Bamfylde Moore Carew

This  eccentric character was born in 1693, at Bickley, in Devonshire, of which place his father was many years rector. Being descended from an ancient and honorable family, he was educated agreeably to his condition. At the age of twelve, he was sent to the Tiverton school, where his good behavior led his friends to hope that he might some day shine in the clerical profession. But the Tiverton scholars having at their command a fine pack of hounds, Carew, and two or three of his companions, devoted themselves more to hunting than study.

One day they engaged in the chase of a deer, just before the commencement of harvest. The animal took his course through the fields of grain, and the young sportsmen, with their hounds, followed, reckless of the damage that was done. The mischief was so considerable, that the proprietors complained to the school-master. Carew and his companions were so much frightened, that they absconded, and joined a gang of gipsies, who happened to be in the neighborhood. This society consisted of about eighteen persons of both sexes, who carried with them such an air of mirth and gaiety, that the youngsters were quite delighted with their company, and, expressing an inclination to enter into their society, the gipsies admitted them, after the performance of the requisite ceremonies and the administration of the customary oaths.

Young Carew was speedily initiated into all the arts of the wandering tribe, for which he seemed to have a happy genius. His parents, meanwhile, lamented him as one that was no more, for, though they had repeatedly advertised his name and person, they could not obtain the least intelligence of him. At length, after an interval of a year and a half, hearing of their grief and repeated inquiries after him, his heart relented, and he returned to Bickley. Being greatly disguised, both in dress and appearance, he was not known at first by his parents; but when he discovered himself, a scene followed which no words can describe, and there were great rejoicings, both in Bickley and the neighboring parish of Cadley.

Everything was done to render his home agreeable; but Carew had contracted such a fondness for the society of the gipsies, that, after various ineffectual struggles with the suggestions of filial piety, he once more eloped to his former connections, and soon gave new proofs of his aptitude for their peculiar calling.

Having remained with the gipsies for some time, he left them, and proceeded on a voyage to Newfoundland. He soon returned, and, landing at Newcastle, eloped with a young lady, the daughter of an eminent apothecary of that town. Proceeding to Bath, they were married, and paid a visit to Carew's uncle, a distinguished clergyman of Dorchester. He received them with great kindness, and endeavored to persuade his nephew to take a final leave of his gipsey life. This, however, proved vain, for Carew soon returned to that vagrant community, with whom he spent the remainder of his days.

He now led an adventurous career, seeming to be guided more by the humor of enterprise than the love of gain. His art in transforming his person so as to represent various characters, extorted from the gipsies themselves the greatest applause, and, at last, when Clause Patch, their king, died, Carew had the honor of being elected in his stead.

Though his character was known, he was rather a favorite with many persons of good standing, and was on one occasion invited to spend several days in hunting with Colonel Strangeways, at Milbury. The conversation happened one day, at dinner, to turn on Carew's ingenuity, and the colonel remarked that he would defy him to practise deception on him. The next day, while the colonel was out with his hounds, he met with a miserable object upon a pair of crutches, with a wound in his thigh, a coat of rags, and a venerable, pity-moving beard. His countenance expressed pain and sorrow, and as the colonel stopped to gaze upon him, the tears trickled down his silver beard. As the colonel was not proof against such an affecting sight, he threw him half a crown, and passed on. While he was at dinner, the miserable object came in, when lo, it was Carew himself!

The life of this singular man has afforded materials for a volume. His friends in vain offered to provide him with a respectable maintenance; no entreaty could prevail upon him to abandon the kind of life he had adopted. He spent about forty years with gipsies and beggars, and died in 1770, aged 77.