CAREW, Bampfylde-Moore. ~ A Brief Relation of the Adventures of Mr. Bampfylde-Moore Carew; who, though descended from, and allied to some of the best families in England, entered into a society of Gypsies, and has been, for more than forty years past, the King of the Beggars; in which station he still continues, notwithstanding the great offers that have been made him to quit their community; wherein the motives of his conduct are explained, with a great number of characters and shapes he has appeared, being now more than sixty years of age. [?London. c. 1706].
Broadside, letterpress with large woodcut portrait (255 × 215 mm), lettered below in eight lines, each cut out and mounted, the descriptive text in smaller type (in columns c. 105 mm width) also cut out and mounted on three following pages (2 columns per page), folio (410 × 265 mm). Preserved in an old calf binding, lately rebacked to style. Nineteenth-century endpapers with numerous bibliographical entries in manuscript, bookplate of James Comerford.
A striking woodcut illustrated broadside depicting the celebrated ‘King of the Beggars’, Bampfylde-Moore Carew. This ingeniously preserved broadside is perhaps a unique survival: there is no identical large illustrated broadside listed in the usual catalogues. ESTC T167425 describes a similar item belonging to the Society of Antiquaries, with the same setting of text but an abridged title (’Mr. Bampfylde-Moor Carew, for more than 40 years past the King of the Beggars’). The woodcut of the Antiquaries’ copy is from the same block as ours but bears some additional text in the book shown being read by Carew: both examples show its title as The Laws of the Beggars, but the Antiquaries’ copy also having the date ‘176?’ and an excerpt from the book’s index on the facing page (’Acust, Bite, Cheat, Damn, Escape, Fuxes’ etc), where the facing page in ours is blank.
The careful cutting-out and mounting of individual lines and columns in our copy was probably done in the nineteenth-century by antiquary James Comerford JP, FSA, (1807-1881). He amassed a fine antiquarian library including a large collection of county histories, local topographies and books of Catholic religious piety, sold by Sotheby’s after his death (16-20 November 1881).
Carew was an eighteenth-century celebrity and curiosity. His biography was first published in 1745 and was reprinted numerous times. He had fallen in with a band of gypsies as a wayward young boy. ‘After a year and a half Carew returned home for a time, but soon after resumed a career of swindling and imposture, which saw him deceive people to whom he had previously been well known. Eventually he embarked for Newfoundland, but stayed only a short time. On his return to England he passed as the mate of a vessel, and eloped with the daughter of a respectable apothecary from Newcastle upon Tyne, whom he later married.
Carew soon returned to the nomadic life, and when Clause Patch, a Gypsy king or chief, died Carew was elected his successor. He was convicted of being an idle vagrant, and sentenced to be transported to Maryland. On his arrival he attempted to escape, but was captured and made to wear a heavy iron collar; he escaped again, and encountered some Native Americans, who removed his shackles. On departure he travelled to Pennsylvania. He was then said to have swum the Delaware River, after which he adopted the guise of a Quaker, and made his way to Philadelphia, then to New York, and finally to Boston, where he embarked for England. He escaped impressment on board a man-of-war by pricking his hands and face, and rubbing in bay salt and gunpowder, so as to simulate smallpox’ (Oxford DNB).