King of the Beggars - Chapter I

Chapter I

His Early Life; Joining the Gypsies

††††††††††† Mr. Bampfylde-Moore Carew was descended from the ancient family of the Carews, son of the Reverend Mr. Theodore Carew, of the parish of Bickley, near Tiverton, in the county of Devon; of which parish he was many years a rector, very much esteemed while living, and at his death universally lamented. Mr. Carew was born in the month of July 1693; and never was there known a more splendid attendance of ladies and gentlemen of the first rank and quality at any baptism in the west of England, than at his: the Hon. Hugh Bampfylde, Esq., who afterwards died of an unfortunate fall from his horse, and the Hon. Major Moore, were both his illustrious godfathers, both of whose names he bears; who sometime contending who should be the president, doubtless presaging the honour that should redound to them from the future actions of our hero, the affair was determined by throwing up a piece of money, which was won by Mr. Bampfylde; who upon this account presented a large piece of plate, whereon was engraved, in large letters,


††††††††††† The reverend Mr. Carew had several other children, both sons and daughters, besides Mr. Carew, all of whom he educated in a tender and pious manner; and Mr. Carew was at the age of twelve sent to Tiverton school, where he contracted an intimate acquaintance with some young gentlemen of the first rank in Somersetshire, Devonshire, Cornwall, and Dorsetshire.

††††††††††† It has been remarked by great men, that there is a natural propensity in the mind of a reader to be inquisitive about the person of the hero whose actions they are reading; and authors in general have been so sensible of the power of this curiosity, that it has long been a custom for them to present their readers with their own pictures in the front of their works, with the design, doubtless, of pre possessing their readers in favour of them, by the marks of wisdom and ingenuity in their countenance ; thus, not to mention any other instances, those two great authors, Mr. Dilworth and Mr. Dyche, have both indulged the work with their pictures before their ingenious spelling books. We cannot but commend this custom as a very fair and candid one; for what reader would buy an author, if his countenance declared him a blockhead, did we not suspect the engraver is so kind to the author as to put greater marks of wisdom and ingenuity in his countenance, than nature ever bestowed upon him.

††††††††††† [Note: These two authors acted very candidly in publishing their pictures while alive, that the world might be enabled to judge of the skill and impartialitv of the engraver.]

††††††††††† This desire then of being informed of the person of the hero of whom they are reading is so natural, we should be guilty of a great neglect, were we to omit satisfying our readers in this respect, more particularly as we can, without making use of a figure in rhetoric, (which is of very great service to many authors,) called amplification; or, in plain English, enlarging, present our readers with a very amiable picture.

††††††††††† The stature of our hero was tall and majestic, his limbs strong and well-proportioned, his features regular, his countenance open and ingenuous, bearing all those characteristical marks which physiognomists assert denote an honest and good-natured mind; for which we refer to his portrait.

††††††††††† During the first four years of his continuance at Tiverton school, his close application to, and delight in his studies, gave his friends great hopes that he might one day make a good figure in that honourable profession which his father became so well, and for which he was designed.

††††††††††† He attained, for his age, a very considerable knowledge in the Latin and Greek tongues; but soon a new exercise or accomplishment engaged all his attention; this was that of hunting, in which our hero soon made a surprising progress; for, besides that agility of limb and courage requisite for leaping over five-barred gates, &c., our hero, by indefatigable study and application, added to it a remarkable cheering halloo to the dogs, of very great service to the exercise, and which, we believe, was peculiar to himself; and, besides this, found out a secret, hitherto known but to himself, of enticing any dog whatever to follow him.

††††††††††† The Tiverton scholars had at this time the command of a fine cry of hounds, whereby Mr. Carew had frequent opportunity of gratifying his inclinations in that diversion. It was then that he entered into a very strict friendship and familiarity with John Martin, Thomas Coleman, John Escott, and other young gentlemen of the best rank and fortune.

††††††††††† The wise Spaniards have, we think, a proverb, Tell me who you are with, and I will tell you what you are; and we ourselves say, That birds of a feather flock together. It is generally allowed that proverbs are built upon experience, and contain great truths; and though at this time very young, he contracted no acquaintance, and kept no company, but with young gentlemen of birth and fortune, who were rather superior to himself than beneath him.

††††††††††† It happened that a farmer, living in a county adjacent to Tiverton, who was a great sportsman, and used to hunt with the Tiverton scholars, came and acquainted them of a fine deer, which he had seen with a collar about his neck, in the fields about his farm, which he supposed to be the favourite deer of some gentleman not far off; this was very agreeable news to the Tiverton scholars, who, with Mr. Carew, John Martin, Thomas Coleman, and John Escott, at their head, went in a great body to hunt it; this happened a short time before the harvest. The chase was very hot, and lasted several hours, and they ran the deer many miles, which did a great deal of damage to the fields of corn that were then almost ripe. Upon the death of the deer and examination of the collar, it was found to belong to Colonel Nutcombe, of the parish of Clayhanger.

††††††††††† Those farmers and gentlemen that sustained the greatest damage came to Tiverton, and complained heavily to Mr. Rayner, the schoolmaster, of the havoc made in their fields, which occasioned strict enquiry to be made concerning the ringleaders, who, proving to be our hero and his companions, they were so severely threatened, that, for fear, they absented themselves from school; and the next day, happening to go in the evening to Brick-house, an alehouse, about half a mile from Tiverton, they accidentally fell into company with a society of Gypsies, who were there feasting and carousing. This society consisted of seventeen or eighteen persons of both sexes, who that day met there with a full purpose of merriment and jollity; and after a plentiful meal upon fowls, ducks, and other dainty dishes, the flowing cups of October, cider, &c. went most cheerfully round, and merry songs and country dances crowned the jovial banquet; in short, so great an air of freedom, mirth, and pleasure, appeared in this society, that our youngsters from that time conceived a sudden inclination to enlist into their company; which, when they communicated to the Gypsies, they, considering their appearance, behaviour, and education, regarded as only spoke in jest; but as they tarried there all night in their company, and continued in the same resolution the next morning, they were at length induced to believe them to be serious, and accordingly encouraged them, and admitted them into their number; the requisite ceremonials being first gone through, and the proper oaths administered.

††††††††††† The reader may perhaps be surprised at the mention of oaths administered, and ceremonials used, at the entrance of these young gentlemen; but his surprise will lessen when we inform him, that these people are subject to a form of government and laws peculiar to themselves, and though they have no written laws, by which means they avoid all perplexity with lawyers, yet they pay obedience to one who is styled their king; to which great honour we shall hereafter see our hero arrive, having first proved himself worthy of it, by a great number of necessary achievements.

††††††††††† There are, perhaps, no people so completely happy as they are, or enjoy so great a share of liberty. The king is elective by the whole people, but none are allowed to stand as candidates for that honour, but such as have been long in their society, and perfectly studied the nature and institution of it; they must likewise have given repeated proofs of their personal wisdom, courage and capacity; this is the better known, as they always keep a public record or register of all remarkable (either good or bad) actions performed by any of the society; and they can have no temptation to make choice of any but the most worthy, as their king has no titles or lucrative employments to bestow, which might influence or corrupt their judgment.

††††††††††† The only advantage the king enjoys is, that he is constantly supplied with whatever is necessary for his maintenance, from the contributions of his people; whilst he, in return, directs all his care to the defending and protecting his people from their enemies, in contriving and planning whatever is most likely to promote their welfare and happiness, in seeing a due regard paid to their laws, in registering their memorable actions, and making a due report of all these things at their general assemblies; so that, perhaps, at this time, it is amongst these people only that the office of a king is the same as it was at its first institution; viz. a father and protector of his people.

††††††††††† The laws of these people are few and simple, but most exactly and punctually observed; the fundamental of which is, that strong love and mutual regard for each member in particular, and for the whole community in general, which is inculcated into them from their earliest infancy; so that this whole community is connected by stronger bands of love and harmony, than oftentimes subsist even in private families under other governments: this naturally prevents all oppressions, fraud, and over-reachings of one another, so common amongst other people, and totally extinguishes that bitter passion of the mind (the source, perhaps, of most of the other vices) envy; for it is a great and certain truth, that Love worketh no evil.

††††††††††† Their general meetings at stated times, which all are obliged to be present at, is a very strong cement of their love, and indeed of all their other virtues; for, as the general register of their actions, which we have before spoken of, is read at these meetings, those who have deserved well of the community, are honoured by some token or distinction in the sight of all the rest; and those who have done anything against their fundamental laws, have some mark of ignominy put upon them; for they have no high sense of pecuniary rewards, and they think the punishing of the body of little service towards amending the mind. Experience has shown them, that, by keeping up this nice sense of honour and shame, they are always enabled to keep their community in better order than the most severe corporeal punishments have been able to effect in other governments.

††††††††††† But what has still more tended to preserve their happiness is, that they know no other use of riches than the enjoyment of them; but, as the word is liable to be misconstrued by many of our readers, we think it necessary to inform them, we do not mean by it that sordid enjoyment which the miser feels when he bolts up his money in a well-secured iron chest, or that delicious pleasure he is sensible of when he counts over his hoarded stores, and finds they are increased with a half-guinea, or even a half-crown; nor do we mean that enjoyment which the well-known Mr. Kó, the man eater, feels when he draws out his money from his bags, to discount the good bills of some honest but distressed tradesman at fifteen or twenty per cent.

††††††††††† [Note: As it has been long a dispute among the learned and travellers, whether or no there are cannibals or man-eaters existing, it may seem something strange that we should assert there is, beyond all doubt, one of that species often seen lurking near St. Paul's, in the city of London, and other parts of that city, seeking whom he may devour.]

††††††††††† The people we are speaking of are happily ignorant of such enjoyment of money, for they know no other use of it than that of promoting mirth and good humour; for which end they generously bring their gains into a common stock, whereby they whose gains are small have an equal enjoyment with those whose profits are larger, excepting only that a mark of ignominy is affixed on those who do not contribute to the common stock proportionably to their abilities, and the opportunities they have of gain; and this is the source of their uninterrupted happiness; for by this means they have no griping usurer to grind them, lordly possessor to trample on them, nor any envyings to torment them; they have no settled habitations, but, like the Scythians of old, remove from place to place, as often as their conveniency or pleasure requires it, which renders their life a perpetual scene of the greatest variety.

††††††††††† By what we have said above, and much more that we could add, of the happiness of these people, and of their peculiar attachment to each other, we may account for what has been matter of much surprise to the friends of our hero, viz., his strong attachment, for the space of above forty years, to this community, and his refusing the large offers that have been made to quit their society.óBut to return to our history.

††††††††††† Thus was Mr. Carew initiated into the mysteries of a society, which, for antiquity, need give place to none, as is evident from the name, which in Latin is called Egyptus, and in the French Egyptienne, that they derive their original from the Egyptians, one of the most ancient and learned people in the world,(though afterwards several other people imitated them) and that they were persons of more than common learning, who travelled to communicate their knowledge to mankind. Whether the divine Homer himself might not have been of this society, will admit of a doubt, as there is much uncertainty about his birth and education, though nothing is more certain than that he travelled from place to place.

††††††††††† Mr. Carew did not continue long in it before he was consulted in important matters; particularly Madam Musgrove, of Monkton, near Taunton, hearing of his fame, sent for him to consult in an affair of difficulty. When he came, she informed him, that she suspected a large quantity of money was buried somewhere about her house, and if he would acquaint her with the particular place, she would handsomely reward him.

††††††††††† Our hero consulted the secrets of his art upon this occasion, and after long toil and study informed the lady, that under a laurel-tree in the garden lay the treasure she anxiously sought for; but that her planet of good fortune did not reign till such a day and hour, till which time she should desist from searching for it; the good lady rewarded him very generously with twenty guineas for his discovery. We cannot tell whether at this time our hero was sufficiently initiated in the art, or whether the lady mistook her lucky hour, but the strict regard we pay to truth obliges us to confess, that the lady dug below the roots of the laurel-tree without finding the hidden treasure.

††††††††††† When he was further initiated in the art, he was consulted upon several important matters, and generally gave satisfaction by his sagacious answers. In the meantime, his worthy parents sorrowed for him as one that was no more, not being able to get the least tidings of him, though they publicly advertised him, and sent messengers after him in every direction; till, at the expiration of a year and a half, our hero having repeated accounts of the sorrow and trouble his parents were in upon his account, his heart melted with tenderness, and he repaired to his father's house, at Brickley, in Devonshire. As he was much disguised, both in habit and countenance, he was not at first known by his parents; but when he discovered himself, joy gushed out in full streams, stopping the power of speech: but the warm tears they bedewed his cheeks with, whilst they imprinted them with kisses, performed the office of the tongue with more expressive eloquence; but the good heart and tender parent will feel this much better than we can describe. The whole neighbourhood, particularly the two parishes of Cadley and Brickley, partook of this joy; and there was nothing for some time but ringing of bells, with public feasting, and other marks of festive joy.

††††††††††† Mr. Carew's parents did everything possible to render home agreeable to him; every day he was engaged in some party of pleasure or other, and all his friends strove who should entertain him, so that there seemed nothing wanting to his happiness. But the uncommon pleasure that he had enjoyed in the community he had left, the freedom of their government, the simplicity and sincerity of their manners, the frequent changes of their habitation, the perpetual mirth and good humour that reigned amongst them, and perhaps some secret presages of that high honour which he has since arrived at; all these made too deep an impression to be effaced by any other ideas; his pleasure therefore grew every day more and more tasteless, and he relished none of those entertainments which his friends daily provided for him.

††††††††††† For some time these unsatisfied longings after the community of Gypsies preyed upon his mind, his heart being too good to think of leaving his fond parents again, without reluctance. Long did filial piety and his inclinations struggle for the victory; at length the last prevailed, but not till his health had visibly suffered by these inward commotions. One day, therefore, without taking leave of any of his friends, he directed his steps towards Brick-house, at Tiverton, where he had at first entered into the community of the Gypsies; and finding some of them there, he joined their company, to the great satisfaction of them, as well as of himself; they rejoiced greatly at having regained one who was likely to be so useful a member to their community.

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