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The Project Gutenberg eBook, A Historical Survey of the Customs, Habits, &
Present State of the Gypsies, by John Hoyland

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Title: A Historical Survey of the Customs, Habits, & Present State of the Gypsies

Author: John Hoyland

Release Date: June 7, 2009  [eBook #29063]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


Transcribed from the 1816 WM. Alexander edition by David Price, email  Many thanks to Kensington Library, London, for allowing the use of their copy in cross-checking the transcription.

of the
The Gypsies;
designed to develope
The Origin of this Singular People,
and to promote
The Amelioration of their Condition.


Author of an Epitome of the History of the World, &c.

Decorative divider

printed for the author; and sold by

darton, harvey, & co.; w. phillips; and w. darton, jun.



p. ii


Entered at Stationers’ Hall.


Printed by Hargrove, Gawthorp, & Cobb,
      Herald-Office, York.


The author of the following Survey, has frequently had opportunity of observing the very destitute and abject condition of the Gypsey race, in the counties of Northampton, Bedford, and Herts.  The impressions received from viewing a state so derogatory to human nature, induced him to make numerous inquiries, in order to ascertain if necessity compelled their continuance, under circumstances so deplorable as their condition exhibited.

Not meeting with satisfactory intelligence on application to various individuals, to whose observation Gypsies are frequently presented, the author was excited to an examination of history, for the developement of a case involved in so much obscurity; and aggravated by circumstances so repugnant to the mild and genial influences of the Christian Religion.

He must not however omit to state, that in Northamptonshire, William Allen, who is in the profession of the law, at Higham Ferrers, and Steward to Earl Fitzwilliam, very warmly interested himself on the p. ivsubject.  He said it afforded him much pleasure to find, that some attention was excited to the condition of the Gypsies, and that he should be glad to co-operate, as far as was in his power, in any measures likely to conduce to the reformation of this greatly neglected class of British subjects.

He volunteered his services to find out the nearest Gypsey rendezvous, and soon procured information of an encampment which the writer visited.  An account of the visit will appear in the following sheets.  The first assurance that the Gypsies really had a language peculiar to themselves, which the author received, was from this intelligent and obliging professor of the law, who had heard children, as well as adults among them, speak it with great fluency.

He also observed, that the situation of this people daily became increasingly deplorable, in consequence of the establishment of associations for the prosecution of felons; and that the fear of apprehension as vagrants, and the progressive inclosures near towns and villages, had a tendency to drive them to a greater distance from the habitations of man.  And he was fully of opinion, as these houseless wanderers were expelled from Township after Township, without any provision being made for their refuge, that it was high time their case should obtain the consideration of the public.

p. vOf the historic authorities whence the author has derived information and interesting observation, he has to place in the foremost rank, the Dissertation of the learned H. M. G. Grellmann, translated a few years since, by the late M. Raper, Esq.  F.R.S. & A.S.  He has, however, to acknowledge himself indebted to various other intelligent authors, whose writings will be noticed in the course of the work.

Another source of information, and which relates especially to the present state of the Gypsies in Great Britain, has been opened through inquiries instituted in most parts of the nation, by the author, aided by several obliging and able coadjutors.  The results of these inquiries, it scarcely need be added, will be presented to the reader in their proper places.

The author has much regretted, that scarcely any of the splendid histories of Counties in England, and even those in which the Gypsies abound, have in the least noticed that part of the population which so strongly claims our attention.  By bringing their situation into view, the historian might not merely have served the cause of humanity; he would have advanced the interest of the state, by promoting an object of so much public utility, as the improvement of the whole Gypsey race cannot fail to prove.

A comparative view of their customs and habits, and how far they appear coincident in different countries, p. vimay afford a criterion by which to judge if they have all had one origin.  By thus tracing them to that source, we may possibly discover the occasion of their peculiarities; and if the means hitherto employed to counteract them, have proved unsuccessful, we may be prepared to consider of others, better adapted to correct the errors of their education.

Conceiving that any scheme for ameliorating the condition of the Gypsies, would not only be premature, but might prove highly injudicious, before obtaining a knowledge of their history, the author has endeavoured to collect, from the most authentic European authorities to which he could have access, a general view of this people, in the different parts of the world to which they have resorted; and from these and the other sources of information, he has subjoined accounts of their state in Great Britain, and of the suggestions offered by other individuals for their improvement; concluding the subject with a review of the whole, and proposing a plan to be set on foot for accomplishing this desirable object.



Various Appellations of them—Their arrival in Europe

page 9


Accounts of the Gypsies in various Countries

page 17


The Habits, Occupations, and Polity of the Continental Gypsies

page 37


Political Regulations on the Continent respecting Gypsies

page 61


The Gypsies in Great Britain

page 75


The present State of the Gypsies in Scotland

page 91


On the Origin of the Gypsies

page 112


Comparative view of the Gypsey, Hindostanie, and Turkish languages

page 131


Present State of the Gypsies in England

page 151


Present State of the Gypsies in and about London

page 175


Sentiments of various persons on the moral condition of the Gypsies

page 191


Review of the Subject, and Suggestions for ameliorating the condition of the Gypsies in the British Empire

page 221



Various appellations of them—Their arrival in Europe.


The different appellations by which the People whom we denominate Gypsies, have been distinguished, appear generally to have had reference to the countries, from which it was supposed they had emigrated.

Grellmann states, that the French, having the first accounts of them from Bohemia, gave them the name of Bohémiens, Bohemians.  That the Dutch apprehending they came from Egypt, called them Heydens, Heathens.  In Denmark, Sweden, and in some parts of Germany, Tartars were thought of.  The Moors p. 10and Arabians, perceiving the propensity the Gypsies had to thieving, adopted the name Charami, Robbers, for them.

In Hungary, they were formerly called Pharaohites, (Pharaoh Nepek) Pharaoh’s people; and the vulgar in Transylvania continue that name for them.  The idea of the English appears to be similar, in denominating them Gypsies, Egyptians; as is, that of the Portuguese and Spaniards, in calling them Gitanos.  But the name Zigeuners, obtained the most extensive adoption, and apparently not without cause; for the word Zigeuner, signifies to wander up and down—for which reason, it is said, our German ancestors denominated every strolling vagrant Zichegan.

The Gypsies are called not only in all Germany, Italy, and Hungary Tziganys; but frequently in Transylvania, Wallachia and Moldavia, Cyganis.  But the Turks, and other Eastern nations name them, Tschingenes.

The origin of this people has been a subject of inquiry for more than three hundred years.  Many persons have been anxious to discover p. 11“who these guests were, that, unknown and uninvited, came into Europe in the fifteenth century, and have chosen ever since to continue in this quarter of the globe.”

Continental writers state, that it is incredible how numerous the hordes of this people are, and how widely dispersed over the face of the earth.  They wander about in Asia, the inferior of Africa, and have established themselves in most of the countries of Europe.  Grellmann is of opinion, that America is the only part of the world, in which they are not known.  Though no mention appears to be made of them by Authors who have written on that quarter of the globe; yet no doubt remains, of their having been in Europe nearly four hundred years.

Wilhelm Dilick in his Heszischen Chronik, scit 229, beyn Jahr 1414, informs us they arrived the same year in the Hessian territories; but no mention of them appears in the public prints till three years afterward.  Mention is made of their being in Germany as early as the year 1417; when they appeared p. 12in the vicinity of the North sea.  Fabricius, in Annalibb Misn, says, they were driven from Meissen in 1416, but Calvisius corrects this date by changing it to 1418.

Sir Thomas Browne in his “Vulgar Errors,” page 287, says, “their first appearance was in Germany, since the year 1400; nor were they observed before in other parts of Europe, as is deducible from Munster, Genebrard, Krantzius and Ortelius.”

In Germany they spread so rapidly, that in 1418, their names were recorded in the annual publications of various parts of the country.  They travelled in hordes, each having his leader, sometimes called Count, others had the title of Dukes, or Lords of Lesser Egypt.

In 1418 they were found in Switzerland, and in the country of the Grisons; and in 1422 they made their appearance in Italy.  The Bologna Chronicle states, that the hordes which arrived in that city, on the 18th of July, 1422, consisted of about one hundred men, the name of whose leader, or Duke as they termed him, p. 13was Andreas.  They travelled from Bologna to Forli, intending to pay the Pope a visit at Rome.

Their appearance in France bears the date of 1427, when the French say, they straggled about Paris, having arrived on the 17th day of August in that year.

German Historians are agreed, that when the Gypsies first made their appearance in Europe, they chose to be considered as Pilgrims; and that their profession met with the more ready belief, as it coincided with the infatuation of the times.  The learned Grellmann states, that several old writings mention the credulity, with which people cherished the idea, that they were real pilgrims and holy persons; that it not only procured for them toleration, but safe-conducts in many places.

Munster declares, that they carried about with them passports and seals from the Emperor Sigismund, and other Princes; by means of which, they had free passage through different countries and cities; and that he had p. 14himself seen, an attested copy of such a letter to the possession of some Gypsies at Eberbach.

Krantz, Stumpf, Guler, and Laurentius Palmirenus, all agree in this statement..  The Gypsies at Bologna also shewed an instrument from Sigismund; but he appears to have granted this to them, not as Emperor, and in Germany; but in Hungary, and as King of Hungary.  A pass of Uladislaus II. might also be quoted, which the Gypsies obtained chiefly on account of their supposed sanctity and pilgrimage.  In Transylvania, it is asserted they received letters of protection from the House of Bathory.

Webner says, that the Gypsies in France quoted ancient privileges, granted to them by the former Kings of that country.

Crusius, Wurstisen, and Guler, mention papal permissions for wandering unmolested through all Christian countries, as long as the term of their pilgrimage lasted; which they asserted was seven years.  But at the expiration of that term, they represented that their p. 15return home was prevented by soldiers stationed to intercept them.

The impression their pretensions had made on the people among whom they came, did not entirely subside during half a century; but afterward, “the Gypsies being watched with a more jealous eye, it appeared but too clearly, that, instead of holy pilgrims, they were the mere refuse of humanity, who, often, under pretexts of safe-conducts, committed all manner of excesses.”

Their impositions being detected, it is probable some of them were reduced to the necessity of having recourse to legitimate means of subsistence, for within thirty years afterward, we have accounts of Gypsies in Hungary being employed in the working of iron.  This occupation, appears from old writings, to have been a favourite one with them.  Bellonius also takes notice of its being so; and there is a record of the Hungarian King Uladislaus, in the year 1496, cited by the Abbé Pray in his Annals; and by Friedwalsky in his Mineralogy, wherein it is ordered, “That every p. 16officer and subject, of whatever rank and condition, do allow to Thomas Polgar, leader of twenty-five tents of wandering Gypsies, free residence every where, and on no account to molest him, or his people; because they had prepared military stores for the Bishop Sigismund at Fünfkirchen.”



Accounts of the Gypsies in various countries.


To propose means for improving the condition of Gypsies, before we have informed ourselves of their real state, and what has been done for them, would be as injudicious, as for a Physician to prescribe for a patient, without being acquainted with the nature or extent of his disease, and the means attempted for his cure.  To form a just opinion, on the case of the Gypsies, it appears necessary to ascertain their general habits, and their mode of life.

From Pasquier’s Recherches de la France, B. IV. C. 9, is selected the following account of the Gypsies in that country: “On August 17th, 1427, came to Paris, twelve Penitents, Penanciers, as they called themselves, viz: a Duke, an Earl, and ten men, all on horse-back, p. 18and calling themselves good christians.  They were of Lower Egypt, and gave out, that not long before, the Christians had subdued their country, and obliged them to embrace christianity, on pain of being put to death.  Those who were baptized, were great Lords in their own country; and had a King and Queen there.  Some time after their conversion, the Saracens over-ran their country, and obliged them to renounce christianity.

“When the Emperor of Germany, the King of Poland, and other Christian Princes, heard of this; they fell upon them, and obliged the whole of them, both great and small, to quit their country, and go to the Pope at Rome; who enjoined them seven years’ penance, to wander over the world, without lying in a bed.  They had been wandering five years when they came to Paris; first the principal people, and soon after the commonalty, about 100, or 120, reduced from 1000, or 1200, when they came from home; the rest being dead, with their King and Queen.  They were lodged by the police, out of the city, at Chapel St. Denis

p. 19“Nearly all of them had their ears bored, and one or two silver rings in each, which they said were esteemed ornaments in their country.  The men were black, their hair curled; the women remarkably black, all their faces scarred, deployez, their hair black, their only clothes a large old shaggy garment, flossoye, tied over the shoulders with a cloth or cord, sash, lien, and under it a poor petticoat, roquet.  In short, they were the poorest miserable creatures that had ever been seen in France; and notwithstanding their poverty, there were among them women, who by looking into people’s hands told their fortunes.  And what was worse, they picked people’s pockets of their money; and got it into their own, through telling these things by art, magic, &c.

“But though this was the common report, I spoke to them several times, yet I never lost a farthing by them; or ever saw them look into people’s hands.  But the Bishop of Paris, hearing of it, went to them with a Friar Preacher, named Le petit Jacobin, who, by the Bishop’s order, preached a sermon excommunicating p. 20all the men and women who pretended to believe these things; and had believed in them, and shown their hands; and it was agreed that they should go away, and they departed for Pontoise, in September.

“This was copied from an old book in the form of a journal, drawn up by a doctor of divinity in Paris, which fell into the hands of Pasquier; who remarks upon it, that however the story of a penance savours of a trick, these people wandered up and down France, under the eye, and with the knowledge of the magistrates, for 100, or 120 years.  At length, in 1661, an edict was issued, commanding all officers of justice, to turn out of the kingdom, in the space of two months, under pain of the gallies, and corporal punishment, all men, women and children, who assumed the name of Bohémiens, or Egyptians.”

Dufresne, in his Glossary V. Ægyptiaci, confirms Pasquier’s character of them in these words: “Ægyptiaci, Gallicé Egyptiens, Bohémiens, vagi homines, harioli, et fatidici, qui hac et illac errantes, ex manu inspectione futura p. 21prœsagire se fingunt; ut de marsupiis incautorum nummos corrogent;” which may be thus translated, “Egyptians called by the French Egyptiens, Bohémiens, vagabonds, soothsayers and fortune-tellers, who, wandering up and down, pretend to foretel future events from the inspection of the hand, for the purpose of obtaining money from persons not careful of their purses, &c.”

Grellmann speaks of Gypsies “being numerous in Lorraine and Alsatia, before the French Revolution, but especially in the forests of Lorraine.  They increased in this district, in consequence of their having been assiduously looked after in the dominions of the late Duke Deux-Fonts, and driven from thence; whither his successor would not suffer them to return.  He adds, that an order of the provincial council, held at Tarragona, in 1591, subjected them to the magistrates, as people “quos vix constat esse Christianos, nisi ex eorum relatione, cum tamen sint mendaces, fures, deceptores, et aliis sceleribus multi eorum assueti;” in English, “who are scarcely allowed to be Christians, p. 22except from their own account of themselves, seeing they are liars, thieves, cheats, and many of them accustomed to other kinds of wickedness.”

Twiss, in his Travels p. 179, gives the following account of them in Spain: “They are very numerous about, and in, Murcia, Cordova, Codis, and Ronda.  The race of these vagabonds is found in every part of Europe.  The French call them Bohémiens, the Italians Zingari, the Germans Ziegeuners, the Dutch Heydenen, Pagans, the Portuguese Siganos, and the Spaniards Gitanos, in Latin, Cingari.

“Their language, which is peculiar to themselves, is every where so similar, that they are undoubtedly all derived from the same source.  They began to appear in Europe in the 15th century, and are probably a mixture of Egyptians and Ethiopians.  The men are all thieves, and the women libertines.  They follow no certain trade, and have no fixed religion.  They do not enter into the order of society, wherein they are only tolerated.  It is supposed there are upwards of forty thousand of p. 23them in Spain; great numbers of them are innkeepers in the villages, and small towns; and they are every where fortune-tellers.

“In Spain, they are not allowed to possess any lands, nor even to serve as soldiers.  They marry among themselves, stroll in troops, about the country, and bury their dead under water.  Their ignorance prevents their employing themselves in any thing, but in providing for the immediate wants of nature; beyond which even their roguishness does not extend; and, only endeavouring to save themselves the trouble of labour, they are contented if they can procure food by showing feats of dexterity; and only pilfer to supply themselves with the trifles they want; so that they never render themselves liable to any severer chastisement, than that of whipping, for having stolen chickens, linen, &c.  Most of the men have a smattering of physic and surgery, and are skilful in tricks performed by slight of hand.”

“The foregoing account is partly extracted from Le Voyageur François, Vol. XVI.; but the assertion that they are all so abandoned, p. 24as that author says, is too general.  I have lodged many times in their houses, and never missed the most trifling things, though I have left my knives, forks, candlesticks, spoons, and linen at their mercy.”

Swinburne states, that “they swarm more in the province of Granada, than in any other part of the realm.  This singular sect have kept themselves separate from the rest of mankind ever since their first appearance which has been recorded in history.

“Their origin remains a problem not to be satisfactorily solved; and I doubt whether the Gitanos themselves, have any secret tradition that might lead to a discovery of what they really were in the beginning, or from what country they came.  The received opinion sets them down as Egyptians, and makes them out to be the descendants of those vagabond votaries of Isis, who appear to have exercised, in ancient Rome, pretty much the same profession as that followed by the present Gypsies, viz: fortune-telling, strolling up and down, and pilfering.

p. 25“Few of them employed themselves in works of husbandry, or handicrafts; indeed the Spaniards would not work with them.  Except a small part of them who follow the trades of blacksmiths, and vintners, most of them are makers of iron rings, and other little trifles, rather to prevent their being laid hold of as vagrants, than really as a means of subsistence.  Several of them travel about as carriers and pedlars.

“Though they conform to the Roman Catholic mode of worship, they are looked upon in the light of unbelievers; but I never could meet with any body that pretended to say what their private faith and religion may be.  All the Gypsies I have conversed with, assured me of their sound Catholicism; and I have seen the medal of Nuestra Senora del Carmel sewed on the sleeves of several of their women.

“They seldom venture on any crimes that may endanger their lives; petty larceny is the utmost extent of their roguishness.

“The men are tall, well built, and swarthy, with a bad scowling eye, and a kind of favorite p. 26lock of hair left to grow down before their ears, which rather increases the gloominess of their features; their women are nimble and supple jointed; when young they are generally handsome, with fine black eyes.  Their ears and necks are loaded with trinkets and baubles, and most of them wear a large patch on each temple.”

Of the Italian Gypsies, the same traveller in his journey through Calabria, p. 304, gives the following account: “The landlord of the inn at Mirti, earnestly recommended to the servants to leave nothing out of doors, as there was an encampment of Zingari, or Gypsies, who would lay their hands upon any part of the baggage, that was not watched with the strictest attention.  His caution led me to an inquiry into the state of this strange tribe of vagrants, of whom I had seen great numbers in Spain.  The result of this account, combined with those I had received from others, is as follows:

“The Gypsies of Calabria do not contract alliances with any other class of inhabitants; but marry among themselves.

p. 27“It is not possible to say where they reside, as they have no fixed habitations; and consequently possess neither house nor land, but pitch their tents wherever they think proper to make any stay.  They support life by the profits of handicrafts; but more by swapping asses and horses.

“They generally work in iron, and make trivets, knitting needles, bodkins, and such trifles.  Their dress is extremely shabby; they shave their chins, but indulge a great length of hair, which they seldom disturb with either comb or scissars.

“As to their religion, it is a secret which they keep locked up in their own breasts.  They seem to have no great veneration for the Virgin Mary, but are supposed to believe in Christ.  All the proof we have of their belief, depends upon appearances, and an occasional conforming to the ceremonies of the Roman Catholic religion, in marriages, burials, &c.; but if the priests start any difficulties, they manage the matter without their interference, and perform the functions according to their own p. 28ceremonies, which in many points resemble those of the heathens.

“At their weddings they carry torches, and have paranymphs to give the bride away, with many other unusual rites.

“It is in reality, almost absurd to talk of the religion of a set of people, whose moral characters are so depraved, as to make it evident they believe in nothing capable of being a check to their passions.  They are usually accounted pilferers, cheats, faithless, and abandoned to dissoluteness.

“They tell fortunes, and play juggling tricks, just as they do in all other countries where they are to be found.  In 1560, they were banished the kingdom as thieves, cheats, and spies for the Turks.  In 1569 and 1685, the order was resumed, but not being enforced, had little effect.

“A Gypsey being brought to trial for a larceny, declared, that his law allowed him to take as much from others, every day, as sufficed for his maintenance.

p. 29“These people make use of two languages, one Calabrian, with a foreign accent and pronunciation; the other a peculiar one of their own, which in sound, seems to have great affinity to the Oriental tongues; and is spoken when they have secrets to impart to each other.  They sleep like dogs in a kennel, men, women, and children huddled together.”

The learned Grellmann states, that “Gypsies were universally to be found in Italy; insomuch, that even Sicily and Sardinia were not free from them.

“But they were the most numerous in the dominions of the church; probably because there was the worst police, with much superstition.  By the former they were left undisturbed; and the latter enticed them to deceive the ignorant, as it afforded them an opportunity of obtaining a plentiful contribution, by their fortune-telling and enchanted amulets.

“There was a general law throughout Italy, that no Gypsey should remain more than two nights, in any one place.  By this regulation, it is true, no place retained its guest long; but p. 30no sooner was one gone, than another came in his room.  It was a continual circle, and quite as convenient to them, as a perfect toleration would have been.  Italy rather suffered, than benefited, by this law; as, by keeping those people in constant motion, they would do more mischief there, than in places where they were permitted to remain stationary.”

It appears from the Dissertation of Grellmann, that he had examined with great care and attention, the continental authorities on the subject of Gypsies.  He asserts, that “In Poland and Lithuania, as well as in Courland, there is an amazing number of Gypsies.

“That they are to be found in Denmark and Sweden, is certain, but how numerous they are in those countries we cannot pronounce, and therefore proceed to the south east of Europe.

“The countries in this part seem to be the general rendezvous of the Gypsies; their number amounts in Hungary, according to a probable statement, to upwards of 50,000.

“Cantemir says, the Gypsies are dispersed all over Moldavia, where every Baron has several families of them subject to him.

p. 31“In Wallachia and the Sclavonian mountains, they are quite as numerous.  Bessarabia, all Tartary, Bulgaria, Greece, and Romania, swarm with them; even in Constantinople they are innumerable.  In Romania, a large tract of Mount Hæmus, which they inhabit, has acquired from them the name Tschenghe Valkan, the Gypsey mountain.  This district extends from the city Aydos, quite to Phillipopolis, and contains more Gypsies than any other province in the Turkish empire.”

Our countryman Edward Daniel Clark, in his travels in Russia, Tartary, &c. so lately as the year 1800, states, “that after the ceremony of the resurrection at Moscow, a party of Gypsies were performing the national dance, called Barina; others were telling fortunes, according to their universal practice, or begging for presents of oranges or ice.

“This extraordinary people, found in all parts of Europe, were originally one of the Castes of India, driven out of their territory, and distinguished among Indian tribes, by a name which signifies thieves.  They have a similar p. 32appellation among the Fins, and with the same signification.

“They preserve every where the same features, manners, and customs, and what is more remarkable, almost always the same mode of dress.  The extraordinary resemblance of the female Gypsies to the women of India, was remarked by the British officers and men, in Egypt, when General Baird arrived with his army to join Lord Hutchinson.  The Sea-poys had many of their women with them, who were exactly like our Gypsies.

“In their dress, they lavish all their finery upon their heads.  Their costume in Russia is very different to that of the natives.  The Russians hold them in great contempt; never speaking of them without abuse; and feel themselves contaminated by their touch, unless it be to have their fortunes told.  Formerly they were more scattered over Russia, and paid no tribute; but now they are collected, and all belong to one nobleman, to whom they pay a certain tribute, and work among the number of his slaves.”

p. 33P. 209, he writes: “At Woronetz, the Gypsey tribe are very prevalent, and a mixed race, resulting from their intermarriage with the Russians.”

Dr. Clarke observes, Chap. 18, p. 440, 441 of his Travels, between Kertchy and Caffa, in the Crimea: “In the villages we found parties of Tzigankies or Gypsies, encamped as we see them in England, but having their tents stationed between their waggons, in which they move about the country.

“Poultry, cats, dogs, and horses, were feeding all round them, seeming like members of the same family.  The Gypsies are much encouraged by the Tartars, who allow them to encamp in the midst of their villages, where they exercise the several functions of smiths, musicians, and astrologers.  Many of them are wealthy, possessing fine horses, and plenty of other cattle; but their way of life, whether rich or poor, is always the same.  As we entered their tents they arose, and cast a sheep’s hide over their bodies.  The filth and stench of these people were abominable.”

p. 34In the second, part of his Travels, p. 644, he writes respecting the Gypsies: “We found this people in Nauplia, under the name they bear in Moldavia, of Tchinganes.  How they came thither no one knew; but the march of their ancestors, from the North of India to Europe, so lately as the beginning of the 15th century, will account for their not being found further towards the South; and this is now so well ascertained, that no one would expect to meet a Gypsey, upon any of the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

“To have found them in the Peloponnesus is rather remarkable, considering that their whole tribe at first did not exceed half a million.”

In the travels, written by Bell, of Antermony, Vol. 2, p. 157, he states: “During my stay at Tobolski, I was informed that a large troop of Gypsies had been lately at that place, to the number of sixty or upwards.  The Russians call these vagabonds, Tziggany.  Their sorry baggage was carried upon horses and asses.  The Vice-Governor sent for the p. 35chief of this gang, and demanded whither they were going.  They answered to China.  He stopped their progress and sent them back.”

“Bishop Pococke met with these people, still further to the Eastward.  He says, the Chingani, who are spread all over the world, are in great abundance in the North of Syria, and pass for Mahometans.  They live under tents, and sometimes in grots under ground.

“They make a coarse sort of tapestry, or carpet work, for hangings of saddles and other uses; and when they are not far from towns, deal much in cattle, and have a much better character than their relations in Hungary, and the Gypsies in England; who are thought by some to have been originally of the same tribe.

“These and the Turcomen, with regard to offence, are under the Pasha and Cadi; though they have a sheik to every encampment, and several great ones over them: but with regard to taxes, they are immediately under the Grand Seignior; whose tribute is collected yearly, by an officer over each of these people; one being called the Turcoman-Agasi, an officer of great p. 36credit, and the other the Chingani-Agasi, who go round the Turkish dominions to collect the taxes from these people.”  Travels, Vol. 2, Part 1, p. 207, 208.

Grellmann says: “Independently of the number of Gypsies in Egypt, and some parts of Asia, could we obtain an exact estimate of them in the countries of Europe, the immense number would probably greatly exceed what we have any idea of.  At a moderate calculation, without being extravagant, they might be reckoned at between seven and eight hundred thousand.

“What a serious matter of consideration, when we reflect that the greatest part of these people, are idlers, cheats, and thieves!

“What a field does this open for the contemplation of Governments!”


The Habits, Occupations, and Polity of Continental Gypsies.


The first of them that came to Europe, appeared ragged and miserable, unless we allow their leaders to have been an exception.  In like manner their descendants have continued for hundreds of years, and still remain.  This is particularly remarkable in the countries about the mouth of the Danube, which abound with Gypsies; namely Transylvania, Hungary, and Turkey, in Europe; where they dress even more negligently than in other parts.

It is a fact that these people enjoy a good state of health more uninterruptedly, and perfectly, than persons of the most regular habits, and who pay the greatest attention to themselves.  Neither wet nor dry weather, heat nor cold, let the extremes follow each other ever p. 38so quickly, seem to have any effect upon them.  Any prevailing sickness, or epidemical disorder, sooner penetrates into ten habitations of civilized people, than finds its way into a Gypsey’s tent.

Though they are fond of a great degree of heat, and to lie so near the fire, as to be in danger of burning, yet they can bear to travel in the severest cold, bareheaded, with no other covering than some old rags carelessly thrown over them.

The causes of these bodily qualities, or at least some of them, evidently arise from their education, and hardy manner of life.

The pitiless mother takes her three months old child on her back, and wanders about, in fair and foul weather, in heat or cold; there it sits winter and summer, in a linen rug, with its head over her shoulder.  Gypsey women never use a cradle, nor even possess such a piece of furniture.  The child sleeps in their arms, or on the ground.  When a boy attains three years of age, his lot becomes still harder.  Whilst an infant, and his age reckoned by p. 39weeks and months, he was wrapt in rags, but now deprived of these, he is equally with his parents, exposed to the rigour of the elements, for want of covering; he is now put to trial how far his legs will carry him; and must be content to travel about with, at most, no other defence for his feet than thin socks.

Thus he acquires a robust constitution by hardships and misery; but though the children of Gypsies do not partake of what the refinements of art and of tenderness would account advantages, writers are unanimous in stating, they are good-looking, well-shaped, lively, clever, and have fine eyes.  The Gypsies, in common with uncivilized people, entertain unbounded love for their children.  This is a source of inexcusable neglect: Gypsey children never feel the rod, they fly into the most violent passions, and at the same time hear nothing from their parents but flattering and coaxing.  In return they act with ingratitude, as is commonly the consequence of such education.

Gypsies would long ago have been divested of their swarthy complexions, had they discontinued p. 40their filthy mode of living.  The Laplanders, Samoieds, as well as the Siberians, likewise, have brown, yellow-coloured skins, in consequence of living from their childhood, in smoke and dirt, in the same manner as the Gypsies.

Experience shows that their dark colour, which is continued from generation to generation, is more the effect of education, and manner of life, than of descent.  Among those who serve in the Imperial army, where they have learned to pay attention to order and cleanliness, there are many to be found, whose extraction is not at all discernible in their colour; though they had, probably, remained to the age of twelve or fourteen years under the care of their filthy parents.

A Gypsey considers a covering for the head as useless, and if he does not obtain socks, which the female Gypsies in Moldavia and Wallachia knit with wooden needles for the feet, he winds rags about them, which are laid aside in summer.  He is not better furnished with linen, as the women neither spin, sew, p. 41nor wash.  But this inattention is not from indifference about dress; on the contrary, they are particularly fond of clothes, which have been worn by people of distinction.  The following, which appeared in the Imperial Gazette, is very much to the purpose: “Notwithstanding these people are so wretched, that they have nothing but rags to cover them, which do not at all fit, and are scarcely sufficient to hide their nakedness; yet they betray their foolish taste, and vain ostentation, whenever they have in opportunity.”  The women are as fond of dress as the men, and equally expose themselves to the ridicule of the considerate and reflecting part of mankind.

They are remarkable not only in hanging their ragged clothes about them instead of garments, according to the Eastern custom; but their whole arrangement is singular.  Several of their leaders have horses, asses, or mules with them, on which they load their tents and effects, with their whole family also.  They have likewise dogs in their train, with which Krantz asserts they are used illegally, to destroy p. 42game; but probably the dogs are not kept so much for that purpose, as to take fowls and geese.

One strange peculiarity in the ideas of Gypsies we have hitherto forborn to mention, but, disgusting as the task of recording it way be, it is so well authenticated, as to have excited the notice of the Hungarian Legislature; and as it will be found to have some reference to the origin of this singular race of human beings, it must not be withheld from public view.  The greatest luxury to them is, when they can procure a roast of cattle that have died of any distemper: to eat their fill of such a meal, is to them the height of epicurism.  When any person censures their taste, or shows surprise at it, they say: “The flesh of a beast which God kills, must be better than that of one killed by the hand of man.”  They therefore embrace every opportunity of obtaining such dainties.

They are particularly fond of animals that have died by fire; therefore, whenever a conflagration has happened, the next day, the p. 43Gypsies from every neighbouring quarter assemble, and draw the suffocated, half-consumed beasts out of the ashes; men, women, and children, in troops, joyfully carrying the flesh home to their dwellings.

The Gypsies in Hungary, who have settled habitations, are very partial to gold and silver plate, particularly silver cups, which is a disposition they have in common with the wandering tribes.  They let slip no opportunity of acquiring something of this kind; and will even starve themselves to procure it.  Though they seem little anxious to heap up riches for their children, yet these frequently inherit a treasure of this sort; and are obliged in their turn to preserve it as a sacred inheritance.  This inclination to deprive themselves of necessaries that they may possess a superfluity, as well as many others of their customs, is curious, yet appears to be ancient; and it was probably inherent in them when they were first seen by Europeans.

Historians assert, that of all the different people who have migrated into foreign countries, p. 44a single instance is not to be found, which accords with that of the Gypsies.  The religious rites and observances of the Jews were calculated to prevent their imbibing the customs and habits of other nations.  But it is universally admitted, that Gypsies did not bring any particular religion with them from their native country, by which they could be distinguished among other people; being as inconstant and unsettled respecting religion, as they are to place of residence.

Indeed it is asserted, that no Gypsey has any idea of submission to any fixed profession of faith; that patents suffering their children to grow up as themselves, without education or instruction, they acquire little knowledge either of morality or justice; that few of them wilt attend to any discourse on religion, but they hear it with indifference, if not with impatience and repugnance.  Despising all remonstrance; they endeavour to live without the least solicitude concerning a future state of being.

The Turks are so fully convinced of the little religious sincerity possessed by Gypsies, p. 45that although a Jew, by becoming a Mahometan, is freed from the payment of the Charadsch, the Gypsies are not; at least in the neighbourhood of Constantinople, they are compelled to pay the poll-tax, even though their ancestors for centuries had been Mahometans, or though they should actually have been a pilgrimage to Mecca.  The privilege of wearing a white turban, is the only advantage their conversion gives them, over unbelieving Jews and Gypsies.

Among warlike nations, many instances have occurred, in which the people subdued, being more enlightened than their conquerors, the latter have adopted the manners of the former.  After the conquest of Greece, the Romans assumed the manners of the Greeks; and the Turks in like manner assumed those of the Gauls.  The Mancheans vanquished the Chinese, but Chinese customs prevailed over those of the Mancheans.


Our countryman Dr. Clarke, page 4, of part the second of his Travels in Greece, says: “There is every reason to believe that the p. 46Turks themselves, at the conquest of Constantinople, adopted many of the customs, and embraced many of the refinements of a people they had subdued.

“Their former habits had been those of nomad tribes, their dwellings were principally tents, and the camp, rather than the city, distinguished their abode.”

But Grellmann observes, Gypsies who have not established themselves by force in any country, nor obtained toleration from any Government, remain unchanged.  Though they behold fixed dwellings on every side of them, with settled inhabitants, they nevertheless, proceed in their own way, and continue, for the most part, unsocial, houseless wanderers.

To their excessive indolence and aversion to industry, may be attributed the poverty and want which are generally their lots.  They dislike every kind of employment which requires application; and had rather suffer hunger and nakedness, than provide against these privations, on the conditions of labour.  They therefore practise music and palmistry, which p. 47allows them many idle hours; or addict themselves to vicious habits and unlawful courses.  Though no one of them marries a person who is not of Gypsey extraction, there is not any people among whom marriage is contracted with less consideration, or accomplished with less solemnity.

Some Gypsies, who are stationary, have regular habitations, according to their situation in life.  To this class belong those who keep public-houses in Spain; and others in Transylvania and Hungary, who follow some regular business; which latter have their own miserable huts near Hermanstadt, Cronstadt, Beatritz, Grosswaradein, Debrezin, Eperies, Karchan, and other places.  But by far the greater number of these people, lead a very different kind of life; ignorant of the comforts attending a fixed place of residence, they rove from one district to another in hordes; having no habitation, but tents, holes in the rocks, or caves: the former shade them in summer, the latter screen them in winter.

p. 48Many of these people, particularly in Germany and Spain, do not even carry tents with them, but shelter themselves from the heat of the sun, in forests shaded by the rocks, or behind hedges.  They are very partial to willows, under which they erect their sleeping places at the close of the evening.  Some live in their tents, in their language called Tschater, during both summer and winter; which latter indeed the Gypsies generally prefer.

In Hungary, those who have discontinued their rambling way of life, and built houses for themselves, seldom let a spring pass without taking advantage of the first settled weather, to set up a tent for their summer residence.  Under this, each enjoys himself with his family, nor thinks of his house till winter returns, and the frost and snow drive him back to it.

The wandering Gypsey in Hungary and Transylvania, endeavours to procure a horse; in Turkey, an ass serves to carry his wife and a couple of children, with his tent.  When he arrives at a place he likes, near a village, or a city, he unpacks, pitches his tent, ties his p. 49animal to a stake to graze, and remains some weeks there: or if he do not find his station convenient, he breaks up in a day or two, loads his beast, and looks out for a more agreeable situation.  His furniture seldom consists of more than an earthen pot, an iron pan, a spoon, a jug and a knife; with sometimes the addition of a dish.  These serve for the whole family.

Working in iron is the most usual occupation of the Gypsies.  In Hungary, this profession is so common, that there is a proverb: “So many Gypsies so many smiths.”

The same may be said of those in Transylvania, Wallachia, Moldavia, and all Turkey in Europe; at least such workers in fire are very numerous in all those countries.  But the Gypsies of our time, are not willing to work heavy works; they seldom go beyond a pair of light horse shoes.  In general, they confine themselves to small articles, such as rings and nails; they mend old pots and kettles; make knives, seals, and needles; and sometimes they work in tin and brass.  Their materials, tools, and apparatus, are of a very inferior p. 50kind.  The anvil is a stone; the other implements are a pair of hand bellows, a hammer, a pair of pincers, a vice, and a file.  These ape the tools which a Nomadic Gypsey takes with him in his perambulations.

Whenever he is disposed to work, he is at no loss for fuel: on his arrival at a station where he proposes to remain a few days, he takes his beast, loads him with wood, builds a small kiln, and prepares his own coal.  In favourable weather, his work is carried on in the open air; when it is stormy, he retires under his tent.  He does not stand, but sits down on the ground cross-legged to his work; which position is rendered necessary, not only by custom, but by the quality of his tools.  The wife sits by to work the bellows, in which operation she is assisted by the elder children.  The Gypsies are generally praised for their dexterity and quickness, notwithstanding the bad tools they have to work with.

Another branch of commerce much followed by Gypsies, is horse-dealing, to which they have been attached from the earliest period of their p. 51history.  In those parts of Hungary, where the climate is so mild, that horses may lie out all the year, the Gypsies avail themselves of this circumstance to breed, as well as to deal in horses; by which they sometimes not only procure a competency, but grew rich.  Instances have been known on the Continent, of gypsies keeping from fifty to seventy horses each; and those the best bred horses of the country; some of which they let out for hire, others they exchange or sell.  But this description of Gypsey horse-dealers is not numerous; the greater number of them deal in inferior kinds.

In addition to the two professions before-mentioned, commonly followed by the men, some of them employ themselves as carpenters and turners; the former making watering troughs and chests; the latter turn, trenchers and dishes; make sieves, spoons, and other trifling articles, which they hawk about.  Many of them, as well as the smiths, find constant employment in the houses of the better sort of people; for whom they work the year round.  p. 52They are not paid in money, but beside other advantages find a certain subsistence.

Those who are not thus circumstanced, do not wait at home for customers, but with their implements in a sack thrown over their shoulders, seek business in the cities and villages.  When any one calls, they throw down the bundle, and prepare the apparatus for work, before the door of their employer.

The Gypsies have a fixed dislike to agriculture; and had rather suffer hunger, or any privation, than follow the plough.  Since the year 1768, the Empress Theresa has commanded that the Hungarian, and Transylvanian Gypsies should be instructed in husbandry; but these orders have been very little regarded.  At this time there are so few of them farmers in those parts, that they are undeserving of notice.  In Spain and other European countries, it would be difficult to find one who had ever made a furrow in his life.

Respecting fortune-telling, with which the female Gypsies impose on people’s credulity in every district and corner of Europe, the origin, p. 53of the imposition is not to be attributed to them: the cheat was known and practised in Europe before their arrival; being deeply rooted in the ignorance of the middle age.  The science of divination here was said to be already brought to a greater degree of perfection than among them.  Rules were invented to tell lies from the inspection of the hand, in which the poor Gypsies were accounted mere bunglers.  They in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were esteemed supernumeraries; there being men of great learning, who not only read lectures in Colleges on the art of chiromancy; but wrote many books, vilifying these people, and endeavouring to spoil their market.  But these wise men are no more; their knowledge is deposited in the dead archives of literature; and probably had there been no Gypsies, with them would have died the belief in chiromancy, as is the case with respect to astrology, necromancy, oneirocritica, and the other offspring of imbecile fancy.

We must not omit to mention the occupation of gold-washing, by which thousands of Gypsies, p. 54of both sexes, in the Banat, Transylvania, Wallachia, and Moldavia, procure a livelihood in summer; who, in winter, make trays and troughs, which they sell in an honest way.

It is not permitted for every one, without exception, to be a gold-washer; such only can follow the employment as have permission from the office of Mons, where a College was established by the Empress Theresa, in 1748.  In the seventh article of instructions granted, the Gypsies were allowed the privilege of washing for gold, for which each person pays a tribute to Government.

The gold-washers in Transylvania and the Banat, pay four guilders annually in gold dust.  The tribute collected in Wallachia and Moldavia does not go into the public treasury, but belongs to the Princesses for pin-money.

The consort of the Wallachian Hospodar, Stephen Rakowitza, in the year 1764, received from her Rudars, being two hundred and forty in number, twelve hundred and fifty-four drachms.  The gold-washers in the Banat and Transylvania, dispose of their shares at the p. 55Royal Redemption-Office, in Zalatuya.  The earnings of these people vary with time, and at different places; during heavy rains and floods they are usually most successful.  The Transylvanian rivers yield the most gold.  It is said, all the rivers and brooks which the rain forms, produce gold; of these the river Aranyasch is the richest; insomuch, that Historians have compared it to the Tagus and Pactolus.


In Travels through the Banat of Temeswar, Transylvania, and Hungary, in the year 1770, described in a series of letters to Professor Ferber, on the mines and mountains of these different countries, by Baron Inigo Born, Counsellor of the Royal Mines, in Bohemia, page 76, is the following account:

“Observations on the Gold-washings, in the Banat, by Counsellor Koezian.  Translated by R. E. Ruspe.

“After the several natural advantages of the Temeswar Banat, some of its rivers are known to yield gold dust; I could not neglect the object when I travelled in these parts.

p. 56“The gold-washing in the Banat, is properly the business of the Gypsies, Zigeuner, and left, as it were, to this poor people, as an exclusive trade.  This laid me under the necessity of applying to them for instruction.

“The river Nera, in Almash, carries gold dust; and seemed to me the fittest for my purpose; accordingly I caused some Gypsies, reputed to be skilful, to make a washing, near a village called Boshowitz; and I saw with pleasure, that with much dexterity, and in a few minutes time, they cleared in the trough, the value of some groshes of gold: they showed me likewise among their gold dust, some pieces of remarkable bigness.”

It has been stated, that when Gypsies first arrived in Europe, they had leaders and chiefs to conduct their various tribes in their migrations.

Grellmann says, this was necessary, not only to facilitate their progress through different countries and quarters of the globe; but to unite their force, if necessary, and thereby enable them to make a more formidable resistance p. 57when opposed; and likewise, to carry any plan they might have formed, more regularly into effect.

We accordingly find in old books, mention made of Knights, Counts, Dukes, and Kings, among this people.  Crucius cites a Duke, Michael; Muratorio, a Duke, Andreas: and Arentinus records a King, Zindelo: not to speak of inscriptions on monuments erected in different places to the memories of Duke, Panuel; Count, Johannis; and a Knight, Petrus, in the fifteenth century.

But no comment is necessary to show how improperly these appellations were applied.  Though the Gypsey chiefs might be gratified with such titles; and their descendants probably esteemed them persons of rank, it was merely a ridiculous imitation of what they had seen, and perhaps admired, among civilized people.  Nevertheless, the custom of having leaders and chiefs over them, prevails to this time, at least in Hungary and Transylvania; probably it may also still exist in Turkey, and p. 58other countries, where these people live together in great numbers.

Their chiefs, or waywodes, were formerly of two degrees in Hungary.  Each petty tribe had its own leader, beside which, there were four superior waywodes, of their own caste, on both sides the Danube and Teisse; whose residences were at Raab, Lewentz, Szathmar, and Kaschan; and to these the smaller waywodes were accountable.  But now, only one superior waywode is appointed in all Transylvania, who has authority over the gold-washers in those parts.  The Gypsies, however, still continue the custom among themselves, of choosing certain persons, whom they make heads over them, and call by the exalted Sclavonian title of waywode.

It would appear extraordinary, that any well-regulated state should allow these people a distinct establishment in the heart of the country; did not the Hungarian writers assign as a reason, that in the commotions and troubles occasioned by the Turkish wars, in former centuries, they were, by means of their waywode, more p. 59easily summoned when occasion required, and rendered useful to the community.

In Transylvania, the magistrates do interfere with regard to the person whom this or that horde hath elected chief, and impose an obligation on him; but it is only that he should be careful to prevent his subjects from absconding, when the time arrives for them to discharge their annual tribute at the Land Regent’s chamber.  He has no right to interfere in disputes or quarrels which the Gypsies have among themselves, or with other people, further than to give notice of them to the regular courts of the district, where they happen to be.



Political Regulations on the Continent, respecting Gypsies.


To the ignorance and superstition of the middle age, must be attributed the powerful ascendency which the Gypsies obtained over the minds of men.  In addition to the chiromantic deception, practised by the women, they followed also the profession of exorcism; and were greatly in request during the prevalence of a belief in witchcraft.

They were employed to cure bewitched cattle, and to loosen the spells of enchantment; for which they had nostrums of various kinds, consisting of roots and amulets, made of unfermented dough, marked with strong figures, and dried in the sun.

p. 62For a long time little attention was paid to them, but at last the evil became enormous, and complaints against them were so loud, that Governments were constrained to take official notice of them.  Exemplary punishments were judged necessary; and, at length, the most cruel and barbarous kinds were resorted to.  What a blot upon the history of those times, are the dreadful tortures of quartering alive, and breaking upon the wheel!  These means being insufficient to prevent the perpetration of crimes; it was thought expedient to banish the Gypsies.

German waiters say, that King Ferdinand of Spain, who esteemed it a good work to expatriate useful and profitable subjects—Jews, and even Moorish families—could much less be guilty of an impropriety in laying hands on the mischievous progeny of Gypsies.  The edict for their extermination, was published in the year 1492.  But instead of passing the boundaries, they only slunk into hiding-places, and shortly after appeared in as great numbers as before.

p. 63The Emperor Charles V. persecuted them afresh; as did Philip II. also.  Since that time they have nestled in again, and have been also threatened with another storm, but it has blown over without taking effect.

In France, Francis I. passed an edict for their expulsion; and at the Assembly of the States of Orleans, in 1561, all Governors of cities received orders to drive them away with fire and sword.  Nevertheless, in process of time, they had collected again, and increased to such a degree, that, in 1612, a new order came out for their extermination.

In the year 1572, they were compelled to retire from the territories of Milan and Parma; and at a period somewhat earlier, they were chased beyond the Venetian jurisdiction.  They were not allowed the privilege of remaining unmolested in Denmark, as the code of Danish law specifies: “The Tartars, Gypsies, who wander about every where, doing great damage to the people, by their lies, thefts, and witchcraft, shall be taken into custody by every magistrate.”

p. 64Sweden was not more favourable, having attacked them at three different times: A very sharp order for their expulsion came out in 1662.  The Diet of 1723 published a second, and that of 1727, repeated the foregoing with additional severity.

They were excluded from the Netherlands under pain of death, partly by Charles the Vth, and afterwards by the United States, in 1582.  But the greatest number of sentences of exile, have been pronounced against them in Germany.  The beginning was made under Maximilian I, at the Augsburgh Diet, in 1500, where the following was drawn up, respecting those people who call themselves Gypsies, roving up and down the country.

“By public edict, to all ranks of the empire, according to the obligations under which they are bound to Us, and the Holy Empire; it is strictly ordered, that in future they do not permit the said Gypsies, since there is authentic evidence of their being spies, scouts, and conveyers of intelligence, betraying the christians to the Turks, to pass or remain within their p. 65territories; nor to trade; neither to grant them protection, nor convoy.  And that the said Gypsies do withdraw themselves, before Easter next ensuing, from the German dominions; entirely quit them, nor suffer themselves to be found therein: as in case they should transgress after that time, and receive injury from any person, they shall have no redress, nor shall such person be thought to have committed any crime.”

The same business occupied the attention of the Diet, in 1530, 1544, 1548, and 1551; and was also again enforced in the improved police regulation of Frankfort, in 1577.

Several Princes were however so little attentive to these orders of the empire, that instead of endeavouring to drive out the Gypsies, they on the other hand, furnished them with passports and safe-conducts; but by far the greater number exerted themselves to the utmost, to clear their states of them.

Perhaps there is not any civilized state, Hungary and Transylvania excepted, where this remedy has not been tried; but in the first p. 66place it had very little effect, and that little was only temporary.  Even if every civilized nation had driven out the Gypsies at the same time, Europe could not have been entirely cleared of them, so long as they preserved an asylum in Turkey.  Now as experience evinces there is no country in which a constant, equal attention, is paid to the execution of the laws, they would, in more, or less time, have again insinuated themselves into the neighbouring countries; from these into others; and have recommenced where they left off.

But a general extermination never did take place.  The law for banishing them passed in one state before it was thought of in the next, or when a like order had long become obsolete, and sunk into oblivion.  These guests were therefore merely compelled to shift their quarters to an adjoining state, where they remained till the Government, there, began to clear them away, upon which the fugitives either retired back whence they came, or went on progressively to a third place, thus making a continual revolution.

p. 67Secondly, this remedy was premature: endeavouring to exterminate, was the same as if a surgeon should proceed directly to the amputation of a diseased limb, because it created inconvenience to the rest of the body.  Whereas the first inquiry ought to be, whether the disorder is of such a nature as not to be removed, but by entire separation.  This is a desperate course, and should only be adopted, when no other can be efficacious.

It is to be regretted that, not until the reign of the Empress Theresa, does there appear to have been any plan laid down for the gaining over these poor ignorant people to virtue, and to the state.  Historians represent that the wise dispositions she enjoined respecting the Gypsies in Hungary, were intrusted to people inadequate to the task.

What was done, in her time, for the improvement of their condition, may be seen by the following article extracted from the Anzeigen aus den Kayserl, Königl Erbländern, or Intelligence from the Hereditary Imperial Royal Dominions.

p. 68“Since the year 1768, several decrees regarding these people have been published in the country, Hungary, and the strictest orders despatched to the several districts, in consequence.  They were prohibited from dwelling in huts, or tents; from wandering up and down the country; from dealing in horses; from eating animals which died naturally, and carrion; and from electing their own Wayda or Judge.  It was intended to extirpate the very name and language of these folks out of the country.  They were no longer to be called Gypsies, but New Boors, Uj Magyar; not to converse any longer with each other in their own language, but in that of any of the countries in which they had chosen to reside.

“Some months were to be allowed, after which they were to quit their Gypsey manner of life, and settle like the other inhabitants, in cities and villages; to build decent houses and follow some reputable business.  They were to procure Boors’ clothing; to commit themselves to the protection of some territorial superior, and live regularly.”

p. 69Nevertheless, though these regulations were calculated for the good of these people, and the state, the greater part were not in the smallest degree benefited by them.  In the year 1773, these orders were not only repeated, but made more rigid; and as even this measure would not answer the end, it was then thought necessary to proceed to extremity with them.

Wherefore it was ordered, that no Gypsey should have permission to marry, who could not prove himself in condition to support a wife and children; that from such Gypsies who had families, the children should be taken away by force; removed from their parents, relations, and intercourse with the Gypsey race.  A beginning was made in some places; and where they would not comply voluntarily, they were compelled to submit to the decree.

At Fahlendorf, in Schütt, and in the district of Presburgh, all the children of the New Boors, Gypsies, above five years old, were carried away in waggons, during the night of the 21st of December, 1773, by overseers appointed for that purpose; to order that, at a p. 70distance from their parents, or relations, they might be more usefully educated, and become accustomed to work.  Those Boors who were willing to receive and bring up these children, were paid eighteen guilders yearly from Government.

On the 24th of April, 1774, between five and six o’clock in the morning, the children of the Gypsies which had been growing up from December of the foregoing year, were again removed from Fahlendorf, in Schütt, and Hideghid, for the purpose of being put under the same course of discipline as the others.  Among the children taken away on this occasion, was a girl fourteen years old, who was forced to be carried off in her bridal state.  She tore her hair for grief and rage, and was quite beside herself with agitation: but she recovered a composed state of mind; and, in 1776, in Fasching, obtained permission to accomplish her marriage.

So far our intelligence is quoted from the Gazettes, by which we may see how prudently every thing was concerted.

p. 71But it must be observed, although the publisher of this information endeavours to conceal it, how little these salutary regulations were put in force; there were scarcely two places in the kingdom where even an endeavour was made to give them proper effect.  This supineness must have been unknown to the Emperor Joseph, or he would certainly again have enforced these regulations, to all chiefs and governors, at the same time that he gave orders for their being observed in Transylvania.

The tenor of the decree just mentioned, which was published in the year 1782, was consonant with the intention of Theresa, with regard to the Hungarian Gypsies; namely, that those also in Transylvania should become better men, and more useful inhabitants.  For the accomplishment of this end, it prohibits their wandering about, and living under tents; requires that they become settled, and put themselves under some territorial chief.  In order to strike immediately at the root of the evil, necessary and minute directions are given for the improvement of their religious ideas and p. 72opinions; and, by correcting their vicious habits, for rendering them good citizens.

First, with respect to religion, they must

1.  Not only be taught the principles of religion themselves, but early send their children to school.

2.  Prevent as much as possible, their children running about naked in the roads and streets, thereby giving offence and disgust to other people.

3.  In their dwellings, not permit their children to sleep promiscuously by each other, without distinction of sex.

4.  Diligently attend at church, particularly on Sundays and holidays, to give proof of their Christian disposition.

5.  Put themselves under the guidance of spiritual teachers, and conduct themselves conformably to the rules laid down by them.

Secondly, with regard to their temporal conduct, and better mode of living, they are bound

1.  To conform to the custom of the country, in diet, dress, and language: consequently to abstain from feeding on cattle which have died p. 73of distempers; not to go about in such unseemly dresses; and to discontinue the use of their own particular language.

2.  Not to appear any more in large cloaks; which are chiefly useful to hide things that have been stolen.

3.  No Gypsey, except he be a gold-washer, shall keep a horse.

4.  Also the gold-washers must refrain from all kinds of bartering at the annual fairs.

5.  The magistrates of every place must be very attentive that no Gypsey waste his time in idleness; but at those seasons, when they have no employment, either for themselves or any landholder, to recommend them to some other person, with whom they shall be compelled to work for hire.

6.  They are to be kept particularly to agriculture; therefore

7.  It is to be observed, where possible, that every territorial Lord, who takes any Gypsies under his jurisdiction, do allot them a certain piece of ground to cultivate.

p. 748.  Whoever is remiss in his husbandry, shall be liable to corporal punishment.

9.  They shall be permitted to amuse themselves with music, or other things, only when there is no field work for them to do.

Such were the regulations adopted by the Emperor Joseph II. for the purpose of civilizing, and rendering good and profitable subjects, upwards of eighty thousand of miserable wretches, ignorant of God and of virtue.



The Gypsies in Great Britain.


The traits of character and the habits of the Gypsies on the Continent of Europe, exhibited in this work, are sufficient for an examination, in what degree these people correspond with those under the same denomination in England.

The earliest account which the writer of this section has been able to collect from British History, was printed in the year 1612; when a quarto work, by S. R. was published, to detect and expose the art of juggling and legerdemain; in which is the following description of the Gypsies.

“This kind of people, about a hundred years ago, beganne to gather an head, as the first heere, about the southerne parts.  And this as I am informed, and can gather, was p. 76their beginning: Certain Egyptians banished their country, (belike not for their good conditions,) arrived heere in England, who for quaint tricks and devices, not known heere, at that time, among us, were esteemed, and had in great admiration; insomuch, that many of our English Loyterers joined with them, and in time learned their craftie cosening.

“The speach which they used, was the right Egyptian language, with whom our Englishmen conversing, at least learned their language.  These people continuing about the country, and practising their cosening art, purchased themselves great credit among the country people, and got much by palmistry, and telling of fortunes; insomuch, they pitifully cosened poor country girls, both of money, silver spoons, and the best of their apparelle, or any goods they could make.”

From this author, it is collected, they had a leader of the name of Giles Hather, who was termed their King; and a woman of the name of Calot, was called Queen.  “These riding p. 77through the country on horseback, and in strange attire, had a prettie traine after them.”

After mentioning some of the laws passed against them, this writer adds: “But what numbers were executed on these statutes you would wonder; yet, notwithstanding, all would not prevaile, but they wandered as before uppe and downe, and meeting once in a yeare at a place appointed; sometimes at the Peake’s Hole in Derbyshire, and other whiles by Ketbroak at Blackheath.”

About the same time, Spellman’s Portrait of the Gypsey Fraternity seems to have been taken, ad vivum, and is as follows:

“Egyptiani, Erronum, Impostorumque genus nequissimum, in Continente ortum; sed ad Britannos nostras et Europam reliquam pervolans, nigredine deformes, excocti sole, immundi veste, et usu rerum omnium fædi, &c.;” which may be thus translated, “Egyptians, the worst kind of wanderers and impostors, springing up on the Continent, but yet rapidly spreading themselves through Britain, and p. 78other parts of Europe, disfigured by their swarthiness; sun-burnt; filthy in their clothing, and indecent in all their customs, &c.”

According to the first of these statements, the arrival of Gypsies in England might be about the year 1512; or ten years at least before the Statute of the 22d of Henry VIII; in the 10th chapter of which, they are described to be, “An outlandish people, calling themselves Egyptians, using no crafte, nor feat of merchandise; who have come into this realm, and gone from shine to shire, and place to place in great company; and used great, subtle, and crafty means, to deceive the people, bearing them in hand, that they by palmistry could tell men’s and yeomen’s fortunes; and so, many times by crafte and subtlety have deceived the people of their money; and also have committed many heinous felonies and robberies.”  Wherefore they are directed to avoid the realm, and not to return under pain of imprisonment, and forfeiture of their good and chattels; and upon their trials for any felonies which they may have committed, they p. 79shall not be entitled to a Jury de medietate linguæ.

The Act passed the 27th of the came reign goes farther, as will appear by the following abstract of it: “Whereas certain outlandish people, who do not profess any crafte or trade whereby to maintain themselves, but go about in great numbers from place to place, using insidious, underhand means to impose on his Majesty’s subjects, making them believe that they understand the art of foretelling to men and women their good and evil fortune, by looking in their hands, whereby they frequently defraud people of their money; likewise are guilty of thefts and highway robberies: it is hereby ordered that the said vagrants, commonly called Egyptians, in case they remain one month in the kingdom, shall be proceeded against as thieves and rascals; and on the importation of any such Egyptian, he, (the importer) shall forfeit £40 for every trespass.”

By the above recited Acts of Parliament, it appears, that it was from their own representation p. 80of being Egyptians, they were so denominated in England; and that they did not on their arrival in this country, feign themselves, as in Germany, to be pilgrims; or as in France, to be penitents; neither of which impositions would have been well adapted to the temper of the government of Henry VIII; or to his subversion of papal power, and abolition of monastic influence.  The character they assumed, was the best adapted to establish their reputation, for the arts and deception they intended to practise in England.  The fame of Egypt in astrology, magic, and soothsaying, was universal; and they could not have devised a more artful expedient, than the profession of this knowledge, to procure for them a welcome reception by the great mass of the people.

From the abstract of the Act of 27th, Henry VIII, we may infer, that the Gypsies were so much in request, as to induce some of our countrymen to import them from the Continent, or at least to encourage their migration to this Island.  The importation of these people p. 81must have been prevalent from some cause, to require parliamentary interference, and even a fine to prevent it, of such an amount as £40; which according to the relative value of money, would, at the present time, be equal to a large sum.

During the same reign, we find that a number of Gypsies were reshipped at the public expense, and sent to France.

In the Book of Receipts and Payments, of the 35th of Henry VIII. are the following entries.

“Nett Payments 1st Sept. 36th of Henry VIII,

“Item to Tho. Warner, Sergeant of the Admyraltie, 10th Sept. for victuals prepared for a shippe appointed to convey certaine Egupeians, 58s.—Item to the same Tho. Warner to th’ use of John Bowles for freight of said shippe, £6 5s.  Item to Robt. Ap. Rice, Esq. Shriff of Huntingdon for the charge of the Egupeians at a special gaile delivery, and the bringing of them to be conveied over the sees; over and besides the sum of £4. 5s. 0d. growing of seventeen p. 82horses, sold at five shillings [82] the piece, as apperythe by a particular book, £17. 17s. 7d.  Item to Will. Wever appointed to have the charge of the conduct of the said Egupeians to Callis, £5.”

There were subsequent acts relating to Gypsies in the reign of Ph. & M.; and 5th of Eliz.; by which, “If any person being 14 years old, whether natural born subject or stranger, who had been seen in the fellowship of such persons, or had disguised himself like them, should remain with them one month at once, or at several times, it should be felony without benefit of clergy.”

But notwithstanding these measures to extirpate Gypsies, Wraxall, in his History of France, Vol. II. page 32, in referring to the Act of Eliz. in 1563, states, that in her reign, the Gypsies throughout England were supposed to exceed ten thousand.

p. 83And it appears by the following Order of Sessions, copied from the Harleian M.S.S. British Museum, No. 364, that about the year 1586, there were great complaints of the increase of vagabonds and loitering persons, &c.

“Orders, Rules, and Directions, concluded, appointed, and agreed uppon, by us the Justices of the Peace, within the countie of Suffolk, assembled at our General Sessions of Peace, holden at Bury the 22d daie of Aprill, in the 31st yeare of the Raigne of our Souraigne Lady, the Queen’s Majestie, for the punishinge and suppressinge of Roags, Vacabonds; idle, loyteringe, and lewde persons; which doe, or shall hereafter wander and goe aboute, within the hundreths of Thingo cum Bury, Blackborne, Thedwardstree, Cosford, Babings, Risbridge, Lackford, and the half hundreth of Exninge, in the said countie of Suffolk, contrary to the law, in that case made and provided.

“Whereas, at the Parliement beganne and holden at Westminster, the 8th daie of Maye, in the 14th yeare of the raigne of the Queen’s Majestie, that nowe is, one Acte was made, p. 84intytuled, “An Acte for punishment of Vacabonds, and for releife of the Pooere, and Impotent.”  And whereas, at a Session of the Parliament, holden by prorogacon, at Westminster, the eight daie of February, in the 28th yeare of her Majestie’s raigne, one other Acte was made and intytuled, “An Acte for settinge of the Poore to work, and for the avoydinge of idleness.”  By vertue of which, severall Acts, certeyne provisions and remedies been ordeyned, and established, as well for the suppressinge, and punishinge of all roags, vacabonds, sturdy roags, idle and loyteringe persons; as also for the releife, and setting on worke of the aged and impotente persons within this realm; and authoritie gyven to Justices of Peace, in their several charges and commission, to see that the said Acts and Statuts be putte in due execution, to the glorie of Allmightie God, and the benefite of the common welth.

“And whereas also yt appeareth by dayly experience, that the number of idle, vagraunte, loyteringe, sturdy roags, masterles men, lewde and yll disposed persons are exceedingly p. 85encreased, and multiplied, committinge many grevious and outeragious disorders and offences, tendinge to the great . . . of Allmightie God, the contempte of her Majestie’s laws, and to the great charge, troble, and disquiet of the common welth.—We the Justices of Peace, above speciefied, assembled and mett together at our general sessions above named, for remedie of theis and such lyke enormities which hereafter shall happen to arise or growe within the hundreths and lymits aforesaid, doe by theis presents, order, decree and ordeyne, That there shall be builded or provided one convenient house, which shall be called the House of Correction; and that the same be established within the towne of Bury, within the hundreth of Thingoe aforesaid.  And that all persons offendinge or lyvinge contrary to the tenor of the said twoe Acts, within the hundreths and lymitts aforesaid, shal be, by the warrante of any Justice of Peace, dwellinge in the same hundreths or lymitts, committed thether and there be releived, punished, sett to worke, and p. 86ordered in such sorte, and accordinge to the directions, provisions, and limitations, hereafter in theis presents declared and specified.

“Fyrst, That yt maie appeare what persons arre to be apprehended, committed and brought to the House of Correction, it is ordered and appointed, That all and every person and persons which shal be found and taken within the hundreths and lymitts aforesaid, above the age of 14 yeares, and shall take upon them to be procters or procurators goinge aboute withowt sufficiente lycence from the Queen’s Majestie.  All idle persons goinge aboute usinge subtiltie and unlawfull games or plaie—all such as faynt themselves to have knowledge in phisiognomye, palmestrie or other abused sciences—all tellers of destinies, deaths or fortunes, and such lyke fantasticall imaginations.”

From the tenor of the above Ordinance, it might be inferred that, at the time of issuing it, Gypsies, and their adherents, abounded in the County of Suffolk; and it may be concluded, that they continued to attach themselves to that part of the nation, as Judge Hale remarks, p. 87that “at one Suffolk Assize, no less than thirteen Gypsies were executed upon these Statutes, a few years before the restoration.”

To the honour of our national humanity, however, Judge Blackstone observes, there are no instances more modern than this, of carrying these laws into practice; and the last, sanguinary act is itself now repealed.  The severe statute of 5th Eliz. c. 20 is repealed by 23d Geo. III. c. 51—and Gypsies are now only punishable under the Vagrant Act, which declares, “that all persons pretending to be Gypsies, or wandering in the habit, and form of Egyptians, shall be deemed rogues, and vagabonds.”—17th Geo. II. c. 5.

In Scotland, these people seemed for a time to enjoy some share of indulgence; for a writ in favour of John Faw, Lord and Earl of Upper Egypt, was issued by Mary, Queen of Scots, 1553; and in 1554, he obtained a pardon for the murder of Numan Small.

In 1579, however all the legislative provisions respecting vagrants, beggars, &c. in Scotland, were reduced into one law, by the following p. 88very comprehensive statute: “Forameikle as there is sindrie loyabil Acts of Parliament, maid be our soveraine Lord’s maist nobil progenitours, for the stanching of maisterful and idle beggars, away putting of Sornares, and provision for the pure: bearing that nane sall be thoiled to beg, nouther to burgh, nor to land, betwixt 14 and 70 zeires.

“That sik as make themselves fules, and ar bairdes, or uther sik like runners about, being apprehended, sall be put into the Kinge’s waird, or irones, sa lang as they have ony gudes of their awin to live on.  And fra they have not quhairupon to live of their awin, that their eares be nayled to the trone, or to an uther tree, and their eares cutted off, and banished the countrie; and gif thereafter they be found againe, that they be hanged.

“And that it may be knowen, qwhat maner of persones ar meaned to be idle and strang begares, and vagabounds, and warthy of the punischement before specified, it is declared: “That all idle persones ganging about in ony countrie of this realm, using subtil, craftie, and p. 89unlawful playes, as juglarie, fast-and-lous, and sik uthers; the idle peopil calling themselves Egyptians, or any uther, that feinzies themselves to have a knawledge or charming prophecie, or other abused sciences, qwairby they perswade peopil, that they can tell their weirds, [89] deathes, and fortunes, and sik uther phantastical imaginations, &c.”

Notwithstanding this law, a writ of Privy Seal, dated 1594, supports John Faw, Lord and Earl of Little Egypt, in the execution of justice upon his company of folk, conform to the laws of Egypt, in punishing certain persons there named, who had rebelled against him, left him, robbed him, and refused to return home with him.

James’ subjects are commanded to aid in apprehending them, and in assisting Faw and his adherents to return home.

From all these circumstances, it appears that this John Faw, or two persons of the same name and distinction, succeeding each other, p. 90staid a long time in Scotland; and from him this kind of strolling people might receive the name of Faw Gang, which they still retain, as appears by Burn’s Justice.

But the Scottish laws, after this time, were not less severe than those of Queen Elizabeth.  By an Act passed in 1609; “Sorners, common thieves, commonly called Egyptians, were directed to pass forth of the kingdom, under pain of death, as common, notorious, and condemned thieves.”  Scottish Acts, I. 850.


The present State of the Gypsies in Scotland.


The energy and perseverance by which North Britons are distinguished, will be evinced throughout the pages of this section.  A friend of the author, having been requested to make application at the Advocates’ and the University Libraries, in the city of Edinburgh, for extracts from some foreign publications, was also desired to transmit with them what information could be obtained respecting the Gypsies in Scotland.

With a promptitude and zeal which characterises genuine philanthropy, a circular, containing four queries, was dispatched to the Sheriff of every county in that nation; soliciting through the medium of an official organ, all the intelligence which could be obtained on the subject.  In consequence, returns have p. 92been made from nearly the whole of the shires, either by the Sheriff, or his substitute; generally addressed to George Miller, jun. Edinburgh; who has been a most effective coadjutor on this occasion.

From thirteen counties, the reports are, “No Gypsies resident in them;” some others give account of their only passing through at times.

William Frazer Tytler, Sheriff of Invernessshire, writes as follows: “The undertaking in which you are engaged, for the civilization of so lost a portion of mankind, merits every support.  Its effects may be more generally and extensively useful in England, where those unfortunate people are extremely numerous.  In Scotland, their number is comparatively small, and particularly in the county of Inverness.”

Alexander Moor, Sheriff Depute, of Aberdeenshire, states: “There are not any Gypsies who have a permanent residence in that Sheriffalty.  Occasionally vagrants, both single and in bands, appear in this part of the country; resorting to fairs, where they commit p. 93depredations on the unwary.  Some of them are supposed to be connected with Gypsies in the southern part of the island.”

John Blair, Sheriff Substitute for the County of Bute, writes: “I have to inform that the people generally known by the description of Gypsies, are not in use to come hither, unless abject, itinerant tinkers and braziers, generally from Ireland, may be accounted such.  A few of them often visit us, and take up their abode for a time in different parts of the country, where people can be prevailed upon to give them the accommodation of an out-house or hut.”

They are understood to be illiterate, neither they, nor their children, who are often numerous, being able to read.

The distinguished northern Poet, Walter Scott, who is Sheriff of Selkirkshire, has in a very obliging manner communicated the following statement:

“A set of people possessing the same erratic habits, and practising the trade of tinkers, are well known in the Borders; and have often p. 94fallen under the cognisance of the law.  They are often called Gypsies, and pass through the county annually in small bands, with their carts and asses.  The men are tinkers, poachers, and thieves upon a small scale.  They also sell crockery, deal in old rags, in eggs, in salt, in tobacco and such trifles; and manufacture horn into spoons, I believe most of those who come through Selkirkshire, reside, during winter, in the villages of Sterncliff and Spittal, in Northumberland, and in that of Kirk Yetholm, Roxburghshire.

“Mr. Smith, the respectable Baillie [94] of Kelso, can give the most complete information concerning those who reside at Kirk Yetholm.  Formerly, I believe, they were much more desperate in their conduct than at present.  But some of the most atrocious families have been extirpated, I allude particularly to the Winters, a Northumberland clan, who I fancy are all buried by this time.

p. 95“Mr. Reddell, Justice of Peace for Roxburghshire, with my assistance and concurrence, cleared this country of the last of them, about eight or nine years ago.  They were thorough desperadoes, of the worst class of vagabonds.  Those who now travel through this country, give offence chiefly by poaching, and small thefts.  They are divided into clans, the principal names being Faa, Baillie, Young, Ruthven, and Gordon.

“All of them are perfectly ignorant of religion, nor do their children receive any education.  They marry and cohabit amongst each other, and are held in a sort of horror by the common people.

“I do not conceive them to be the proper Oriental Egyptian race, at least they are much intermingled with our own national out-laws and vagabonds.  They are said to keep up a communication with each other through Scotland, and to have some internal government and regulation as to the districts which each family travels.

p. 96“I cannot help again referring to Mr. Smith of Kelso, a gentleman who can give the most accurate information respecting the habits of those itinerants, as their winter-quarters of Yetholm, are upon an estate of which he has long had the management.”

It is very satisfactory to have received from an authority so respectably as that of William Smith, the Baillie of Kelso, above referred to, answers to the four queries of the circular; accompanied by his own interesting and appropriate illustrations, from which extracts are made as follow, dated November, 1815.

“A considerable time having elapsed, since I had an opportunity, or occasion to attend to the situation of the colony of Gypsies in our neighbourhood, I was obliged to delay my answer to your inquiries, until I could obtain more information respecting their present numbers.

“The great bar to the benevolent intentions of improving their situation will be, the impossibility to convince them that there either is, p. 97or can be, a mode of life preferable, or even equal to their own.

“A strong spirit of independence, or what they would distinguish by the name of liberty, runs through the whole tribe.  It is no doubt a very licentious liberty, but entirely to their taste.  Some kind of honour, peculiar to themselves, seems to prevail in their community.  They reckon it a disgrace to steal near their homes, or even at a distance, if detected.  I must always except that petty theft of feeding their shelties and asses on the farmer’s grass and corn, which they will do, whether at home or abroad.

“When avowedly trusted, even in money transactions, they never deceived me, nor forfeited their promise.  I am sorry to say, however, that when checked in their licentious appropriations, &c. they are very much addicted both to threaten and to execute revenge.

“Having so far premised with respect to their general conduct and character, I shall proceed to answer, as far as I am able, the four queries subjoined to the circular which you p. 98sent me, and then subjoin, in notes, some instances of their conduct in particular cases, which may perhaps elucidate their general disposition and character.”

“Query 1st.  What number of Gypsies in the County?

“A.  I know of none except the colony of Yetholm, and one family who lately removed from that place to Kelso.  Yetholm consists of two towns, or large villages, called Town Yetholm, and Kirk Yetholm.  The first is in the estate of Mr. Wauchope, of Niddry; the latter in that of the Marquis of Tweedale.  The number of the Gypsey colony at present in Kirk Yetholm, amounts to at least 109 men, women, and children; and perhaps two or three may have escaped notice.  They marry early in life, in general have many children, and their number seems to be increasing.

“Query 2d.  In what do the men and women mostly employ themselves?

“B.  I have know the colony between forty and fifty years.  At my first remembrance of them, they were called the Tinklers, p. 99(Tinkers) of Yetholm, from the males being chiefly then employed in mending pots, and other culinary utensils, especially in their peregrinations through the hilly and less populous parts of the country.

“Sometimes they were called Horners, from their occupation in making and selling horn spoons, called Cutties.  Now their common appellation is that of Muggers, or, what pleases them better, Potters.  They purchase, at a cheap rate, the cast or faulty articles, at the different manufactories of earthenware, which they carry for sale all over the country; consisting of groups of six, ten, and sometimes twelve or fourteen persons, male and female, young and old, provided with a horse and cart to transport the pottery; besides shelties and asses to carry the youngest of the children, and such baggage as they find necessary.

“In the country, they sleep in barns, and byres, or other out-houses: and when they cannot find that accommodation, they take the canvas covering from the pottery cart, and p. 100squat below it like a covey of partridges in the snow.

“A few of the colony also employ themselves occasionally in making beesoms, foot-bosses, &c. from heath, broom, and bent, and sell them at Kelso, and the neighbouring towns.  After all, their employment can be considered little better than an apology for idleness and vagrancy.

“They are in general great adepts in hunting, shooting, and fishing; in which last they use the net and spear, as well as the rod; and often supply themselves with a hearty meal by their dexterity.  They have no notion of being limited in their field sports, either to time, place, or mode of destruction.

“I do not see that the women are any otherwise employed, than attending the young children; and assisting to sell the pottery when carried through the country.”

“Query 3rd.  Have they any settled abode in winter, and where?

“C.  Their residence, with the exception of a single family, who some years ago came to p. 101Kelso, is at Kirk Yetholm, and chiefly confined to one row of houses, or street of that town, which goes by the name of Tinkler Row.  Most of them have leases of their possessions, granted for a term of nineteen times nineteen years, for payment of a small sum yearly; something of the nature of a quit rent.  There is no tradition in the neighbourhood concerning the time when the Gypsies first took up their residence at that place, nor whence they came.

“Most of their leases, I believe were granted by the family of the Bennets of Grubet; the last of whom was Sir David Bennet, who died about sixty years ago.  The late Mr. Nesbit of Dirleton, then succeeded to the estate, comprehending the Baronies of Kirk Yetholm, and Grubet.  He died about the year 1783, and not long after, the property was acquired by the late Lord Tweedale’s trustees.

“During the latter part of the life of the late Mr. Nesbit, he was less frequently at his estate in Roxburghshire than formerly.  He was a great favourite of the Gypsies, and was p. 102in use to call them his body guards, and often gave them money, &c.

“On the other hand, both the late and present Mr. Wauchope were of opinion, that the example of these people had a bad effect upon the morals and industry of the neighbourhood; and seeing no prospect of their removal, and as little of their reformation, considered it as a duty to the public, to prevent the evil increasing; and never would consent to any of the colony taking up their residence in Town Yetholm.

“They mostly remain at home during winter, but as soon as the weather becomes tolerably mild in spring, most of them, men, women, and children, set out on their peregrination over the country, and live in a state of vagrancy, until again driven into their habitations by the approach of winter.

“Seeming to pride themselves as a separate tribe, they very seldom intermarry out of the colony; and in rare instances where that happens, the Gypsey, whether male or female, by influence and example, always induces the p. 103stranger husband or wife to adopt the manners of the colony, so that no improvement is ever obtained in that way.  The progeny of such alliances have almost universally the tawny complexion, and fine black eyes of the Gypsey parent, whether father or mother.

“So strongly remarkable is the Gypsey cast of countenance, that even a description of them to a stranger, who has had no opportunity of formerly seeing them, will enable him to know them wherever he meets with them.  Some individuals, but very rarely, separate from the colony altogether; and when they do so early in life, and go to a distance such as London, or even Edinburgh, their acquaintances in the country get favourable accounts of them.  A few betake themselves to regular and constant employments at home, but soon tire, and return to their old way of life.

“When any of them, especially a leader, or man of influence dies, they have full meetings, not only of the colony, but of the Gypsies from a distance, and those meetings, or Late Wakes, are by no means conducted with sobriety or decency.”

p. 104“Query 4th.  Are any of their children taught to read, and what proportion of themWith any anecdotes respecting their customs and conduct.

“D.  Education being obtained at a cheaper rate, the Gypsies in general, give their male children as good a one, as is bestowed on those of the labouring people and farm servants in the neighbourhood; such as reading, writing, and the first principles of arithmetic.  They all apply to the clergyman of the parish for baptism to their children, and a strong superstitious notion universally prevails with them, that it is unlucky to have an unchristened child long in the house.  Only a very few ever attend divine service, and those as seldom as they can, just to prevent being refused as sponsors at their children’s baptism.

“They are in general, active and lively, particularly when engaged in field sports; or in such temporary pursuits as are agreeable to their habits and dispositions; but are destitute of the perseverance necessary for a settled occupation, or even for finishing what a moderate degree of continued labour, would enable them to accomplish in a few weeks.”

p. 105NOTES

By Wm. Smith, intended to elucidate his answers to the Queries A and B, on their licentious liberty.

“I remember that about 45 years ago, being then apprentice to a writer, who was in use to receive the rents as well as the small duties of Kirk Yetholm, he sent me there with a list of names, and a statement of what was due; recommending me to apply to the landlord of the public-house, in the village, for any information or assistance which I might need.

 “After waiting a long time, and receiving payment from most of the feuers, or rentallers, I observed to him that none of the persons of the names of Faa, Young, Blythe, Fleckie, &c. who, stood at the bottom of the list for small sums, had come to meet me, according to the notice given by the Baron Officer; and proposed sending to inform them that they were detaining me, and to request their immediate attendance.

“The landlord, with a grave face, inquired whether my master had desired me to ask money from those men.  I said, not particularly; p. 106but they stood on the list.  “So, I see,” said the landlord, “but had your master been here himself, he did not dare to ask money from them, either as rent, or feu duty.—He knows that it is as good as if it were in his pocketThey will pay when their own time comes, but do not like to pay at a set time with the rest of the Barony; and still less to be craved.”

“I accordingly returned without their money, and reported progress.  I found that the landlord was right; my master said with a smile, that it was unnecessary to send to them, after the previous notice from the Baron Officer; it was enough if I had received the money, if offered.—Their rent and feu duty was brought to the office in a few weeks.  I need scarcely add, those persons all belonged to the tribe.

“Another instance of their licentious, independent spirit, occurs to me.  The family of Niddry always gave a decent, annual remuneration to a Baron Baillie, for the purpose of keeping good order within their Barony of Town Yetholm.  The person whom I remember p. 107first in possession of that office, was an old man called Doctor Walker, from his being also the village surgeon; and from him I had the following anecdote:—

“Between Yetholm and the border farms in Northumberland, there were formerly, as in most border situations, some uncultivated lands called the Plea lands, or Debateable lands, the pasturage of which was generally eaten up by the Sorners and vagabonds on both sides of the marches.

“Many years ago, Lord Tankerville and some other of the English borderers, made their request to Sir David Bennet, and the late Mr. Wauchope of Niddry, that they would accompany them at a riding of the Plea lands, who readily complied with their request.  They were induced to this, as they understood that the Gypsies had taken offence, on the supposition that they might be circumscribed in the pasture for their shelties and asses, which they had held a long time, partly by stealth, and partly by violence.

p. 108“Both threats and entreaties were employed to keep them away; and, at last, Sir David obtained a promise from some of the heads of the gang, that none of them should show their faces on the occasion.

“They, however, got upon the hills at a little distance, whence they could see every thing that passed.  At first they were very quiet.  But when they saw the English Court Book Spread out on a cushion before the clerk, and apparently taken in a line of direction, interfering with what they considered to be their privileged ground, it was with great difficulty that the most moderate of them, could restrain the rest from running down, and taking vengeance, even in sight of their own Lord of the Manor.

“They only abstained for a short time, and no sooner had Sir David, and the other gentleman taken leave of each other in the most polite and friendly manner, as border chiefs are wont to do, since border feuds ceased, and had departed to a sufficient distance, than the clan, armed with bludgeons, pitch-forks, and p. 109such other hostile weapons as they could find, rushed down in a body; and before the chiefs on either side had reached their home, there was neither English tenant, horse, cow, nor sheep left upon the premises.

“Notes on Answers C and D.

Peculiar cast of Gypsey Features, every where distinguishable, &c.

“When first I knew any thing about the colony, old Will Faa was king, or leader, and had held the sovereignty for many years.

“Meeting at Kelso with Mr. Walter Scott, whose discriminating habits and just observations I had occasion to know from his youth, and at the same time seeing one of my Yetholm friends in the horse market, I merely said to Mr. Scott, “Try to get before that man with the long drab coat, look at him on your return, and tell me whether you ever saw him, and what you think of him.”  He was so good as to indulge me; and rejoining me said without hesitation, “I never saw the man that I know of; but he is one of the Gypsies of Yetholm, that you told me of several years p. 110ago.”  I need scarcely say that he was perfectly correct.

“The descendants of Faa, now take the name of Fall, from the Messrs. Falls, of Dunbar, who, they pride themselves in saying, are of the same stock and lineage.  When old Will Faa was upwards of eighty years of age, he called on me at Kelso, in his way to Edinburgh, telling that he was going to see the Laird, the late Mr. Nesbit, of Dirleton, as he understood that he was very unwell, and himself being now old, and not so stout as he had been, he wished to see him once more before he died.

“The old man set out by the nearest road, which was by no means his common practice.  Next market-day, same of the farmers informed me, that they had been in Edinburgh, and seen Will Faa upon the bridge; (the south bridge was not then built;) that he was tossing about his old brown hat, and huzzaing with great vociferation, that he had seen the Laird before he died.  Indeed Will himself had no time to lose, for having set his face homewards p. 111by the way of the sea coast, to vary his route, as is the general custom of the gang, he only got the length of Coldingham, when he was taken ill, and died.

“His death being notified to his friends at Yetholm, they and their acquaintance at Berwick, Spittal, Horncliff, &c. met to pay the last honours to their old leader.  His obsequies were continued three successive days and nights, and afterwards repeated at Yetholm, whither he was brought for interment.  I cannot say that the funeral rites were celebrated with decency and sobriety, for that was by no means the case.  This happened in the year 1783, or 1784, and the late Mr. Nesbit did not long survive.”

William Dymock, W. S. Edinburgh, distinguished in the profession of the law, by his sound judgment and strict integrity, having had the perusal of the preceding report from William Smith, gives the following testimony concerning that account: “Baillie Smith’s report is quite graphical, correct truth, and p. 112correctly expressed.—It is useful as showing, that the parties of Tinklers are great detachments from one colony.”

With this, accords Sir John Sinclair’s observation in his Statistical Account of Scotland, Vol. II. p. 124, when describing the village of Eaglesham, he remarks: “There is no magistrate nearer than four miles, and the place is oppressed with gangs of Gypsies, commonly called Tinklers, or sturdy beggars.”

Before receiving the very interesting report from William Smith, the author of this Survey was entirely at a loss to determine what was become of the descendants of John Faw, who styled himself Lord and Earl of Little Egypt; and with a numerous retinue entered Scotland in the reign of Queen Mary, as stated in Section the 5th.—His complaint of his men refusing to return home with him, might be only a feint, invented to cover his design of continuing in the country; for there does not appear to be any traces in history of the banishment of Faw-gang, or of their quitting p. 113Scotland.—But in the above cited report, we find at the head of the Tinklers a Will Faa, in whose name there is only a variation of one letter from that of his distinguished predecessor; and that in reference to this origin, he asserts the Falls of Dunbar to be of the same stock and lineage.


On the origin of the Gypsies


Various are the conjectures which have been indulged, and the coincidences which have been sought for, in order to obtain a solution of the query, What race of people are the Gypsies?

Whoever is disposed to refer to Continental writers, may see more than thirty different opinions started on this subject, founded on no better authority than some similarity of appellation, garb, complexion, or unsettled way of life.

They were sometimes Torlaques, Kalendars, or Faquirs.  The Torlaques are Mahometan Monks, who under the pretence of holiness, are guilty of the most flagrant excesses.  Bajazet the 2d, banished them from the Turkish empire in 1494.  The Kalendars p. 116wander about in heathen countries, as the Gypsies do among Christians.  The Faquirs are religious fanatics; and rove about in heathen and mahometan countries, like the most atrocious robbers.  Anquetil says, the Faquirs in India go a pilgrimage to Jagrenat; they plunder such villages and cities as lie in their way; they form considerable bodies about a mile from Jagrenat, where they choose themselves a leader, to whom they pay all the attention due to a general.

With regard to strolling and thieving, the Faquirs and Gypsies agree exactly.  Thomasius, Griselini, and the English geographer Salmon, imagined that when Sultan Selim conquered Egypt in 1517, several of the natives refusing to submit to the Turkish yoke, revolted under one Zinganeus.

But we have already adverted to authentic documents for the proof, that they were in Germany, Italy, and France, near a century before the conquest of Egypt by Selim.

Yet the belief that Gypsies were of Egyptian origin is parallel with their existence in Europe.  p. 117It arose from the report circulated by the first of them, that they were pilgrims from Egypt; and this statement was not only adopted by the common people, but here, and there, obtained credit among men of learning.  Grellmann observes, that had this opinion not been received at a time when almost every thing was taken upon trust, with little examination; had it not been propagated by the first Gypsies, and then obtained a sanction, it would have been impossible for it to have gained such general acceptation, or to have maintained itself to the present times.  Till the 17th century, the Egyptian descent of the Gypsies rested entirely on tradition.  Afterwards, Aventin, Krantz, and Miinster openly contradict it.

Aventin relates that they wished it to be thought they came from that country, but that, in his time, nothing was known concerning them, but what came from their own mouths; those who accounted them Egyptians, rested their belief entirely on the veracity of their informants.

p. 118This is collected with greater certainty from Krantz and Miinster, for they declare expressly, that every thing which could be discovered by any other means than their own assertions, contradicted, rather than confirmed their Egyptian descent.  But it is not merely that their Egyptian descent is entirely destitute of proof, the most circumstantial evidence can be adduced against it.

Their language differs entirely from the Coptic, and their customs, as Ahasuerus Fritsch has remarked, are diametrically opposite to the Egyptian; but what is, if possible, of greater weight, they wander about in Egypt, like strangers, and there, as in other countries, form a distinct people.

The testimony of Bellonius is full and decisive on the point.  He states; “No part of the world, I believe, is free from those banditti, wandering about in troops; whom we, by mistake, call Gypsies, and Bohemians.  When we were at Cairo, and the villages bordering on the Nile, we found troops of these strolling p. 119thieves sitting under palm-trees; and they are esteemed foreigners in Egypt.”

Aventin expressly makes Turkey their original place of rendezvous; and this furnishes a reason for the south east parts of Europe being the most crowded with them.  If all that came to Europe passed by this route, it accounts for a greater number remaining in those countries, than in others to which they would have a much longer travel; and before their arrival at which, their hordes might be much divided.

It is a just assertion, that one of the most infallible methods of determining the origin of a people, would be the discovery of a country in which their language is that of the natives.  It is a fact incontrovertibly established, that besides the Gypsies speaking the language of the country in which they live, they have a general one of their own, in which they converse with each other.

Not knowing any speech correspondent with the Gypsies, some have been ready to pronounce it a mere jargon; not considering how extravagant p. 120a surmise it would be, that a people rude, uncivilized, and separated hundreds of miles from each other, have invented a language.  Others who are better informed on the subject, allow that the language brought into Europe with the Gypsies, was really vernacular, of some country; but suppose it is so disguised and corrupted, partly by design, and partly by adventitious events, through length of time, and the continued wandering of these people, that it must be considered a new language, and now used by the Gypsies only.

That it is the dialect of some particular part of the globe, though no longer pure, as in the country whence it originated, is an opinion which has obtained the greatest concurrence among the learned.  Grellmann says, had a German listened a whole day to a Gypsey conversation, he would not have comprehended a single expression.  It must doubtless appear extraordinary, that the language of a people who had lived for centuries in Europe, should have remained so much a secret: but it was not easy to gain information from the Gypsies p. 121concerning it.  Acquainted, by tradition, with the deception their predecessors practised on coming into Europe, they are suspicious; and fearing an explanation might be dangerous to themselves, they are not disposed to be communicative.—But how was it possible for the learned of former centuries, to be competent to the investigation, who had not the aids which now so copiously occur to the historical etymologist?

Many dialects have been discovered, and our knowledge of others greatly increased, within the last fifty or sixty years.  During that time, not only the literary treasures of the furthest north have been opened to us, but we have become acquainted with many of the oriental languages; and even eastern idioms are becoming familiar to us.  We need not therefore be surprised, that before this period, the most learned were unable to point out the country in which the Gypsey language was spoken.  The Gypsies have no writing peculiar to themselves, in which to give a specimen of the construction of their dialect.

p. 122Writing and reading are attainments not to be expected from nomadic tribes.  Sciences, and the refined arts, are never to be looked for among a people whose manner of living, and education, are so irregular.  Music is the only science in which Gypsies participate in any considerable degree; they likewise compose, but it is after the manner of the eastern people, extempore.

Grellmann asserts, that the Hindostanie language has the greatest affinity with that of the Gypsies; but he does not rest this solely on the specimen he has introduced, a sketch of which will be presented in the next section; he adduces many facts in confirmation of his opinion, which it would be an injustice to him not to exhibit.

He infers from the following considerations, that Gypsies are of the lowest class of Indians, namely Pariars, or as they are called in Hindostan, Suders.

The whole great nation of Indians is known to be divided into four ranks, or stocks, which are called by a portuguese name, castes; each p. 123of which has its own particular subdivisions.  Of these castes, the Bramin is the first; the second contains the Tschechteries or Setreas; the third, consists of the Beis, or Wazziers; the fourth is the caste of the above mentioned Suders; who upon the peninsula of Malabar, where their condition is the same as in Hindostan, are called Parias, and Pariers.

The first were appointed by Brama to seek after knowledge, to give instructions, and to take care of religion.  The second were to serve in war; the third were as the Bramins, to cultivate science; but particularly to attend to the breeding of cattle.  The caste of Suders was to be subservient to the Bramins, the Tschecteries, and the Beis.  These Suders are held in disdain, they are considered infamous, and unclean, from their occupation, and they are abhorred because they eat flesh; the three other castes living entirely on vegetables.

Of this very caste it will appear, by the following comparison, our Gypsies are composed.  We have seen that the Gypsies are in the highest degree filthy and disgusting; and with p. 124regard to character, depraved and fraudulent to excess, and these are the qualities of the Suders.

Baldeus says, the Parias are a filthy people, and wicked crew, who in winter steal much cattle, &c.

It is related in the Danish Mission Intelligence:—Nobody can deny that the Pariers are the dregs and refuse of all the Indians; they are thievish, and have wicked dispositions, &c.

Moreover Neuhof assures us: “The Parruas are full of every kind of dishonesty; they do not consider lying and cheating to be sinful, as they have no other custom or maxims among them.  The Gypsey’s solicitude to conceal his language is, also, a striking Indian trait.”

“Professor Pallas says of the Indians round Astracan: custom has rendered them to the greatest degree suspicious about their language, insomuch that I was never able to obtain a small vocabulary from them.”

With regard to Gypsey marriages, Salmon relates that the nearest relations cohabit with p. 125each other; and as to education, their children grow up in the most shameful neglect, without either discipline or instruction.

All this is precisely the case with the Pariars.  In the journal of the Missionaries already quoted, it is said; “With respect to matrimony, they act like the beasts, and their children are brought up without restraint or information.”  Gypsies are fond of being about horses, so are the Suders in India, for which reason, they are commonly employed as horse-keepers, by the Europeans resident in that country.”

We have seen that the Gypsies hunt after cattle which have died of distempers, in order to feed on them; and when they can procure more of the flesh than is sufficient for one day’s consumption, they dry it in the sun.  Such is likewise a constant custom with the Pariars in India.

That the Gypsies, and natives of Hindostan, resemble each other in complexion, and shape is undeniable.  And what is asserted of the young Gypsey girls rambling about with their fathers who are musicians, dancing with lascivious p. 126and indecent gestures, to divert any person who is willing to give them a small gratuity for so acting, is likewise perfectly Indian.  Sonnerat confirms this in the account he gives of the dancing girls of Surat.

Fortune-telling is practised all over the East; but the peculiar kind professed by the Gypsies, viz: chiromancy, constantly referring to whether the parties shall be rich or poor, happy or unhappy in marriage, &c. is no where met with but in India.

The account we have given of Gypsey smiths may be compared with the Indian, as related by Sonnerat in the following words: “The smith carries his tools, his shop, and his forge about with him, and works in any place where he can find employment; he erects his shop before the house of his employer, raising a low wall with beaten earth; before which, he places his hearth; behind this wall, he fixes two leathern bellows.  He has a stone instead of an anvil, and his whole apparatus is a pair of tongs, a hammer, a beetle, and a file.  How p. 127exactly does this accord with the description of the Gypsey smith!

We have seen that Gypsies always choose their place of residence near some village, or city, very seldom within them; even though there may not be any order to prevent it, as is the case in Moldavia, Wallachia, and all parts of Turkey.  Even the more improved Gypsies in Transylvania, who have long since discontinued the wandering mode of life, and might, with permission from government, reside within the cities, rather choose to build their huts in some bye place, without their limits.  This custom appears to be derived from their original Suder education; it being usual all over India, for the Sunders to have their huts without the villages of the other castes, and in retired places near their cities.

With respect to religion, it has appeared that the greater part of the Gypsies live without any profession of it; Tollius says, worse than heathens.  The more wonderful it is, that a whole people should be so indifferent and void of religion, the more weight it carries with p. 128it, to confirm their Indian origin, when all this is found to be literally true of the Suders.

In relation to the emigration of the Gypsies, no cause can be assigned for their leaving their native country, so probable, as the war of Timur Beg, in India.  The date of their arrival marks it very plainly.  It was in the years 1408, and 1409, that this Conqueror ravaged India for the purpose of disseminating the Mahometan religion.  Not only every one who made any resistance was destroyed, and such as fell into the enemies’ hands, though quite defenceless, were made slaves; but in a short time those very slaves, to the number of one hundred thousand, were put to death.  In consequence of the universal panic which took place, those, who could quit the country, might well be supposed to consult their safety by flight.

If any of the higher castes did withdraw themselves on account of the troubles it is probable, they retired southward to people of their own sort, the Mahrattas.  To mix at all with the Suders, would have been degrading p. 129their high characters, which they consider worse than death; it was therefore morally impossible for them to have united with the Suders in a retreat.  Moreover, by putting themselves into the power of the Suders, with whom they live in a state of discord and inveteracy, they might have incurred as much danger as from the common enemy.

Before presenting a vocabulary of Gypsey words, it may be observed, that though the Hindostanie language is fundamentally the same, all over Hindostan; yet, like other languages, it has different dialects in the various provinces.  The eastern dialect, spokes about the Ganges, has different names for some things; and inflections of some words different to the western ones spoken about the Indus: There is, besides, a third, varying from both these, viz: the Surat dialect, which has a number of Malabar, and other words mixed with it.  To this must be added, that in the Hindostan, as well as in every other language, there are often several names for the same thing.

p. 130The particular dialect bearing the closest affinity to the Gypsey language, as will appear hereafter, is the western; and perhaps more especially that of Surat.  With respect to the construction and inflections of the two languages, they are evidently the same.  In that of Hindostan, every word ending in j is feminine, all the rest masculine; the Gypsey is the same.  That makes the inflections entirely by the article, adding it at the end of the word.  The Gypsey language proceeds exactly in the same manner



Comparative view of the Gypsey, Hindostanie, and Turkish languages.


The following collection is extracted from Grellmann’s Vocabulary.




Ick, Ek



Duj, Doj



Trin, Tri



Schtar, Star



Pantsch, Pansch



Tschowe, Schow




Hefta, Sat





Desch, Des

Des, Des


Bisch, Bis









Cham, Cam


The Sun

p. 132Schan


The Moon















The Hair



The Eye



The Ear



The Nose



The Mouth



A Tooth



The Tongue



The Hearing



The Smell



The Taste



A Tent



The Prince


























p. 133It has already been observed, that in the Gypsey, as well as in the Hindostanie language, the article is not placed before the noun, but affixed behind it; and that is the sole indication of the case of a noun.

Grellmann has given examples of the declension of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives, as well as the conjugation of verbs in both languages; but the grammatical arrangement of them does not come within the design of this work.  The foregoing list of words is a selection of those that are most similar: but in Grellmann’s extensive vocabulary, he says, it will appear on the average, that every third Gypsey word, is likewise Hindostanie.

It must be observed, that the words above recited, have been learned from the Gypsies within a few years, consequently at a time when they had been nearly four complete centuries away from Hindostan, their native country; and among people who spoke languages totally different; in which also the Gypsies conversed.

p. 134Under the constant and so long continued influx of these languages, their own must necessarily have suffered some alteration; more especially as they are a people entirely ignorant, either of writing or literature.

It does not appear that there is so much Persian in the Gypsey language, as has been generally imagined; and even what there is of it, they may have brought with them from their native country, as many Persian words are current in Hindostan.  We ought rather to wonder the number of Hindostanie words in the Gypsey language, is so considerable, than to require it should be greater, to furnish sufficient proof of the Hindostanie language being the Gypsies’ mother tongue.

Since the laborious researches of Grellmann, extended intercourse with India, has furnished unquestionable evidence in support of his deductions.  The first we shall introduce, is contained in the following letter from William Marsden to Sir Joseph Banks, F.R.S. read to the Society of Antiquaries in London, 1785.

p. 135“It has long been surmised, that the vagrant tribes of people called in this country Gypsies, and on parts of the Continent of Europe, Cingari, Zingari, and Chingali, were of eastern origin.  The former name has been supposed a corruption of Egyptian, and some learned men have judged it not improbable that their language might be traced to the Coptic.

“In the course of researches which I have had occasion to pursue on the subject of language, I have observed that Ludolfus, in his history of Ethiopia, makes mention incidentally of the Cingari, vel Errones Nubiani, and gives a specimen of words which he had collected from these people on his travels, with a view of determining their origin.  He discusses the opinions of various writers concerning them; but forms no precise sentiment of his own, concluding his observations with these words: “Eadem vocabula, cum maximam partem reperiam apud Vulcanium à centum fere annis traditam, non fictitia existimo, ut Megiferus putat nec corrupta ex aliis linguis, p. 136neque Egyptiaca, sive Coptica.”—In English, thus: “Since I find according to Vulcanius, that most of these words have been continued traditionally for a period of nearly 100 years, I do not consider them fictitious, as Megiferus supposes, nor corrupted from other languages, either the Egyptian or Coptic.”

“I was surprised to find many of the words familiar to my eye; and I pointed out to Sir Joseph Banks, in the latter end of the year 1783, their evident correspondence with terms in the Hindostanie, or as it is vulgarly termed in India, the Moors’ language.

“This similitude appeared to me so extraordinary, that I was inclined to suspect an error in the publication, which might have arisen from a confusion of obscure vocabularies in the author’s possession.  The circumstance, however, determined me to pay farther attention to the subject, and to examine, in the first place, whether the language spoken by the Gypsey tribes in England, and by those in the remoter parts of the continent of Europe was one, and the same; and then to ascertain, p. 137whether this actually bore the affinity which so forcibly struck me in Ludolfus, to any of the languages on the Continent of India.

“Through the obliging assistance of Sir Joseph Banks, who has spared no pains to promote this investigation, I procured an opportunity of obtaining a list of words from our Gypsies, which I can depend upon as genuine, and tolerably accurate in respect to the pronunciation, from their being corroborated also by words taken down, separately, by Sir Joseph, and by Dr. Blagden.

“Mr. Matra did me the favour to transmit for me, a list of words to Turkey; and from his ingenious friend B. Pisani, I received a complete and satisfactory translation of them, together with some information, respecting the manners of the Chingiares, in the Turkish dominions, which, however, does not come within the design of this paper, as I mean to confine myself in the present communication, simply to the question of similarity of language; which, if established, I should esteem a matter p. 138of no little curiosity; presuming it to be perfectly new to the world.

“Of this similarity, the learned members of the Society will be enabled to form their judgment from the annexed paper, exhibiting a comparison of a few of the words procured from the different quarters before mentioned, with the Hindostanie terms, from the best published, and parole authorities.  It may not be unworthy of remark, that the general appellation of these people in the eastern part of Europe, is very nearly connected with that of the inhabitants of Ceylon, in the East-Indies, who are equally termed.  Lingalese and Chingalese; though at the same time it must be acknowledged, that the language of this Island has much less correspondence with that of the Gypsies, than many others of the Indian dialects.

“His Grace, the Archbishop of York, with his usual discernment, suggested to me, the probability that the Zingara here spoken of, may have derived their name, and perhaps their origin from the people called Langari, or p. 139Langarians, who are found in the north-west parts of the Peninsula of Hindostan, and infest the coasts of Guzerat and Sindy with their piratical depredations.

“The maritime turn of this numerous race of people, with their roving and enterprising disposition, may warrant the idea of occasional emigration in their boats, by the coarse of the Red Sea.

“Notwithstanding the resemblance to the Hindostanie, is the predominant feature in the Gypsey dialect, yet there are words interspersed, which evidently coincide with other languages.  Besides the Mahratta, and Bengalese, which I have marked in the comparative specimen, it is not a little singular that the terms for the numerals seven, eight, and nine, are purely Greek: although the first five, and that for ten, are indisputably Indian.  It is also a curious observation, that although the Indian term for seven is saath, yet that for a week, or seven days; is the Eftan of the latter.

p. 140“One word only among those I have examined, bears a resemblance to the Coptic, which is rom, the same with romi, a man.

“In comparisons of this nature, a due allowance must be made, not only for the various modes of spelling adopted by different persons, and different nations, but also for the dissimilar manner in which the same individual sound, strikes the organs of the hearers; of which some pointed instances may be given.

“Should any be inclined to doubt, which I scarcely suppose possible, the identity of the Gypsey, or Cingari, and the Hindostanie languages, still it will be acknowledged as no uninteresting subject, that tribes wandering through the mountains of Nubia, or the plains of Romania, have conversed for centuries in a dialect precisely similar to that spoken at this day, by, the obscure, despised, and wretched people in England, whose language has been considered as a fabricated gibberish, and confounded with a cant in use among thieves and beggars; and whose persons have been, till p. 141within the period of a year, an object of the persecution, instead of the protection of our laws.”

William Marsden.

In the 386th page of the 7th Vol. of Archæologia, is the comparative view of the English Gypsey, Turkish Gypsey, and Hindostanie dialects; a specimen of which will be presented in this section.

In page 387 of the same volume, are collections on the Zingara, or Gypsey language, by Jacob Bryant, Esq. transmitted to G. Salusbury Brereton, Esq. in a letter from Doctor Douglas, read 1785: This learned traveller, when in Hungary, had taken from the mouths of Gypsies, specimens of their language, which occupy seven pages.  It is remarkable, that of seventeen words obtained and enumerated in the letters of Coxe, the learned traveller, fourteen appear to resemble most exactly those of the same signification, collected by Jacob Bryant

John Douglas.



English Gypsey.

Turkish Gypsey.

Cingari vel Errones Nubiani.






Aick, ek, Yek





Du, Dow







Staur, Shtar























Aoth Aut





Noh Nu





Dus, Doshe (Bengalese)


Raye, gazo

Ram Manush


Manoosha, (Bengalese)


Raunee gougee



Rendee, Raunee


Bold-uroo shero



Seer, Sirr


Yackau, yock



Okhyo (Bengalese)







Ballau, bolow



Baul, Bal





Daunt, Dant (Bengalese)







Dewas, Devas



Deendeewas (Mahratta)





Raut, roat

p. 143White




Paandra (Mahratta)















Matchee, Mutchee






















Brand, in his observations on Popular Antiquities, Vol. II. page 432, observes: “The Gypsies, as it should seem from some striking proofs derived from their language, were originally from Hindostan, where they are supposed to have been of the lowest class of Indians, named Pariars, or as they are called in Hindostan, Suders.  They are thought to have emigrated about A.D. 1408, or 1409, when Timur Beg ravaged India for the purpose of spreading the Mahometan religion.  On this occasion so many were made slaves, and put to death, that a universal panic took place, p. 144and a very great number of terrified inhabitants endeavoured to save themselves by flight.

“As every part to the north and east was beset by the enemy, it is most probable that the country below Multan, to the mouth of the Indus, was the first asylum and rendezvous of the fugitive Suders.  This is called the country of Zinganen.  Here they were safe, and remained so till Timur’s return from the victory of the Ganges.  Then it was that they entirely quitted the country, and probably with them a considerable number of the natives, which will explain the meaning of their original name.”

In the seventh Vol. of the Asiatic Researches, page 470, Captain David Richardson says of the Panchperee, or Budee’a Nuts: “’Tis probable there will be found in their manners, a stronger similitude to the Gypsies of Europe, than in those of any other which may come under review.  They have no particular system of religion, adopting with indifference that of the village near to which they happen to be encamped.  In the upper provinces of Hindostan, the little encampments of these people p. 145are frequently very regular and neat, being there formed of the Sirkee entirely.  Each apartment, though not much larger than a mastiff’s kennel, has its own particular enclosure, or court-yard; generally erected in such a manner, as to become a species of circumvallation to the whole portable hamlet.

“One cannot help wondering where so many men, women, and children, and other domestic animals manage to sleep; or shelter themselves from the storms which sometimes assail these itinerant people.  The men are remarkably athletic and active, and also nimble and adroit, in every kind of slight of hand.  Many of the subdivisions of this class of men, pay little, or no attention to cleanliness, or any restrictions in diet; eating dead jackalls, bullocks, horses, or any kind of food procurable.

“The women do not attend the men during their juggling exploits, but have a peculiar department allotted to themselves; which consists of the practice of physic, cupping, palmistry, curing disorders of the teeth, and marking the skin of the Hindoo women, an p. 146operation termed Godna.  They have two languages peculiar to themselves; one intended for the use only of the craftsman, the other general among men, women, and children.

“The Hindostanie is the basis of both; the first is general, being a mere transposition or change of syllables; and the second apparently, a systematic conversion of a few letters; but which will be best elucidated by the following specimen, which contains twenty-two words.”

After which, he says: “I find these people in Colebrook’s arrangement of the Hindoo Classes, mentioned in the sixth class, under the head of Nata, Bazeegurs; and in Sir William Jones’s translation of the Ordinances of Menu, Munoo, Chapter 10.

“I shall now subjoin a short parallel between the Gypsies of Europe, and the people I have described.  Both the Gypsies and the Nuts are generally a wandering race of beings, seldom having a fixed habitation.  They have each a language peculiar to themselves.  That of the Gypsies is undoubtedly a species of Hindostanie; p. 147as well as that of the Nuts.  In Europe, it answers all the purposes of concealment.

“The Gypsies have their King, the Nuts their Nardar Boutoh; they are equally formed into companies, and their peculiar employments are exactly similar; dancing, singing, music, palmistry, &c.  They are both considered as thieves; at least that division of the Nuts, whose manners come nearest the Gypsies.—In matters of religion they appear equally indifferent, and as to food, we have seen that neither the Gypsies nor the Budee’a Nuts are very choice.

“Though, in the Encyclopædia Britannica, Grellmann’s Theory is thought slightly of, the similarity of language being deemed but inconclusive evidence; yet in this instance, and even in opposition to such authority, I will venture to consider it, as forming a basis of the most substantial kind.  It is not the accidental coincidence of a few words, but the whole vocabulary he produces, differs not so much from the common Hindostanie, as provincial dialects of the same country do from each other.

p. 148“Grellmann, from a want of knowledge in the Hindostanie; as to its provincial dialects, lost many opportunities of producing the proper word in comparison with the Gypsey one.

“The following list of words was taken from the Annual Register of 1784, or 1785, with a few I have now subjoined from Grellmann.—In some of the instances where he has failed of producing the corresponding Hindostanie word, the supply of them will, I hope, prove the language of the Gypsies, and that of Hindostan to be the same, or very intimately connected with each other.






Aunt, a respectful feminine termination from baba, Father.



Brook, Drink, Water




Davies, Devus





Dark night



The Ear







p. 149Bootsee
















Ra, enee







Meat or food






Ocean, wave





Rook, h

A Tree



A Thief




Captain Richardson continues the list through four pages.


Present state the Gypsies in England.


It has been already stated, in the Introduction to this work, that the author visited an encampment of Gypsies.  It consisted of five tents, situated near Rushden, within two miles of the pleasant town of Higham Ferrers.  He did not reconnoitre the camp till about mid-day, having been informed that by this time, it was probable, the able-bodied persons of both sexes would be drawn off to a feast and a fair, in different situations, not very distant.  It proved so; there were only two women, three children, and an infant remaining in the tents; which were the residence of several branches of the numerous families of Smith, and Loversedge, names well known in the county of Northampton.

p. 152The head of the former, has been many years a dealer in asses, or donkies; and is reputed to be possessed of some property.  His wife, more than eighty years of age, was seated at the entrance of one of the tents, weaving a cabbage net.  The other woman, who was middle aged, was nursing an infant; and the eldest of the children, about twelve years of age, was making preparation for washing; a pan was suspended from three poles, under which she had kindled a fire, to boil water.  The very tattered and squalid appearance of this poor girl was truly affecting.

On conversing with the old woman, she said she had forty grand-children; some gone to the feast, others to the fair; and she signified, that both men and women were musical performers.

On being asked whether any of them had learned to read, she shook her head, and, with apparent regret, acknowledged they had not.  This indication of concern excited an idea, that some impression had been made on the minds even of Gypsies, of the disadvantages their children were under.

p. 153Considering how generally education had been extended, to the lowest description of every other class of British subjects; how many schools had been opened in villages, as well as in the different towns of the kingdom, it was not improbable, that information of movements so extraordinary, might have reached the ears, if not impressed the minds of these neglected fellow-creatures.  The activity which had been subsequently displayed in the distribution of the Scriptures, and the zeal excited among the most ignorant to receive them, might also come to their knowledge.

Resuming conversation with the female head of the Smith family, she said they endured great hardships in winter, having no shelter but their tents, in the worst of weather.

She was then asked, if they did not experience great difficulty in obtaining the means of subsistence, during the inclement seasons; and whether they were not, at times, reduced to the necessity of taking up with any kind of sustenance, even if it consisted of animals they might find dead upon the road.

p. 154To this she immediately replied: “Those that have died by the hand of God, are better than those that have died by the hand of man.”

This reply, corresponding so exactly with that of the Continental Gypsies, presents a remarkable trait of their mutual descent from the Suder caste.

Some of the peculiarities in Gypsey habits to which we have just now adverted, had not escaped the observation of that accurate delineator of men and manners, our celebrated poet, Cowper; as will appear by the following sketch:

“I see a column of slow rising smoke,
O’er-top the lofty wood, that skirts the wild.
A vagabond and useless tribe, there eat
Their miserable meal.  A Kettle
Slung between two poles, upon a stick transverse,
Receives the morsel: flesh obscene of hog,
Or vermin; or, at best, of cock purloined
From his accustom’d perch.  Hard faring race,
They pick their fuel out of every hedge,
Which kindled with dry leaves, and wood, just saves
The spark of life.  The sportive wind blows wide
Their fluttering rags, and shows a tawney skin,
The vellum of the pedigree they claim.”

p. 155Before the Gypsey’s acknowledgment, of preferring the flesh of animals which have died by disease, or what is called a natural death, the writer of this section, knew not how to credit the general testimony of the farmers and inhabitants of Northamptonshire, that they did not find the Gypsies committed any depredations on their property, unless it was in pilfering wood from the fences.  He now thinks it probable, that others, who were unacquainted with this singular idea of the Gypsies, respecting animal food, may have imagined they were guilty of many more thefts for subsistence, than is really the case.

In the further progress of his inquiries, the writer has met with various instances in which confidence reposed in Gypsies, has not been disappointed.—He will mention a remarkable one at Feringbury, near Coggeshall, in Essex, on a farm which had been occupied by three generations of the family of Corders; during which time, not the least loss had been sustained, by accommodating Gypsies with lodgings in their barns and out-houses during p. 156inclement weather; but, on the contrary, the family have considered them a protection to their property.

After the success of an experiment like the above, it would be superfluous to ask, if it is not sounder policy to excite the good, than the bad dispositions of human nature.

Must not the torrent of invective and abuse, almost universally poured upon this people, tend to disaffect and indispose them to civil association!  Despised and ill-treated as they often are, have they not reason to imagine the hand of every man to be against them?  Who then can wonder at their eluding, as much as possible, the inquiries of strangers!

Looking at their condition among the various inhabitants of Europe, dignified with the Christian name, the writer has often been reminded of the universality of the Gospel call, as illustrated in the parable of the great supper.  After the invitation had been given throughout the streets and lanes of the cities, the command to the servants was: “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in.”  p. 157Here is a description that may have been intended specially to apply to this people, so exactly and even literally adapted to their condition, in all countries, is the language: “Go ye into the highways and hedges.”  And the distinction in their case is rendered still more remarkable by the very pressing injunction, “Compel them to come in.”

Does it not admit of the inference, that as outcasts of society, being under greater disadvantages than the other incited classes, their situation requited a more powerful stimulus to be applied?

The account of the sufferings of Gypsies in winter, having been confirmed by many concurring testimonies, from the inhabitants of Northamptonshire, the following Circular was sent into most of the Counties of England, with a view to ascertain their state in other parts of the nation.


When it is considered how much the exertions of the wise, the philanthropic, and the good, in all parts of the nation, have been directed to advancing the morals and religious instruction of the lower orders of the community, it appears almost incredible that one description of British subjects, and of all others the most abject and depraved, should have been either entirely overlooked or neglected.  The Gypsies, to whom this applies, are a people which, more than any other, it might have been considered the interest of society to reclaim, because of the depredations they commit upon it.

The efforts of the good, and of the great, have not been confined to meliorating the condition of the inhabitants of this country only, they have been directed to the alleviation of human misery in various other nations, and even to the augmentation of funds for civilizing the natives of distant regions of the globe.  p. 159Can we manifest our solicitude for the improvement of our fellow-creatures separated from us thousands of miles, whose faces we never saw, and conclude that numbers of persons in our own country, whose situation is more desperate, have not a peculiar claim on our consideration?

To reclaim the Indians of North America from their wild and roving course of life, associations have been formed to give them instructions in agriculture, and to supply them with implements of husbandry; plans of education adapted to their untutored state have been arranged, and persons qualified to carry them into effect, in the establishment of schools, have gone to their assistance.

Do the numerous Gypsey tribes of England possess any of these advantages?

In the summer of 1814, when the writer of this circular, visited a number of Gypsey tents in Northamptonshire, as already stated, a woman about 80 years of age, who had forty grand-children, acknowledged, that not one of them had been taught to read.  In this land p. 160of Christian benevolence, can we pronounce a certain proportion of its inhabitants to be wretchedly depraved, and even a wicked set of people; advertise them as rogues and vagabonds, and offer a reward for their apprehension, without devising any means of remedying the defects of their habits, or holding out encouragement to reformation, in any of them who are disposed to relinquish their vicious courses?

The associations formed and forming in different parts of the nation for the prosecution of felons, render the condition of Gypsies every day more and more deplorable, by their being hunted like beasts of prey from township to township.

The last winter but one, a company of these houseless wanderers were dug out of the snow in Ditchford Lane, near Irchester, Northamptonshire, when it appeared one woman had been lying in, and that an old man was dying.

If those who have been zealous in driving them from their accustomed haunts, were to place themselves, if but ideally in their situation, p. 161can we believe, that instead of augmenting their sufferings, they would not be disposed to commiserate their case, and even attend to the precept of the Christian Legislator: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them?”  It is worse than useless and unavailing to harrass them from place to place, when no retreat or shelter is provided for their refuge.

A writer on this subject, under the designation of Junius, in the Northampton Mercury of June 27th, 1814, observes: “When we consider the immense sums raised for every probable means of doing good, which have hitherto been made public, we cannot doubt, if a proper method should be proposed for the relief and ameliorating the state of these people, it would meet with deserved encouragement.  Suppose that the Legislature should think them not unworthy its notice; and as a part of the great family, they ought not to be overlooked.”  Another writer in the Northampton Mercury of July the 21st of the last year, on the necessity of some plan p. 162being adopted for their advantage, remarks, thereby “thousands of our fellow-creatures would be raised from depravity and wretchedness to a state of comfort; the private property of individuals be much more secure, and the public materially benefited.”  In addition to these observations, it may be asked, Would not the providing of an education for their children, to which they should be induced to conform, and the apprenticing of them, at a proper age, to suitable trades, enable the rising generation to correct the errors of Gypsey habits?

With a view to ascertain more fully the extent in which this may be necessary, the friends of humanity, to whom this Circular may be addressed, are requested to co-operate with others of their friends in different parts of each county, for procuring answers from the best informed of the Gypsies, and others, to the subsequent questions.  And should there be any person in their neighbourhood, who after being brought up among the Gypsies, hath quitted them for a more settled course of life, p. 163information from such is particularly desirable.  Answers are requested in the course of the summer: to be sent to John Hoyland, Springfield, Sheffield.



1.  From whence is it said the Gypsies first came?

2.  How many is it supposed there are in England?

3.  What is your circuit in summer?

4.  How many Gypsey families are supposed to be in it?

5.  What are the names of them?

6.  Have they any meetings with those of other circuits?

7.  And for what purpose?

8.  What number of Gypsies are there computed to be in the county?

9.  What proportion of their number follow business, and what kind?

10.  What do they bring their children up to?

11.  What do the women employ themselves in?

p. 16412.  From how many generations can they trace their descent?

13.  Have they kept to one part of the country, or removed to distant parts?

14.  How long have they lived in this part?

15.  Have they any speech of their own, different to that used by other people?

16.  What do they call it?  Can any one write it?

17.  Is there any writing of it to be seen any where?

18.  Have they any rules of conduct which are general to their community?

19.  What religion do they mostly profess?

20.  Do they marry, and in what manner?

21.  How do they teach their children religion?

22.  Do any of them learn to read?

23.  Who teaches them?

24.  Have they any houses to go to in winter?

25.  What proportion of them, is it supposed, live out of doors in winter, as in summer?

5th Month, 16th, 1815.


Received from the Counties of England, are comprised in the following general Answers to the Queries of the Circular.

1.  All Gypsies suppose the first of them came from Egypt.

2.  They cannot form any idea of the number in England.

3.  The Gypsies of Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, parts of Buckinghamshire, Cambridge, and Huntingdonshire, are continually making revolutions within the range of those counties.

4.  They are either ignorant of the number of Gypsies in the counties through which they travel, or unwilling to disclose their knowledge.

5.  The most common names are Smith, Cooper, Draper, Taylor, Bosswel, Lee, Lovell, Loversedge, Allen, Mansfield, Glover, Williams, Carew, Martin, Stanley, Buckley, Plunkett, Corrie.

6 & 7.  The gangs in different towns have not any regular connection, or organization; p. 166but those who take up their winter quarters in the same city or town, appear to have some knowledge of the different routes each horde will pursue; probably with a design to prevent interference.

8.  In the county of Herts, it is computed there may be sixty families, having many children.  Whether they are quite so numerous in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, and Northamptonshire, the answers are not sufficiently definite to determine.  In Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, and Dorsetshire, greater numbers are calculated upon.  In various counties, the attention has not been competent to procuring data for any estimate of families, or individuals.

9.  More than half their number follow no business; others are dealers in horses and asses; farriers, smiths, tinkers, braziers, grinders of cutlery, basket-makers, chair-bottomers, and musicians.

10.  Children are brought up in the habits of their parents, particularly to music and dancing, and are of dissolute conduct.

p. 16711.  The women mostly carry baskets with trinkets and small wares; and tell fortunes.

12.  Too indolent to have acquired accounts of genealogy, and perhaps indisposed to it by the irregularity of their habits.

13.  In most counties there are particular situations to which they are partial.  In Berkshire is a marsh, near Newbury, much frequented by them; and Dr. Clarke states, that in Cambridgeshire, their principal rendezvous is near the western villages.

14.  It cannot be ascertained, whether from their first coming into the nation, attachment to particular places has prevailed.

15, 16, & 17.  When among strangers, they elude inquiries respecting their peculiar language, calling it gibberish.  Don’t know of any person that can write it, or of any written specimen of it.

18.  Their habits and customs in all places are peculiar.

19.  Those who profess any religion, represent it to be that of the country in which they reside: but their description of it, seldom goes p. 168beyond repeating the Lord’s prayer; and only a few of them are capable of that.  Instances of their attending any place for warship are very rare.

20.  They marry for the most part by pledging to each other, without any ceremony.  A few exceptions have occurred when money was plentiful.

21.  They do not teach their children religion.

22 & 23.  Not one in a thousand can read.

24 & 25.  Some go into lodgings in London, Cambridge, &c. during winter; but it is calculated three-fourths of them live out of doors in winter, as in summer.

Most of the answers are confirmed by Riley Smith, who, during many years, was accounted the chief of the Gypsies in Northamptonshire.  He being much in request by some of the principal inhabitants of that county, as a musician, had the address to marry the cook out of one of their families, and afterward obtained a farm near Bedford; but being unsuccessful in agriculture, he returned to his former occupation.  p. 169John Forster and William Carrington, respectable merchants of Biggleswade, and neighbours to Riley Smith, procured answers from him to all the queries in the Circular; but they cannot be made the basis of any calculation of the number of Gypsies in the nation.

It has not come to the knowledge of the writer, what foundation there has been for the report commonly circulated, that a Member of Parliament had stated to the House of Commons, when speaking to some question relating to Ireland; that there were not less than 36,000 Gypsies in Great Britain.

To make up such an aggregate, the numerous hordes must have been included, who traverse most of the nation with carts and asses, for the sale of earthenware, and live out of doors great part of the year, after the manner of the Gypsies.—These potters, as they are commonly called, acknowledge that Gypsies have intermingled with them, and their habits are very similar.  They take their children along with them on travel, and, like the Gypsies, regret that they are without education.

p. 170It has already appeared in Baillie Smith’s report, that the Gypsies in Scotland, of late years, have had recourse to a similar occupation in the sale of earthenware, which, as they mostly attend fairs, is a mode of life remarkably adapted to their inclination.

Some pains have been taken among the potteries in Staffordshire, to procure information of the number of families of this description, which annually apply to purchase the refuse of their wares; but no return has been made.

The application to the Sheriffs of Scotland, procured from the counties prompt and decisive reports; and it is not probable that any measure, short of an order to the constables of every township, to take an account on the same day, throughout England, would be sufficient for ascertaining Gypsey population.

For this purpose a patrole might be necessary, on one and the same day, in each township, particularly in lanes and situations shaded in summer.  If notice of the requisition were to be communicated to constables, a few days before, with directions not to disclose the object, p. 171further than the necessary provision for it required; it is probable, that a sufficiently correct estimate might be formed, of the aggregate number in the nation.

Such an account might extend also to the itinerant potters, and the number of their children: or if the potters take out a Hawker’s and Pedlar’s licence, a return of their numbers might be obtained from the proper office.  There is reason to think that many of these dealers have acquired property, who, nevertheless take lodgings for the winter, instead of renting houses; whereby they, equally with Gypsies, evade all contributions to the service of the State, and parochial assessments.

On this subject, the writer is reminded of what has often occurred to him, when inspecting a low description of lodging-houses in the populous town of Sheffield, of which he is an inhabitant.  Finding it difficult to obtain from the keepers of such houses, sufficient information respecting their guests; he has thought, that obliging all who lodge itinerants to take out a licence, would, by rendering them amenable p. 172to just authority, obviate this difficulty; and put it in the power of those respectable inhabitants, who wish the regulation of these receptacles, to exercise just discrimination, without infringing upon the liberty of the subject.  He has reason to believe, if this were effected, it would operate as a considerable check on vagrancy, and save much trouble to magistrates.

p. 173SECTION X.

Present state of the Gypsies in and about London.


In the autumn of 1815, the author made a journey to London, in order to obtain information respecting the Gypsies in its vicinity.

The first account he received of the education of any of them, was from Thomas Howard, proprietor of a glass and china shop, No. 50, Fetter-lane, Fleet-street.  This person, who preached among the Calvinists, said, that in the winter of 1811, he had assisted in the establishment of a Sunday School in Windmill-street, Acre-lane, near Clapham.  It was under the patronage of a single gentlewoman, of the name of Wilkinson, and principally intended for the neglected and forlorn children of brick-makers, and the most abject of the poor.  It was begun on a small scale, but increased till the number of scholars amounted to forty.

p. 174During the winter, a family of Gypsies, of the name of Cooper, obtained lodgings at a house opposite the school.  Trinity Cooper, a daughter of this Gypsey family, who was about thirteen years of age, applied to be instructed at the school; but, in consequence of the obloquy affixed to that description of persons, she was repeatedly refused.  She nevertheless persevered in her importunity, till she obtained admission for herself, and two of her brothers.

Thomas Howard says, that, surrounded as he was by ragged children, without shoes and stockings, the first lesson he taught them was silence and submission.—They acquired habits of subordination, became tractable and docile; and, of all his scholars, there were not any more attentive and affectionate than these; and when the Gypsies broke up house in the spring, to make their usual excursions, the children expressed much regret at leaving the school.

This account was confirmed by Thomas Jackson, of Brixton-row, minister of Stockwell Chapel, who said, since the above experiment, several Gypsies had been admitted to a sabbath p. 175school, under the direction of his congregation.  At their introduction, he compared them to birds when first put into a cage, which flew against the sides of it, having no idea of restraint; but by a steady even care over them, and the influence of the example of other children, they soon became settled, and fell into their ranks.

With a view to reconnoitre an encampment of Gypsies, the author accepted a seat in the carriage of a friend, who drove him to Hainault forest.  This, according to historians, was of vast extent in the times of the ancient Britons, reaching to the Thames; and so late as the reign of Henry the 2d, it covered the northern vicinity of the city.

On this forest, about two miles from the village of Chigwell, Essex, and ten from London, stands the far-famed oak, at which is held Fairlop Fair, that great annual resort of the Gypsies.

According to an account of it printed for Hogg, Paternoster-row, the trunk or main stem of this tree has been sixty-six feet, and p. 176some of the branches twelve feet, in circumference.  The age of this prodigy of the forest cannot be ascertained with any degree of precision.  The oak viewed by the present King, in Oxfordshire, and some years ago felled in the domains of one of the Colleges, though only twenty-five feet in girth, is said to have been six hundred years old.  Fairlop oak having been nearly thrice as large, is supposed to be at least twice that age.

Phillips employed by the King, applied a patent mixture to stop the progress of its decay, but, last autumn, when seen by the describer, its naked gigantic trunk and arms, retaining not the least symptom of animation, presented a ghastly spectacle of the ravages of time, as contrasted with the rich verdure of the surrounding scenery.

The circumstances which gave rise to the establishment of a fair, on this spot of ground, are somewhat singular.

Daniel Day, an engine, pump, and block-maker, of Wapping, having a small estate in the vicinity of this oak, was in the habit of p. 177annually resorting to it about a fortnight after midsummer, to receive his rents, when he provided a dinner under the tree, and invited several of his friends to it.  The novelty of the scene exciting the attention of the neighbouring inhabitants, attendance on that occasion increased until about the year 1725, when booths being erected round the stupendous oak, the scene assumed the appearance of a regular fair.  It has continued to be held there, and it is said now attracts a great number of attendants.

As this fair does not appear to be a mart for horses or cattle, there is reason to fear, it is kept up more for revelry and excess, than for any useful purpose.  The ground has been cleared to some extent about the oak, which stands at the head of a circular lawn, surrounded by pailing, to protect it from the ravages of the unthinking part of the multitude, who assemble there.  It is said to have been the practice of the Gypsies, to kindle fires against the trunk, by which the bulk has been diminished, and perhaps the vegetation injured.

p. 178On the side of the forest, near to Dagenham, Essex, was the encampment of Gypsies, of which the author’s friend was in quest.  The construction of their tents, is well known to be wooden hoops fastened into the ground, and covered with an awning of blankets or canvas, which resembles the tilt of a waggon; the end is closed from the wind by a curtain.  This gang was called by the name of Corrie.  It consisted of an old man, his wife, a niece, and their son and daughter with ten children; said to be all from Staffordshire.  The men were scissars’ grinders and tinkers.

Questions being asked them respecting their condition, a young woman made some observations upon them to an older woman, in their own peculiar speech.  This was the first time the writer had an opportunity of ascertaining, what the language of Gypsies in England really was.  With the knowledge only of Grellmann’s vocabulary, he pointed out what the young woman had expressed; upon which they immediately exclaimed, the gentleman understands what we say; and they gave way to p. 179immoderate transports of joy, saying, they would tell him any thing he wished to know of them.

On being asked what gold was in their language, they replied without hesitation, sonnaka, and immediately added, silver was roop.

The opinion which has been entertained, that Gypsey language was composed only of cant terms, or of what has been denominated the slang of beggars, has probably been much promoted and strengthened by the dictionary contained in a pamphlet entitled, “The Life and Adventures of Bampfylde Moore Carew.”  It consists for the most part of English words, vamped up apparently not so much for the purpose of concealment, as burlesque.  Even if used by this people at all, the introduction of this cant, as the genuine language of the community of Gypsies, is a gross imposition on the public.

One of the women said, the education of their children was to be desired, but their travelling from place to place was against it.—A young man among them said, there were a p. 180hundred of their people in Staffordshire.  This gang was intelligent as well as communicative, and gave proof of more civility than is commonly attributed to Gypsies.

The author also visited Norwood, which was formerly a principal rendezvous of the Gypsies.  This village, near Croydon, in Surry, is situated on a fine hill, and is a wildly rural spot; but having been considerably inclosed of late years, it is not now much frequented by the Gypsies.

John Westover, deputy of James Furnell, constable of Norwood, stated, that about two months before, the Gypsies in that neighbourhood had been apprehended as vagrants, and sent in three coaches to prison.  This account was confirmed by Edward Morris, the landlord at the Gypsey house.  It did not appear that these Gypsies were committed for depredations on property, but merely on the vagrant act.

Gypsies being routed, as it is termed, in this manner, from various parts of the south, may probably have occasioned their appearing in greater numbers in the northern parts of the p. 181nation.  The writer of this section being at Scarborough, in the bathing season of 1815, had intelligence of there being, at the same time, an encampment of Gypsies at Boroughbridge, another at Knaresborough, and a third at Pocklington, in the east-riding of Yorkshire.

On returning from Scarborough, he was told by an acquaintance at Tadcaster, that a gang of about twenty Gypsies, were just gone from the neighbourhood, after telling fortunes to most of the people in the town.  The same summer, a numerous horde had been driven from the township of Rotherham; and there had been two encampments in the neighbourhood of Sheffield.

The winter before the last, severe as it was, a gang of about fifty or sixty, lay upon Bramley Moor, three miles from Chesterfield.  This information was received from Joseph Storrs of Chesterfield, who has been an assiduous coadjutor.  From the same authority, the writer learns, that a number of Gypsies usually came to Duckmanton, near Chesterfield, at the feast, who appear to be in pretty good reputation in p. 182their transactions.  Also that there is a party of Gypsies who frequent Socombe-lane, near Shirbrook, which is two miles east of Pleasley.  They are called Bosswell’s gang, consisting of twelve, and sometimes more, who mostly come once a year, and sometimes continue there for most of it.  A woman among them is about 90 years old.  They support a good character; and one of them who bought a pony, had credit for it, and paid honestly on his return.

After obtaining information at Norwood, of the winter-quarters in London, to which Gypsies resorted; the author had an interview with branches of several families of them, collected at the house of his friend William Corder, Grocer, in Broad-street, Giles’s.  And in justice to them, he must observe, that however considerably the fear of apprehension as vagrants, may dispose them, when on travel and among strangers, to elude their inquiries, no disposition to do so, appears in the company of persons to whom they are known, and in whom they can repose confidence.

p. 183Being accustomed to lay out their money at the shop of this grocer, he said they would be very ready to attend upon his invitation; and accordingly, a number of them soon made their appearance.  They said there were about twenty of the name of Lovell, who lodged in Bowles’s yard, in the neighbourhood.  These acknowledged themselves Gypsies, and many of them had the features, as well as the complexion of Asiatics.

Their account is, that they come into lodgings at Michaelmas, and continue till April, then they set out on travel, and go into Norfolk, &c.

That some time ago, some of them had embraced an offer to educate their children at St. Patrick’s charity school, which had been established by the chaplain to the Portuguese ambassador; but some dissatisfaction arising in consequence of the religion of the conductors of that Institution, they had removed their children to the school for the Irish, taught by Partak Ivery, No. 5, George-street.

p. 184Uriah Lovell, the head of one of the families, made a very decent appearance; three of his children have been four winters at school, and learned to read and write; their father having paid sixpence per week, for each of them.—Partak was sent for, and came to the house of William Corder, where he confirmed the above account, saying there had been six Gypsey children at his school, and that when placed among others, they were reducible to order.

These Gypsies, like those upon Hainault forest, appeared to be greatly delighted at meeting with a person, acquainted, as they thought, with their language, and were remarkably free in speaking it.

James Corder, son of William Corder, obtained the following account of some of the lodgers in Westminster, and in the Borough, &c.



Occupation and Residence.

John Lovell,

wife and 6 children,

Chair-bottomer, Tunbridge-street.

James Lovell,

do. 6 do.

Tinker, Church-lane.

Joseph Lovell,

do. 3 do.

Chair-bottomer, New-street.

Thomas Lovell,

do. 2 do.

Chair bottomer, Banbridge-street.

William Lovell,

do. 1 do.

Knife-grinder, Church-street.

p. 185Lussha Cooper,

wife and 10 children,

Rat-catcher, Tottenham-court-road.

Corrie Lovell,

do. 5 do.

Knife-grinder, Bolton-street.

Uriah Lovell,

do. 6 do.

Chair-bottomer, Bolton-street.

Thomas Lovell,

do. 7 do.

Knife-grinder, Paddington.

Solomon Lovell,

do. 4 do.

Chair-bottomer, New-street.

Solomon Jones,

do. 2 do.

Basket-maker and Wire-worker, Battle-bridge.

Men and Women,

22—52 Children.


John Lee,

wife and 9 children,

Chair-bottomer, Tothil-fields.

Richard Taylor,

do. 3 do.

Wire-worker, New-street.

Betsey Lovell,


Supported by her son Joseph Lovell.

Joseph Lovell,

wife 1 do.

Bellows-mender, Shore-ditch.

Diana Lee,

widow 1 do.

Sells Earthenware, Shore-ditch.

Mansfield Lee,

wife 0 do.

Tinker and Grinder, Shore-ditch.

Zachariah Lee,

do. 0 do.

Fiddler—Travels the Country.

Thomas Smith,

do. 5 do.

Chair-bottomer, Lisson-green, Paddington.

Thomas Porter,

do. 3 do.

Works at the Canal, Paddington.

Charlotte Allen,

widow 7 do.

Sells Earthenware, Kent-street, Borough.

James Cole,

wife 4 do.

Lamplighter and Grinder, Kent-street, Borough.

Edward Martin,

do. 2 do.

Sells Fruit in the Street, Kent-street, Borough.

Samuel Martin,

do. 6 do.

Journeyman Saddler, White-street.

John Sinfield,

do. 0 do.

Sells Fish in the Streets, White-street.

John Taylor,

do. 3 do.

Ditto.  Ditto.

Men and Women,

25—44 Children.


p. 186There has not been any information obtained concerning who winter in Bull’s Court, Kingsland Road, or in Cooper’s Gardens.

The older Gypsey children assist their parents in their trades; a few of the younger go to school during winter.  Most of those who have children, are desirous of their receiving an education; though but few have the means of procuring it.

They complain of the scarcity of work; and in some instances appear to be distressed for want of it; the more so, as their ideas of independence prevent their applying to parishes for assistance.—It is much to their credit, that so few instances occur of their begging in London.  In the minutes of evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons, on mendicity, there is only one example of a Gypsey girl begging in the streets.

Some of the women go in a morning to principal houses in the squares, before the heads of the families have risen, and tell fortunes to the servants, from whom they obtain sixpence or a shilling each.

p. 187A few of the Gypsies continue all the year in London, excepting their attendance of fairs in the vicinity.  Others, when work is scarce, go out twenty or thirty miles round the metropolis, carrying their implements with them on asses; and support themselves by the employment they obtain in the towns and villages through which they pass; and assist sometimes in hay-making, and plucking hops, in the counties of Kent, Surry, and Sussex.

Among those who have winter-quarters in London, there are a few that take circuits of great extent.  Some of them mentioned going through Herts into Suffolk, then crossing Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire to Herefordshire, Monmouthshire, Bristol, &c.  Others spoke of being at Yarmouth, Portsmouth, South Wales, Wiltshire, &c.

There is reason to think, the greatest part of the Island is traversed in different directions, by hordes of Gypsies.

For the purpose of comparing the language of English Gypsies with that of the Continental, exhibited in Section VIII, the following list of p. 188words was sent to James Corder, Broadstreet, Bloomsbury.  He obtained from the Gypsies in his neighbourhood, the translation affixed to them.























Bread & butter






Cold day


Hot day


























When it is known that Gypsies are unacquainted with letters, and that James Corder, who took from the mouths of those in the parish called St. Giles, the preceding Gypsey p. 189words, did not know of Grellmann’s vocabulary, the coincidence appears very remarkable; but it is still more so with the Turkish Gypsey specimen by Jacob Bryant, exhibited also in the 8th Section.  Robert Forster of Tottenham, who has been a coadjutor in this work, transmitted the following collection of words obtained from Gypsies in his neighbourhood.










Bread & butter




Cold day


Hot day





In the conversation a clergyman had with the Bosswell gang, as published in the Christian Guardian for 1812 and 1813, they told him Chum, was the sun; Chuu, the moon; Kalmàro, bread and butter; and Livina, drink.  The first two of those words almost exactly accord with Grellmann’s vocabulary, and the latter as nearly with Robert Forster’s and James p. 190Corder’s collection from Gypsies in and about London.

From the comparative views which have been taken of Gypsey expressions in various countries, there is reason to conclude that wherever they have been scattered on the face of the earth, they have spoken and transmitted the same language to their descendants.  That it should have been preserved by them, when among people of other tongues, throughout centuries, for no purpose that we are acquainted with, but that of concealment, is indeed astonishing.


Sentiments of various persons on the moral condition of the Gypsies


After the extensive survey which has now been taken of the customs and habits of this people, in the various countries they inhabit, the reader will be prepared for the conclusions of Grellmann, that Gypsies are indeed a singular phenomenon in Europe.  And remarkable it is, that the combined influence of time, climate, and example, have not effected any material alteration in their state.  For the space of three or four hundred years, they have gone wandering about as pilgrims and strangers; they are found in eastern, as well as in western countries; as well among the rude, as the civilized; among indolent and active people; yet they remain in all places, as to customs and habits, what their fathers were.

p. 192It is asserted, there are two causes to which this coincidence is to be attributed; one is the country where they originate, with their consequent train of thinking; the other arises out of the circumstances which have hitherto attended their situation.  Their peculiar notions and customs, leave no doubt of their being of eastern origin.  In oriental countries, attachment to habit is so strong, that what has been once current among them, be it ever so pernicious or ridiculous, is persevered in; any affection which has once predominated, retains its dominion for ages.

Mahomet knowing that the weak side of the Arabians was their veneration for every thing handed down from their forefathers, gave his new profession the colouring of antiquity, and affirmed it to be the religion of Abraham.  The Jesuits in China, availed themselves of similar means, by referring to Confucius, in aid of their doctrines, and thus they obtained admission for their religion among the Chinese.  In the eastern nations, no change is adopted merely because it is an improvement.  The p. 193Chinese are acquainted with the use of glass, yet their mirrors are always made of metal; and their windows of shells.—Mechanical watches have been for ages used in the court of Pekin, but the bulk of the nation depend upon the action of fire and water; the former, by the gradual burning of a match composed of sweet smelling powder, the latter by water, somewhat resembling our large hour-glasses.

If we consider the circumstances under which the Gypsies have existed, we shall want nothing more to make us comprehend, why they have remained to the present time, what they were at their first arrival in Europe.  Separating themselves as much as possible from all association, but with those of their own tribe, they avoid every means which might give a new turn to their ideas, or in the least degree contribute to eradicate deep-rooted prejudice.—Unused to reflect, and fettered by habit, they arrived in our quarter of the globe; and it does not appear that any measures have been enjoined for instructing or reforming them, except p. 194those of the Empress Theresa, which were never put in execution.

The most extreme punishments failing to effect a change in the habits of Gypsies, they were subjected in almost all countries to banishment.  They had been accustomed in their own country, to live remote from cities and towns; now they became more invariably inhabitants of forests, and penetrated deeper into deserts; as, in consequence of the search which was made after them, or, at least, threatened to be made, they judged themselves more secure in seclusion and concealment, than they would have been, in frequenting places of established abode, and having free intercourse with the neighbouring, inhabitants.  Thus they became, in a greater degree, outcasts from civilized society; and divested of the most, and perhaps the only, probable means, of inducing a change in their manner.

Being always either persecuted, or left to themselves, no other could be expected, than that they must ever remain in all places the same.  The character of people being formed by the p. 195instruction they receive in their early years, can it be thought surprising, that Gypsies who are idlers, should be also abandoned and thievish?  Is it to be expected that men should become diligent, who have been educated in laziness?  Who can have a general idea of fair dealing, that has never been taught the distinction between good and evil, virtue and vice?  Perhaps it is reserved for our age, in which so much has been attempted for the benefit of mankind, to humanize a people, who, for centuries, have wandered in error and neglect; and it may be hoped, that while we are endeavouring to ameliorate the condition of our African brethren, the civilization of Gypsies, who form so large a portion of humanity, will not be overlooked.

It cannot be denied, that considering the multitude of them, their reform must be a subject of very serious consideration to many states.  The period in which banishments were generally pronounced on this people, were too unphilosophical for any preferable mode of punishment to be suggested; but it may be p. 196expected from a better informed age, that better maxims will be adopted.  We send apostles to the east and west, to the most distant parts of the whole earth; and even into the very country whence the Gypsies emigrated, to instruct the people who know not God.  Is it not inconsistent for men to be solicitous for the welfare of their fellow-creatures in distant regions, and to throw off, and leave to chance, those who, equally wretched, have brought their errors home to us?  If it be a good work to teach religion and virtue to such as are ignorant of their Creator, why not begin with those nearest to us?—Especially as neglect in this particular, is attended with detriment to the society of which we are members.

The Gypsies have been long enough among civilized people to prove, that they will not be allured by the mere example of others, to free themselves from the fetters of old customs and vices.  To accomplish that end, more effectual means are requisite.

It would be vain to hope for any considerable progress in the improvement of those who are p. 197grown up.  Their reformation would be a difficult task, as the attempts made by the Empress Theresa evinced:—you must begin with children, and not meddle with the old stock, on whom no efforts will have effect.

Expelling the Gypsies entirely, was not merely a premature step, it was a wasteful one.  This is indisputable, so long as the state maxim holds good, that a numerous population is advantageous.

Care being taken to enlighten their understandings, and amend their hearts, they might become useful citizens; for observe them at whatever employment you may, there always appear sparks of genius.  It is well known, and no writer omits to remark, what artful devices they have recourse to, in perpetrating any cheat or robbery: but this is not the only particular in which they show capacity.  The following extract is from a Hungarian author, who was an attentive observer of these people.

“The Gypsies have a fertile imagination in their way, and are quick and ready at expedients; so that in many serious, doubtful cases, p. 198they soon recollect how to act, in order to extricate themselves.  We cannot indeed help wondering, when we attend to, and consider the skill they display in preparing and bringing their works to perfection; which is the more necessary from the scarcity of proper tools and apparatus.  They are very acute and cunning in cheating, or thieving; and when called to account for any fraud or robbery, fruitful in invention, and persuasive in their arguments to defend themselves.”



p. 199The recommendation of Grellmann, p. 197, to begin the work of reform with children, appears judicious; but the events of the present day justify the expectation, that benevolent exertions would not prove fruitless, should they afterwards be extended even to the “old stock.”

Before the Circular introduced is the 10th Section was distributed, the author did not know of the correspondence on the subject of Gypsies, which had appeared in the interesting pages of the Christian Observer.  But he should now consider it an injustice to those benevolent individuals, who had taken the lead in this work of Christian charity, not to give full consideration to the ideas they have suggested.

In Vol. VII. p. 91 of that periodical publication, is the following letter.

To the Editor of the Christian Observer.

As the divine spirit of Christianity deems no object, however unworthy or insignificant, beneath p. 200her notice, I venture to apply to you on behalf of a race, the outcasts of society, of whose pitiable condition, among the many forms of human misery which have engaged your efforts, I do not recollect to have seen any notice in the pages of your excellent miscellany.  I allude to the deplorable state of the Gypsies, on whose behalf I beg leave to solicit your good offices with the public.—Lying at our very doors, they seem to have a peculiar claim on our compassion.

In the midst of a highly refined state of society, they are but little removed from savage life.  In this happy country, where the light of Christianity shines with its purest lustre, they are still strangers to its cheering influence.  I have not heard even of any efforts which have been made, either by individuals or societies, for their improvement; and so thoroughly do they appear to despise the advantages of civilized life, that perhaps nothing less than that change of heart, which is the effect of the blessing of God on the means employed for their conversion, would prevent their continuing p. 201to be the pest of society.  The great Shepherd of Israel despises not these unhappy wanderers from his fold; and I am persuaded, that neither you, nor those who read and prize your work, will be insensible to the force of His benign example.

May the Divine Spirit suggest means, by which this wretched race may be reclaimed from their vagrancy, and be made acquainted with that Saviour, whom to know is life eternal!

Yours, &c.  Nil.


To the Editor of the Christian Observer. [201]

It gave me pleasure to observe in one of the numbers of your miscellany, a letter on a subject that has frequently engaged my serious attention: I mean the state of the Gypsies.  It is painful to reflect how many thousands of these unhappy creatures, have, since the light of Christianity has shone on this Island, gone into eternity ignorant of the way of salvation, p. 202and without one cheering thought of a Saviour.  Surely, Sir, there is an awful responsibility attached to this neglect!  If we look back into the history of the Christian church, from the earliest ages, we shall find that the introduction of the gospel amongst any people, has generally been effected by means of Missionaries; and so numerous are the Gypsies, and so desultory in their habits of life, that it might well occupy the time of more than one zealous individual, to go amongst them, and by plain, simple, affectionate conversation and exhortation, when practicable, instruct them in the knowledge of their Redeemer.

Nor in this favoured land, where there are so many who zealously embrace the doctrines of Christianity, would there, I trust, be wanting both one, or more persons, who would devote themselves to this truly apostolic work; and benevolent individuals who would open their hearts and their purses, for the support and encouragement of such an undertaking.  This labour of love would doubtless prove less arduous, than the attempts which have been p. 203made to establish missions among the American Indians; the natives of the South-Seas; or the inhabitants of Southern Africa.

The dread of the magistracy in this country, would prove a protection from personal injury, while the painful relinquishment of friends and country would not be required.  I will also beg leave to mention another suggestion: I have understood that, in different parts of the kingdom, the neighbouring clergy meet at stated times, for the purpose of conversing on the important duties of their pastoral office.  At such times, would it not be well to take into consideration, the perishing condition of so large a part of the community, as that, which forms the subject of this letter?  Some plan might probably be thus devised, which, through the blessing of the Lord, would prove effectual for the salvation of this out-cast, and hitherto neglected people.

I would also take the liberty of recommending the cause of these unhappy partners of our kind, to the humanity of our dissenting brethren; and most earnestly solicit Christians p. 204of all denominations, to unite in prayer to the God of all grace, that he would prosper every attempt which may be made, to communicate to them the knowledge of His will.  I trust, Sir, I shall obtain your excuse for detaining you on this important subject; and as I know your pages are read and valued, by real Christians of various denominations, perhaps they may, through the Divine Providence, be the means of exciting effectual attention, to the spiritual wants of this deplorable set of beings; and the same benevolence which induced you to exert your talents and influence in behalf of the oppressed negroes, may be again successfully employed, in ameliorating the condition of a numerous class of our fellow-creatures, who are second only to them in wretchedness, and spiritual misery.

I am, &c.  Fraternicus.


p. 205To the Editor of the Christian Observer. [205]

The insertion of the letter of “Fraternicus,” on the moral and religious state of the Gypsies, in a late number of your work, (August, p. 496) implies, I presume, an approbation of its contents.  It is a subject that cannot fail to interest the feelings of a real Christian.

The writer of this, has it in his power to contribute some pecuniary aid towards such a truly Christian undertaking, and would most gladly afford it.  He commiserates, equally with Fraternicus, the wretched state of this people, and hopes to see the day when the nation which has, at length, done justice to the poor negroes, will be equally zealous to do their duty in this instance; and attempt to raise the Gypsies from their state of degradation.  If any way can be devised through the medium of your work, to set about this labour of love, twenty pounds per annum shall be regularly contributed by the writer of this; and you are at liberty to make whatever use you can of this p. 206offer.  If any good, which I pray God it may, should arise from the present communication, the name of the writer, who is a constant reader of the Christian Observer, shall be made known, when thought necessary by the conductor.



To the Editor of the Christian Observer. [206]

I am much pleased with the interest which your two correspondents, Fraternicus, and H. appear to take, in the spiritual and eternal condition of that ignorant and degraded class of human beings, the Gypsies.

I wish much to see appropriate and active measures adopted, immediately to put into execution the benevolent suggestions of your worthy and sensible correspondents.  I cannot do a great deal in a pecuniary point of view, but in counsel and influence I could do more.

I feel no hesitation in inviting your correspondents to a meeting on the subject, with a view to the formation of some plan, and the p. 207consequent commencement of active exertions.  One of the first objects to be aimed at, is the introduction of cleanliness and decorum.—Another object to be attended to, is, the teaching of them, especially the young, to read; and then the supplying of them with testaments and religious tracts.

There are many of the latter which would be both entertaining and useful to them; but the most direct means to do them good is, by frequent intercourse with them, and plain and familiar conversation, prudently conducted.  And if any thing be done, it must be undertaken in a patient and persevering spirit.

The soil which it is proposed to cultivate, is remarkably barren and unpropitious; of course a plentiful harvest must not be soon expected.  The persons to be employed in this work of faith and labour of love, must not only be men of prudence and discretion, but men of information, and possessing clear and cool heads, and warm hearts.

I have no doubt, but that in these times of active benevolence and zeal, when a good plan p. 208is laid, and funds provided, instruments will be found, who with love in their hearts, will go seek those wandering sheep in the wilderness, for whom no man hath yet cared.

Many good hints, Mr. Editor, are often fruitless for want of immediate attention; and many a good work long talked of is not only suspended, but never begun, for want of some one to put forth the hand and begin.  I for one, say to your two correspondents, “let us arise and build; let us begin; there is no fear of progress and help.”

I remain, &c.  Minimus.


To the Editor of the Christian Observer. [208]

June 13, 1809.

I was afraid the Gypsies had been quite forgotten; and therefore it gives me real pleasure to see, by your last number, for May 1809, that another correspondent has taken up their cause.  If the subject was once fairly before the public, I am persuaded it would interest p. 209the feelings of many amongst us; and should good arise from it, which with God’s help and blessing, could not fail to be the case, we might confidently look forward to a daily increasing fund for its support.  Surely when our charity is flowing in so wide a channel, conveying the blessings of the gospel to the most distant quarters of the globe, we shall not hesitate to water this one barren and neglected field, in our own land.

My attention was first drawn to the state of this miserable class of human beings, by the letter of “Fraternicus;” and looking upon it as a reproach to our country, that amidst the great light which prevails, so many of its children should be walking in darkness and the shadow of death, I was anxious to contribute something out of my abundance, towards their spiritual welfare.  I perfectly agree with your correspondent, that no time should be lost in devising some plan, which may give consistency and effect to this work of faith, and labour of love.  In this short and uncertain life, no opportunities of usefulness should be p. 210neglected.  It is a call which may never again be repeated.  I am ready and desirous, to give Minimus the proposed meeting; and the time and place might be appointed through the medium of the Christian Observer.

I must however premise, that the writer of this is a very humble individual in all respects, both in abilities, and in influence.  My habits are very retired, and at present, my time is occupied in attending to the ministerial duties of a populous village.  I shall most gladly adhere to my first proposal, and might be induced to do more, if need required.

In the meantime, it is my earnest prayer to God, that this may not be one of those projects, which are only talked of, and never begun; but that it may tend to the glory of his name, and to the bringing back of those poor lost sheep to the fold of their Redeemer.  Amen.

Yours, H.


p. 211To the Editor of the Christian Observer. [211]

As I am not in the constant habit of seeing your publication, it is only lately, in meeting with your number for February last, at the house of a friend, that I was aware that the spiritual state of the Gypsies, had excited interest in the breasts of some of your readers.

They are a race who have long excited interest in mine; so much, that in the year 1801, I had written a letter upon the subject to the society for bettering the condition, and increasing the comforts of the poor; but I thought on further reflection, that any attempts to civilize a race of beings so degraded, and held in so much contempt, would be considered so very visionary, that I gave up the idea and did not send it.  A greater lapse of time, farther observation, and the suggestions of your correspondents, induce me to trouble you with the few following remarks; recollecting that in literary attempts and works of beneficence, it is the same as in pecuniary subscriptions; that p. 212great effects are not always produced from the stores of an opulent individual, but from the willing contributions of the many.

It does not appear to me, that a few, or even many Missionaries, according to the suggestion of Fraternicus, Vol. vii. p. 496, would answer the purpose of imparting religious knowledge to the Gypsies; since on account of their wandering mode of life, and from their not travelling in any numbers together, it would be difficult to form congregations.  What the number of Gypsies, and of those who lead vagrant lives, like them, may be in this kingdom, I cannot even form a conjecture; and Mr. Colquhoun, I think does not mention them in his treatise on the Police of the Metropolis.  Neither am I acquainted with their numbers and modes of life at Norwood, [212] which I understand is the chief residence of them; what I have to say, therefore, is only from observations made upon those who frequent this neighbourhood, and from others seen occasionally when I have been travelling.

p. 213The suggestions of Minimus, Vol. viii. p. 286, appear to me to be the most practicable: and I hope that there are many Gypsies who would be inclined to profit by any judicious and kind exertions made on their behalf.  There are already several families of them within my knowledge, who reside in houses during the winter, and travel about only in the summer.  Their means of subsistence are tinkering, and fiddling at feasts and fairs; by which some, I believe, make a good deal of money, which helps them out in the winter, when there is less work and less dancing.

A young man with a large family, whom I have long observed near this place, in my walks, about six years ago, when many inclosures took place in this neighbourhood, and he found it less convenient to be out in the fields, or rather that the farmers were less willing to let him encamp upon their grounds, took a small house, with a garden annexed to it, in the suburbs of this town, and has since lived here constantly in the winter, but travels in the summer.  He is now about 38 years of age.  p. 214He married when 20, and has 8 children, all of whom have been baptized in the several parishes where they were born.  He is a very civil man, and is much respected where he is known; having a good character for honesty.

He attends church constantly on a Sunday; and though he has not any regular notion of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, he has some very good general ideas of religion and morality.  He is no swearer; and he would consider it wicked in his wife to attempt to tell fortunes.

He is frequently employed to fiddle, at the houses of respectable farmers and trades-people at Christmas.  His other occupation is tinkering; and he is ingenious at mending fiddles, and making cases, &c.

Neither he, nor his wife, can read; and none of his children have been hitherto sent to school.  His third boy, who is about 9 years old, he has, at my suggestion, promised to send to the new school which has been established here on Dr. Bell’s and Mr. Lancaster’s plan: he accepted the offer with great thankfulness.  The boy is to come into the school at Michaelmas, p. 215when the family return from their summer’s travelling.  The father would be very glad to have all his children brought up to any other mode of life; and even to embrace some other himself; but he finds a difficulty in it.

He himself, from not having been brought up to work in husbandry, could not go through the labour of it; and few, if any persons, would be willing to employ his children, on account of the bad character which his race bears; and from the censure and ridicule which might attach to taking them, where they might be willing to do it from motives of benevolence.

There is another family of Gypsies resident in this place in the winter, the father of which was formerly a musician in the guards.  He has a boy now in the school.

These circumstances lead me to think, that were encouragement given to them, the Gypsies would be inclined to live in towns and villages like other people; and would in another generation or two become civilized, and with the pains which are now taken to educate the poor, and to diffuse the Scriptures and the p. 216knowledge of Jesus Christ, would become a part of the regular fold: while in the mean time, from personal intercourse with their pastors, and from attending public worship, the spiritual condition of the present generation would be materially improved.  It would, however, require much patient continuance in well doing, in those who attempted it; and they must be prepared, perhaps, to meet with some untowardness, and much disappointment; but in due season we could not fail to reap, if we fainted not.

All Gypsies must have some parish to which they belong; and if these parishes were to provide habitations for them, and to hold out encouragement to them to come and settle, and were to bear for the present with any ways which might be different from those of the regular inhabitants, affording them work as tinkers, &c. and providing education and work for their children; and for the present, even bearing with their travelling in the summer; this now almost unprofitable race of beings might be reclaimed to society.  Many of them p. 217are accustomed, in the seasons, to undertake hay and harvest work.  These, I think, with proper encouragement, might be induced to get their living by husbandry work throughout the year.

Should these suggestions lead to any farther discussion upon the subject, or to adopting any measures to promote the desired object; it would give me sincere pleasure to lend my assistance, either pecuniary or personal.

I am, Sir, &c.  J. P.

Cambridge, April 28, 1810.

P.S.  I recollect having heard that the benevolent Jonas Hanway took a Gypsey for his servant, but I know not on what authority this was said.


To the Editor of the Christian Observer. [217]

The candid acknowledgment of your benevolent correspondent, in the Christian Observer for February last, that his attention had been first drawn to the state of the Gypsies by the p. 218letter of Fraternicus, was matter of unfeigned satisfaction to me; and as it is probable there may be no want of inclination in the Christian world, to extend relief effectually to them, permit me to solicit a place in your pages, for a thought which has occurred to me in my meditations on the subjects.

It appears from a letter in your number for May, that they are not totally destitute of a desire for the benefit of instruction.  Information might easily be obtained, as to what part of England they are to be found in the greatest numbers; and if a free school could be instituted, and the means of instruction provided for those of their children who were willing to attend, at least in the winter season; might it not be a means of conveying useful knowledge to them?

By degrees, they might be brought to attend divine worship regularly; and if in the parish of a pious clergyman, he would probably embrace the opportunity of teaching them, more particularly, the way of salvation.  Much, however, might be done by a pious schoolmaster, and a p. 219schoolmistress, by whom the girls might be instructed in different kinds of work, knitting, sewing, &c.; and if any of the parents should evince a desire for instruction, they could be admitted at different hours in the day.  It would be an interesting inquiry, what becomes of orphans among them, and whether there is not a possibility of at least rescuing them from their present state of ignorance and misery.

Should these suggestions be deemed worthy of your insertion, they might, perhaps awaken the attention of some benevolent persons, whose superior talents and experience in the ways of beneficence, would enable them to perfect and carry into execution, a plan for the effectual benefit of those unhappy partners of our kind.  That He may grant it, from whom every good thought proceeds, is the fervent prayer of



Review of the Subject, and Suggestions for ameliorating the condition of the Gypsies in the British Empire.


Since the commencement of the present year, 1816, a friend [221] of the author has informed him, that about three weeks before, he was in company with an English and a Persian gentleman, who had lately come from Persia, through Russia; the latter well understood the languages of both countries, and spoke them fluently.  He had travelled with the Persian Ambassador; and said that he had met with many hordes of Gypsies in Persia; had many times conversed with them; and was surprised to find their language was the true Hindostanie.  He did not then know of Grellmann’s work.  He further stated, that the Gypsies in Russia were, in language and manners, the p. 222same, and exactly corresponded with the Gypsies of this country.  Their name in Persia signified Black Eyes.

From whatever part of the world we derive intelligence of this people, it tends to corroborate the opinion, that they have all had one peculiar origin.  How little has it occupied the contemplation of Britons, that there existed among them, subjects of such great curiosity as the poor and despised Gypsies!

The statute of Henry VIII. imposing a fine of forty pounds upon the importation of a Gypsey, induces the belief they were much in request in England at that period.  The attention which their low performances attracted in those times, will not perhaps excite surprise, when we see the encouragement given in our day, to their idly disposed countrymen, termed, Indian Jugglers.  It is remarkable, that the earliest account of Gypsies in Great Britain, is in a work published to expose and detect the “Art of Juggling,” &c.

The first of this people who came into Europe, must have been persons of discernment and discrimination, to have adapted their deceptions p. 223so exactly to the genius and habits of the different people they visited, as to ensure success in all countries.

The stratagem to which they had recourse on entering France, evinces consummate artifice of plan, and not a little adroitness and dexterity in the execution.  The specious appearance of submission to papal authority, in the penance of wandering seven years without lying in a bed, combined three distinct objects.  They could not have devised an expedient more likely to recommend them to the favor of Ecclesiastics; or better concerted for taking advantage of the superstitious credulity of the people, and, at the same time, for securing to themselves the gratification of their own nomadic propensities.  So complete was the deception they practised, that we find they wandered up and down in France, under the eye of magistracy, not for seven only, but for more than a hundred years, without molestation.

In 1561, the edict of the States of Orleans directed their expulsion by fire and sword; yet in 1612, they had increased to such a degree, p. 224that there was another order for their total extermination.  Notwithstanding this severity, in 1671 they were again spread over the kingdom, as appears in the letters of the Marchioness de Sévigné to her friends, and the Countess Grignan, in nine volumes, translated from the last Paris edition: “Bohemians travel up and down the Provinces of France, and get their living by dancing, showing postures, and telling fortunes; but chiefly by pilfering, &c.”

It is remarkable, that in all countries, they professed to be Egyptians; but the representation is not only refuted by Bellonius, but by later writers, who assert, that the “few who are to be found in Egypt, wander about as strangers there, and form a distinct people.”

As historians admit that the greatest numbers of them are to be found in Turkey, and south of Constantinople, there is reason to apprehend they had a passage through that country.  If many of them did not visit Egypt previously to their arrival in Europe, they probably wished to avail themselves of the reputation p. 225the Egyptians had acquired in occult sciences, that they might practise with greater success, the arts to which they had been previously accustomed, and the practice of which is common in various parts of Asia.  In other respects the habits of Egypt were very dissimilar to theirs.

We find by the reports on the first question put by the Circular, mentioned in Section IX. that “all Gypsies in this country suppose the first of them came from Egypt;” and this idea is confirmed by many circumstances that have been brought into view in the course of this work.  In addition it may be observed, that before the discovery of the passage to India, by the Cape of Good Hope, all the productions of the east, that were distributed in Europe, came to Egyptian ports.  Hence we have many concurring testimonies, which render it highly probable, if not evidently clear, that the first Gypsey tribes who came into England, and other parts of Europe, migrated from hordes of that people who had previously found their way into Egypt.

p. 226The evidence appears equally strong, that they were not natives of Egypt; but as the Egyptians were in great repute for the practice of the occult sciences, common to them and to the Suder caste; we cannot be surprized to find these crafty itinerants, should avail themselves of such an opportunity, as coming out of that country, to profess themselves Egyptians.

Continental writers exhibit a strange assemblage of crude, and incongruous ideas on the subject of Gypsey extraction.  So numerous are the opinions diffusely stated, that Grellmann must have exercised much patient investigation, to deduce from them the rational and satisfactory conclusions which his Dissertation presents.

Our countryman Swinborne, in describing the Gypsies in Calabria, is the first to remark that their peculiar language bears great affinity to the oriental tongues; and that many of their customs resemble those of the heathens.  But European ignorance of the habits and speech of Asiatics may be accounted for, whilst the rich p. 227productions of India continued to be brought to Egyptian ports, and to be conveyed thence by the Lombard merchants, to be distributed over Europe

The Cingari, Zigeuners, or Gypsies, had been in Germany nearly a century, before the Portuguese discovered the passage to India by the Cape of Good Hope.  The stimulus which this discovery gave to improvements in the art of navigation, soon opened immediate intercourse with the eastern world.  Vast are the establishments, which have been subsequently effected, in that quarter of the globe by naval powers, and extraordinary have been, of late years, the exertions for the acquisition of oriental languages; yet so numerous are they in those widely extended regions, that European knowledge of Asiatic etymology, is yet but in a state of infancy.

The case of the Gypsies is singular; for it may fairly be questioned, whether it has a parallel in the history of the world.  Dispersed over the face of the earth, without any organization of their different hordes; and all p. 228concert between them entirely precluded by separations of hundreds of miles from each other, in different parts of the globe, and by their incapacity for literary communication; they have, however, whilst speaking the languages of the respective countries they inhabit, preserved in all places one peculiar to themselves, and have transmitted it through a lapse of centuries to their descendants, almost unimpaired.

Increased acquaintance with oriental customs and tongues, has, at length, discovered the near coincidence they have with the language of the Gypsies, and has developed an origin of this people, of which those of the present age were, till now, entirely ignorant.  It will appear extraordinary, that these people should have been able, by oral means alone, and under all disadvantages, to retain their language, and yet not to have handed down with it, any tradition that might lead to a discovery of who they were, or whence they came.  But the knowledge recently acquired, of their very abject condition in the country from which they p. 229emigrated, offers a reason why the first comers might be anxious to conceal their pedigree, the meanness of which would have but ill accorded with the titles of rank assumed by some of their leaders.

The regulations proposed by the Empress Theresa, and the Emperor Joseph II. could they have been carried into effect, would doubtless have improved the state of the Gypsies.  But an order for children to be torn away from their parents, was so far from being dictated by the study of human nature, that it did violence to the tenderest sensibilities, and set at nought the kindest emotions.  Its tendency was to produce in the minds of Gypsies, disaffection to the state, and to indispose others from aiding in the execution of the edict.  The advantages to be derived by Governments from a liberal toleration, being not then so well understood as in succeeding times, they were not duly regarded.

Those potentates considering Zigeuners of Egyptian origin, might reasonably conceive agriculture well adapted to their genius and p. 230inclination; but it was a pursuit, which, more than any other, they disapproved.

All other Governments appear to have been misled, in like manner, by the deception which the first Gypsies practised; for had they been apprized of this people’s descent, and of the almost unalterable pertinacity of an Indian caste, they would have been sensible that an attempt to change their habits by force, was a measure the least likely to be attended with success.

The Circular introduced in the ninth Section of this work, notices Gypsies being hunted like beasts of prey, from township to township in England; and it has been ascertained, that in some places they are routed, as it is termed, by order of magistrates, whenever they appear, and sent to prison on the vagrant act, without so much as a charge of depredation upon property.  “This is to make their persons, an object of persecution, instead of the protection of our laws.”

For the credit of our country it may be hoped, that instances of this sort, respecting p. 231Gypsies, are not very numerous; seeing all writers concur in stating, every attempt by coercive means to alter the peculiar habits of this people, have had a tendency to alienate them still more from civil associations, and directly to defeat the end proposed.  It is time therefore that a better and a more enlightened policy should be adopted in Europe, towards a race of human beings, under so many hereditary disadvantages as are the helpless, the rude, the uninstructed Gypsies.

In the decision on the vagrant case, in Crabbe’s “Hall of Justice,” [231a] and in the treatment of Gypsies on Knoland-Green, [231b] a temper is displayed so truly Christian, and so different from what is just alluded to, that in consulting the best feelings of human nature, it adds dignity to magistracy.

Sir Frederick Morton Eden, in his first volume on the State of the Poor, p. 306, refers to an Act passed in 1741, respecting that class of the poor, who are considered by the Legislature p. 232as the outcasts of society, namely rogues, vagabonds, &c.; and he remarks: “From perusing the catalogue of actions which denominate a man, a disorderly person, a vagabond, or incorrigible rogue, the reader may perhaps incline to think that many of the offences specified in this Act, and in subsequent statutes, on the same subject, are of a very dubious nature, and that it must require nice legal acumen, to distinguish whether a person incurs any, and what, penalty, under the vagrant laws.”

In support of this opinion, and of the indefinite and unjustifiable latitude of those statutes, a late decision at Maidstone, in the action of Robins, v. Boyce, affords a striking demonstration.

If the statutes do not admit of any construction in favor of Gypsies, but enjoin rigorous treatment of them, merely for wandering, it may become a question whether the peculiar circumstances of their case, might not constitute an exception to the general rule.

p. 233However wholesome and salutary vagrant Acts may be, to deter persons from quitting their parishes in order to levy contributions, by practising impositions in places where they are not known, it is obvious that Gypsies, having no parochial settlements, cannot come under that description.  Excepting a temporary residence of some of them in winter, their home is a whole county, and the majority of them are too independent to apply to any parish for assistance.

Here is a trait in their character, which, were it grafted on the stock of half the paupers in the kingdom, would be a national advantage.

It ought to procure some indulgence for the Gypsies, that their wandering mode of life does not originate in any contumacious opposition to judicial order; but in a scrupulous regard to the Institutions of their ancestors.  For the advantages we possess, shall we return injury to our fellow-men!  If after being fully introduced into a situation to taste the comforts of social order, and to acquire a knowledge of mechanical professions, which would render p. 234them useful and respectable, any of them, despising these privileges, should indulge wandering dispositions, they might then deserve all the punishment which under the vagrant Acts, can be indicted.

It is worthy of remark, that in the evidence respecting mendicity in London, adduced last year before the Committee of the House of Commons, there is only a single instance in the parish called St. Giles, that noted rendezvous of Gypsies, of one of their tribe, a girl, begging in the streets.

Is it not high time the people of England were undeceived, respecting the motives to Gypsey perseverance in their singular line of conduct.  Their invincible attachment to the traditions they have received, is almost proof, in itself, of Grellmann’s assertion, that they are the descendants of an Indian caste; in whose estimation inviolable adherence to the customs of their order, constitutes the highest perfection of character.

When any remark is made to them on their strange mode of conduct, they are ready to p. 235reply: “The inhabitants of cieled houses follow the customs of their predecessors; What more do we?  Are they creatures of habit?  So are we.”

After this account, is it surprising that the violent means pursued against them in all countries, have been ineffectual to abolish their peculiarities?

Their humane and intelligent biographer, Grellmann, styles them a “singular phenomenon in Europe;” and it may justly be observed of such of them as inhabit countries accounted the most enlightened, that the contrast which their destitute state presents to the numerous advantages of civilized life, and to the refinements of polished society, is truly astonishing.  If there possibly can be a single Briton who is a skeptic to the benefits of education, let him only take a view of the intellectual degradation and disgusting condition of the Gypsies.  But if Britons have made greater advancement in civilization than some other nations, the Gypsies here are left at a greater p. 236distance, and furnish the more occasion for their condition being improved.

It does not appear that the Pariars, or Suders, from whom it is believed these swarthy itinerants of our age are descended, were farther advanced in the knowledge of moral obligations, than were the Spartan people; who, however celebrated for some of their Institutions, accounted the successful perpetration of thefts to be honourable.

The Gypsies at Kirk Yetholm, as stated by Baillie Smith, in this part of their conduct, are an exact counterpart of the Spartans.  To a people of Greece, the foremost of their time in legislative arrangements, who had cultivated so little sense of the turpitude of injustice, surely a much more criminal neglect may be imputed, than to the ignorant, untutored race we have been surveying!

Malcolm, in his Anecdotes of the manners and customs of London, p. 350, says of the English Gypsies: “Despised, and neglected, they naturally became plunderers and thieves to obtain a subsistence.”  But when he afterward p. 237states, that “They increased rapidly, and at length were found in all parts of the country,” we may be disposed to think that British fastidiousness was not less ingenious than that of the Spaniards, who considered themselves contaminated by a touch of the Gypsies, unless it were to have their fortunes told.  Venality and deception meeting with so much encouragement, those propensities of the human heart would be generated and fostered, which at length produced flagrant impositions, and the greatest enormities.

The dominion of superstition was at its zenith, in what are termed the middle ages: so absolute and uncontrolled was its influence, that because of reputed skill in exorcism and witchcraft, the deluded Germans reposed implicit confidence in persons so ignorant as the Gypsies.

What an impeachment of British sagacity, is the following observation of Sir Frederick Morton Eden, in his first volume on the State of the Poor, p. 146: “It is mortifying to reflect, that whilst so many wise measures were adopted by the great Council of the Nation, p. 238neither a Coke, nor a Bacon, should oppose the law suggested by royal superstition, for making it felony to consult, covenant with, entertain, employ, feed, or reward, any evil, or wicked spirit, 2d James, 12th.—It is still more mortifying to reflect, that the enlightened Sir M. Hale left a man for execution, who was convicted on this Act, at Bury, March 10th, 1664; and that even in the present (the 18th) century, a British Jury should be persuaded that the crime of witchcraft could exist.”

If the annual filling of prisons in England may be attributed, in any degree, to the neglect of educating the lower orders of the people, it will appear extraordinary, that instances of Gypsies being convicted of capital crimes, are not more frequent, rather than that they sometimes occur.

The Committee of the British and Foreign School Society, in their Report for 1815, express their conviction of the advantages of education, in correcting evils, which at once disgrace society, and deprive it of many, who might be its most useful and active members; p. 239and then, they exclaim: “Surely we may hope the day is not far distant, when Statesmen and Legislators of all countries, will open their eyes to the awfully important truth; and beholding in a sound and moral education, the grand secret of national strength, will co-operate for the prevention, rather than the punishment of crimes!”

It was not until near the conclusion of the last year, and after the author had inspected some of the Gypsey families who winter in London, that he was apprized of the correspondence in the Christian Observer, which forms part of the preceding Section.  The position with which it commences, is worthy of all acceptation, as applied to beings formed for immortality: “The Divine Spirit of Christianity deems no object, however unworthy and insignificant, beneath her notice.  Gypsies lying at our doors, seem to have a peculiar claim on our compassion.  In the midst of a highly refined state of society, they are but little removed from savage life.”

p. 240The letters extracted from the Christian Observer, are distinguished by a Christian zeal and liberality, which must be cheering to every one, who has felt an interest in improving the condition of these greatly neglected partners of his kind.  On their behalf, appeals to the public have been subsequently made, as we have seen in Section IX, through the medium of the Northampton Mercury of 1814, by two correspondents; one under the designation of “A Friend to Religion;” the other, that of “Junius.”

Communications from a county which has long been a noted rendezvous of Gypsies, may be considered the result of observations actually made on their state.  The first of these appeals is introduced in the following manner: “Various are the religious and moral Institutions in this country; humanity and benevolence have risen to an unprecedented height.  Not only for our country, are the exertions of the good and great employed, but at this time the greatest efforts are making on behalf of the distressed Germans.  The hand of charity is p. 241open not only to the alleviation of present misery, but such an Institution as the Bible Society, is calculated to excite thousands to seek for future happiness.  Yet amidst all, one set of people seems to be entirely excluded from participating in any of those blessings; I mean Gypsies, who are accounted rogues and vagabonds.  When we consider that they, equally with ourselves, are bought with a price, much remains to be done for them.  These people, however wretched and depraved, certainly demand attention; their being overlooked with indifference, is really much to be regretted.

“Instead of being subjects of commiseration, they are advertised as rogues and vagabonds; and a reward offered for their apprehension.  But no asylum is offered them, nothing is held out to encourage a reformation in any that might be disposed to abandon their accustomed vices.”  The same writer, in a subsequent letter, dated September 8, respecting these houseless wanderers, remarks: “I was representing the deplorable state they are in, to a person of my acquaintance; and his reply was: p. 242They were a set of worthless and undeserving wretches; and he believed they would rather live as they do, than otherwise; with many other such like inconsiderate ideas; resulting, I believe, from a prejudiced mind, and from not properly considering their situation; and I fear these sentiments are too prevalent.”

It will readily be admitted, that they are generally prevalent: and how should it be otherwise, so long as the great mass of the population of England continues to be uninformed of the motives inducing the strange conduct of Gypsies, who consider themselves under the strongest of all obligations, strictly to observe the Institution of their ancestors.  Had Britons been apprized of the origin of this people, and the peculiar circumstances of their case, the national character would not have been stained, by the abuse and mal-treatment which Gypsies have received.

It is very satisfactory to find by the before recited correspondence, an inhabitant of the county in which the Gypsies are so numerous, advocating their cause, by a public exposure of p. 243the mistaken ideas which have so long prevailed respecting them.

From the length of time they have continued to reside in Britain, they have ceased to become subjects of much curiosity or conversation.  And as they endeavour to avoid populous districts, persons in large towns, who are occupied in trade, seem little aware that in the county they inhabit, there may be hordes of these wanderers, traversing the thinly inhabited parts of it, in various directions, as was the case in Yorkshire during the last summer. (1815.)

When the amelioration of the condition of this people is mentioned to persons of the above description, so little informed are they on the subject, that it is many times treated as if the existence of Gypsies was questioned; at others, as if affording any help to them, was visionary, and even ludicrous.

Some places formerly frequented by Gypsey gangs, having been much deserted by them of late years, does not authorize any calculation upon a decrease of their numbers in the nation.

p. 244In the vicinity of the metropolis, Gypsies have been excluded by inclosures from various situations to which they had been accustomed to resort.  But there is some reason to apprehend they have become more numerous, in several other parts of the Island.  Baillie Smith of Kelso, is of opinion, they increase in Scotland, and it is by no means certain that they do not in England.

Any idea that routing them will lessen their numbers, may be as fallacious, and injudicious, as were banishments from the German States, which, without diminishing Gypsey population, had the injurious effect of alienating them still more from civil associations.

Junius, the other correspondent of the Northampton Mercury, in his Address of October 29, writes: “I trust the time is not distant, when much will be accomplished, as it respects the civilization of the people whose cause we plead.  In the meantime, I would humbly hope all those harsh and degrading measures, of publicly in the papers, and upon placards by the sides of roads, ordering their apprehension and p. 245commitment to prison, will be suspended, until some asylum is offered; and should nothing be attempted by the Legislature, for reclaiming them from their present mode of life, surely much may be done by the exertions of individuals!”

Many of the observations in the Christian Observer, and in the Northampton Mercury, are striking and pertinent, as they relate to the present state of the Gypsies in England; and the philanthropy they inculcate is honourable to the national character.  Had these benevolent individuals been acquainted with the history of the people, whose cause they plead, they would, doubtless, have suggested plans adapted to their peculiar case.  For want of this knowledge, it is not surprising that occupations in husbandry should take the lead in propositions for employing them.  The last mentioned writer, from a desire to render essential service to this people, suggests, that the Legislature should fix upon five or six stations in different parts of the kingdom, on which p. 246villages should be erected, in order that they might be employed in farming.

It will have been obvious in the survey which has been taken, and it has been already remarked, that of all occupations, agriculture is the least adapted to their genius and inclination.

It has appeared in Section IX, that Riley Smith, a chief of the Northamptonshire Gypsies, after marrying the cook out of a gentleman’s family, and obtaining a farm, quitted it, to resume musical performances.

Conformity to agricultural employments, could not be effected in Gypsies, by the most rigorous measures to which the Empress Theresa, and the Emperor Joseph II. resorted.—Much less could it be expected that persons, who, all their lives, have accustomed themselves to be in the open air, or others who have lived three parts of the year in this manner, should be induced, in open weather, to brook the restraint of houses.

Those who have houses at Kirk Yetholm, quit them in spring: men, women, and children, p. 247set out on their peregrinations over the country, and live in a state of vagrancy, until driven back to their habitations by the approach of winter; and it appears, in all countries to which the Gypsies have had access, that a similar course is pursued by them.

In a dialogue between a Curate and some Gypsies, as published in the Christian Guardian, of March, 1812, is the following question and answer:

Curate.  “Could you not by degrees bring yourselves to a more settled mode of life?

Gypsey.  I would not tell you a story, Sir; I really think I could not, having been brought up to it from a child.”

Upon this conversation, the Curate makes the following remark: “In order to do good among the Gypsies, we must conciliate their esteem, and gain their confidence.”

The plain and simple reply to the Curate, will put out of question the erection of villages, or the making of establishments for adults among them.  In mechanical operations, to which the Gypsies are most inclined, British p. 248artisans might be as averse to unite with them, as they were with the Jews.  The Spaniards, it has appeared, are unwilling to be associated with Gypsies in any kind of occupation.  Moreover, the competition of manufacturers in England, during the last fifty years, has effected by artificial means, so much saving of manual labour, and so much improvement in the division of it, that the rude operations of Gypsies, would be a subject of ridicule and contempt.

J. P., in a letter from Cambridge to the Christian Observer, very feelingly states the case of a Gypsey family, the father of which, being a travelling tinker and fiddler, intimated, he would be glad to have all his children brought up to some other mode of life, and even to embrace some other himself; but he finds a difficulty in it.  Not having been brought up in husbandry, he could not go through the labour of it; and few, if any persons, would be willing to employ [248] his children, on account of p. 249the bad character which his race bears, and from the censure and ridicule which would attach to the taking of them.”

There appears so little probability of any useful change being effected in the nomadic habits of adult Gypsies, that it seems better to bear with that propensity for some time longer, than by directly counteracting it, so disturb the minds of parents, as to indispose them to consent to the education of their children.  There are thousands of other people in the nation, who, more than half their time, live out of doors in like manner.  Were they all obliged to take out licences, this measure might operate in some degree as a check upon them; at least it would be a tacit acknowledgment of a controlling power, and might admit of some regulation of their conduct.  At present, numbers of them resemble a lawless banditti, and may not inaptly be termed, Imperium in imperio.

It appears by J. P.’s letter from Cambridge, that six years ago, he had engaged a Gypsey boy to be sent to a school on the Belleian and p. 250Lancasterian plan.  At that time, the system had been but little appropriated in the country to the instruction of girls; and the application of it to boys only, would have been doing the work by halves.  But the time seems now to have arrived, when the minds of Gypsies have generally received an impression in favor of the education, both of their sons and daughters, as has been manifest in various parts of this Survey; and that some of those who lodge in London, have been themselves at the expense of sending their children to school.  But if all of them could be thus taught, three months in a year, would not their running wild the other nine, under the influence of dissolute and unrestrained example, be likely to defeat every purpose of instruction.

Were they to be educated during the whole of the year, it is obvious that some establishment would be necessary for their maintenance and clothing.  The author of this Survey is not aware of any Institutions so much adapted to their case, as the charity schools for boys and girls, which are common to every part of the p. 251kingdom.  It is not probable that Gypsey population would furnish more than two boys, and two girls, for each of these schools.  Their being placed among a much greater number of children, and those of settled, and in some degree of civilized habits, would greatly facilitate the training of Gypsies to salutary discipline and subordination; and the associations it provided for them out of school hours, being under the superintendence of a regular family, would, in an especial manner, be favorable to their domestication.

Charity schools, by admitting children so early as at six years of age, and continuing them to fourteen, seem particularly suited to the case of Gypsies, in supplying all that is requisite until the boys are at an age to go out apprentices, and the girls to service in families.

Gypsies being the children of a whole county, if not of the nation at large, perhaps the expense of their maintenance might, without inconsistency, be defrayed out of county rates, which would prevent its being burdensome to any particular district.  By a process so simple p. 252and easy, expensive establishments on the account of Gypsies, might be entirely avoided.  And many parents among them, express a willingness to part with their children, for education, provided they were cared for in other respects.

After several centuries, a degree of solicitude being at length apparent in the Gypsies, for the improvement of their children, the time has arrived when some effectual benefit may be communicated to them.

The distribution proposed, would admit of these itinerants seeing their children once in the year.  But to extirpate Gypsey habits, education alone would not be sufficient.  Yet as there is no reason to think this people are less susceptible than others, of gainful considerations, a fund might be provided, out of which, twenty pounds should be paid with each boy, on his apprenticeship to some handicraft business, in lieu of finding him with clothes during the term.  And in consideration of its being faithfully served, five pounds might be allowed to find the young man with tools for his trade, p. 253or otherwise setting him forward in the world.  This would excite an interest in civil associations and order, which are necessary for the successful prosecution of trade; and probably, an encouragement like this, would have a greater effect in giving a new direction to Gypsey pursuits, than any coercive or restrictive measures which could be devised.  And who would not wish to contribute to the means of rescuing from ignorance and vice, such a portion of the population of their country!  Who would not be desirous of emulating in some degree, that best kind of patriotism, by which the correspondent H. of the Christian Observer, is so remarkably distinguished!

This would be an example worthy of a great nation; and is it not probable, that the prospect of so much preferment, would induce Gypsey parents, to promote to the utmost of their power, a disposition in their children to obtain it?  Cooper, a Gypsey at Chingford Green, said, “It is a pity they should be as ignorant as their fathers.”  This may be considered as the language of “help us,” accompanied with this acknowledgment, p. 254for we are unable to help ourselves;” and certainly there is but too much reason to conclude it is strictly true, respecting the instruction of this forlorn and destitute race.

According to the enumeration of Gypsey lodgers, given in Section X, their families average 5½ in number.  This exceeds by one half, what is reported to be the average of England in general.  If we take Gypsey population at 18,000, their children will be 12,000.  Supposing two-thirds of these to be under twelve years of age, there would be 8,000 to educate.  Reckoning half that number to be girls, 4,000 boys would be to be apprenticed after leaving school.  And if these, after their apprenticeship, married Gypsey girls, who had been brought up to service in families, twenty thousand useful subjects might be calculated upon as gained to the State in the first generation.

Should the efforts of individuals, require assistance from the State, to render their plans effectual; surely they may depend on the co-operation of a British legislature, to promote the p. 255cause in which they would embark!  On this point may be adduced the judicious observation of Grellmann: “If the Gypsey knows not how to make use of the faculties with which nature has intrusted him, let the State teach him, and keep him in leading strings till the end is attained.  Care being taken to improve their understandings, and to amend their hearts, they might become useful citizens; for observe them at whatever employment you may, there always appear sparks of genius.”

Every well-wisher to his country must be gratified in observing, that as soon as the conflicting tumult of nations is calmed, and the precipitations attendant on military supplies have subsided, the attention of the Legislature is turned to the investigation of some of the causes of human misery at home; and to the means of increasing the social comforts of a considerable portion of British population in the metropolis of the kingdom.  This recommencement of operations, directed to the important object for which Governments have been instituted,—the good of the people,—encourages p. 256the hope, that the most neglected and destitute of all persons in this country, whose cause we have been pleading, will not be suffered to remain much longer unnoticed and disregarded.

When at length the veil that has obscured them is once drawn aside, can British benevolence withhold its exertions, to elevate the moral tone of this degraded eastern race, and to call forth the dignity of the human character, in exchange for the strange torpor and vileness in which this people are involved.  Here an occasion presents for the display of a temper truly Christian, and for the erection of a standard to surrounding kingdoms, in which also these outcasts of society are dispersed, of that philanthropy and sound policy which are worthy of a great nation.

Such an experiment, though on a limited scale, may furnish various data for judging what may be effected for their countrymen, the countless myriads of British subjects, inhabiting the vast regions of Hindostan.

p. 257Alexander Fraser Tytler, late Assistant Judge in the twenty-four Pergunnahs, Bengal Establishment, in his highly important work, entitled, “Considerations on the present Political State of India,” after pointing out the depravity which prevails to an extraordinary degree among the population of India, states in the 313th page of the first volume, that “Poverty, or according to the definition of writers on Police, Indigence may be said to be the nurse of almost all crimes.  To find out the causes of poverty, and to attempt their removal, must therefore be the chief object of a good police.”

It has been remarked, that this author drew his conclusions, not only from what he understood of human nature in general, but from what he daily saw before him, in the circumstances and actions of the people whose crimes he was called upon to punish.  And he reasons upon the subject in the following manner: “Great poverty among the lower orders in every country, has an immediate effect in multiplying the number of petty thieves; and where the bounds of the moral principle have p. 258been once over-stepped, however trivial the first offence, the step is easy from petty theft to the greater crimes of burglary and robbery.”

May Britons in their conduct towards the Gypsies, be actuated by a policy so liberal, as to induce the rising generation among this neglected class, to attach themselves to civil society, and to enter into situations designed to inculcate habits of industry, and prepare them to become useful members of the community.

The successful experiments lately made by the British and Foreign School Society, upon persons addicted to every species of depravity, leave no doubt of the practicability of ameliorating the condition of Gypsies.  It is with pleasure that on this subject the following statement of facts is introduced, respecting two schools established in the neighbourhood of the metropolis.  One of them at Kingsland, a situation which has been termed, “A focus where the most abandoned characters constantly assembled for every species of brutal and licentious disorder.”  The other is at Bowyer-lane, near Camberwell, a district inhabited by persons p. 259of the worst description; among whom the police officers have been accustomed to look for the various kinds of offenders, who have infested the Borough of Southwark.

We are informed by the Committee of that School, that “in the district embraced by their Society, the consequences of ignorance were evident to the most superficial observer.  Parents and children, appeared alike regardless of morality and virtue; the former indulging in profligacy, and the latter exhibiting its lamentable effects.

“Did the friends of universal education require a fresh illustration, they would find it in the scene we are now contemplating; and they would confidently invite those who still entertain a doubt on the subject, to a more close and rigid examination of that scene, satisfied with the effect upon every candid and unprejudiced mind.  For, assuredly, “men do not gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles:” and when morality, decency, and order, are gradually occupying the abodes of licentiousness, misery, and guilt, the change must p. 260be attributed to some operating cause, and that cause must be derived from the Source of all Good.

“The principles of decorum, of propriety, and of virtue, are instilled into the youthful mind; and by a powerful reaction, they reach the heart of the parent; the moral atmosphere extends—its benefits are felt and appreciated—the Bible takes its proper place in the habitations of poverty; and thus in its simple, natural, and certain course, the germ of instruction yields the happy fruit of moral reformation.”

If as Grellmann computes, there are not fewer than 700,000 of these people in Europe, who do not either plough, or sow, or the greater part of them contribute in any manner to the improvement of the country, or the support of the State, what a subject is this, for the contemplation of Governments!

In reference to England, it is a beautiful exclamation of the Christian Observer: “Surely when our charity is flowing in so wide a channel, conveying the blessings of the gospel to the p. 261most distant quarters of the globe, we shall not hesitate to water this one barren and neglected field, in our own land.”  Uniting cordially in this appeal, it is a great satisfaction to be able to state, there are traits of character in this people, which encourage attention to Gypsey soil.  Let it but be cleared of weeds, and sown with good seed, and the judicious cultivator may calculate upon a crop to compensate his toil.

Greater proof of confidence, as to money transactions, not being misplaced in Gypsies need not be given, than in the testimony of the landlord at Kirk Yetholm, to William Smith, that his master knew he was as sure of their money, as if he had it in his pocket.

In Dr. Clarke’s Travels, published in the present year, Part the 2nd of Section 3rd, page 592, are the following observations respecting the Gypsies of Hungary: “The Wallachian Gypsies are not an idle race.  They might rather be described as a laborious people; and the greater part of them honestly endeavour to earn a livelihood.  It is this part of them who work as gold-washers.”

p. 262In page 637, the Doctor remarks: “The Wallachians of the Bannat, bear a very bad character, and perhaps many of the offences attributed to Gypsies, may be due to this people, who are the least civilized, and the most ferocious of all the inhabitants of Hungary.” [262]

Could grateful sensibility of favors received, and of personal attachment, be more strikingly evinced than in the promptitude of Will Faa, who when he was eighty years of age, on hearing of his landlord being unwell, undertook, at the hazard of his life, a journey of a hundred miles, to see him before he died?

The attention of Gypsies to the aged and infirm of their fraternity, is not less exhibited in the case of Ann Day, whose age is inserted in a work on human longevity, published at Salisbury in 1799.  She was aged 108, and had not slept in a bed during seventy years.  She was well known in the counties of Bedford and Herts, and having been a long time blind, she always rode upon an ass, attended by two or three of p. 263the tribe.  A friend of the author, a farmer near Baldock, who had frequently given food and straw for the old woman, says of the attendants she had, her comfort and support seemed to be their chief concern.  He considers her longevity a proof of the kindness she received.  Her interment, which was at Arsley, near Henlow, was attended by her son and daughter, the one 82, the other 85 years of age, each having great grand-children.

It must have been a satisfaction to every one interested in the improvement of human nature, to observe the number of advocates who have come forward, within the last ten years, in this country, to plead the cause of this despised and abused people.

In bringing their case before the public, the author has aimed at discharging what he thought incumbent upon him to undertake on their behalf.  He trusts that persons much more competent than himself, will be induced to give effect to whatever measures may be thought best adapted to promote the temporal, as well as spiritual benefit of this people; and p. 264that as H, the correspondent of the Christian Observer, remarks: “amidst the great light that prevails, the reproach may be wiped away from our country, of so many of its children walking in darkness, and in the shadow of death.”

Can a nation, whose diffusive philanthropy extends to the civilization of a quarter of the globe, and to the evangelization of the whole world, be regardless of any of the children of her own bosom, or suffer the pious, truly patriotic solicitude of her King, for the instruction of the meanest of his subjects to remain unaccomplished.

Many persons appear zealous to send Missionaries to convert heathens in the most distant parts of the world; when, as a late writer [264] observes, “the greatest, perhaps of all heathens, are at home, entirely neglected.”

Peace and tranquillity are favorable to the improvement of the internal condition of a country; and can Britain more unequivocally p. 265testify her gratitude for the signal favors conferred upon her, than in promoting that object for which rational beings were formed—the glory of God, and the happiness of his creatures.

In relation to the uncultivated race we have been surveying, may a guarded and religious education prove to them, as the voice crying in the wilderness: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert an highway for our God.”  The subsequent declaration, without doubt, is descriptive of what should be effected under the gospel dispensation: “The crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”—Isaiah, Chap. xl. v. 3, 4, 6.



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[82]  In the 31st page of Sir Frederick Morton Eden’s Appendix to the State of the Poor, it appears that in 1426, a hay horse, for the Prior (we may suppose of prime quality) cost £1 6s. 8d. and a colt 4s. 6d.  And in the year 1448, page 34, the hay of one acre was estimated at 5s.

[89]  Weirde, is derived from the Anglo-Saxon “wird;” i.e., fatum, or deafinie, and is used in this sense, in Hollinshed.

[94]  Ballie is a material designation in Scotland, agreeing in rank with that of Alderman in England.

[201]  Vol. vii. p. 496, 497.

[205]  Vol. vii. p. 712.

[206]  Vol. viii. p. 286.

[208]  Vol. ix. p. 82, 83.

[211]  Vol. ix. p. 278, 279, 280.

[212]  Since writing the above, a friend has informed me that Norwood is now inclosed, and has ceased to be a rendezvous of Gypsies.

[217]  Vol. ix. p. 554, 555.

[221]  Frederick Smith, of Croydon, Surry.

[231a]  Vide Crabbe’s Poems.

[231b]  See No. 104, Sunday School Tracts.

[248]  The benevolent Jonas Hanway took a Gypsey boy into his family, for the purpose of making an experiment, but the result has not come to the knowledge of the author.

[262]  At page 691, is a Vignette of Gypsies washing gold in Hungary.

[264]  Samuel Tuke, Author of a Description of the Retreat, &c.


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