Philobiblon: The dashing conman

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The dashing conman

Miss Williams Wynn is today telling the elaborate, dramatic tale of a conman who passed himself off as the Archduke John, brother of the Emperor of Austria across half of Europe.

He starts out with the British Consul at Jaffa, travels around various convents, to the "Turkish ports", on to Hamburg and is finally wrecked (on his way to America - where you get the feeling he would have done rather well) off the coast of Britain.

Says Miss Williams Wynn:

Englishmen were not so easily to be taken in as consuls, pashas, and archbishops in the East. The various frauds and forgeries of the adventurer were soon brought to light, and the bellissimo hotel full of officers of justice' in pursuit of him.

However, he contrived once more to escape them by getting out of a garret window upon the roofs of the neighbouring houses. Such was the extraordinary simplicity and credulity of his faithful attendant that even at this moment, after all that he had witnessed, he described himself as perfectly convinced that his master was going straight to St. James's, meaning at last to avow his rank and resume his native splendour. Judge, then, what must have been his dismay when he found himself safely lodged with the archduke in Newgate.

The conman escapes again, however, by seducing the wife of his jailer. The young lad travelling with him, son of the consul, is saved by a kindly judge "the only one man in the whole world who would not have hanged him because he had been imposed upon by a rascal."

The whole story does have a very novelist feel, but who knows? It might be true.

Anyone looking for a story for a movie, this has definite possibilities!


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