Tom o' Bedlam

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A wandering beggar. After the dissolution of the religious houses the poor wandered over the country, many assuming disguises calculated to obtain them charity. Among other disguises some affected madness, and were called Bedlam Beggars (so in Gammer Gurtons Nedle ‘Diccon the Bedlam’). Edgar, in King Lear, ii. iii, adopts this disguise. Some of these Bedlam beggars sang mad songs, examples of which are given in Percy's Reliques.

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