Courtail was born at Exeter, the son of French parents. He matriculated at Clare College, Cambridge in 1732, graduating B.A. in 1736 and M.A. in 1739. He was a Fellow of Clare from 1736, becoming senior proctor. He was rector of Great Gransden and Burwash, becoming Archdeacon of Lewes in 1770. James Hurdis became Courtail's curate at Burwash in 1786, and dedicated to him the 1788 poem The Village Curate.
- ”Chichester Diocese Clergy Lists:Clergy succession from the earliest times to the year 1900" Hennessy,G: London, St Peter's Press, 1900
- "Courtail, John (CRTL731J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- Whittick, Christopher. "Hurdis, James". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/14251. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
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| Archdeacon of Lewes
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