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Romano Lavo-Lil Romany Dictionary Gypsy Dictionary by George Borrow

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he was born in Buckinghamshire, that he was no true Gypsy, but only
half-and-half: his father was a Gypsy, but his mother was a Gentile
of Oxford; he had never had any particular liking for the Gypsy
manner of living, and when little had been a farmer's boy. When he
grew up he enlisted into the Oxford militia, and was fourteen years a
militia soldier. He had gone much about England and Scotland in the
time of the old war, and had been in France, having volunteered to go
thither to fight against the French. He had seen Bordeaux and the
great city of Paris. After war he had taken up chair-making, and had
travelled about the country, but had been now for more than thirty
years living in London. He had been married, but his wife had long
been dead. She had borne him a son, who was now a man seventy years
of age, looking much older than himself, and at present lying sick of
a burning fever in one of the caravans. He said that at one time he
could make a good deal of money by chair-making, but now from his
great age could scarcely earn a shilling a day. "What a shame," said
I, "that a man so old as you should have to work at all!" "Courage!
courage!" he cried; "I thank God that I am strong enough to work, and
that I have good friends; I shan't be sorry to live to be a hundred
years old, though true it is that if I were a gentleman I would do no
work." His grandson, a man of about five-and-thirty, came now and
conversed with me. He was a good-looking and rather well-dressed
man, with something of a knowing card in his countenance. He said
that his grandfather was a fine old man, who had seen a great deal,
and that a great many people came to hear his stories of the old
time, of the French and American wars, and of what he had seen in
other countries. That, truth to say, there was a time when his way
was far from commendable, for that he loved to fight, swear, and make
himself drunk; but that now he was another man, that he had abandoned
all fighting and evil speaking, and, to crown all, was a tee-
totaller, he himself having made him swear that he would no more
drink either gin or ale: that he went every Sunday either to church
or Tabernacle, and that, though he did not know how to read, he loved
to hear the holy book read to him; that the gentlemen of the parish
entertained a great regard for him, and that the church clergyman
and, above all, Dr. P. of the Tabernacle had a high opinion of him,
and said that he would partake of the holy banquet with our Lord
Jesus in the blessed country above. On my inquiring whether the
Gypsies came often to see him, he said that they came now and then to
say "Good day" and "How do you do?" but that was all; that neither
his grandfather nor himself cared to see them, because they were evil
people, full of wickedness and left-handed love, and, above all, very
envyous; that in the winter they all went in a body to the gentlemen
and spoke ill of the old man, and begged the gentlemen to take from
him a blanket which the gentlemen had lent him to warm his poor old
body with in the time of the terrible cold; that it is true their
wickedness did the old man no harm, for the gentlemen told them to go
away and be ashamed of themselves, but that it was not pleasant to
think that one was of the same blood as such people. After some time
I gave the old man a small piece of silver, shook him by the hand,
said that I should be glad to see him live to be a hundred, and went
away home.


Drey the puro cheeros there jibb'd a puri Romani juva, Sinfaya laki
nav. Tatchi Romani juva i; caum'd to rokkra Romany, nav'd every mush
kokkodus, ta every mushi deya. Yeck chavo was laki; lescro nav
Artaros; dinnelo or diviou was O; romadi was lesgue; but the rommadi
merr'd, mukking leste yeck chavo. Artaros caum'd to jal oprey the
drom, and sikker his nangipen to rawnies and kair muior. At last the
ryor chiv'd leste drey the diviou ker. The chavo jibb'd with his
puri deya till he was a desch ta pantsch besh engro. Yeck divvus a
Romani juva jalling along the drom dick'd the puri juva beshing tuley
a bor roving: What's the matter, Sinfaya, pukker'd i?

My chavo's chavo is lell'd oprey, deya.
What's he lell'd oprey for?
For a meila and posh, deya.
Why don't you jal to dick leste?
I have nash'd my maila, deya.
O ma be tugni about your maila; jal and dick leste.

I don't jin kah se, deya! diviou kokkodus Artaros jins, kek mande.
Ah diviou, diviou, jal amande callico.


Romano chavo was manging sar bori gudli yeck rye te del les pasherro.
Lescri deya so was beshing kek dur from odoy penn'd in gorgikey
rokrapen: Meklis juggal, ta av acoi! ma kair the rye kinyo with your
gudli! and then penn'd sig in Romany jib: Mang, Prala, mang! Ta o
chavo kair'd ajaw till the rye chiv'd les yeck shohaury.

[Something like the following little anecdote is related by the
Gypsies in every part of Continental Europe.]


A Gypsy brat was once pestering a gentleman to give him a halfpenny.
The mother, who was sitting nigh, cried in English: Leave off, you
dog, and come here! don't trouble the gentleman with your noise; and
then added in Romany: Beg on, brother! and so the brat did, till the
gentleman flung him a sixpence.



Coin si deya, coin se dado?
Pukker mande drey Romanes,
Ta mande pukkeravava tute.

Rossar-mescri minri deya!
Vardo-mescro minro dado!
Coin se dado, coin si deya?
Mande's pukker'd tute drey Romanes;
Knau pukker tute mande.

Petuiengro minro dado!
Purana minri deya!
Tatchey Romany si men -
Mande's pukker'd tute drey Romanes,
Ta tute's pukker'd mande.


Who's your mother, who's your father?
Do thou answer me in Romany,
And I will answer thee.

A Hearne I have for mother!
A Cooper for my father!
Who's your father, who's your mother?
I have answer'd thee in Romany,
Now do thou answer me.

A Smith I have for father!
A Lee I have for mother!
True Romans both are we -
For I've answer'd thee in Romany,
And thou hast answer'd me.


"Av, my little Romany chel!
Av along with mansar!
Av, my little Romany chel!
Koshto si for mangue."

"I shall lel a curapen,
If I jal aley;
I shall lel a curapen
From my dear bebee."

"I will jal on my chongor,
Then I'll pootch your bebee.
'O my dear bebee, dey me your chi,
For koshto si for mangue.'

"'Since you pootch me for my chi,
I will dey you lati.'"
Av, my little Romany chel!
We will jal to the wafu tem:

"I will chore a beti gry,
And so we shall lel cappi."
"Kekko, meero mushipen,
For so you would be stardo;

"But I will jal a dukkering,
And so we shall lel cappi."
"Koshto, my little Romany chel!
Koshto si for mangue."


"Come along, my little gypsy girl,
Come along, my little dear;
Come along, my little gypsy girl -
We'll wander far and near."

"I should get a leathering
Should I with thee go;
I should get a leathering
From my dear aunt, I trow."

"I'll go down on my two knees,
And I will beg your aunt.
'O auntie dear, give me your child;
She's just the girl I want!'

"'Since you ask me for my child,
I will not say thee no!'
Come along, my little gypsy girl!
To another land we'll go:

"I will steal a little horse,
And our fortunes make thereby."
"Not so, my little gypsy boy,
For then you'd swing on high;

"But I'll a fortune-telling go,
And our fortunes make thereby."
"Well said, my little gypsy girl,
You counsel famously."


"Av, my little Rumni chel,
Av along with mansar;
We will jal a gry-choring
Pawdle across the chumba.

"I'll jaw tuley on my chongor
To your deya and your bebee;
And I'll pootch lende that they del
Tute to me for romadi."

"I'll jaw with thee, my Rumni chal,
If my dye and bebee muk me;
But choring gristurs traishes me,
For it brings one to the rukie.

"'Twere ferreder that you should ker,
Petuls and I should dukker,
For then adrey our tanney tan,
We kek atraish may sova."

"Kusko, my little Rumni chel,
Your rokrapen is kusko;
We'll dukker and we'll petuls ker
Pawdle across the chumba.

"O kusko si to chore a gry
Adrey the kaulo rarde;
But 'tis not kosko to be nash'd
Oprey the nashing rukie."


"Come along, my little gypsy girl,
Come along with me, I pray!
A-stealing horses we will go,
O'er the hills so far away.

"Before your mother and your aunt
I'll down upon my knee,
And beg they'll give me their little girl
To be my Romadie."

"I'll go with you, my gypsy boy,
If my mother and aunt agree;
But a perilous thing is horse-stealinge,
For it brings one to the tree.

"'Twere better you should tinkering ply,
And I should fortunes tell;
For then within our little tent
In safety we might dwell."

"Well said, my little gypsy girl,
I like well what you say;
We'll tinkering ply, and fortunes tell
O'er the hills so far away.

"'Tis a pleasant thing in a dusky night
A horse-stealing to go;
But to swing in the wind on the gallows-tree,
Is no pleasant thing, I trow."


Dui Romany Chals were bitcheney,
Bitcheney pawdle the bori pawnee.
Plato for kawring,
Lasho for choring
The putsi of a bori rawnee.

And when they well'd to the wafu tem,
The tem that's pawdle the bori pawnee,
Plato was nasho
Sig, but Lasho
Was lell'd for rom by a bori rawnee.

You cam to jin who that rawnie was,
'Twas the rawnie from whom he chor'd the putsee:
The Chal had a black
Chohauniskie yack,
And she slomm'd him pawdle the bori pawnee.


Two Gypsy lads were transported,
Were sent across the great water.
Plato was sent for rioting,
And Louis for stealing the purse
Of a great lady.

And when they came to the other country,
The country that lies across the great water,
Plato was speedily hung,
But Louis was taken as a husband
By a great lady.

You wish to know who was the lady,
'Twas the lady from whom he stole the purse:
The Gypsy had a black and witching eye,
And on account of that she followed him
Across the great water.


As I was a jawing to the gav yeck divvus
I met on the drom miro Romany chi;
I pootch'd las whether she come sar mande,
And she penn'd tu sar wafo rommadis;
O mande there is kek wafo romady,
So penn'd I to miro Romany chi,
And I'll kair tute miro tatcho romadi
If you but pen tu come sar mande.


As I to the town was going one day
My Roman lass I met by the way;
Said I: Young maid, will you share my lot?
Said she: Another wife you've got.
Ah no! to my Roman lass I cried:
No wife have I in the world so wide,
And you my wedded wife shall be
If you will consent to come with me.


Hokka tute mande
Mande pukkra bebee
Mande shauvo tute -
Ava, Chi!


If to me you prove untrue,
Quickly I'll your auntie tell
I've been over-thick with you -
Yes, my girl, I will.


Penn'd the temeskoe rye to the Romany chi,
As the choon was dicking prey lende dui:
Rinkeny tawni, Romany rawni,
Mook man choom teero gudlo mui.


Said the youthful earl to the Gypsy girl,
As the moon was casting its silver shine:
Brown little lady, Egyptian lady,
Let me kiss those sweet lips of thine.


Pawnie birks
My men-engni shall be;
Yackors my dudes
Like ruppeney shine:
Atch meery chi!
Ma jal away:
Perhaps I may not dick tute
Kek komi.


I'd choose as pillows for my head
Those snow-white breasts of thine;
I'd use as lamps to light my bed
Those eyes of silver shine:
O lovely maid, disdain me not,
Nor leave me in my pain:
Perhaps 'twill never be my lot
To see thy face again.


I'm jalling across the pani -
A choring mas and morro,
Along with a bori lubbeny,
And she has been the ruin of me.

I sov'd yeck rarde drey a gran,
A choring mas and morro,
Along with a bori lubbeny,
And she has been the ruin of me.

She pootch'd me on the collico,
A choring mas and morro,
To jaw with lasa to the show,
For she would be the ruin of me.

And when I jaw'd odoy with lasa,
A choring mas and morro,
Sig she chor'd a rawnie's kissi,
And so she was the ruin of me.

They lell'd up lata, they lell'd up mande,
A choring mas and morro,
And bitch'd us dui pawdle pani,
So she has been the ruin of me.

I'm jalling across the pani,
A choring mas and morro,
Along with a bori lubbeny,
And she has been the ruin of me.


I'm sailing across the water,
A-stealing bread and meat so free,
Along with a precious harlot,
And she has been the ruin of me.

I slept one night within a barn,
A-stealing bread and meat so free,
Along with a precious harlot,
And she has been the ruin of me.

Next morning she would have me go,
A-stealing bread and meat so free,
To see with her the wild-beast show,
For she would be the ruin of me.

I went with her to see the show,
A-stealing bread and meat so free,
To steal a purse she was not slow,
And so she was the ruin of me.

They took us up, and with her I,
A-stealing bread and meat so free:
Am sailing now to Botany,
So she has been the ruin of me.

I'm sailing across the water,
A-stealing bread and meat so free,
Along with a precious harlot,
And she has been the ruin of me.


The rye he mores adrey the wesh
The kaun-engro and chiriclo;
You sovs with leste drey the wesh,
And rigs for leste the gono.

Oprey the rukh adrey the wesh
Are chiriclo and chiricli;
Tuley the rukh adrey the wesh
Are pireno and pireni.


The squire he roams the good greenwood,
And shoots the pheasant and the hare;
Thou sleep'st with him in good green wood,
And dost for him the game-sack bear.

I see, I see upon the tree
The little male and female dove;
Below the tree I see, I see
The lover and his lady love.


Jaw to sutturs, my tiny chal;
Your die to dukker has jall'd abri;
At rarde she will wel palal
And tute of her tud shall pie.

Jaw to lutherum, tiny baw!
I'm teerie deya's purie mam;
As tute cams her tud canaw
Thy deya meerie tud did cam.


Sleep thee, little tawny boy!
Thy mother's gone abroad to spae,
Her kindly milk thou shalt enjoy
When home she comes at close of day.

Sleep thee, little tawny guest!
Thy mother is my daughter fine;
As thou dost love her kindly breast,
She once did love this breast of mine.


Finor coachey innar Lundra,
Bonor coachey innar Lundra,
Finor coachey, bonor coachey
Mande dick'd innar Lundra.

Bonor, finor coachey
Mande dick'd innar Lundra
The divvus the Kralyissa jall'd
To congri innar Lundra.


Coaches fine in London,
Coaches good in London,
Coaches fine and coaches good
I did see in London.

Coaches good and coaches fine
I did see in London,
The blessed day our blessed Queen
Rode to church in London.


Gare yourselves, pralor!
Ma pee kek-komi!
The guero's welling -
Plastra lesti!


Up, up, brothers!
Cease your revels!
The Gentile's coming -
Run like devils!


Oy die-la, oy mama-la oy!
Cherie podey mangue penouri.
Russian Gypsy Song.


Her temples they are aching,
As if wine she had been taking;
Her tears are ever springing,
Abandoned is her singing!
She can neither eat nor nest
With love she's so distress'd;
At length she's heard to say:
"Oh here I cannot stay,
Go saddle me my steed,
To my lord I must proceed;
In his palace plenteously
Both eat and drink shall I;
The servants far and wide,
Bidding guests shall run and ride.
And when within the hall the multitude I see,
I'll raise my voice anew, and sing in Romany."


Un erajai
Sinaba chibando un sermon;
Y lle falta un balicho
Al chindomar de aquel gao,
Y lo chanelaba que los Cales
Lo abian nicabao;
Y penela l'erajai, "Chaboro!
Guillate a tu quer
Y nicabela la peri
Que terela el balicho,
Y chibela andro
Una lima de tun chabori,
Una lima de tun chabori."


A Friar
Was preaching once with zeal and with fire;
And a butcher of the town
Had lost a flitch of bacon;
And well the friar knew
That the Gypsies it had taken;
So suddenly he shouted: "Gypsy, ho!
Hie home, and from the pot!
Take the flitch of bacon out,
The flitch good and fat,
And in its place throw
A clout, a dingy clout of thy brat,
Of thy brat,
A clout, a dingy clout of thy brat."


Chalo Malbrun chingarar,
Birandon, birandon, birandera!
Chalo Malbrun chingarar;
No se bus trutera!
No se bus trutera!

La romi que le camela,
Birandon, birandon, birandera!
La romi que le camela
Muy curepenada esta,
Muy curepenada esta.

S'ardela a la felicha,
Birandon, birandon, birandera!
S'ardela a la felicha
Y baribu dur dica,
Y baribu dur dica.

Dica abillar su burno,
Birandon, birandon, birandera!
Dica abillar su burno,
En ropa callarda,
En ropa callarda.

"Burno, lacho quirbo;
Birandon, birandon, birandera!
Burno, lacho quiribo,
Que nuevas has dinar?
Que nuevas has dinar?"

"Las nuevas que io terelo,
Birandon, birandon, birandera!
Las nuevas que io terelo
Te haran orobar,
Te haran orobar.

"Mero Malbrun mi eray,
Birandon, birandon, birandera!
Mero Malbrun mi eray
Mero en la chinga,
Mero en la chinga.

"Sinaba a su entierro,
Birandon, birandon, birandera!
Sinaba a su entierro
La plastani sara,
La plastani sara.

"Seis guapos jundunares,
Birandon, birandon, birandera!
Seis guapos jundunares
Le llevaron cabanar,
Le llevaron cabanar.

"Delante de la jestari,
Birandon, birandon, birandera!
Delante de la jestari
Chalo el sacrista,
Chalo el sacrista.

"El sacrista delante,
Birandon, birandon, birandera!
El sacrista delante,
Y el errajai pala,
Y el errajai pala.

"Al majaro ortalame,
Birandon, birandon, birandera!
Al majaro ortalame
Le llevaron cabanar,
Le llevaron cabanar.

"Y ote le cabanaron
Birandon, birandon, birandera!
Y ote le cabanaron
No dur de la burda,
No dur de la burda.

"Y opre de la jestari
Birandon, birandon, birandera!
Guillabela un chilindrote;
Soba en paz, soba!
Soba en paz, soba!


Malbrouk is gone to the wars,
Birrandon, birrandon, birrandera!
Malbrouk is gone to the wars;
He'll never return no more!
He'll never return no more!

His lady-love and darling,
Birrandon, birrandon, birrandera
His lady-love and darling
His absence doth deplore,
His absence doth deplore.

To the turret's top she mounted,
Birrandon, birrandon, birrandera!
To the turret's top she mounted
And look'd till her eyes were sore,
And look'd till her eyes were sore.

She saw his squire a-coming,
Birrandon, birrandon, birrandera!
She saw his squire a-coming;
And a mourning suit he wore,
And a mourning suit he wore.

"O squire, my trusty fellow;
Birrandon, birrandon, birrandera!
O squire, my trusty fellow,
What news of my soldier poor?
What news of my soldier poor?"

"The news which I bring thee, lady,
Birrandon, birrandon, birrandera!
The news which I bring thee, lady,
Will cause thy tears to shower,
Will cause thy tears to shower.

"Malbrouk my master's fallen,
Birrandon, birrandon, birrandera!
Malbrouk my master's fallen,
He fell on the fields of gore,
He fell on the fields of gore.

"His funeral attended,
Birrandon, birrandon, birrandera!
His funeral attended
The whole reg'mental corps,
The whole reg'mental corps.

"Six neat and proper soldiers,
Birrandon, birrandon, birrandera!
Six neat and proper soldiers
To the grave my master bore,
To the grave my master bore.

"The parson follow'd the coffin,
Birrandon, birrandon, birrandera!
The parson follow'd the coffin,
And the sexton walk'd before,
And the sexton walk'd before.

"They buried him in the churchyard,
Birrandon, birrandon, birrandera!
They buried him in the churchyard,
Not far from the church's door,
Not far from the church's door.

"And there above his coffin,
Birrandon, birrandon, birrandera!
There sings a little swallow:
Sleep there, thy toils are o'er,
Sleep there, thy toils are o'er."



The Romany Chals
Should jin so bute
As the Puro Beng
To scape of gueros
And wafo gorgies
The wafodupen.

They lels our gryor,
They lels our wardoes,
And wusts us then
Drey starripenes
To mer of pishens
And buklipen.

Cauna volelan
Muley pappins
Pawdle the len
Men artavavam
Of gorgio foky
The wafodupen.
Ley teero sollohanloinus opreylis!


The wit and the skill
Of the Father of ill,
Who's clever indeed,
If they would hope
With their foes to cope
The Romany need.

Our horses they take,
Our waggons they break,
And us they fling
Into horrid cells,
Where hunger dwells
And vermin sting.

When the dead swallow
The fly shall follow
Across the river,
O we'll forget
The wrongs we've met,
But till then O never:
Brother, of that be certain.

The English Gypsies call themselves Romany Chals and Romany Chies,
that is, Sons and Daughters of Rome. When speaking to each other,
they say "Pal" and "Pen"; that is, brother and sister. All people
not of their own blood they call "Gorgios," or Gentiles. Gypsies
first made their appearance in England about the year 1480. They
probably came from France, where tribes of the race had long been
wandering about under the names of Bohemians and Egyptians. In
England they pursued the same kind of merripen {3} which they and
their ancestors had pursued on the Continent. They roamed about in
bands, consisting of thirty, sixty, or ninety families, with light,
creaking carts, drawn by horses and donkeys, encamping at night in
the spots they deemed convenient. The women told fortunes at the
castle of the baron and the cottage of the yeoman; filched gold and
silver coins from the counters of money-changers; caused the death of
hogs in farmyards, by means of a stuff called drab or drao, which
affects the brain, but does not corrupt the blood; and subsequently
begged, and generally obtained, the carcases. The men plied
tinkering and brasiery, now and then stole horses, and occasionally
ventured upon highway robbery. The writer has here placed the Chies
before the Chals, because, as he has frequently had occasion to
observe, the Gypsy women are by far more remarkable beings than the
men. It is the Chi and not the Chal who has caused the name of Gypsy
to be a sound awaking wonder, awe, and curiosity in every part of the
civilised world. Not that there have never been remarkable men of
the Gypsy race both abroad and at home. Duke Michael, as he was
called, the leader of the great Gypsy horde which suddenly made its
appearance in Germany at the beginning of the fifteenth century, was
no doubt a remarkable man; the Gitano Condre, whom Martin del Rio met
at Toledo a hundred years afterwards, who seemed to speak all
languages, and to be perfectly acquainted with the politics of all
the Courts of Europe, must certainly have been a remarkable man; so,
no doubt, here at home was Boswell; so undoubtedly was Cooper, called
by the gentlemen of the Fives Court--poor fellows! they are all gone
now--the "wonderful little Gypsy";--but upon the whole the poetry,
the sorcery, the devilry, if you please to call it so, are vastly on
the side of the women. How blank and inanimate is the countenance of
the Gypsy man, even when trying to pass off a foundered donkey as a
flying dromedary, in comparison with that of the female Romany,
peering over the wall of a par-yard at a jolly hog!

Sar shin Sinfye?
Koshto divvus, Romany Chi!
So shan tute kairing acoi?

Sinfye, Sinfye! how do you do?
Daughter of Rome, good day to you!
What are you thinking here to do?

After a time the evil practices of the Gypsies began to be noised
about, and terrible laws were enacted against people "using the
manner of Egyptians"--Chies were scourged by dozens, Chals hung by
scores. Throughout the reign of Elizabeth there was a terrible
persecution of the Gypsy race; far less, however, on account of the
crimes which they actually committed, than from a suspicion which was
entertained that they harboured amidst their companies priests and
emissaries of Rome, who had come to England for the purpose of sowing
sedition and inducing the people to embrace again the old discarded
superstition. This suspicion, however, was entirely without
foundation. The Gypsies call each other brother and sister, and are
not in the habit of admitting to their fellowship people of a
different blood and with whom they have no sympathy. There was,
however, a description of wandering people at that time, even as
there is at present, with whom the priests, who are described as
going about, sometimes disguised as serving-men, sometimes as broken
soldiers, sometimes as shipwrecked mariners, would experience no
difficulty in associating, and with whom, in all probability, they
occasionally did associate--the people called in Acts of Parliament
sturdy beggars and vagrants, in the old cant language Abraham men,
and in the modern Pikers. These people have frequently been
confounded with the Gypsies, but are in reality a distinct race,
though they resemble the latter in some points. They roam about like
the Gypsies, and, like them, have a kind of secret language. But the
Gypsies are a people of Oriental origin, whilst the Abrahamites are
the scurf of the English body corporate. The language of the Gypsies
is a real language, more like the Sanscrit than any other language in
the world; whereas the speech of the Abrahamites is a horrid jargon,
composed for the most part of low English words used in an
allegorical sense--a jargon in which a stick is called a crack; a
hostess, a rum necklace; a bar-maid, a dolly-mort; brandy, rum booze;
a constable, a horny. But enough of these Pikers, these Abrahamites.
Sufficient to observe that if the disguised priests associated with
wandering companies it must have been with these people, who admit
anybody to their society, and not with the highly exclusive race the

For nearly a century and a half after the death of Elizabeth the
Gypsies seem to have been left tolerably to themselves, for the laws
are almost silent respecting them. Chies, no doubt, were
occasionally scourged for cauring, that is filching gold and silver
coins, and Chals hung for grychoring, that is horse-stealing; but
those are little incidents not much regarded in Gypsy merripen. They
probably lived a life during the above period tolerably satisfactory
to themselves--they are not an ambitious people, and there is no word
for glory in their language--but next to nothing is known respecting
them. A people called Gypsies are mentioned, and to a certain extent
treated of, in two remarkable works--one a production of the
seventeenth, the other of the eighteenth century--the first entitled
the 'English Rogue, or the Adventures of Merriton Latroon,' the other
the 'Life of Bamfield Moore Carew'; but those works, though clever
and entertaining, and written in the raciest English, are to those
who seek for information respecting Gypsies entirely valueless, the
writers having evidently mistaken for Gypsies the Pikers or
Abrahamites, as the vocabularies appended to the histories, and which
are professedly vocabularies of the Gypsy language, are nothing of
the kind, but collections of words and phrases belonging to the
Abrahamite or Piker jargon. At the commencement of the last century,
and for a considerable time afterwards, there was a loud cry raised
against the Gypsy women for stealing children. This cry, however,
was quite as devoid of reason as the suspicion entertained of old
against the Gypsy communities of harbouring disguised priests. Gypsy
women, as the writer had occasion to remark many a long year ago,
have plenty of children of their own, and have no wish to encumber
themselves with those of other people. A yet more extraordinary
charge was, likewise, brought against them--that of running away with
wenches. Now, the idea of Gypsy women running away with wenches!
Where were they to stow them in the event of running away with them?
and what were they to do with them in the event of being able to stow
them? Nevertheless, two Gypsy women were burnt in the hand in the
most cruel and frightful manner, somewhat about the middle of the
last century, and two Gypsy men, their relations, sentenced to be
hanged, for running away with a certain horrible wench of the name of
Elizabeth Canning, who, to get rid of a disgraceful burden, had left
her service and gone into concealment for a month, and on her return,
in order to account for her absence, said that she had been run away
with by Gypsies. The men, however, did not undergo their sentence;
for, ere the day appointed for their execution arrived, suspicions
beginning to be entertained with respect to the truth of the wench's
story, they were reprieved, and, after a little time, the atrocious
creature, who had charged people with doing what they neither did nor
dreamt of doing, was tried for perjury, convicted, and sentenced to
transportation. Yet so great is English infatuation that this
Canning, this Elizabeth, had a host of friends, who stood by her, and
swore by her to the last, and almost freighted the ship which carried
her away with goods, the sale of which enabled her to purchase her
freedom of the planter to whom she was consigned, to establish
herself in business, and to live in comfort, and almost in luxury, in
the New World during the remainder of her life.

But though Gypsies have occasionally experienced injustice; though
Patricos and Sherengroes were hanged by dozens in Elizabeth's time on
suspicion of harbouring disguised priests; though Gypsy women in the
time of the Second George, accused of running away with wenches, were
scorched and branded, there can be no doubt that they live in almost
continual violation of the laws intended for the protection of
society; and it may be added, that in this illegal way of life the
women have invariably played a more important part than the men. Of
them, amongst other things, it may be said that they are the most
accomplished swindlers in the world, their principal victims being
people of their own sex, on whose credulity and superstition they
practise. Mary Caumlo, or Lovel, was convicted a few years ago at
Cardiff of having swindled a surgeon's wife of eighty pounds, under
pretence of propitiating certain planets by showing them the money.
Not a penny of the booty was ever recovered by the deluded victim;
and the Caumli, on leaving the dock, after receiving sentence of a
year's imprisonment, turned round and winked to some brother or
sister in court, as much as to say: "Mande has gared the luvvu;
mande is kek atugni for the besh's starripen"--"I have hid the money,
and care nothing for the year's imprisonment." Young Rawnie P. of
N., the daughter of old Rawnie P., suddenly disappeared with the
whole capital of an aged and bedridden gentlewoman, amounting to
nearly three hundred pounds, whom she had assured that if she were
intrusted with it for a short time she should be able to gather
certain herbs, from which she could make decoctions, which would
restore to the afflicted gentlewoman all her youthful vigour. Mrs.
Townsley of the Border was some time ago in trouble at Wick, only
twenty-five miles distant from Johnny Groat's House, on a charge of
fraudulently obtaining from a fisherman's wife one shilling, two
half-crowns, and a five-pound note by promising to untie certain
witch-locks, which she had induced her to believe were entwined in
the meshes of the fisherman's net, and would, if suffered to remain,
prevent him from catching a single herring in the Firth. These
events occurred within the last few years, and are sufficiently
notorious. They form a triad out of dozens of a similar kind, in
some of which there are features so odd, so strangely droll, that
indignation against the offence is dispelled by an irresistible
desire to laugh.

But Gypsyism is declining, and its days are numbered. There is a
force abroad which is doomed to destroy it, a force which never
sleepeth either by day or night, and which will not allow the Roman
people rest for the soles of their feet. That force is the Rural
Police, which, had it been established at the commencement instead of
towards the middle of the present century, would have put down
Gypsyism long ago. But, recent as its establishment has been,
observe what it has produced. Walk from London to Carlisle, but
neither by the road's side, nor on heath or common, will you see a
single Gypsy tent. True Gypsyism consists in wandering about, in
preying upon the Gentiles, but not living amongst them. But such a
life is impossible in these days; the Rural Force will not permit it.
"It is a hard thing, brother," said old Agamemnon Caumlo to the
writer, several years ago; "it is a hard thing, after one has pitched
one's little tent, lighted one's little fire, and hung one's kettle
by the kettle-iron over it to boil, to have an inspector or constable
come up, and say, 'What are you doing here? Take yourself off, you
Gypsy dog!'" A hard thing, indeed, old Agamemnon; but there is no
help for it. You must e'en live amongst the Gorgios. And for years
past the Gypsies have lived amongst the Gorgios, and what has been
the result? They do not seem to have improved the Gentiles, and have
certainly not been improved by them. By living amongst the Gentiles
they have, to a certain extent, lost the only two virtues they
possessed. Whilst they lived apart on heaths and commons, and in
shadowy lanes, the Gypsy women were paragons of chastity, and the
men, if not exactly patterns of sobriety, were, upon the whole, very
sober fellows. Such terms, however, are by no means applicable to
them at the present day. Sects and castes, even of thieves and
murderers, can exist as long as they have certain virtues, which give
them a kind of respect in their own eyes; but, losing those virtues,
they soon become extinct. When the salt loses its savour, what
becomes of it? The Gypsy salt has not altogether lost its savour,
but that essential quality is every day becoming fainter, so that
there is every reason to suppose that within a few years the English
Gypsy caste will have disappeared, merged in the dregs of the English


There are many curious things connected with the Gypsies, but perhaps
nothing more so than what pertains to their names. They have a
double nomenclature, each tribe or family having a public and a
private name, one by which they are known to the Gentiles, and
another to themselves alone. Their public names are quite English;
their private ones attempts, some of them highly singular and
uncouth, to render those names by Gypsy equivalents. Gypsy names may
be divided into two classes, names connected with trades, and
surnames or family names. First of all, something about trade names.

There are only two names of trades which have been adopted by English
Gypsies as proper names, Cooper and Smith: these names are expressed
in the English Gypsy dialect by Vardo-mescro and Petulengro. The
first of these renderings is by no means a satisfactory one, as
Vardo-mescro means a cartwright, or rather a carter. To speak the
truth, it would be next to impossible to render the word 'cooper'
into English Gypsy, or indeed into Gypsy of any kind; a cooper,
according to the common acceptation of the word, is one who makes
pails, tubs, and barrels, but there are no words in Gypsy for such
vessels. The Transylvanian Gypsies call a cooper a bedra-kero or
pail-maker, but bedra is not Gypsy, but Hungarian, and the English
Gypsies might with equal propriety call a cooper a pail-engro. On
the whole the English Gypsies did their best when they rendered
'cooper' into their language by the word for 'cartwright.'

Petulengro, the other trade name, is borne by the Gypsies who are
known to the public by the English appellation of Smith. It is not
very easy to say what is the exact meaning of Petulengro: it must
signify, however, either horseshoe-fellow or tinker: petali or
petala signifies in Gypsy a horseshoe, and is probably derived from
the Modern Greek [Greek: ]; engro is an affix, and is either derived
from or connected with the Sanscrit kara, to make, so that with great
feasibility Petulengro may be translated horseshoe-maker. But bedel
in Hebrew means 'tin,' and as there is little more difference between
petul and bedel than between petul and petalon, Petulengro may be
translated with almost equal feasibility by tinker or tin-worker,
more especially as tinkering is a principal pursuit of Gypsies, and
to jal petulengring signifies to go a-tinkering in English Gypsy.
Taken, however, in either sense, whether as horseshoe-maker or tin-
worker (and, as has been already observed, it must mean one or the
other), Petulengro may be considered as a tolerably fair rendering of
the English Smith.

So much for the names of the Gypsies which the writer has ventured to
call the trade names; now for those of the other class. These are
English surnames, and for the most part of a highly aristocratic
character, and it seems at first surprising that people so poor and
despised as Gypsies should be found bearing names so time-honoured
and imposing. There is, however, a tolerable explanation of the
matter in the supposition that on their first arrival in England the
different tribes sought the protection of certain grand powerful
families, and were permitted by them to locate themselves on their
heaths and amid their woodlands, and that they eventually adopted the
names of their patrons. Here follow the English names of some of the
principal tribes, with the Romany translations or equivalents:-

BOSWELL.--The proper meaning of this word is the town of Bui. The
initial Bo or Bui is an old Northern name, signifying a colonist or
settler, one who tills and builds. It was the name of a great many
celebrated Northern kempions, who won land and a home by hard blows.
The last syllable, well, is the French ville: Boswell, Boston, and
Busby all signify one and the same thing--the town of Bui--the well
being French, the ton Saxon, and the by Danish; they are half-
brothers of Bovil and Belville, both signifying fair town, and which
ought to be written Beauville and Belville. The Gypsies, who know
and care nothing about etymologies, confounding bos with buss, a
vulgar English verb not to be found in dictionaries, which signifies
to kiss, rendered the name Boswell by Chumomisto, that is, Kisswell,
or one who kisses well--choom in their language signifying to kiss,
and misto well--likewise by choomomescro, a kisser. Vulgar as the
word buss may sound at present, it is by no means of vulgar origin,
being connected with the Latin basio and the Persian bouse.

GREY.--This is the name of a family celebrated in English history.
The Gypsies who adopted it, rendered it into their language by Gry, a
word very much resembling it in sound, though not in sense, for gry,
which is allied to the Sanscrit ghora, signifies a horse. They had
no better choice, however, for in Romany there is no word for grey,
any more than there is for green or blue. In several languages there
is a difficulty in expressing the colour which in English is called
grey. In Celtic, for instance, there is no definite word for it;
glas, it is true, is used to express it, but glas is as frequently
used to express green as it is to express grey.

HEARNE, HERNE.--This is the name of a family which bears the heron
for its crest, the name being either derived from the crest, or the
crest from the name. There are two Gypsy renderings of the word--
Rossar-mescro or Ratzie-mescro, and Balorengre. Rossar-mescro
signifies duck-fellow, the duck being substituted for the heron, for
which there is no word in Romany. The meaning of Balor-engre is
hairy people; the translator or translators seeming to have
confounded Hearne with 'haaren,' old English for hairs. The latter
rendering has never been much in use.

LEE.--The Gypsy name of this tribe is Purrum, sometimes pronounced
Purrun. The meaning of Purrurn is an onion, and it may be asked what
connection can there be between Lee and onion? None whatever: but
there is some resemblance in sound between Lee and leek, and it is
probable that the Gypsies thought so, and on that account rendered
the name by Purrum, which, if not exactly a leek, at any rate
signifies something which is cousin-german to a leek. It must be
borne in mind that in some parts of England the name Lee is spelt
Legh and Leigh, which would hardly be the case if at one time it had
not terminated in something like a guttural, so that when the Gypsies
rendered the name, perhaps nearly four hundred years ago, it sounded
very much like 'leek,' and perhaps was Leek, a name derived from the
family crest. At first the writer was of opinion that the name was
Purrun, a modification of pooro, which in the Gypsy language
signifies old, but speedily came to the conclusion that it must be
Purrum, a leek or onion; for what possible reason could the Gypsies
have for rendering Lee by a word which signifies old or ancient?
whereas by rendering it by Purrum, they gave themselves a Gypsy name,
which, if it did not signify Lee, must to their untutored minds have
seemed a very good substitute for Lee. The Gypsy word pooro, old,
belongs to Hindostan, and is connected with the Sanscrit pura, which
signifies the same. Purrum is a modification of the Wallachian pur,
a word derived from the Latin porrum, an onion, and picked up by the
Gypsies in Roumania or Wallachia, the natives of which region speak a
highly curious mixture of Latin and Sclavonian.

LOVEL.--This is the name or title of an old and powerful English
family. The meaning of it is Leo's town, Lowe's town, or Louis'
town. The Gypsies, who adopted it, seem to have imagined that it had
something to do with love, for they translated it by Camlo or Caumlo,
that which is lovely or amiable, and also by Camomescro, a lover, an
amorous person, sometimes used for 'friend.' Camlo is connected with
the Sanscrit Cama, which signifies love, and is the appellation of
the Hindoo god of love. A name of the same root as the one borne by
that divinity was not altogether inapplicable to the Gypsy tribe who
adopted it: Cama, if all tales be true, was black, black though
comely, a Beltenebros, and the Lovel tribe is decidedly the most
comely and at the same time the darkest of all the Anglo-Egyptian
families. The faces of many of them, male and female, are perfect
specimens of black beauty. They are generally called by the race the
Kaulo Camloes, the Black Comelies. And here, though at the risk of
being thought digressive, the writer cannot forbear saying that the
darkest and at one time the comeliest of all the Caumlies, a
celebrated fortune-teller, and an old friend of his, lately expired
in a certain old town, after attaining an age which was something
wonderful. She had twenty-one brothers and sisters, and was the
eldest of the family, on which account she was called "Rawnie P.,
pooroest of bis ta dui," Lady P.--she had married out of the family--
eldest of twenty-two.

MARSHALL.--The name Marshall has either to do with marshal, the title
of a high military personage, or marches, the borders of contiguous
countries. In the early Norman period it was the name of an Earl of
Pembroke. The Gypsies who adopted the name seem in translating it to
have been of opinion that it was connected with marshes, for they
rendered it by mokkado tan engre, fellows of the wet or miry place,
an appellation which at one time certainly became them well, for they
are a northern tribe belonging to the Border, a country not very long
ago full of mosses and miry places. Though calling themselves
English, they are in reality quite as much Scotch as English, and as
often to be found in Scotland as the other country, especially in
Dumfriesshire and Galloway, in which latter region, in Saint
Cuthbert's churchyard, lies buried 'the old man' of the race,--
Marshall, who died at the age of 107. They sometimes call themselves
Bungyoror and Chikkeneymengre, cork-fellows and china people, which
names have reference to the occupations severally followed by the
males and females, the former being cutters of bungs and corks, and
the latter menders of china.

STANLEY.--This is the name or title of an ancient English family
celebrated in history. It is probably descriptive of their original
place of residence, for it signifies the stony lea, which is also the
meaning of the Gaelic Auchinlech, the place of abode of the Scottish
Boswells. It was adopted by an English Gypsy tribe, at one time very
numerous, but at present much diminished. Of this name there are two
renderings into Romany; one is Baryor or Baremescre, stone-folks or
stonemasons, the other is Beshaley. The first requires no comment,
but the second is well worthy of analysis, as it is an example of the
strange blunders which the Gypsies sometimes make in their attempts
at translation. When they rendered Stanley by Beshaley or Beshley,
they mistook the first syllable stan for 'stand,' but for a very good
reason rendered it by besh, which signifies 'to sit, and the second
for a word in their own language, for ley or aley in Gypsy signifies
'down,' so they rendered Stanley by Beshley or Beshaley, which
signifies 'sit down.' Here, of course, it will be asked what reason
could have induced them, if they mistook stan for 'stand,' not to
have rendered it by the Gypsy word for 'stand'? The reason was a
very cogent one, the want of a word in the Gypsy language to express
'stand'; but they had heard in courts of justice witnesses told to
stand down, so they supposed that to stand down was much the same as
to sit down, whence their odd rendering of Stanley. In no dialect of
the Gypsy, from the Indus to the Severn, is there any word for
'stand,' though in every one there is a word for 'sit,' and that is
besh, and in every Gypsy encampment all along the vast distance,
Beshley or Beshaley would be considered an invitation to sit down.

So much for the double-name system in use among the Gypsies of
England. There is something in connection with the Gypsies of Spain
which strangely coincides with one part of it--the translation of
names. Among the relics of the language of the Gitanos or Spanish
Gypsies are words, some simple and some compound, which are evidently
attempts to translate names in a manner corresponding to the plan
employed by the English Romany. In illustration of the matter, the
writer will give an analysis of Brono Aljenicato, the rendering into
Gitano of the name of one frequently mentioned in the New Testament,
and once in the Apostles' Creed, the highly respectable, but much
traduced individual known to the English public as Pontius Pilate, to
the Spanish as Poncio Pilato. The manner in which the rendering has
been accomplished is as follows: Poncio bears some resemblance to
the Spanish puente, which signifies a bridge, and is a modification
of the Latin pons, and Pilato to the Spanish pila, a fountain, or
rather a stone pillar, from the top of which the waters of a fountain
springing eventually fall into a stone basin below, the two words--
the Brono Aljenicato--signifying bridge-fountain, or that which is
connected with such a thing. Now this is the identical, or all but
the identical, way in which the names Lee, Lovel, and Stanley have
been done into English Romany. A remarkable instance is afforded in
this Gitano Scripture name, this Brono Aljenicato, of the
heterogeneous materials of which Gypsy dialects are composed: Brono
is a modification of a Hindoo or Sanscrit, Aljenicato of an Arabic
root. Brono is connected with the Sanscrit pindala, which signifies
a bridge, and Aljenicato is a modification of the Gypsy aljenique,
derived from the Arabic alain, which signifies the fountain. But of
whatever materials composed, a fine-sounding name is this same Brono
Aljenicato, perhaps the finest sounding specimen of Spanish Gypsy
extant, much finer than a translation of Pontius Pilate would be,
provided the name served to express the same things, in English,
which Poncio Pilato serves to express in Spanish, for then it would
be Pudjico Pani or Bridgewater; for though in English Gypsy there is
the word for a bridge, namely pudge, a modification of the Persian
pul, or the Wallachian podul, there is none for a fountain, which can
be only vaguely paraphrased by pani, water.


Gypsy women, as long as we have known anything of Gypsy history, have
been arrant fortune-tellers. They plied fortune-telling about France
and Germany as early as 1414, the year when the dusky bands were
first observed in Europe, and they have never relinquished the
practice. There are two words for fortune-telling in Gypsy, bocht
and dukkering. Bocht is a Persian word, a modification of, or
connected with, the Sanscrit bagya, which signifies 'fate.'
Dukkering is the modification of a Wallaco-Sclavonian word signifying
something spiritual or ghostly. In Eastern European Gypsy, the Holy
Ghost is called Swentuno Ducos.

Gypsy fortune-telling is much the same everywhere, much the same in
Russia as it is in Spain and in England. Everywhere there are three
styles--the lofty, the familiar, and the homely; and every Gypsy
woman is mistress of all three and uses each according to the rank of
the person whose vast she dukkers, whose hand she reads, and adapts
the luck she promises. There is a ballad of some antiquity in the
Spanish language about the Buena Ventura, a few stanzas of which
translated will convey a tolerable idea of the first of these styles
to the reader, who will probably with no great reluctance dispense
with any illustrations of the other two:-

Late rather one morning
In summer's sweet tide,
Goes forth to the Prado
Jacinta the bride:

There meets her a Gypsy
So fluent of talk,
And jauntily dressed,
On the principal walk.

"O welcome, thrice welcome,
Of beauty thou flower!
Believe me, believe me,
Thou com'st in good hour."

Surprised was Jacinta;
She fain would have fled;
But the Gypsy to cheer her
Such honeyed words said:

"O cheek like the rose-leaf!
O lady high-born!
Turn thine eyes on thy servant,
But ah, not in scorn.

"O pride of the Prado!
O joy of our clime!
Thou twice shalt be married,
And happily each time.

"Of two noble sons
Thou shalt be the glad mother,
One a Lord Judge,
A Field-Marshal the other."

Gypsy females have told fortunes to higher people than the young
Countess Jacinta: Modor--of the Gypsy quire of Moscow--told the
fortune of Ekatarina, Empress of all the Russias. The writer does
not know what the Ziganka told that exalted personage, but it appears
that she gave perfect satisfaction to the Empress, who not only
presented her with a diamond ring--a Russian diamond ring is not
generally of much value--but also her hand to kiss. The writer's old
friend, Pepita, the Gitana of Madrid, told the bahi of Christina, the
Regentess of Spain, in which she assured her that she would marry the
son of the King of France, and received from the fair Italian a
golden ounce, the most magnificent of coins, a guerdon which she
richly merited, for she nearly hit the mark, for though Christina did
not marry the son of the King of France, her second daughter was
married to a son of the King of France, the Duke of M-, one of the
three claimants of the crown of Spain, and the best of the lot; and
Britannia, the Caumli, told the good luck to the Regent George on
Newmarket Heath, and received 'foive guineas' and a hearty smack from
him who eventually became George the Fourth--no bad fellow by the by,
either as regent or king, though as much abused as Pontius Pilate,
whom he much resembled in one point, unwillingness to take life--the
sonkaype or gold-gift being, no doubt, more acceptable than the
choomape or kiss-gift to the Beltenebrosa, who, if a certain song be
true, had no respect for gorgios, however much she liked their

Britannia is my nav;
I am a Kaulo Camlo;
The gorgios pen I be
A bori chovahaunie;
And tatchipen they pens,
The dinneleskie gorgies,
For mande chovahans
The luvvu from their putsies.

Britannia is my name;
I am a swarthy Lovel;
The Gorgios say I be
A witch of wondrous power;
And faith they speak the truth,
The silly, foolish fellows,
For often I bewitch
The money from their pockets.

Fortune-telling in all countries where the Gypsies are found is
frequently the prelude to a kind of trick called in all Gypsy
dialects by something more or less resembling the Sanscrit kuhana;
for instance, it is called in Spain jojana, hokano, and in English
hukni. It is practised in various ways, all very similar; the
defrauding of some simple person of money or property being the
object in view. Females are generally the victims of the trick,
especially those of the middle class, who are more accessible to the
poor woman than those of the upper. One of the ways, perhaps the
most artful, will be found described in another chapter.


The Gypsy makes some poor simpleton of a lady believe that if the
latter puts her gold into her hands, and she makes it up into a
parcel, and puts it between the lady's feather-bed and mattress, it
will at the end of a month be multiplied a hundredfold, provided the
lady does not look at it during all that time. On receiving the
money she makes it up into a brown paper parcel, which she seals with
wax, turns herself repeatedly round, squints, and spits, and then
puts between the feather-bed and mattress--not the parcel of gold,
but one exactly like it, which she has prepared beforehand,
containing old halfpence, farthings, and the like; then, after
cautioning the lady by no means to undo the parcel before the stated
time, she takes her departure singing to herself:-

O dear me! O dear me!
What dinnelies these gorgies be.

The above artifice is called by the English Gypsies the hukni, and by
the Spanish hokhano baro, or the great lie. Hukni and hokano were
originally one and the same word; the root seems to be the Sanscrit
huhana, lie, trick, deceit.


The Gypsy has some queer, old-fashioned gold piece; this she takes to
some goldsmith's shop, at the window of which she has observed a
basin full of old gold coins, and shows it to the goldsmith, asking
him if he will purchase it. He looks at it attentively, and sees
that it is of very pure gold; whereupon he says that he has no
particular objection to buy it; but that as it is very old it is not
of much value, and that he has several like it. "Have you indeed,
Master?" says the Gypsy; "then pray show them to me, and I will buy
them; for, to tell you the truth, I would rather buy than sell pieces
like this, for I have a great respect for them, and know their value:
give me back my coin, and I will compare any you have with it." The
goldsmith gives her back her coin, takes his basin of gold from the
window, and places it on the counter. The Gypsy puts down her head,
and pries into the basin. "Ah, I see nothing here like my coin,"
says she. "Now, Master, to oblige me, take out a handful of the
coins and lay them on the counter; I am a poor, honest woman, Master,
and do not wish to put my hand into your basin. Oh! if I could find
one coin like my own, I would give much money for it; barributer than
it is worth." The goldsmith, to oblige the poor, simple, foreign
creature (for such he believes her to be), and, with a considerable
hope of profit, takes a handful of coins from the basin and puts them
upon the counter. "I fear there is none here like mine, Master,"
says the Gypsy, moving the coins rapidly with the tips of her
fingers. "No, no, there is not one here like mine--kek yeck, kek
yeck--not one, not one. Stay, stay! What's this, what's this? So
se cavo, so se cavo? Oh, here is one like mine; or if not quite
like, like enough to suit me. Now, Master, what will you take for
this coin?" The goldsmith looks at it, and names a price
considerably above the value; whereupon she says: "Now, Master, I
will deal fairly with you: you have not asked me the full value of
the coin by three three-groats, three-groats, three-groats; by trin
tringurushis, tringurushis, tringurushis. So here's the money you
asked, Master, and three three-groats, three shillings, besides. God
bless you, Master! You would have cheated yourself, but the poor
woman would not let you; for though she is poor she is honest": and
thus she takes her leave, leaving the goldsmith very well satisfied
with his customer--with little reason, however, for out of about
twenty coins which he laid on the counter she had filched at least
three, which her brown nimble fingers, though they seemingly scarcely
touched the gold, contrived to convey up her sleeves. This kind of
pilfering is called by the English Gypsies cauring, and by the
Spanish ustilar pastesas, or stealing with the fingers. The word
caur seems to be connected with the English cower, and the Hebrew
kara, a word of frequent occurrence in the historical part of the Old
Testament, and signifying to bend, stoop down, incurvare.


What may be called the grand Metropolitan Gypsyry is on the Surrey
side of the Thames. Near the borders of Wandsworth and Battersea,
about a quarter of a mile from the river, is an open piece of ground
which may measure about two acres. To the south is a hill, at the
foot of which is a railway, and it is skirted on the north by the
Wandsworth and Battersea Road. This place is what the Gypsies call a
kekkeno mushes puv, a no man's ground; a place which has either no
proprietor, or which the proprietor, for some reason, makes no use of
for the present. The houses in the neighbourhood are mean and
squalid, and are principally inhabited by artisans of the lowest
description. This spot, during a considerable portion of the year,
is the principal place of residence of the Metropolitan Gypsies, and
of other people whose manner of life more or less resembles theirs.
During the summer and autumn the little plain, for such it is, is
quite deserted, except that now and then a wretched tent or two may
be seen upon it, belonging to some tinker family, who have put up
there for a few hours on their way through the metropolis; for the
Gypsies are absent during summer, some at fairs and races, the men
with their cocoa-nuts and the women busy at fortune-telling, or at
suburban places of pleasure--the former with their donkeys for the
young cockneys to ride upon, and the latter as usual dukkering and
hokkering, and the other travellers, as they are called, roaming
about the country following their particular avocations, whilst in
the autumn the greater part of them all are away in Kent, getting
money by picking hops. As soon, however, as the rains, the
precursors of winter, descend, the place begins to be occupied, and
about a week or two before Christmas it is almost crammed with the
tents and caravans of the wanderers; and then it is a place well
worthy to be explored, notwithstanding the inconvenience of being up
to one's ankles in mud, and the rather appalling risk of being bitten
by the Gypsy and travelling dogs tied to the tents and caravans, in
whose teeth there is always venom and sometimes that which can bring
on the water-horror, for which no European knows a remedy. The
following is an attempt to describe the odd people and things to be
met with here; the true Gypsies, and what to them pertaineth, being
of course noticed first.

On this plain there may be some fifteen or twenty Gypsy tents and
caravans. Some of the tents are large, as indeed it is highly
necessary that they should be, being inhabited by large families--a
man and his wife, a grandmother a sister or two and half a dozen
children, being, occasionally found in one; some of them are very
small, belonging to poor old females who have lost their husbands,
and whose families have separated themselves from them, and allow
them to shift for themselves. During the day the men are generally
busy at their several avocations, chinning the cost, that is, cutting
the stick for skewers, making pegs for linen-lines, kipsimengring or
basket-making, tinkering or braziering; the children are playing
about, or begging halfpence by the road of passengers; whilst the
women are strolling about, either in London or the neighbourhood,
engaged in fortune-telling or swindling. Of the trades of the men,
the one by far the most practised is chinning the cost, and as they
sit at the door of the tents, cutting and whittling away, they
occasionally sweeten their toil by raising their voices and singing
the Gypsy stanza in which the art is mentioned, and which for
terseness and expressiveness is quite equal to anything in the whole
circle of Gentile poetry:

Can you rokra Romany?
Can you play the bosh?
Can you jal adrey the staripen?
Can you chin the cost?

Can you speak the Roman tongue?
Can you play the fiddle?
Can you eat the prison-loaf?
Can you cut and whittle?

These Gypsies are of various tribes, but chiefly Purruns,
Chumomescroes and Vardomescroes, or Lees, Boswells and Coopers, and
Lees being by far the most numerous. The men are well made, active
fellows, somewhat below the middle height. Their complexions are
dark, and their eyes are full of intelligence; their habiliments are
rather ragged. The women are mostly wild-looking creatures, some
poorly clad, others exhibiting not a little strange finery. There
are some truly singular beings amongst those women, which is more
than can be said with respect to the men, who are much on a level,
and amongst whom there is none whom it is possible to bring
prominently out, and about whom much can be said. The women, as has
been already observed, are generally out during the day, being
engaged in their avocations abroad. There is a very small tent about
the middle of the place; it belongs to a lone female, whom one
frequently meets wandering about Wandsworth or Battersea, seeking an
opportunity to dukker some credulous servant-girl. It is hard that
she should have to do so, as she is more than seventy-five years of
age, but if she did not she would probably starve. She is very short
of statue, being little more than five feet and an inch high, but she
is wonderfully strongly built. Her head is very large, and seems to
have been placed at once upon her shoulders without any interposition
of neck. Her face is broad, with a good-humoured expression upon it,
and in general with very little vivacity; at times, however, it
lights up, and then all the Gypsy beams forth. Old as she is, her
hair, which is very long, is as black as the plumage of a crow, and
she walks sturdily, though with not much elasticity, on her short,
thick legs, and, if requested, would take up the heaviest man in
Wandsworth or Battersea and walk away with him. She is, upon the
whole, the oddest Gypsy woman ever seen; see her once and you will
never forget her. Who is she? you ask. Who is she? Why, Mrs.
Cooper, the wife of Jack Cooper, the fighting Gypsy, once the terror
of all the Light Weights of the English Ring; who knocked West
Country Dick to pieces, and killed Paddy O'Leary, the fighting pot-
boy, Jack Randall's pet. Ah, it would have been well for Jack if he
had always stuck to his true, lawful Romany wife, whom at one time he
was very fond of, and whom he used to dress in silks and satins, and
best scarlet cloth, purchased with the money gained in his fair,
gallant battles in the Ring! But he did not stick to her, deserting
her for a painted Jezebel, to support whom he sold his battles, by
doing which he lost his friends and backers; then took from his poor
wife all he had given her, and even plundered her of her own
property, down to the very blankets which she lay upon; and who
finally was so infatuated with love for his paramour that he bore the
blame of a crime which she had committed, and in which he had no
share, suffering ignominy and transportation in order to save her.
Better had he never deserted his tatchie romadie, his own true
Charlotte, who, when all deserted him, the painted Jezebel being the
first to do so, stood by him, supporting him with money in prison,
and feeing counsel on his trial from the scanty proceeds of her
dukkering. All that happened many years ago; Jack's term of
transportation, a lengthy one, has long, long been expired, but he
has not come back, though every year since the expiration of his
servitude he has written her a letter, or caused one to be written to
her, to say that he is coming, that he is coming; so that she is
always expecting him, and is at all times willing, as she says, to
re-invest him with all the privileges of a husband, and to beg and
dukker to support him if necessary. A true wife she has been to him,
a tatchie romadie, and has never taken up with any man since he left
her, though many have been the tempting offers that she has had,
connubial offers, notwithstanding the oddity of her appearance. Only
one wish she has now in this world, the wish that he may return; but
her wish, it is to be feared, is a vain one, for Jack lingers and
lingers in the Sonnakye Tem, golden Australia, teaching, it is said,
the young Australians to box, tempted by certain shining nuggets, the
produce of the golden region. It is pleasant, though there is
something mournful in it, to visit Mrs. Cooper after nightfall, to
sit with her in her little tent after she has taken her cup of tea,
and is warming her tired limbs at her little coke fire, and hear her
talk of old times and things: how Jack courted her 'neath the trees
of Loughton Forest, and how, when tired of courting, they would get
up and box, and how he occasionally gave her a black eye, and how she
invariably flung him at a close; and how they were lawfully married
at church, and what a nice man the clergyman was, and what funny
things he said both before and after he had united them; how stoutly
West Country Dick contended against Jack, though always losing; how
in Jack's battle with Paddy O'Leary the Irishman's head in the last
round was truly frightful, not a feature being distinguishable, and
one of his ears hanging down by a bit of skin; how Jack vanquished
Hardy Scroggins, whom Jack Randall himself never dared fight. Then,
again, her anecdotes of Alec Reed, cool, swift-hitting Alec, who was
always smiling, and whose father was a Scotchman, his mother an
Irishwoman, and who was born in Guernsey; and of Oliver, old Tom
Oliver, who seconded Jack in all his winning battles, and after whom
he named his son, his only child, Oliver, begotten of her in lawful
wedlock, a good and affectionate son enough, but unable to assist
her, on account of his numerous family. Farewell, Mrs. Cooper, true
old Charlotte! here's a little bit of silver for you, and a little
bit of a gillie to sing:

Charlotta is my nav,
I am a puro Purrun;
My romado was Jack,
The couring Vardomescro.
He muk'd me for a lubbeny,
Who chor'd a rawnie's kissi;
He penn'd 'twas he who lell'd it,
And so was bitched pawdel.

Old Charlotte I am called,
Of Lee I am a daughter;
I married Fighting Jack,
The famous Gypsy Cooper.
He left me for a harlot,
Who pick'd a lady's pocket;
He bore the blame to save her,
And so was sent to Bot'ny.

Just within the bounds of the plain, and close by the road, may
occasionally be seen a small caravan of rather a neat appearance. It
comes and goes suddenly, and is seldom seen there for more than three
days at a time. It belongs to a Gypsy female who, like Mrs. Cooper,
is a remarkable person, but is widely different from Mrs. Cooper in
many respects. Mrs. Cooper certainly does not represent the beau
ideal of a Gypsy female, this does--a dark, mysterious, beautiful,
terrible creature! She is considerably above the middle height,
powerfully but gracefully made, and about thirty-seven years of age.
Her face is oval, and of a dark olive. The nose is Grecian, the
cheek-bones rather high; the eyes somewhat sunk, but of a lustrous
black; the mouth small, and the teeth exactly like ivory. Upon the
whole the face is exceedingly beautiful, but the expression is evil--
evil to a degree. Who she is no one exactly knows, nor what is her
name, nor whether she is single woman, wife, or widow. Some say she
is a foreign Gypsy, others from Scotland, but she is neither--her
accent is genuine English. What strikes one as most singular is the
power she possesses of appearing in various characters--all Romany
ones it is true, but so different as seemingly to require three
distinct females of the race to represent them: sometimes she is the
staid, quiet, respectable Gypsy; sometimes the forward and impudent;
at others the awful and sublime. Occasionally you may see her
walking the streets dressed in a black silk gown, with a black silk
bonnet on her head; over her left arm is flung a small carpet, a
sample of the merchandise which is in her caravan, which is close at
hand, driven by a brown boy; her address to her customers is highly
polite; the tones of her voice are musical, though somewhat deep. At
Fairlop, on the first Friday of July, in the evening, she may be
found near the Bald-faced Hind, dressed in a red cloak and a large
beaver; her appearance is bold and reckless--she is dukkering low
tradesmen and servant girls behind the trees at sixpence a head, or
is bandying with the voice of a raven slang and obscenity with
country boors, or with the blackguard butcher-boys who throng in from
Whitechapel and Shoreditch to the Gypsy Fair. At Goodwood, a few
weeks after, you may see her in a beautiful half-riding dress, her
hair fantastically plaited and adorned with pearls, standing beside
the carriage of a Countess, telling the fortune of her ladyship with
the voice and look of a pythoness. She is a thing of incongruities;
an incomprehensible being! nobody can make her out; the writer
himself has tried to make her out but could not, though he has spoken
to her in his deepest Romany. It is true there is a certain old
Gypsy, a friend of his, who thinks he has made her out. "Brother,"
said he one day, "why you should be always going after that woman I
can't conceive, unless indeed you have lost your wits. If you go
after her for her Romany you will find yourself in the wrong box:
she may have a crumb or two of Romany, but for every crumb that she
has I am quite sure you have a quartern loaf. Then as for her
beauty, of which it is true she has plenty, and for which half a
dozen Gorgios that I knows of are running mad, it's of no use going
after her for that, for her beauty she keeps for her own use and that
of her master the Devil; not but that she will sell it--she's sold it
a dozen times to my certain knowledge--but what's the use of buying a
thing, when the fool who buys it never gets it, never has the
'joyment of it, brother? She is kek tatcho, and that's what I like
least in her; there's no trusting her, neither Gorgio nor Romano can
trust her: she sells her truppos to a Rye-gorgio for five bars, and
when she has got them, and the Gorgio, as he has a right to do,
begins to kelna lasa, she laughs and asks him if he knows whom he has
to deal with; then if he lels bonnek of lati, as he is quite
justified in doing, she whips out a churi, and swears if he doesn't
leave off she will stick it in his gorlo. Oh! she's an evil mare, a
wafodu grasni, though a handsome one, and I never looks at her,
brother, without saying to myself the old words:

"Rinkeno mui and wafodu zee
Kitzi's the cheeros we dicks cattane."
A beautiful face and a black wicked mind
Often, full often together we find.

Some more particular account than what has been already given of the
habitations of these Wandsworth Gypsies, and likewise of their way of
life, will perhaps not be unacceptable here.

To begin with the tents. They are oblong in shape and of very simple
construction, whether small or great. Sticks or rods, called in the
Gypsy language ranior, between four and five feet in length, and
croming or bending towards the top, are stuck in the ground at about
twenty inches from each other, a rod or two being omitted in that
part where the entrance is intended to be. The cromes or bends serve
as supporters of a roof, and those of the side rods which stand over
against one another are generally tied together by strings. These
rods are covered over with coarse brown cloths, pinned or skewered
together; those at the bottom being fastened to the ground by pegs.
Around the tent is generally a slight embankment, about two or three
inches high, or a little trench about the same depth, to prevent
water from running into the tent in time of rain. Such is the tent,
which would be exactly like the Indian wigwam but for the cloth which
forms the covering: the Indians in lieu of cloth using bark, which
they carry about with them in all their migrations, though they leave
the sticks standing in the ground.

The furniture is scanty. Like the Arabs, the Gypsies have neither
chairs nor tables, but sit cross-legged, a posture which is perfectly
easy to them, though insufferable to a Gorgio, unless he happens to
be a tailor. When they eat, the ground serves them for a board,
though they occasionally spread a cloth upon it. Singularly enough,
though they have neither chairs nor tables, they have words for both.
Of pots, pans, plates, and trenchers, they have a tolerable quantity.
Each grown-up person has a churi, or knife, with which to cut food.
Eating-forks they have none, and for an eating-fork they have no
word, the term pasengri signifying a straw- or pitch-fork. Spoons
are used by them generally of horn, and are called royis. They have
but two culinary articles, the kekkauvi and pirry, kettle and boiler,
which are generally of copper, to which, however, may perhaps be
added the kekkauviskey saster, or kettle-iron, by which the kettle
and boiler are hung over the fire. As a fireplace they have a large
iron pan on three legs, with holes or eyes in the sides, in order
that the heat of the fire may be cast around. Instead of coals they
use coke, which emits no flame and little smoke, and casts a
considerable heat. Every tent has a pail or two, and perhaps a small
cask or barrel, the proper name for which is bedra, though it is
generally called pani-mengri, or thing for water. At the farther end
of the tent is a mattress, with a green cloth, or perhaps a sheet
spread upon it, forming a kind of couch, on which visitors are
generally asked to sit down:- Av adrey, Romany Rye, av adrey ta besh
aley pawdle odoy! Come in, Gypsy gentleman (said a polite Gypsy one
day to the writer); come in and sit down over yonder! They have a
box or two in which they stow away their breakable articles and
whatever things they set any particular value upon. Some of them
have small feather-beds, and they are generally tolerably well
provided with blankets.

The caravans are not numerous, and have only been used of late years
by any of the English Gypsy race. The caravan called by the Gypsies
keir vardo, or waggon-house, is on four wheels, and is drawn by a
horse or perhaps a couple of donkeys. It is about twelve feet long
by six broad and six high. At the farther end are a couple of
transverse berths, one above the other, like those in the cabin of a
ship; and a little way from these is a curtain hanging by rings from
an iron rod running across, which, when drawn, forms a partition. On
either side is a small glazed window. The most remarkable object is
a stove just inside the door, on the left hand, with a metal chimney
which goes through the roof. This stove, the Gypsy term for which is
bo, casts, when lighted, a great heat, and in some cases is made in a
very handsome fashion. Some caravans have mirrors against the sides,
and exhibit other indications of an aiming at luxury, though in
general they are dirty, squalid places, quite as much as or perhaps
more than the tents, which seem to be the proper and congenial homes
of the Gypsies.

The mode of life of these people may be briefly described. They have
two regular meals--breakfast and supper. The breakfast consists of
tea, generally of the best quality, bread, butter, and cheese; the
supper, of tea and a stew. In spring time they occasionally make a
kind of tea or soup of the tender leaves of a certain description of
nettle. This preparation, which they call dandrimengreskie zimmen,
or the broth of the stinging-thing, is highly relished by them. They
get up early, and go to bed betimes. After breakfast the men sit
down to chin the cost, to mend chairs or make baskets; the women go
forth to hok and dukker, and the children to beg, or to go with the
donkeys to lanes and commons to watch them, whilst they try to fill
their poor bellies with grass and thistles. These children sometimes
bring home hotchiwitches, or hedgehogs, the flesh of which is very
sweet and tender, and which their mothers are adepts at cooking.

The Gypsies, as has been already observed, are not the sole occupiers
of Wandsworth grounds. Strange, wild guests are to be found there,
who, without being Gypsies, have much of Gypsyism in their habits,
and who far exceed the Gypsies in number. To pass them by without
notice would be unpardonable. They may be divided into three
classes: Chorodies, Kora-mengre, and Hindity-mengre. Something
about each:-

The Chorodies are the legitimate descendants of the rogues and
outcasts who roamed about England long before its soil was trodden by
a Gypsy foot. They are a truly detestable set of beings; both men
and women being ferocious in their appearance, and in their
conversation horrible and disgusting. They have coarse, vulgar
features, and hair which puts one wonderfully in mind of refuse flax,
or the material of which mops are composed. Their complexions, when
not obscured with grime, are rather fair than dark, evidencing that
their origin is low, swinish Saxon, and not gentle Romany. Their
language is the frowsiest English, interlarded with cant expressions
and a few words of bastard Romany. They live in the vilest tents,
with the exception of two or three families, who have their abode in
broken and filthy caravans. They have none of the comforts and
elegancies of the Gypsies. They are utterly destitute of civility
and good manners, and are generally squalid in their dress, though
the women sometimes exhibit not a little dirty tawdriness. The
trades of the men are tinkering and basket-making, and some few "peel
the stick." The women go about with the articles made by their
husbands, or rather partners, and sometimes do a little in the
fortune-telling line--pretty prophetesses! The fellows will
occasionally knock a man down in the dark, and rob him; the women
will steal anything they can conveniently lay their hands on.
Singular as it may seem to those not deeply acquainted with human
nature, these wretches are not without a kind of pride. "We are no
Gypsies--not we! no, nor Irish either. We are English, and decent
folks--none of your rubbish!" The Gypsies hold them, and with
reason, in supreme contempt, and it is from them that they got their
name of Chorodies, not a little applicable to them. Choredo, in
Gypsy, signifies a poor, miserable person, and differs very little in
sound from two words, one Sanscrit and the other Hebrew, both
signifying, like the Gypsy term, something low, mean, and

Kora-mengre are the lowest of those hawkers who go about the country
villages and the streets of London, with caravans hung about with
various common articles, such as mats, brooms, mops, tin pans and
kettles. These low hawkers seem to be of much the same origin as the
Chorodies, and are almost equally brutal and repulsive in their
manners. The name Kora-mengre is Gypsy, and signifies fellows who
cry out and shout, from their practice of shouting out the names of
their goods. The word kora, or karra, is by no means bad Hebrew:
kora, in the Holy Language, signifies he cried out, called, or
proclaimed: and a partridge is called in Hebrew kora, from its
continually crying out to its young, when leading them about to feed.
Koran, the name of the sacred book of the Mahomedans, is of the same

Lastly come the Hindity-mengre, or Filthy People. This term has been
bestowed upon the vagrant Irish by the Gypsies, from the dirty ways
attributed to them, though it is a question whether the lowest Irish
are a bit more dirty in their ways than the English Chorodies, or
indeed so much, and are certainly immeasurably superior to them in
many respects. There are not many of them here, seldom more than two
families, and sometimes, even during the winter, not a single Irish
tent or cart is to be seen. The trade they ostensibly drive is
tinkering, repairing old kettles, and making little pots and pans of
tin. The one, however, on which they principally depend, is not
tinkering, but one far more lucrative, and requiring more cleverness
and dexterity; they make false rings, like the Gypsy smiths, the
fashiono vangustengre of old, and whilst speaking Celtic to one whom
they deem their countryman, have no hesitation in acknowledging
themselves to be "Cairdean droich oir," workers of false gold. The
rings are principally made out of old brass buttons; those worn by
old Chelsea pensioners being considered the very best for the
purpose. Many an ancient Corporal Trim, alter having spent all his
money at the public-house, and only become three-parts boozy, has
been induced by the Hindity-mengro to sell all his buttons at the
rate of three-halfpence a-piece, in order to have wherewithal to make
himself thoroughly royal. Each of these Hindity-mengre has his blow-
pipe, and some of them can execute their work in a style little
inferior to that of a first-rate working goldsmith. The rings, after
being made, are rubbed with a certain stuff out of a phial, which
gives them all the appearance of gold. This appearance, however,
does not long endure, for after having been worn two or three months,
the ring loses its false appearance entirely, and any one can see
that it is worthless metal. A good many of these rings are disposed
of at good prices by the Hindity women, the wives of these false-gold
workers, to servant girls and the wives of small shopkeepers, and not
a few, at a lower rate, to certain gentry who get their livelihood by
the honourable profession of ring-dropping.

What is ring-dropping?

Ring-dropping is this. A gentleman overtakes you as you are walking
in some quiet street, passes by you, and at the distance of some
fifteen yards stops, and stooping down, seemingly picks up something,
which he inspects, and then uttering a "Dear me!" he turns to you,
and says, "Sir, we have been fortunate to-day. See! I have picked
up this valuable!" He then shows you a small case, in which is a
large ring, seemingly of the finest gold, with a little label
attached to it, on which is marked 2 pounds 15s. "Now, sir," he
continues, "I said we were fortunate, because as we were close to
each other, I consider you as much entitled to gain by this windfall
as myself. I'll tell you how it shall be: the price of the ring,
which was probably dropped by some goldsmith's man, is, as you see,
two pound fifteen; however, as I am in a hurry, you shall only give
me a quid, a pound, and then the valuable shall be all your own; it
shall indeed, sir!" And then he stares you in the face. Such is
ring-dropping, to which many silly but greedy individuals, fall
victims; giving a pound for a fine-looking ring, which, however, with
its scarlet case--for the case is always of a scarlet colour--is not
worth sixpence. The best thing you can do in such a case is to put
your thumb to your nose, flattening your hand and sticking out your
fingers far apart, moving on at the same time, or to utter the
cabalistic word "hookey"; in either case the ring-dropper will at
once drop astern, with a half-stifled curse, for he knows that he has
to do with "no flat," and that you are "awake to his little game."

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