Suckling, Sir John

Suckling, Sir John, 1609–42, one of the English Cavalier poets. He was educated at Cambridge and Gray's Inn. An accomplished gallant, he was given to all the extravagances of the court of Charles I. He was a prolific lover, a sparkling wit, and an excessive gamester. The antiquary John Aubrey credits him with having invented the game of cribbage. Subjected to a humiliating defeat in Charles I's Scottish campaign of 1639, he was said to be more fit for the boudoir than the battlefield. An ardent royalist, he took part in the plot to rescue (1641) Thomas Wentworth, earl of Strafford, from the Tower of London and to secure aid for Charles from the French. On the failure of these endeavors Suckling fled to France, where, it is conjectured, being unable to face poverty, he was driven to suicide. After his death appeared Fragmenta Aurea (1646), a collection of poems, plays, letters, and tracts, including the essay “An Account of Religion by Reason.” Today he is best known for the poem “Ballad Upon a Wedding” and the lyrics “Why so pale and wan, fond lover?” and “Out upon it, I have loved three whole days together.”

See his works ed. by T. Clayton and L. A. Beaurline (1971).

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