Louis XIV, inevitably marginalised those who did not fit the mould which the figures of authority fashioned for literature, the arts, politics, and even lifestyle.
For the publication of books, a system of censorship had existed since the sixteenth century in granting ‘privileges’, even though on the whole they had not been applied in a systematic way. However, such censorship became more effective from 1635, when the chancellor Pierre Séguier (1588–1672) set up a system whereby manuscripts were secretly reviewed by a panel of readers. It is even possible that the Académie Française, founded by Richelieu in the same year, was set up as one way of censoring books; certainly one of its founding members Valentin Conrart (1603–75) is known to have been involved in the vetting of manuscripts. Such a role for the Académie, however, was scuppered by the Paris Parlement when its statutes were published. Under the personal rule of Louis XIV, the printing and distribution of books became even more tightly controlled.
Although the publication of works, and most particularly theatre, which emanated from the founding of the Académie Française and Louis XIV's subsequent enthusiastic support of the arts, led to what can safely be called a golden age of literature, the very fact that certain genres were given precedence over others means that a wide range of writings which stood outside the official boundaries tended to be ignored or belittled.