return to exeter
After departing from Bristol, Bampfylde continued his impostures on route to Exeter,
visiting well-to-do acquaintances to whom he eventually revealed his true identity upon which
they expressed great surprise but treated him handsomely nevertheless. On reaching Exeter,
when news of his arrival spread, a small crowd gathered to hear from him of his adventures in
Two months after this came home Captain Froade laden with tobacco; as soon as he came to an
anchor, several gentlemen of Exeter going on board him, enquired, what passage? and where
he left Mr Carew? damn him, replied the captain, you will never see him again; he ran away,
was taken, put in New Town gaol, brought back again, and whipped, had a pot-hook put on
him, ran away with it on his neck, and has never been heard of since; so that, without
doubt, he must either be killed by some wild beast, or drowned in some river. At which the
gentlemen fell a laughing, telling the captain he had been at home two months before him.
Captain Froade swore it could never be; however they confirmed it to him that it was so.
carew meets his match
There now follows the strange story of Carew's encounter with Lord Weymouth who was himself
predisposed to indulge in cunning deception.
One day Bampfylde was begging in the town of Maiden Bradley as a shipwrecked seaman when he
saw on the other side of the street a similarly attired beggar, who on seeing Carew,
crossed over to speak to him and asked him where he had stayed last night, and where was he
heading. Using the canting language, he
asked Carew if he would brush into a
boozing-ken and be his
thrums, to which he agreed readily. They talked of this and that over their ale: of
various questions concerning the country, of families that were more charitable and those
less so, of the moderate and severe justices, and those countries that would and would not
permit begging in their territories.
The next Day they beg the Town, one on one side of the Street, the other on the other, each
on his own separate Story. They then proceeded to the Houses of several Gentlemen in that
Neighbourhood; among others they came to Lord Weymouth's, where it was agreed that Mr.
Carew should be the Spokesman. Upon their coming up to the House the Servants bid them
begone, for should Lord Weymouth detect them in any Falsehood, he would horsewhip them
without Mercy. Our Travellers, however, were not the least daunted thereat. Therefore they
went up to the Kitchen door and Mr. Carew broke the Ice, telling the deplorable Story of
their Misfortune in his usual lamentable Tone. At length the Housekeeper gave them the
greatest part of a cold Shoulder of Mutton, half a fine Wheaten Loaf, and a Shilling, but
did it with great Haste and Fear, lest my Lord should see her. Of the Butler they got a
Copper of good Ale, and then departed.
After they had travelled some distance from the house they began to argue over who was to
carry the victuals, neither wanting to encumber themselves, not having a wife or child
nearby to give it to. Carew was for throwing it in the hedge, but his companion urged
against this, saying it was a shame to waste good victuals; so they both agreed to go to
The Green Man, about a mile away, and exchange it for liquor. They tarried some
time at this alehouse, and snacked the arget; then, after a parting
glass, each went his separate way.
The Reader cannot but be surprised, when we assure him that this Mendicant Companion of
his was no less a Person than my Lord Weymouth himself, who, being desirous of sounding
the Tempers and Dispositions of the Gentlemen, and other Inhabitants of his
Neighbourhood, put himself into a Habit so vastly beneath his Birth and Fortune. Nor was
this the first Time that this great Nobleman had metamorphosed himself into the
despicable Shape and Character of a Beggar. He took especial Care to conceal it even from
his own Family, one Servant only, in whose Secrecy he greatly confided, being entrusted
This Lord Weymouth was Thomas Thynne, born in 1710, who succeeded to the title of the
second Viscount Weymouth in 1714, and died in 1751.
As soon as Carew and his companion had parted company, Lord Weymouth slipped home by a
private route, divested himself of his disguise, and, calling for his servants, said that
he had been informed that two mendicant sailors had visited his house, that they were
impostors, and he ordered two of his men to mount their horses and bring them before him.
Naturally the servants were only able to capture Carew, and he was taken back to the
mansion. The Viscount accosted him in a very rough manner, asking him where the other
fellow was, and told him he should be made to find him.
Mr. Carew in the mean Time stood thunder-struck, expecting nothing less than Commitment to
Prison ; but upon Examination, made out his Story as well as he could. After having thus
terrified and threatened him for a considerable Time, away goes his Lordship, and divesting
himself of his Habit and Character of a Nobleman, again puts on his Rags, and is by his
Trusty Valet de Chambre (alone in the Secret) ushered into the Room where his Brother
Beggar stood sweating with Fear. They confer Notes together, whispering to each other what
to say, in order that their Accounts might agree when examined apart. The Steward took Mr.
Carew aside into a private chamber, and there pretending that the other Fellow's Relation
contradicted his, proved them to be both Counterfeits; a Prison must be the Portion of them
both; indeed nothing was omitted that might strike Mr. Carew with the greatest Terror and
Confusion. By this Time my Lord having thrown off his Rags and put on his fine Apparel, Mr.
Carew was again brought into his Presence to receive his Sentence; when my Lord, having
sufficiently diverted himself with the Consternation of his Brother Mumper, discovered
himself to him.
After that Lord Weymouth, to whom Bampfylde had confided his real name, showed him
considerable hospitality, taking him to the Warminster horse-races, and they parted the
best of friends. On subsequent visits to his lordship, Carew was presented with a hearty
welcome at his house and offered a guinea. On one occasion, recalling the events just
described, Weymouth jokingly remarked that he was more expert at the science of mumping
even than Carew himself.
Carew continued his mendicant activities across the West of England and further afield,
including a visit to Stockholm in Sweden where he disguised himself as Presbyterian parson
called Slowly, a castaway from a vessel bound for Revel; on another occasion he went to
Paris dressed as a devout Roman Catholic who had left England out of an earnest zeal to
spend his days in the bosom of Catholicism.
Some time later on a return visit to Exeter with his wife to see friends, while out walking
on his own in Topsham nearby he was accosted by merchant Davey who was accompanied by
several captains of other vessels.
"Ha! Mr. Carew you are come in a right time; as you came over for your own pleasure, so you
shall go over for mine". Then they laid hands on him who found it in vain to resist, as he
was overpowered by numbers; he therefore desired to be carried before some magistrate but
this was not hearkened to, for they forced him on board a boat, without the presence or
authority of any officer or justice, not so much as suffering him to take leave of his
wife, or acquaint her of his misfortune though he begged the favour almost with tears; the
boat carried him on board the Phillory, under Captain Simmonds bound for America with
convicts, which lay then off Powderham Castle, waiting only for a fair wind.
Thus it was that Carew was kidnapped and transported to Maryland for a second time. Once
more he escaped, slipping off in a canoe unnoticed during the convict sales. To avoid
recapture he travelled during the night, and hid in trees during the day; he stealthily
stole food from empty homes when the occupants were out tilling the fields. To cross the
mighty River Delaware he clutched at one of a number of horses grazing near the banks, and
making a crude bridle from his handkerchief, persuaded the horse to swim the river with
Carew on its back. He eventually made it to Boston where he was able to secure his passage
back to England.
carew joins the jacobite rebels
In 1745, on hearing news each day of the progress of the Jacobite rebels under Bonnie
Prince Charlie, The Young Pretender, Carew decided to travel north to join with them.
Leaving his wife and child in Devon, he made his way to Edinburgh where he met up with the
rebels. Not having the stomach for combat, he pretended to be very lame and sick. He
hobbled on with them to Carlisle and then on to Manchester where he had his first sight of
the young Prince. From there they moved on to Derby where a rumour was spread that the Duke
of Cumberland was coming to fight them. Though the Young Pretender was game to fight, his
followers were less courageous and they retreated to Carlisle. At this point Carew decided
to depart for home.
settling down in bickleigh
After being reunited with his wife and daughter on his return from the north of England,
they paid a visit to Sir Thomas Carew of Hackern, a relative of Bampfylde's, who offered to
provide for them if he would give up his wandering life. The offer was declined. Some time
later, much to the delight of his wife, he at long last decided to settle down, and having
acquired sufficient wealth by some means, purchased a house in Bickleigh, his birthplace.
There he spent his remaining years in obscurity, outliving his wife. He lived to see his
daughter marry a gentleman before his death, believed to be in 1758; he was buried in the
churchyard at St Mary's Church in Bickleigh.
- King Carew's race at length is run,
- His wanderings are all o'er;
- No more his tricks, nor wit, nor fun,
- Will make the table roar.
- Bickleigh church-yard is now his home,
- Peace rests upon him there;
- And when the final day is come,
- May he no danger fear!
We conclude this portrayal of Bampfylde Moore Carew with a brief consideration of these
two themes: the authenticity of the published accounts of his exploits, and the reasons for
his enduring popularity.
It is beyond dispute that Bampfylde was a real person born into the venerable Carew family
of Bickleigh, and that he ran away from school, choosing thereafter to lead the life of an
itinerant beggar or vagabond. He travelled widely and was undoubtedly forcibly transported
to Maryland from where he escaped and eventually returned to England. It is most likely
that the first edition of the Life and Adventures was based on Bampfylde's own
version of events, as the title page opposite reveals:
As related by Himself, during his Passage to the Plantations in America.
Carew may well have been a master of disguise, especially as begging by an impostor (or
as it was known) was not uncommon at the time. However, the relationship
between Carew and the supposed community of the gypsies, and the account of the death of
Clause Patch and his replacement by Carew as King of the Mendicants, are fanciful
elaborations introduced by Robert Goadby to serve his own political agenda in the second
expanded version of Carew's life, An Apology for the Life of Mr. Bampfylde-Moore
. This was written and published by Goadby in collaboration with W. Owen; it is
also noteworthy for the vehemently sarcastic passages directed at Henry Fielding and his
novel Tom Jones
. Hugo Breitmeyer
sums up the gypsy thread in the Carew biographies like this:
The truth seems to be that Bampfylde never had any connection with the real gipsies and,
even if the word was only intended to mean nothing more than wandering mendicants, there is
no evidence that there was any large organization of these people. There can be no doubt
that Bampfylde knew the canting language,
that he had confederates, and that these men allowed him, with his superior education,
experience and intelligence, to plan their campaigns. Beyond these established facts, the
rest must be regarded as mere fiction.
Why was it that Bampfylde Moore Carew became a folk hero, revered and admired by younger
readers almost as much as Robin Hood? Although he is largely forgotten today, the
popularity of his life story lasted at least until the early 20th century.
English society from when Bampfylde was born in the late 17th century until the 20th
century was organized in a strictly hierarchical system of class divisions, with a
privileged few at the top of the pyramid. About five percent of the population constituted
the gentry, and above them, the nobility. It was this small minority who controlled most of
the country's wealth, and in rural areas owned most of the land. They wielded all the power
and made all the decisions affecting the inferior majority.
It is in the context of this narrow conformity that the picaresque tales depicting the
lives of rogues and vagabonds flourished in the literature 17th and 18th centuries. Here in
the case of Bampfylde was the true story, albeit embellished, of the well-educated scion of
the noble Carews giving up all his privileges to become an idler, a swindler, and a
practical joker whose victims came from the rich and powerful from which he had himself
The popularity of Bampfylde was sustained through the 19th century by the adoption of his
character in place of other favourites such as Aladdin as the leading role in pantomimes.
For example, in 1825 there was a production called Bampfylde Moore Carew, or the Gipsey
of the Glen, while nine years later the pantomime Bampfylde Moore Carew, Or
Harlequin King of the Beggars was pulling in the crowds.
This section of Breitmeyer's introduction to Two Accounts of The Life and Adventures of
Bampfylde Moore Carew, The King of the Beggars
published by The Kennard Press in 1985
leans heavily on C H Wilkinson's introduction to The King of the Beggars - Bampfylde
. This 1931 work contains reprints of the original Life and
and Goadby's first version of An Apology for the Life