A. E. Senter. The Diddler. New York: M. Doolady, 1868.

A. E. Senter. The Diddler. New York: M. Doolady, 1868.“Diddling” was 19th-century slang for swindling, derived from the conman character Jeremy Diddler in James Kenney’s farce Raising the Wind (1803). Real confidence men increasingly populated American cities in the 19th century, so it should come as no surprise that the literary figure of Diddler reappeared, too. In 1843, Edgar Allan Poe published his short story “Raising the Wind; or, Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences,” which described the conman as possessing perseverance, ingenuity, nonchalance, and audacity. Poe wrote, “He eats your dinner, he drinks your wine, he borrows your money . . . , and he kisses your wife.” Here is an artist’s depiction of the Diddler, the frontispiece to a collection of stories about the conman and his many schemes.