A wandering vagabond.”
I am a Vagabond: I care not who knows it, nor who is frightened from perusing my papers because of the announcement. You may dwell in dull propriety for ever, may be shocked; you who take names for things, may shut up the book; you may remember that Johnson defined a vagabond as “a term of reproach,” and that he stigmatized vagabundus as “low Latin,” the lexicographer! but you must at least admit that I who have so exact an appreciation of my own character, am likely to be correct in my notions about other people.
Vagabond has a merry sound in my ears; the word is at any rate classical French, and vagare was good enough Latin for Virgil; while as regards English, Shakespeare used it; and though Richard III does speak of “vagabonds, rascals, and runaways,” all in one breath, surely the Crookback is poor authority in such matters; and though La Feu does say to Parolles, in “All’s Well that Ends Well,” “You are a vagabond, and no true traveller,” La Feu was himself a scamp unworthy of belief. I maintain that the vagabonds are an illustrious fraternity. Æneas, pius Æneas, madam, was one of the first, wandering around the Lybian shores; and of Homer, did he not write the Odyssey, which is nothing but a history of the adventures of a vagabond? Ulysses had a good time, too, with Calypso and Circe, and he escaped both Scylla and Charybdis, did he. Then the knights-errant of chivalry, what were they but vagabonds? Their very name indicates their vagrant habits. ‘Tis true that Webster’s dictionary is worse than Johnson’s; it does say “by the laws of England and the United States, vagabonds are liable to be taken up and imprisoned;” but Webster couldn’t spell, and one of his name was hanged; so how can he be right? Blackstone, a person who wrote commentaries on law, a century ago, approaches nearer to justice in his comments on my tribe: “Idle persons or vagabonds, whom our ancient statutes describe to such as wake at night (correct), and sleep on the day (after a ball), and haunt customable taverns and alehouses, and routs about; (well, who don’t go to routs that get invited), and no man wot from whence they came, nor whither they went.” And why should any man have wot? let any man restrain his curiosity. Two other old authors are all I shall quote to show how versed I am in antiquarian lore.
Holinshed says: “The vagabond that will abide nowhere, but runneth up and down from place to place,” and Du Cange exclaims: “Vagabundus que non habet domicilium, sed hodie hic et cras alibi.”
Adam Badeau, The Vagabond, 1959