LEAD: ''No man is an Island,'' John Donne wrote. Not even Dean Kamen, sole owner and resident of this rocky three-acre freckle in Long Island Sound, three miles off Noank, Conn. ''I am an empire!'' he boasts. Mr. Kamen, a 36-year-old bachelor and millionaire inventor who prefers to be called Lord Dumpling, has fulfilled one of life's larger fantasies.
''No man is an Island,'' John Donne wrote. Not even Dean Kamen, sole owner and resident of this rocky three-acre freckle in Long Island Sound, three miles off Noank, Conn. ''I am an empire!'' he boasts. Mr. Kamen, a 36-year-old bachelor and millionaire inventor who prefers to be called Lord Dumpling, has fulfilled one of life's larger fantasies. For $2.5 million, he has bought an island - complete with mansion, lighthouse and a copy of Stonehenge - and seceded from the world around him, or so he likes to believe.
Although owning an island in the Sound and considering it to be a land apart is not an unheard-of notion, few people have gone to such theatrical lengths to establish a semblance of sovereignty. Mr. Kamen's island has a Constitution, a Cabinet and a flag, plus currency, 1,000 dumplings to the dollar; a Navy, a surplus amphibious vehicle, and an Air Force, a helicopter. It also has a national anthem, with lyrics written by a Broadway director, Paul Lazarus, Minister of Brunch. The first verse, sung to the tune of ''America, the Beautiful,'' goes: O isolate With star-filled skies And crashing waves of foam From Moonwatch Hill to Great Stonehenge O blessed second home.
The birth of North Dumpling Island as an independent nation, which was spurred by a spat with New York officials last winter, may seem silly, especially when the bearded and blue-jeaned Lord Dumpling dons his coronet and comments on matters of state by saying, ''It's sooooo neat!''
His lordship, though, is no Zonker Harris, the royalty-loving man-child of ''Doonesbury.'' And his tulip-ringed island is neither a sandbox for old hippies, an opulent Fitzgeraldian paradise, nor a galling example of how kids can fritter away their trust funds. Rather, it is a talented workaholic's magnificent symbol of escape and reward, of achieving the ultimate home away from home, of going beyond - way beyond - the American Dream. Mr. Kamen, a native of Rockville Centre, L.I., who spends most of the year in New Hampshire, made his fortune creating and selling specialized medical equipment. He has also purchased a helicopter manufacturer.
''This is not a little playground for beautiful people and the jet set,'' he said. ''My life is much too serious, not too silly. I work 20 hours a day. I see babies with cancer, babies with leukemia. It's serious business. You wander through hospitals, it makes you feel guilty. It makes you feel like you can come to a place like this and deserve to relax.''
The idea of buying an island occurred two years ago, sparked by a romantic image, an influx of cash and North Dumpling's stunning amenities, the chief one being an elegantly furnished house complete with wine cellar, library and a lighthouse rising through the roof.
''What a moat!'' said Angela van Acker, a party planner from New London who lived here before Mr. Kamen and is assisting with possible plans to rent it as a corporate retreat. ''It is neat, isn't it?'' Mr. Kamen said. The secession movement started last November, when New York balked at Mr. Kamen's plan to install an electricity-producing windmill. He threatened to leave the state and contacted State Senator George L. Gunther, Republican of Stratford, about annexation. ''I thought it might be better if North Dumpling Island annexed Connecticut,'' said Mr. Gunther, who holds dual citizenship and is Mr. Kamen's Secretary of Interstate.
A truce, however, was arranged between New York and North Dumpling. The windmill is expected to arrive soon, and the island will not become part of Connecticut. ''We worked out a diplomatic settlement to avoid an armed conflict,'' Mr. Kamen said. The tensions, though, underscored the folly of an island on the Connecticut coast being in New York's possession.
''It makes sense for this area to be part of Connecticut,'' Mr. Kamen said. ''The guys that respond to emergencies are from Connecticut. When you want a building permit, you go five miles to Connecticut, not 38 miles to New York.''
Although the cry to secede from New York has abated, Mr. Kamen keeps busy dreaming up new gimmicks for his geographic joke of a nation. His latest whims are establishing a 200-foot international boundary and posting dumpling exchange rates at a local bank.
Fortunately, Mr. Kamen is an absolute monarch, so these plans should be adopted posthaste. And even if there is some squabbling among his cabinet, his lordship can always create another new country on the mountain he recently purchased in New Hampshire.
''It's soooooo neat,'' he said.
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