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remote sources of intelligence, nearly one hundred authorities have been consulted, whose scattered notices of Suckling and his genius, furnish, in combination, a narrative still brief and imperfect. A few private MSS. however, have augmented the streams of public information, and it is believed that nearly all which can be now collected of Suckling's history, is appended to the present volume.
That these MSS. are not more numerous or important will cease to surprize, when it is remembered that, as the attainder of Suckling was sudden and unforeseen, it led, most probably, to the voluntary and indiscriminate destruction of the greater part of his miscellaneous papers.
The present impression has been limited to a few hundred copies : it had, possibly, acquired a wider circulation through the influence of an amiable nobleman, under whose patronage its appearance was first announced, but whose spirit has been summoned, during the progress of the work, to a better state.
His name is, therefore, no longer connected with this undertaking; but his friendly and generous disposition, his rectitude and singleness of heart, the editor takes occasion thus publicly to record ; and while he regrets the stroke which has deprived his labours of a patron, he more deeply mourns the calamity which has bereaved him of a friend.
LIFE OF SIR JOHN SUCKLING,
It has been observed by an author, who has surpassed all others in the path of biography, that, to write the life of a literary man with success, his biographer should not confine himself to the common incidents of life; but relate with minuteness, his studies-- his mode of living the means by which he attained to excellence—and his opinion of his own works.
But it is a circumstance unfavourable to him who lives in a period remote from the object of his enquiry, that sources of information like these enumerated, are obtained with difficulty, and must be received with caution.
To place those already discovered in the most judicious order-to ascertain their authenticity—and to weigh the respective value of conflicting testimonies—seems the chief employment of him who ventures to record the history of a man, over whose ashes nearly two centuries have rolled.
John Suckling was born in his father's house at Whitton, in the parish of Twickenham, and county of
Middlesex ; and was baptized there, on the tenth of February, in the year 1608-9.
By both parents his descent was respectable : his mother was sister to Sir Lionel Cranfield, afterwards created Earl of Middlesex and Lord Treasurer and his father, who had been returned in 1601 as member for the borough of Dunwich, was subsequently made principal secretary of state and comptroller of the household to King James the First.—Under his successor, the unfortunate Charles, he retained these dignified situations, and was by that monarch elevated to the additional rank of a privy counsellor.
This gentleman, who enjoyed the honour of knighthood, was the youngest son, by the first marriage, of Robert Suckling, Esq. of Woodton in the county of Norfolk; who had represented the city of Norwich in the two parliaments of 1570 and 1585, and whose ancestors had possessed estates in that village from the
Aubrey relates, on the authority of Mrs. Bond, the wife of one of the poet's companions, “ that Suckling derived his vivacity and wit from his mother; for that “his father was but a dull fellow." Whether any sallies of this lady's brilliancy have been preserved, I know not : they have, at least, eluded my researches.
. If Aubrey be correct, and the father excelled not in the charms of conversation, in the
museo contingere cuncta lepore ”
he was, certainly, a man of sound judgment and acute observation. The writer of these pages possesses letters, written by him on matters of family business, in which a solidity of judgment and a knowledge of human nature are displayed, in language of remarkable vigour : nor, can it reasonably be imagined, that, without qualifications, somewhat above an ordinary standard, Sir John (the father) would have been selected by his sovereign as a privy counsellor, in times which, verging fast towards turbulence and rebellion, were already marked by increasing difficulties and
a Familiarly known by the name of “ Jack Bond,” he is introduced by the poet in one or two of his poems as an interlocutor with himself — his social qualities, however, seem to have been his principal recommendation.
dissatisfaction. But in addition to these dignities, which he already enjoyed, Sir John was also an aspirant to still higher preferment. In the “ Sidney State Papers ” is a letter written by Lord Leicester to his son, in September, 1621, wherein he says,
“ It is not known who shall be chancellor of the Exchequer, now my Lord Brooke doth give it over : it is between Sir Richard Weston and Sir John Suckling.”
The appointment was conferred on Sir Richard Weston ; but Sir John Suckling doubtlessly alleviated his chagrin by the enjoyment of a pension of one hundred pounds per annum; the patent for which may be seen in the seventeenth volume of Rymer's Fædera, and in which his services are recited. — But Mrs. Bond's estimate of the father's abilities is still further rendered questionable, by the appearance of a copy of verses prefixed, amongst others, to Coryat's Crudities, published in 1611.
It appears that the wits of the day joined in a series of panegyrical essays on that curious composition, and Sir John Suckling's muse is by no means the least entitled to commendation.
I shall not be dissuaded by the fear of incurring the charge of prolixity, from inserting his efforts.