At the breaking out of disturbances in 1639, when the Scottish Covenanters advanced to the English borders, many of the courtiers complimented the king, by raising forces at their own expense. Among these, none was more distinguished than Sir John Suckling. These gallant gentlemen vied with each other in the costly equipment of their forces, which led the king facetiously to remark, that "the Scots would fight stoutly, if only for the Englishmen's fine clothes." The troop of horse raised by Sir John alone cost him, so richly was it accoutred, twelve thousand pounds. In the action which ensued, the sturdy Scots were more than a match for the showy Englishmen; and among those who particularly distinguished themselves by their shabby behavior, was the splendid troop of Sir John Suckling. There is every reason to believe that Sir John personally acquitted himself as became a soldier and a gentleman; but the event gave rise to the following humorous pasquil, which, while some suppose it to have been written by Sir John Mennis, a cotemporary wit, others have attributed to Suckling himself.
As a dramatist Suckling is noteworthy as having applied to regular drama the accessories already used in the production of masques. His (pr. 1638) was produced at his own expense with elaborate scenery. Even the lace on the actors' coats was of real gold and silver. The play, in spite of its felicity of diction, lacks dramatic interest, and the criticism of (Short Discourse of the English Stage), that it seemed "full of flowers, but rather stuck in than growing there," is not altogether unjustified. (1638, pr. 1646) has some reminiscences of The Tempest; Brennoralt, or the Discontented Colonel (1639, pr. 1646) is a satire on the Scots, who are the Lithuanian rebels of the play; a fourth play, The Sad One, was left unfinished owing to the outbreak of the . Suckling raised a troop of a hundred horse, at a cost of 12,000, and accompanied Charles on the of 1639. He shared in the earl of Holland's retreat before Duns, and was ridiculed in an amusing ballad (pr. 1656), in Musarum deliciae, "on Sir John Suckling's most warlike preparations for the Scottish war."
English Literature: Early 17th Century (1603-1660)
A collection of Suckling's poems was first published in 1646 as Fragmenta aurea. The so-called Selections (1836) published by the Rev. Alfred Inigo Suckling (author of the History and Antiquities of Suffolk [1846–1848] with Memoirs based on original authorities and a portrait after ) is really a complete edition of his works, of which 's edition (1874; revised ed., 1892) is little more than a reprint with some additions. The Poems and Songs of Sir John Suckling, edited by John Gray and decorated with woodcut border and initials by Charles Ricketts, was artistically printed at the Ballantyne Press in 1896. In 1910 Suckling's works in prose and verse were edited by A. Hamilton Thompson. For anecdotes of Suckling's life see 's Brief Lives ( ed., ii.242).