The Surprising Adventures of Bampfylde Moore Carew, King of the Beggars
Bampfylde More Carew was the son of a clergyman in the West of England, who ran away from school to become a vagabond. He had a long career as dog thief, confidence trickster, fortune teller and beggar, and was imprisoned and transported to America twice, escaping and returning to England each time. By his own account he was elected to be the "king" of the beggars in England in recognition of his skill. He would pose as as a shipwrecked sailor, a deranged University scholar, an impoverished clergyman . . . whatever was most likely to prompt a show of alms. In each case he had the appropriate clothing and appearance, and a carefully prepared story which would stand up to the most searching enquiry. His victims included wealthy merchants and noblemen, as well as many other less eminent but still well-to-do persons, as he scorned to swindle the poor.
When he grew too old for the road, he retired to Bickleigh, a village near Exeter in Devonshire, and lived respectably for the last few years of his life. His Adventures were first published in 1745 and were probably based on his reminiscences as dictated to the anonymous editor. They are lively and entertaining, but how much is true cannot now be known. Indeed, it poses an interesting logical puzzle: When a man boasts of how good a liar he is, how far should he be believed?