Sir John Suckling Biography


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Sir John Suckling was born in February, 1609, into a prominent gentry family. His father, also Sir John, was a longtime member of Parliament who held a number of minor positions at court; in 1622, he purchased the office of Comptroller of the King’s Household, which he occupied until his death in 1627. The poet’s mother, Martha, was the sister of Lionel Cranfield, later first earl of Middlesex and, until his impeachment in 1624, Lord Treasurer of England. Although his mother died in 1613, Suckling maintained close ties with the Cranfield family; his uncle’s disgrace, countenanced by the royal favorite the duke of Buckingham, alienated Suckling from the inner circles of the court.

Suckling matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge, between 1623 and 1628; he was admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1627. He may have served in the English expedition against the French on the Ile de Ré in 1627 and definitely fought in Lord Wimbledon’s regiment in the Dutch service in 1629-1630. In October, 1631, Suckling joined the embassy to Gustavus Adolphus led by Sir Henry Vane, who was negotiating with the Swedish monarch for the return of the Palatinate to Charles I’s brother-in-law, the Elector Frederick. Vane sent Suckling to England in March, 1632, with dispatches for the King. His mission complete, Suckling remained in England and plunged into a course of gambling and womanizing that lasted for the rest of the decade. During this period, according to John Aubrey, Suckling invented the game of cribbage. To recoup the vast sums he lost at cards and bowling, Suckling entered into a prolonged courtship of the northern heiress Anne Willoughby. Although the king supported his suit,...

(The entire section is 690 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Sir John Suckling is typical of the Cavalier poets, who flourished at the court of Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria during the decade before the outbreak of the English civil war. They served the king, wrote polished, witty verses, and entertained the court ladies with their gallantries. Suckling was born in 1609 in Twickenham, a suburb of London, into a family with close court connections. His father, Sir John Suckling, was a member of parliament, secretary of state, and comptroller of the household under James I, and he became a member of the Privy Council of Charles I. The poet’s mother, who died when he was four, was the sister of Lionel Cranfield, James’s lord treasurer from 1622 to 1626, the one man who almost succeeded in curbing the royal extravagances for a brief period.

Suckling may have attended the Westminster school before he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1623. He left the university without a degree and went on to London to Gray’s Inn, ostensibly to study law. However, at this period the Inns of Court were as much a playground for rich young noblemen as institutions of learning, and Suckling probably sought amusement where he could find it. When his father died in 1627, he began at once to squander his newly acquired fortune, which was substantial.

The young nobleman left Gray’s Inn in 1628 for a two-year tour of France and Italy. Knighted by Charles I at Theobalds when he came back to England in 1630, he soon...

(The entire section is 587 words.)