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The Zincali - An Account of the Gypsies of Spain by George Borrow

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The Zincali - An Account of the Gypsies of Spain by George Borrow
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The Zincali - An Account of the Gypsies of Spain


IT is with some diffidence that the author ventures to offer the
present work to the public.

The greater part of it has been written under very peculiar
circumstances, such as are not in general deemed at all favourable
for literary composition: at considerable intervals, during a
period of nearly five years passed in Spain - in moments snatched
from more important pursuits - chiefly in ventas and posadas,
whilst wandering through the country in the arduous and unthankful
task of distributing the Gospel among its children.

Owing to the causes above stated, he is aware that his work must
not unfrequently appear somewhat disjointed and unconnected, and
the style rude and unpolished: he has, nevertheless, permitted the
tree to remain where he felled it, having, indeed, subsequently
enjoyed too little leisure to make much effectual alteration.

At the same time he flatters himself that the work is not destitute
of certain qualifications to entitle it to approbation. The
author's acquaintance with the Gypsy race in general dates from a
very early period of his life, which considerably facilitated his
intercourse with the Peninsular portion, to the elucidation of
whose history and character the present volumes are more
particularly devoted. Whatever he has asserted, is less the result
of reading than of close observation, he having long since come to
the conclusion that the Gypsies are not a people to be studied in
books, or at least in such books as he believes have hitherto been
written concerning them.

Throughout he has dealt more in facts than in theories, of which he
is in general no friend. True it is, that no race in the world
affords, in many points, a more extensive field for theory and
conjecture than the Gypsies, who are certainly a very mysterious
people come from some distant land, no mortal knows why, and who
made their first appearance in Europe at a dark period, when events
were not so accurately recorded as at the present time.

But if he has avoided as much as possible touching upon subjects
which must always, to a certain extent, remain shrouded in
obscurity; for example, the, original state and condition of the
Gypsies, and the causes which first brought them into Europe; he
has stated what they are at the present day, what he knows them to
be from a close scrutiny of their ways and habits, for which,
perhaps, no one ever enjoyed better opportunities; and he has,
moreover, given - not a few words culled expressly for the purpose
of supporting a theory, but one entire dialect of their language,
collected with much trouble and difficulty; and to this he humbly
calls the attention of the learned, who, by comparing it with
certain languages, may decide as to the countries in which the
Gypsies have lived or travelled.

With respect to the Gypsy rhymes in the second volume, he wishes to
make one observation which cannot be too frequently repeated, and
which he entreats the reader to bear in mind: they are GYPSY
COMPOSITIONS, and have little merit save so far as they throw light
on the manner of thinking and speaking of the Gypsy people, or
rather a portion of them, and as to what they are capable of
effecting in the way of poetry. It will, doubtless, be said that
the rhymes are TRASH; - even were it so, they are original, and on
that account, in a philosophic point of view, are more valuable
than the most brilliant compositions pretending to describe Gypsy
life, but written by persons who are not of the Gypsy sect. Such
compositions, however replete with fiery sentiments, and allusions
to freedom and independence, are certain to be tainted with
affectation. Now in the Gypsy rhymes there is no affectation, and
on that very account they are different in every respect from the
poetry of those interesting personages who figure, under the names
of Gypsies, Gitanos, Bohemians, etc., in novels and on the boards
of the theatre.

It will, perhaps, be objected to the present work, that it contains
little that is edifying in a moral or Christian point of view: to
such an objection the author would reply, that the Gypsies are not
a Christian people, and that their morality is of a peculiar kind,
not calculated to afford much edification to what is generally
termed the respectable portion of society. Should it be urged that
certain individuals have found them very different from what they
are represented in these volumes, he would frankly say that he
yields no credit to the presumed fact, and at the same time he
would refer to the vocabulary contained in the second volume,
whence it will appear that the words HOAX and HOCUS have been
immediately derived from the language of the Gypsies, who, there is
good reason to believe, first introduced the system into Europe, to
which those words belong.

The author entertains no ill-will towards the Gypsies; why should
he, were he a mere carnal reasoner? He has known them for upwards
of twenty years, in various countries, and they never injured a
hair of his head, or deprived him of a shred of his raiment; but he
is not deceived as to the motive of their forbearance: they
thought him a ROM, and on this supposition they hurt him not, their
love of 'the blood' being their most distinguishing characteristic.
He derived considerable assistance from them in Spain, as in
various instances they officiated as colporteurs in the
distribution of the Gospel: but on that account he is not prepared
to say that they entertained any love for the Gospel or that they
circulated it for the honour of Tebleque the Saviour. Whatever
they did for the Gospel in Spain, was done in the hope that he whom
they conceived to be their brother had some purpose in view which
was to contribute to the profit of the Cales, or Gypsies, and to
terminate in the confusion and plunder of the Busne, or Gentiles.
Convinced of this, he is too little of an enthusiast to rear, on
such a foundation, any fantastic edifice of hope which would soon
tumble to the ground.

The cause of truth can scarcely be forwarded by enthusiasm, which
is almost invariably the child of ignorance and error. The author
is anxious to direct the attention of the public towards the
Gypsies; but he hopes to be able to do so without any romantic
appeals in their behalf, by concealing the truth, or by warping the
truth until it becomes falsehood. In the following pages he has
depicted the Gypsies as he has found them, neither aggravating
their crimes nor gilding them with imaginary virtues. He has not
expatiated on 'their gratitude towards good people, who treat them
kindly and take an interest in their welfare'; for he believes that
of all beings in the world they are the least susceptible of such a
feeling. Nor has he ever done them injustice by attributing to
them licentious habits, from which they are, perhaps, more free
than any race in the creation.


I CANNOT permit the second edition of this work to go to press
without premising it with a few words.

When some two years ago I first gave THE ZINCALI to the world, it
was, as I stated at the time, with considerable hesitation and
diffidence: the composition of it and the collecting of Gypsy
words had served as a kind of relaxation to me whilst engaged in
the circulation of the Gospel in Spain. After the completion of
the work, I had not the slightest idea that it possessed any
peculiar merit, or was calculated to make the slightest impression
upon the reading world. Nevertheless, as every one who writes
feels a kind of affection, greater or less, for the productions of
his pen, I was averse, since the book was written, to suffer it to
perish of damp in a lumber closet, or by friction in my travelling
wallet. I committed it therefore to the press, with a friendly
'Farewell, little book; I have done for you all I can, and much
more than you deserve.'

My expectations at this time were widely different from those of my
namesake George in the VICAR OF WAKEFIELD when he published his
paradoxes. I took it as a matter of course that the world, whether
learned or unlearned, would say to my book what they said to his
paradoxes, as the event showed, - nothing at all. To my utter
astonishment, however, I had no sooner returned to my humble
retreat, where I hoped to find the repose of which I was very much
in need, than I was followed by the voice not only of England but
of the greater part of Europe, informing me that I had achieved a
feat - a work in the nineteenth century with some pretensions to
originality. The book was speedily reprinted in America, portions
of it were translated into French and Russian, and a fresh edition

In the midst of all this there sounded upon my ears a voice which I
recognised as that of the Maecenas of British literature:
'Borromeo, don't believe all you hear, nor think that you have
accomplished anything so very extraordinary: a great portion of
your book is very sorry trash indeed - Gypsy poetry, dry laws, and
compilations from dull Spanish authors: it has good points,
however, which show that you are capable of something much better:
try your hand again - avoid your besetting sins; and when you have
accomplished something which will really do credit to - Street, it
will be time enough to think of another delivery of these GYPSIES.'

Mistos amande: 'I am content,' I replied; and sitting down I
commenced the BIBLE IN SPAIN. At first I proceeded slowly -
sickness was in the land, and the face of nature was overcast -
heavy rain-clouds swam in the heavens, - the blast howled amid the
pines which nearly surround my lonely dwelling, and the waters of
the lake which lies before it, so quiet in general and tranquil,
were fearfully agitated. 'Bring lights hither, O Hayim Ben Attar,
son of the miracle! ' And the Jew of Fez brought in the lights, for
though it was midday I could scarcely see in the little room where
I was writing. . . .

A dreary summer and autumn passed by, and were succeeded by as
gloomy a winter. I still proceeded with the BIBLE IN SPAIN. The
winter passed, and spring came with cold dry winds and occasional
sunshine, whereupon I arose, shouted, and mounting my horse, even
Sidi Habismilk, I scoured all the surrounding district, and thought
but little of the BIBLE IN SPAIN.

So I rode about the country, over the heaths, and through the green
lanes of my native land, occasionally visiting friends at a
distance, and sometimes, for variety's sake, I stayed at home and
amused myself by catching huge pike, which lie perdue in certain
deep ponds skirted with lofty reeds, upon my land, and to which
there is a communication from the lagoon by a deep and narrow
watercourse. - I had almost forgotten the BIBLE IN SPAIN.

Then came the summer with much heat and sunshine, and then I would
lie for hours in the sun and recall the sunny days I had spent in
Andalusia, and my thoughts were continually reverting to Spain, and
at last I remembered that the BIBLE IN SPAIN was still unfinished;
whereupon I arose and said: 'This loitering profiteth nothing' -
and I hastened to my summer-house by the side of the lake, and
there I thought and wrote, and every day I repaired to the same
place, and thought and wrote until I had finished the BIBLE IN

And at the proper season the BIBLE IN SPAIN was given to the world;
and the world, both learned and unlearned, was delighted with the
BIBLE IN SPAIN, and the highest authority (1) said, 'This is a much
better book than the GYPSIES'; and the next great authority (2)
said, 'something betwixt Le Sage and Bunyan.' 'A far more
entertaining work than DON QUIXOTE,' exclaimed a literary lady.
'Another GIL BLAS,' said the cleverest writer in Europe. (3)
'Yes,' exclaimed the cool sensible SPECTATOR, (4) 'a GIL BLAS in

And when I heard the last sentence, I laughed, and shouted, 'KOSKO
PENNESE PAL!' (5) It pleased me better than all the rest. Is
there not a text in a certain old book which says: Woe unto you
when all men shall speak well of you! Those are awful words,
brothers; woe is me!

'Revenons a nos Bohemiens!' Now the BIBLE IN SPAIN is off my
hands, I return to 'these GYPSIES'; and here you have, most kind,
lenient, and courteous public, a fresh delivery of them. In the
present edition, I have attended as much as possible to the
suggestions of certain individuals, for whose opinion I cannot but
entertain the highest respect. I have omitted various passages
from Spanish authors, which the world has objected to as being
quite out of place, and serving for no other purpose than to swell
out the work. In lieu thereof, I have introduced some original
matter relative to the Gypsies, which is, perhaps, more calculated
to fling light over their peculiar habits than anything which has
yet appeared. To remodel the work, however, I have neither time
nor inclination, and must therefore again commend it, with all the
imperfections which still cling to it, to the generosity of the

A few words in conclusion. Since the publication of the first
edition, I have received more than one letter, in which the writers
complain that I, who seem to know so much of what has been written
concerning the Gypsies, (6) should have taken no notice of a theory
entertained by many, namely, that they are of Jewish origin, and
that they are neither more nor less than the descendants of the two
lost tribes of Israel. Now I am not going to enter into a
discussion upon this point, for I know by experience, that the
public cares nothing for discussions, however learned and edifying,
but will take the present opportunity to relate a little adventure
of mine, which bears not a little upon this matter.

So it came to pass, that one day I was scampering over a heath, at
some distance from my present home: I was mounted upon the good
horse Sidi Habismilk, and the Jew of Fez, swifter than the wind,
ran by the side of the good horse Habismilk, when what should I see
at a corner of the heath but the encampment of certain friends of
mine; and the chief of that camp, even Mr. Petulengro, stood before
the encampment, and his adopted daughter, Miss Pinfold, stood
beside him.

MYSELF. - 'Kosko divvus (7), Mr. Petulengro! I am glad to see you:
how are you getting on?'

MR. PETULENGRO. - 'How am I getting on? as well as I can. What
will you have for that nokengro (8)?'

Thereupon I dismounted, and delivering the reins of the good horse
to Miss Pinfold, I took the Jew of Fez, even Hayim Ben Attar, by
the hand, and went up to Mr. Petulengro, exclaiming, 'Sure ye are
two brothers.' Anon the Gypsy passed his hand over the Jew's face,
and stared him in the eyes: then turning to me he said, 'We are
not dui palor (9); this man is no Roman; I believe him to be a Jew;
he has the face of one; besides, if he were a Rom, even from
Jericho, he could rokra a few words in Rommany.'

Now the Gypsy had been in the habit of seeing German and English
Jews, who must have been separated from their African brethren for
a term of at least 1700 years; yet he recognised the Jew of Fez for
what he was - a Jew, and without hesitation declared that he was
'no Roman.' The Jews, therefore, and the Gypsies have each their
peculiar and distinctive countenance, which, to say nothing of the
difference of language, precludes the possibility of their having
ever been the same people.

MARCH 1, 1843.


THIS edition has been carefully revised by the author, and some few
insertions have been made. In order, however, to give to the work
a more popular character, the elaborate vocabulary of the Gypsy
tongue, and other parts relating to the Gypsy language and
literature, have been omitted. Those who take an interest in these
subjects are referred to the larger edition in two vols. (10)


THROUGHOUT my life the Gypsy race has always had a peculiar
interest for me. Indeed I can remember no period when the mere
mention of the name of Gypsy did not awaken within me feelings hard
to be described. I cannot account for this - I merely state a

Some of the Gypsies, to whom I have stated this circumstance, have
accounted for it on the supposition that the soul which at present
animates my body has at some former period tenanted that of one of
their people; for many among them are believers in metempsychosis,
and, like the followers of Bouddha, imagine that their souls, by
passing through an infinite number of bodies, attain at length
sufficient purity to be admitted to a state of perfect rest and
quietude, which is the only idea of heaven they can form.

Having in various and distant countries lived in habits of intimacy
with these people, I have come to the following conclusions
respecting them: that wherever they are found, their manners and
customs are virtually the same, though somewhat modified by
circumstances, and that the language they speak amongst themselves,
and of which they are particularly anxious to keep others in
ignorance, is in all countries one and the same, but has been
subjected more or less to modification; and lastly, that their
countenances exhibit a decided family resemblance, but are darker
or fairer according to the temperature of the climate, but
invariably darker, at least in Europe, than those of the natives of
the countries in which they dwell, for example, England and Russia,
Germany and Spain.

The names by which they are known differ with the country, though,
with one or two exceptions, not materially for example, they are
styled in Russia, Zigani; in Turkey and Persia, Zingarri; and in
Germany, Zigeuner; all which words apparently spring from the same
etymon, which there is no improbability in supposing to be
'Zincali,' a term by which these people, especially those of Spain,
sometimes designate themselves, and the meaning of which is
believed to be, THE BLACK MEN OF ZEND OR IND. In England and Spain
they are commonly known as Gypsies and Gitanos, from a general
belief that they were originally Egyptians, to which the two words
are tantamount; and in France as Bohemians, from the circumstance
that Bohemia was one of the first countries in civilised Europe
where they made their appearance.

But they generally style themselves and the language which they
speak, Rommany. This word, of which I shall ultimately have more
to say, is of Sanscrit origin, and signifies, The Husbands, or that
which pertaineth unto them. From whatever motive this appellation
may have originated, it is perhaps more applicable than any other
to a sect or caste like them, who have no love and no affection
beyond their own race; who are capable of making great sacrifices
for each other, and who gladly prey upon all the rest of the human
species, whom they detest, and by whom they are hated and despised.
It will perhaps not be out of place to observe here, that there is
no reason for supposing that the word Roma or Rommany is derived
from the Arabic word which signifies Greece or Grecians, as some
people not much acquainted with the language of the race in
question have imagined.

I have no intention at present to say anything about their origin.
Scholars have asserted that the language which they speak proves
them to be of Indian stock, and undoubtedly a great number of their
words are Sanscrit. My own opinion upon this subject will be found
in a subsequent article. I shall here content myself with
observing that from whatever country they come, whether from India
or Egypt, there can be no doubt that they are human beings and have
immortal souls; and it is in the humble hope of drawing the
attention of the Christian philanthropist towards them, especially
that degraded and unhappy portion of them, the Gitanos of Spain,
that the present little work has been undertaken. But before
proceeding to speak of the latter, it will perhaps not be amiss to
afford some account of the Rommany as I have seen them in other
countries; for there is scarcely a part of the habitable world
where they are not to be found: their tents are alike pitched on
the heaths of Brazil and the ridges of the Himalayan hills, and
their language is heard at Moscow and Madrid, in the streets of
London and Stamboul.


They are found in all parts of Russia, with the exception of the
government of St. Petersburg, from which they have been banished.
In most of the provincial towns they are to be found in a state of
half-civilisation, supporting themselves by trafficking in horses,
or by curing the disorders incidental to those animals; but the
vast majority reject this manner of life, and traverse the country
in bands, like the ancient Hamaxobioi; the immense grassy plains of
Russia affording pasturage for their herds of cattle, on which, and
the produce of the chase, they chiefly depend for subsistence.
They are, however, not destitute of money, which they obtain by
various means, but principally by curing diseases amongst the
cattle of the mujiks or peasantry, and by telling fortunes, and not
unfrequently by theft and brigandage.

Their power of resisting cold is truly wonderful, as it is not
uncommon to find them encamped in the midst of the snow, in slight
canvas tents, when the temperature is twenty-five or thirty degrees
below the freezing-point according to Reaumur; but in the winter
they generally seek the shelter of the forests, which afford fuel
for their fires, and abound in game.

The race of the Rommany is by nature perhaps the most beautiful in
the world; and amongst the children of the Russian Zigani are
frequently to be found countenances to do justice to which would
require the pencil of a second Murillo; but exposure to the rays of
the burning sun, the biting of the frost, and the pelting of the
pitiless sleet and snow, destroys their beauty at a very early age;
and if in infancy their personal advantages are remarkable, their
ugliness at an advanced age is no less so, for then it is
loathsome, and even appalling.

A hundred years, could I live so long, would not efface from my
mind the appearance of an aged Ziganskie Attaman, or Captain of
Zigani, and his grandson, who approached me on the meadow before
Novo Gorod, where stood the encampment of a numerous horde. The
boy was of a form and face which might have entitled him to
represent Astyanax, and Hector of Troy might have pressed him to
his bosom, and called him his pride; but the old man was, perhaps,
such a shape as Milton has alluded to, but could only describe as
execrable - he wanted but the dart and kingly crown to have
represented the monster who opposed the progress of Lucifer, whilst
careering in burning arms and infernal glory to the outlet of his
hellish prison.

But in speaking of the Russian Gypsies, those of Moscow must not be
passed over in silence. The station to which they have attained in
society in that most remarkable of cities is so far above the
sphere in which the remainder of their race pass their lives, that
it may be considered as a phenomenon in Gypsy history, and on that
account is entitled to particular notice.

Those who have been accustomed to consider the Gypsy as a wandering
outcast, incapable of appreciating the blessings of a settled and
civilised life, or - if abandoning vagabond propensities, and
becoming stationary - as one who never ascends higher than the
condition of a low trafficker, will be surprised to learn, that
amongst the Gypsies of Moscow there are not a few who inhabit
stately houses, go abroad in elegant equipages, and are behind the
higher orders of the Russians neither in appearance nor mental
acquirements. To the power of song alone this phenomenon is to be
attributed. From time immemorial the female Gypsies of Moscow have
been much addicted to the vocal art, and bands or quires of them
have sung for pay in the halls of the nobility or upon the boards
of the theatre. Some first-rate songsters have been produced among
them, whose merits have been acknowledged, not only by the Russian
public, but by the most fastidious foreign critics. Perhaps the
highest compliment ever paid to a songster was paid by Catalani
herself to one of these daughters of Roma. It is well known
throughout Russia that the celebrated Italian was so enchanted with
the voice of a Moscow Gypsy (who, after the former had displayed
her noble talent before a splendid audience in the old Russian
capital, stepped forward and poured forth one of her national
strains), that she tore from her own shoulders a shawl of cashmire,
which had been presented to her by the Pope, and, embracing the
Gypsy, insisted on her acceptance of the splendid gift, saying,
that it had been intended for the matchless songster, which she now
perceived she herself was not.

The sums obtained by many of these females by the exercise of their
art enable them to support their relatives in affluence and luxury:
some are married to Russians, and no one who has visited Russia can
but be aware that a lovely and accomplished countess, of the noble
and numerous family of Tolstoy, is by birth a Zigana, and was
originally one of the principal attractions of a Rommany choir at

But it is not to be supposed that the whole of the Gypsy females at
Moscow are of this high and talented description; the majority of
them are of far lower quality, and obtain their livelihood by
singing and dancing at taverns, whilst their husbands in general
follow the occupation of horse-dealing.

Their favourite place of resort in the summer time is Marina Rotze,
a species of sylvan garden about two versts from Moscow, and
thither, tempted by curiosity, I drove one fine evening. On my
arrival the Ziganas came flocking out from their little tents, and
from the tractir or inn which has been erected for the
accommodation of the public. Standing on the seat of the calash, I
addressed them in a loud voice in the English dialect of the
Rommany, of which I have some knowledge. A shrill scream of wonder
was instantly raised, and welcomes and blessings were poured forth
in floods of musical Rommany, above all of which predominated the
cry of KAK CAMENNA TUTE PRALA - or, How we love you, brother! - for
at first they mistook me for one of their wandering brethren from
the distant lands, come over the great panee or ocean to visit

After some conversation they commenced singing, and favoured me
with many songs, both in Russian and Rommany: the former were
modern popular pieces, such as are accustomed to be sung on the
boards of the theatre; but the latter were evidently of great
antiquity, exhibiting the strongest marks of originality, the
metaphors bold and sublime, and the metre differing from anything
of the kind which it has been my fortune to observe in Oriental or
European prosody.

One of the most remarkable, and which commences thus:

'Za mateia rosherroro odolata

(or, Her head is aching with grief, as if she had tasted wine)
describes the anguish of a maiden separated from her lover, and who
calls for her steed:

'Tedjav manga gurraoro' -

that she may depart in quest of the lord of her bosom, and share
his joys and pleasures.

A collection of these songs, with a translation and vocabulary,
would be no slight accession to literature, and would probably
throw more light on the history of this race than anything which
has yet appeared; and, as there is no want of zeal and talent in
Russia amongst the cultivators of every branch of literature, and
especially philology, it is only surprising that such a collection
still remains a desideratum.

The religion which these singular females externally professed was
the Greek, and they mostly wore crosses of copper or gold; but when
I questioned them on this subject in their native language, they
laughed, and said it was only to please the Russians. Their names
for God and his adversary are Deval and Bengel, which differ little
from the Spanish Un-debel and Bengi, which signify the same. I
will now say something of


Hungary, though a country not a tenth part so extensive as the huge
colossus of the Russian empire, whose tzar reigns over a hundred
lands, contains perhaps as many Gypsies, it not being uncommon to
find whole villages inhabited by this race; they likewise abound in
the suburbs of the towns. In Hungary the feudal system still
exists in all its pristine barbarity; in no country does the hard
hand of this oppression bear so heavy upon the lower classes - not
even in Russia. The peasants of Russia are serfs, it is true, but
their condition is enviable compared with that of the same class in
the other country; they have certain rights and privileges, and
are, upon the whole, happy and contented, whilst the Hungarians are
ground to powder. Two classes are free in Hungary to do almost
what they please - the nobility and - the Gypsies; the former are
above the law - the latter below it: a toll is wrung from the
hands of the hard-working labourers, that most meritorious class,
in passing over a bridge, for example at Pesth, which is not
demanded from a well-dressed person - nor from the Czigany, who
have frequently no dress at all - and whose insouciance stands in
striking contrast with the trembling submission of the peasants.
The Gypsy, wherever you find him, is an incomprehensible being, but
nowhere more than in Hungary, where, in the midst of slavery, he is
free, though apparently one step lower than the lowest slave. The
habits of the Hungarian Gypsies are abominable; their hovels appear
sinks of the vilest poverty and filth, their dress is at best rags,
their food frequently the vilest carrion, and occasionally, if
report be true, still worse - on which point, when speaking of the
Spanish Gitanos, we shall have subsequently more to say: thus they
live in filth, in rags, in nakedness, and in merriness of heart,
for nowhere is there more of song and dance than in an Hungarian
Gypsy village. They are very fond of music, and some of them are
heard to touch the violin in a manner wild, but of peculiar
excellence. Parties of them have been known to exhibit even at

In Hungary, as in all parts, they are addicted to horse-dealing;
they are likewise tinkers, and smiths in a small way. The women
are fortune-tellers, of course - both sexes thieves of the first
water. They roam where they list - in a country where all other
people are held under strict surveillance, no one seems to care
about these Parias. The most remarkable feature, however,
connected with the habits of the Czigany, consists in their foreign
excursions, having plunder in view, which frequently endure for
three or four years, when, if no mischance has befallen them, they
return to their native land - rich; where they squander the
proceeds of their dexterity in mad festivals. They wander in bands
of twelve and fourteen through France, even to Rome. Once, during
my own wanderings in Italy, I rested at nightfall by the side of a
kiln, the air being piercingly cold; it was about four leagues from
Genoa. Presently arrived three individuals to take advantage of
the warmth - a man, a woman, and a lad. They soon began to
discourse - and I found that they were Hungarian Gypsies; they
spoke of what they had been doing, and what they had amassed - I
think they mentioned nine hundred crowns. They had companions in
the neighbourhood, some of whom they were expecting; they took no
notice of me, and conversed in their own dialect; I did not approve
of their propinquity, and rising, hastened away.

When Napoleon invaded Spain there were not a few Hungarian Gypsies
in his armies; some strange encounters occurred on the field of
battle between these people and the Spanish Gitanos, one of which
is related in the second part of the present work. When quartered
in the Spanish towns, the Czigany invariably sought out their
peninsular brethren, to whom they revealed themselves, kissing and
embracing most affectionately; the Gitanos were astonished at the
proficiency of the strangers in thievish arts, and looked upon them
almost in the light of superior beings: 'They knew the whole
reckoning,' is still a common expression amongst them. There was a
Cziganian soldier for some time at Cordoba, of whom the Gitanos of
the place still frequently discourse, whilst smoking their cigars
during winter nights over their braseros.

The Hungarian Gypsies have a peculiar accent when speaking the
language of the country, by which they can be instantly
distinguished; the same thing is applicable to the Gitanos of Spain
when speaking Spanish. In no part of the world is the Gypsy
language preserved better than in Hungary.

The following short prayer to the Virgin, which I have frequently
heard amongst the Gypsies of Hungary and Transylvania, will serve
as a specimen of their language.-

Gula Devla, da me saschipo. Swuntuna Devla, da me bacht t'
aldaschis cari me jav; te ferin man, Devla, sila ta niapaschiata,
chungale manuschendar, ke me jav ande drom ca hin man traba; ferin
man, Devia; ma mek man Devla, ke manga man tre Devies-key.

Sweet Goddess, give me health. Holy Goddess, give me luck and
grace wherever I go; and help me, Goddess, powerful and immaculate,
from ugly men, that I may go in the road to the place I purpose:
help me, Goddess; forsake me not, Goddess, for I pray for God's


In Wallachia and Moldavia, two of the eastern-most regions of
Europe, are to be found seven millions of people calling themselves
Roumouni, and speaking a dialect of the Latin tongue much corrupted
by barbarous terms, so called. They are supposed to be in part
descendants of Roman soldiers, Rome in the days of her grandeur
having established immense military colonies in these parts. In
the midst of these people exist vast numbers of Gypsies, amounting,
I am disposed to think, to at least two hundred thousand. The land
of the Roumouni, indeed, seems to have been the hive from which the
West of Europe derived the Gypsy part of its population. Far be it
from me to say that the Gypsies sprang originally from Roumouni-
land. All I mean is, that it was their grand resting-place after
crossing the Danube. They entered Roumouni-land from Bulgaria,
crossing the great river, and from thence some went to the north-
east, overrunning Russia, others to the west of Europe, as far as
Spain and England. That the early Gypsies of the West, and also
those of Russia, came from Roumouni-land, is easily proved, as in
all the western Gypsy dialects, and also in the Russian, are to be
found words belonging to the Roumouni speech; for example,
primavera, spring; cheros, heaven; chorab, stocking; chismey,
boots; - Roum - primivari, cherul, chorapul, chisme. One might
almost be tempted to suppose that the term Rommany, by which the
Gypsies of Russia and the West call themselves, was derived from
Roumouni, were it not for one fact, which is, that Romanus in the
Latin tongue merely means a native of Rome, whilst the specific
meaning of Rome still remains in the dark; whereas in Gypsy Rom
means a husband, Rommany the sect of the husbands; Romanesti if
married. Whether both words were derived originally from the same
source, as I believe some people have supposed, is a question
which, with my present lights, I cannot pretend to determine.


No country appears less adapted for that wandering life, which
seems so natural to these people, than England. Those wildernesses
and forests, which they are so attached to, are not to be found
there; every inch of land is cultivated, and its produce watched
with a jealous eye; and as the laws against trampers, without the
visible means of supporting themselves, are exceedingly severe, the
possibility of the Gypsies existing as a distinct race, and
retaining their original free and independent habits, might
naturally be called in question by those who had not satisfactorily
verified the fact. Yet it is a truth that, amidst all these
seeming disadvantages, they not only exist there, but in no part of
the world is their life more in accordance with the general idea
that the Gypsy is like Cain, a wanderer of the earth; for in
England the covered cart and the little tent are the houses of the
Gypsy, and he seldom remains more than three days in the same

At present they are considered in some degree as a privileged
people; for, though their way of life is unlawful, it is connived
at; the law of England having discovered by experience, that its
utmost fury is inefficient to reclaim them from their inveterate

Shortly after their first arrival in England, which is upwards of
three centuries since, a dreadful persecution was raised against
them, the aim of which was their utter extermination; the being a
Gypsy was esteemed a crime worthy of death, and the gibbets of
England groaned and creaked beneath the weight of Gypsy carcases,
and the miserable survivors were literally obliged to creep into
the earth in order to preserve their lives. But these days passed
by; their persecutors became weary of pursuing them; they showed
their heads from the holes and caves where they had hidden
themselves, they ventured forth, increased in numbers, and, each
tribe or family choosing a particular circuit, they fairly divided
the land amongst them.

In England, the male Gypsies are all dealers in horses, and
sometimes employ their idle time in mending the tin and copper
utensils of the peasantry; the females tell fortunes. They
generally pitch their tents in the vicinity of a village or small
town by the road side, under the shelter of the hedges and trees.
The climate of England is well known to be favourable to beauty,
and in no part of the world is the appearance of the Gypsies so
prepossessing as in that country; their complexion is dark, but not
disagreeably so; their faces are oval, their features regular,
their foreheads rather low, and their hands and feet small. The
men are taller than the English peasantry, and far more active.
They all speak the English language with fluency, and in their gait
and demeanour are easy and graceful; in both points standing in
striking contrast with the peasantry, who in speech are slow and
uncouth, and in manner dogged and brutal.

The dialect of the Rommany, which they speak, though mixed with
English words, may be considered as tolerably pure, from the fact
that it is intelligible to the Gypsy race in the heart of Russia.
Whatever crimes they may commit, their vices are few, for the men
are not drunkards, nor are the women harlots; there are no two
characters which they hold in so much abhorrence, nor do any words
when applied by them convey so much execration as these two.

The crimes of which these people were originally accused were
various, but the principal were theft, sorcery, and causing disease
among the cattle; and there is every reason for supposing that in
none of these points they were altogether guiltless.

With respect to sorcery, a thing in itself impossible, not only the
English Gypsies, but the whole race, have ever professed it;
therefore, whatever misery they may have suffered on that account,
they may be considered as having called it down upon their own

Dabbling in sorcery is in some degree the province of the female
Gypsy. She affects to tell the future, and to prepare philtres by
means of which love can be awakened in any individual towards any
particular object; and such is the credulity of the human race,
even in the most enlightened countries, that the profits arising
from these practices are great. The following is a case in point:
two females, neighbours and friends, were tried some years since,
in England, for the murder of their husbands. It appeared that
they were in love with the same individual, and had conjointly, at
various times, paid sums of money to a Gypsy woman to work charms
to captivate his affections. Whatever little effect the charms
might produce, they were successful in their principal object, for
the person in question carried on for some time a criminal
intercourse with both. The matter came to the knowledge of the
husbands, who, taking means to break off this connection, were
respectively poisoned by their wives. Till the moment of
conviction these wretched females betrayed neither emotion nor
fear, but then their consternation was indescribable; and they
afterwards confessed that the Gypsy, who had visited them in
prison, had promised to shield them from conviction by means of her
art. It is therefore not surprising that in the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries, when a belief in sorcery was supported by the
laws of all Europe, these people were regarded as practisers of
sorcery, and punished as such, when, even in the nineteenth, they
still find people weak enough to place confidence in their claims
to supernatural power.

The accusation of producing disease and death amongst the cattle
was far from groundless. Indeed, however strange and incredible it
may sound in the present day to those who are unacquainted with
this caste, and the peculiar habits of the Rommanees, the practice
is still occasionally pursued in England and many other countries
where they are found. From this practice, when they are not
detected, they derive considerable advantage. Poisoning cattle is
exercised by them in two ways: by one, they merely cause disease
in the animals, with the view of receiving money for curing them
upon offering their services; the poison is generally administered
by powders cast at night into the mangers of the animals: this way
is only practised upon the larger cattle, such as horses and cows.
By the other, which they practise chiefly on swine, speedy death is
almost invariably produced, the drug administered being of a highly
intoxicating nature, and affecting the brain. They then apply at
the house or farm where the disaster has occurred for the carcase
of the animal, which is generally given them without suspicion, and
then they feast on the flesh, which is not injured by the poison,
which only affects the head.

The English Gypsies are constant attendants at the racecourse; what
jockey is not? Perhaps jockeyism originated with them, and even
racing, at least in England. Jockeyism properly implies THE
MANAGEMENT OF A WHIP, and the word jockey is neither more nor less
than the term slightly modified, by which they designate the
formidable whips which they usually carry, and which are at present
in general use amongst horse-traffickers, under the title of jockey
whips. They are likewise fond of resorting to the prize-ring, and
have occasionally even attained some eminence, as principals, in
those disgraceful and brutalising exhibitions called pugilistic
combats. I believe a great deal has been written on the subject of
the English Gypsies, but the writers have dwelt too much in
generalities; they have been afraid to take the Gypsy by the hand,
lead him forth from the crowd, and exhibit him in the area; he is
well worth observing. When a boy of fourteen, I was present at a
prize-fight; why should I hide the truth? It took place on a green
meadow, beside a running stream, close by the old church of E-, and
within a league of the ancient town of N-, the capital of one of
the eastern counties. The terrible Thurtell was present, lord of
the concourse; for wherever he moved he was master, and whenever he
spoke, even when in chains, every other voice was silent. He stood
on the mead, grim and pale as usual, with his bruisers around. He
it was, indeed, who GOT UP the fight, as he had previously done
twenty others; it being his frequent boast that he had first
introduced bruising and bloodshed amidst rural scenes, and
transformed a quiet slumbering town into a den of Jews and
metropolitan thieves. Some time before the commencement of the
combat, three men, mounted on wild-looking horses, came dashing
down the road in the direction of the meadow, in the midst of which
they presently showed themselves, their horses clearing the deep
ditches with wonderful alacrity. 'That's Gypsy Will and his gang,'
lisped a Hebrew pickpocket; 'we shall have another fight.' The
word Gypsy was always sufficient to excite my curiosity, and I
looked attentively at the newcomers.

I have seen Gypsies of various lands, Russian, Hungarian, and
Turkish; and I have also seen the legitimate children of most
countries of the world; but I never saw, upon the whole, three more
remarkable individuals, as far as personal appearance was
concerned, than the three English Gypsies who now presented
themselves to my eyes on that spot. Two of them had dismounted,
and were holding their horses by the reins. The tallest, and, at
the first glance, the most interesting of the two, was almost a
giant, for his height could not have been less than six feet three.
It is impossible for the imagination to conceive anything more
perfectly beautiful than were the features of this man, and the
most skilful sculptor of Greece might have taken them as his model
for a hero and a god. The forehead was exceedingly lofty, - a rare
thing in a Gypsy; the nose less Roman than Grecian, - fine yet
delicate; the eyes large, overhung with long drooping lashes,
giving them almost a melancholy expression; it was only when the
lashes were elevated that the Gypsy glance was seen, if that can be
called a glance which is a strange stare, like nothing else in this
world. His complexion was a beautiful olive; and his teeth were of
a brilliancy uncommon even amongst these people, who have all fine
teeth. He was dressed in a coarse waggoner's slop, which, however,
was unable to conceal altogether the proportions of his noble and
Herculean figure. He might be about twenty-eight. His companion
and his captain, Gypsy Will, was, I think, fifty when he was
hanged, ten years subsequently (for I never afterwards lost sight
of him), in the front of the jail of Bury St. Edmunds. I have
still present before me his bushy black hair, his black face, and
his big black eyes fixed and staring. His dress consisted of a
loose blue jockey coat, jockey boots and breeches; in his hand was
a huge jockey whip, and on his head (it struck me at the time for
its singularity) a broad-brimmed, high-peaked Andalusian hat, or at
least one very much resembling those generally worn in that
province. In stature he was shorter than his more youthful
companion, yet he must have measured six feet at least, and was
stronger built, if possible. What brawn! - what bone! - what legs!
- what thighs! The third Gypsy, who remained on horseback, looked
more like a phantom than any thing human. His complexion was the
colour of pale dust, and of that same colour was all that pertained
to him, hat and clothes. His boots were dusty of course, for it
was midsummer, and his very horse was of a dusty dun. His features
were whimsically ugly, most of his teeth were gone, and as to his
age, he might be thirty or sixty. He was somewhat lame and halt,
but an unequalled rider when once upon his steed, which he was
naturally not very solicitous to quit. I subsequently discovered
that he was considered the wizard of the gang.

I have been already prolix with respect to these Gypsies, but I
will not leave them quite yet. The intended combatants at length
arrived; it was necessary to clear the ring, - always a troublesome
and difficult task. Thurtell went up to the two Gypsies, with whom
he seemed to be acquainted, and with his surly smile, said two or
three words, which I, who was standing by, did not understand. The
Gypsies smiled in return, and giving the reins of their animals to
their mounted companion, immediately set about the task which the
king of the flash-men had, as I conjecture, imposed upon them; this
they soon accomplished. Who could stand against such fellows and
such whips? The fight was soon over - then there was a pause.
Once more Thurtell came up to the Gypsies and said something - the
Gypsies looked at each other and conversed; but their words then
had no meaning for my ears. The tall Gypsy shook his head - 'Very
well,' said the other, in English. 'I will - that's all.'

Then pushing the people aside, he strode to the ropes, over which
he bounded into the ring, flinging his Spanish hat high into the

GYPSY WILL. - 'The best man in England for twenty pounds!'

'THURTELL. - 'I am backer!'

Twenty pounds is a tempting sum, and there men that day upon the
green meadow who would have shed the blood of their own fathers for
the fifth of the price. But the Gypsy was not an unknown man, his
prowess and strength were notorious, and no one cared to encounter
him. Some of the Jews looked eager for a moment; but their sharp
eyes quailed quickly before his savage glances, as he towered in
the ring, his huge form dilating, and his black features convulsed
with excitement. The Westminster bravoes eyed the Gypsy askance;
but the comparison, if they made any, seemed by no means favourable
to themselves. 'Gypsy! rum chap. - Ugly customer, - always in
training.' Such were the exclamations which I heard, some of which
at that period of my life I did not understand.

No man would fight the Gypsy. - Yes! a strong country fellow wished
to win the stakes, and was about to fling up his hat in defiance,
but he was prevented by his friends, with - 'Fool! he'll kill you!'

As the Gypsies were mounting their horses, I heard the dusty
phantom exclaim -

'Brother, you are an arrant ring-maker and a horse-breaker; you'll
make a hempen ring to break your own neck of a horse one of these

They pressed their horses' flanks, again leaped over the ditches,
and speedily vanished, amidst the whirlwinds of dust which they
raised upon the road.

The words of the phantom Gypsy were ominous. Gypsy Will was
eventually executed for a murder committed in his early youth, in
company with two English labourers, one of whom confessed the fact
on his death-bed. He was the head of the clan Young, which, with
the clan Smith, still haunts two of the eastern counties.


It is difficult to say at what period the Gypsies or Rommany made
their first appearance in England. They had become, however, such
a nuisance in the time of Henry the Eighth, Philip and Mary, and
Elizabeth, that Gypsyism was denounced by various royal statutes,
and, if persisted in, was to be punished as felony without benefit
of clergy; it is probable, however, that they had overrun England
long before the period of the earliest of these monarchs. The
Gypsies penetrate into all countries, save poor ones, and it is
hardly to be supposed that a few leagues of intervening salt water
would have kept a race so enterprising any considerable length of
time, after their arrival on the continent of Europe, from
obtaining a footing in the fairest and richest country of the West.

It is easy enough to conceive the manner in which the Gypsies lived
in England for a long time subsequent to their arrival: doubtless
in a half-savage state, wandering about from place to place,
encamping on the uninhabited spots, of which there were then so
many in England, feared and hated by the population, who looked
upon them as thieves and foreign sorcerers, occasionally committing
acts of brigandage, but depending chiefly for subsistence on the
practice of the 'arts of Egypt,' in which cunning and dexterity
were far more necessary than courage or strength of hand.

It would appear that they were always divided into clans or tribes,
each bearing a particular name, and to which a particular district
more especially belonged, though occasionally they would exchange
districts for a period, and, incited by their characteristic love
of wandering, would travel far and wide. Of these families each
had a sher-engro, or head man, but that they were ever united under
one Rommany Krallis, or Gypsy King, as some people have insisted,
there is not the slightest ground for supposing.

It is possible that many of the original Gypsy tribes are no longer
in existence: disease or the law may have made sad havoc among
them, and the few survivors have incorporated themselves with other
families, whose name they have adopted. Two or three instances of
this description have occurred within the sphere of my own
knowledge: the heads of small families have been cut off, and the
subordinate members, too young and inexperienced to continue
Gypsying as independent wanderers, have been adopted by other

The principal Gypsy tribes at present in existence are the
Stanleys, whose grand haunt is the New Forest; the Lovells, who are
fond of London and its vicinity; the Coopers, who call Windsor
Castle their home; the Hernes, to whom the north country, more
especially Yorkshire, belongeth; and lastly, my brethren, the
Smiths, - to whom East Anglia appears to have been allotted from
the beginning.

All these families have Gypsy names, which seem, however, to be
little more than attempts at translation of the English ones:- thus
the Stanleys are called Bar-engres (11), which means stony-fellows,
or stony-hearts; the Coopers, Wardo-engres, or wheelwrights; the
Lovells, Camo-mescres, or amorous fellows the Hernes (German
Haaren) Balors, hairs, or hairy men; while the Smiths are called
Petul-engres, signifying horseshoe fellows, or blacksmiths.

It is not very easy to determine how the Gypsies became possessed
of some of these names: the reader, however, will have observed
that two of them, Stanley and Lovell, are the names of two highly
aristocratic English families; the Gypsies who bear them perhaps
adopted them from having, at their first arrival, established
themselves on the estates of those great people; or it is possible
that they translated their original Gypsy appellations by these
names, which they deemed synonymous. Much the same may be said
with respect to Herne, an ancient English name; they probably
sometimes officiated as coopers or wheelwrights, whence the
cognomination. Of the term Petul-engro, or Smith, however, I wish
to say something in particular.

There is every reason for believing that this last is a genuine
Gypsy name, brought with them from the country from which they
originally came; it is compounded of two words, signifying, as has
been already observed, horseshoe fellows, or people whose trade is
to manufacture horseshoes, a trade which the Gypsies ply in various
parts of the world, - for example, in Russia and Hungary, and more
particularly about Granada in Spain, as will subsequently be shown.
True it is, that at present there are none amongst the English
Gypsies who manufacture horseshoes; all the men, however, are
tinkers more or less, and the word Petul-engro is applied to the
tinker also, though the proper meaning of it is undoubtedly what I
have already stated above. In other dialects of the Gypsy tongue,
this cognomen exists, though not exactly with the same
signification; for example, in the Hungarian dialect, PINDORO,
which is evidently a modification of Petul-engro, is applied to a
Gypsy in general, whilst in Spanish Pepindorio is the Gypsy word
for Antonio. In some parts of Northern Asia, the Gypsies call
themselves Wattul (12), which seems to be one and the same as

Besides the above-named Gypsy clans, there are other smaller ones,
some of which do not comprise more than a dozen individuals,
children included. For example, the Bosviles, the Browns, the
Chilcotts, the Grays, Lees, Taylors, and Whites; of these the
principal is the Bosvile tribe.

After the days of the great persecution in England against the
Gypsies, there can be little doubt that they lived a right merry
and tranquil life, wandering about and pitching their tents
wherever inclination led them: indeed, I can scarcely conceive any
human condition more enviable than Gypsy life must have been in
England during the latter part of the seventeenth, and the whole of
the eighteenth century, which were likewise the happy days for
Englishmen in general; there was peace and plenty in the land, a
contented population, and everything went well. Yes, those were
brave times for the Rommany chals, to which the old people often
revert with a sigh: the poor Gypsies, say they, were then allowed
to SOVE ABRI (sleep abroad) where they listed, to heat their
kettles at the foot of the oaks, and no people grudged the poor
persons one night's use of a meadow to feed their cattle in.
TUGNIS AMANDE, our heart is heavy, brother, - there is no longer
Gypsy law in the land, - our people have become negligent, - they
are but half Rommany, - they are divided and care for nothing, -
they do not even fear Pazorrhus, brother.

Much the same complaints are at present made by the Spanish
Gypsies. Gypsyism is certainly on the decline in both countries.
In England, a superabundant population, and, of late, a very
vigilant police, have done much to modify Gypsy life; whilst in
Spain, causes widely different have produced a still greater
change, as will be seen further on.

Gypsy law does not flourish at present in England, and still less
in Spain, nor does Gypsyism. I need not explain here what Gypsyism
is, but the reader may be excused for asking what is Gypsy law.
Gypsy law divides itself into the three following heads or

Separate not from THE HUSBANDS.
Be faithful to THE HUSBANDS.
Pay your debts to THE HUSBANDS.

By the first section the Rom or Gypsy is enjoined to live with his
brethren, the husbands, and not with the gorgios (13) or gentiles;
he is to live in a tent, as is befitting a Rom and a wanderer, and
not in a house, which ties him to one spot; in a word, he is in
every respect to conform to the ways of his own people, and to
eschew those of gorgios, with whom he is not to mix, save to tell
them HOQUEPENES (lies), and to chore them.

The second section, in which fidelity is enjoined, was more
particularly intended for the women: be faithful to the ROMS, ye
JUWAS, and take not up with the gorgios, whether they be RAIOR or
BAUOR (gentlemen or fellows). This was a very important
injunction, so much so, indeed, that upon the observance of it
depended the very existence of the Rommany sect, - for if the
female Gypsy admitted the gorgio to the privilege of the Rom, the
race of the Rommany would quickly disappear. How well this
injunction has been observed needs scarcely be said; for the
Rommany have been roving about England for three centuries at
least, and are still to be distinguished from the gorgios in
feature and complexion, which assuredly would not have been the
case if the juwas had not been faithful to the Roms. The gorgio
says that the juwa is at his disposal in all things, because she
tells him fortunes and endures his free discourse; but the Rom,
when he hears the boast, laughs within his sleeve, and whispers to
himself, LET HIM TRY.

The third section, which relates to the paying of debts, is highly
curious. In the Gypsy language, the state of being in debt is
called PAZORRHUS, and the Rom who did not seek to extricate himself
from that state was deemed infamous, and eventually turned out of
the society. It has been asserted, I believe, by various gorgio
writers, that the Roms have everything in common, and that there is
a common stock out of which every one takes what he needs; this is
quite a mistake, however: a Gypsy tribe is an epitome of the
world; every one keeps his own purse and maintains himself and
children to the best of his ability, and every tent is independent
of the other. True it is that one Gypsy will lend to another in
the expectation of being repaid, and until that happen the borrower
is pazorrhus, or indebted. Even at the present time, a Gypsy will
make the greatest sacrifices rather than remain pazorrhus to one of
his brethren, even though he be of another clan; though perhaps the
feeling is not so strong as of old, for time modifies everything;
even Jews and Gypsies are affected by it. In the old time, indeed,
the Gypsy law was so strong against the debtor, that provided he
could not repay his brother husband, he was delivered over to him
as his slave for a year and a day, and compelled to serve him as a
hewer of wood, a drawer of water, or a beast of burden; but those
times are past, the Gypsies are no longer the independent people
they were of yore, - dark, mysterious, and dreaded wanderers,
living apart in the deserts and heaths with which England at one
time abounded. Gypsy law has given place to common law; but the
principle of honour is still recognised amongst them, and base
indeed must the Gypsy be who would continue pazorrhus because Gypsy
law has become too weak to force him to liquidate a debt by money
or by service.

Such was Gypsy law in England, and there is every probability that
it is much the same in all parts of the world where the Gypsy race
is to be found. About the peculiar practices of the Gypsies I need
not say much here; the reader will find in the account of the
Spanish Gypsies much that will afford him an idea of Gypsy arts in
England. I have already alluded to CHIVING DRAV, or poisoning,
which is still much practised by the English Gypsies, though it has
almost entirely ceased in Spain; then there is CHIVING LUVVU ADREY
PUVO, or putting money within the earth, a trick by which the
females deceive the gorgios, and which will be more particularly
described in the affairs of Spain: the men are adepts at cheating
the gorgios by means of NOK-ENGROES and POGGADO-BAVENGROES
(glandered and broken-winded horses). But, leaving the subject of
their tricks and Rommany arts, by no means an agreeable one, I will
take the present opportunity of saying a few words about a practice
of theirs, highly characteristic of a wandering people, and which
is only extant amongst those of the race who still continue to
wander much; for example, the Russian Gypsies and those of the
Hungarian family, who stroll through Italy on plundering
expeditions: I allude to the PATTERAN or TRAIL.

It is very possible that the reader during his country walks or
rides has observed, on coming to four cross-roads, two or three
handfuls of grass lying at a small distance from each other down
one of these roads; perhaps he may have supposed that this grass
was recently plucked from the roadside by frolicsome children, and
flung upon the ground in sport, and this may possibly have been the
case; it is ten chances to one, however, that no children's hands
plucked them, but that they were strewed in this manner by Gypsies,
for the purpose of informing any of their companions, who might be
straggling behind, the route which they had taken; this is one form
of the patteran or trail. It is likely, too, that the gorgio
reader may have seen a cross drawn at the entrance of a road, the
long part or stem of it pointing down that particular road, and he
may have thought nothing of it, or have supposed that some
sauntering individual like himself had made the mark with his
stick: not so, courteous gorgio; ley tiro solloholomus opre lesti,
YOU MAY TAKE YOUR OATH UPON IT that it was drawn by a Gypsy finger,
for that mark is another of the Rommany trails; there is no mistake
in this. Once in the south of France, when I was weary, hungry,
and penniless, I observed one of these last patterans, and
following the direction pointed out, arrived at the resting-place
of 'certain Bohemians,' by whom I was received with kindness and
hospitality, on the faith of no other word of recommendation than
patteran. There is also another kind of patteran, which is more
particularly adapted for the night; it is a cleft stick stuck at
the side of the road, close by the hedge, with a little arm in the
cleft pointing down the road which the band have taken, in the
manner of a signpost; any stragglers who may arrive at night where
cross-roads occur search for this patteran on the left-hand side,
and speedily rejoin their companions.

By following these patterans, or trails, the first Gypsies on their
way to Europe never lost each other, though wandering amidst horrid
wildernesses and dreary defiles. Rommany matters have always had a
peculiar interest for me; nothing, however, connected with Gypsy
life ever more captivated my imagination than this patteran system:
many thanks to the Gypsies for it; it has more than once been of
service to me.

The English Gypsies at the present day are far from being a
numerous race; I consider their aggregate number, from the
opportunities which I have had of judging, to be considerably under
ten thousand: it is probable that, ere the conclusion of the
present century, they will have entirely disappeared. They are in
general quite strangers to the commonest rudiments of education;
few even of the most wealthy can either read or write. With
respect to religion, they call themselves members of the
Established Church, and are generally anxious to have their
children baptized, and to obtain a copy of the register. Some of
their baptismal papers, which they carry about with them, are
highly curious, going back for a period of upwards of two hundred
years. With respect to the essential points of religion, they are
quite careless and ignorant; if they believe in a future state they
dread it not, and if they manifest when dying any anxiety, it is
not for the soul, but the body: a handsome coffin, and a grave in
a quiet country churchyard, are invariably the objects of their
last thoughts; and it is probable that, in their observance of the
rite of baptism, they are principally influenced by a desire to
enjoy the privilege of burial in consecrated ground. A Gypsy
family never speak of their dead save with regret and affection,
and any request of the dying individual is attended to, especially
with regard to interment; so much so, that I have known a corpse
conveyed a distance of nearly one hundred miles, because the
deceased expressed a wish to be buried in a particular spot.

Of the language of the English Gypsies, some specimens will be
given in the sequel; it is much more pure and copious than the
Spanish dialect. It has been asserted that the English Gypsies are
not possessed of any poetry in their own tongue; but this is a
gross error; they possess a great many songs and ballads upon
ordinary subjects, without any particular merit, however, and
seemingly of a very modern date.


What has been said of the Gypsies of Europe is, to a considerable
extent, applicable to their brethren in the East, or, as they are
called, Zingarri; they are either found wandering amongst the
deserts or mountains, or settled in towns, supporting themselves by
horse-dealing or jugglery, by music and song. In no part of the
East are they more numerous than in Turkey, especially in
Constantinople, where the females frequently enter the harems of
the great, pretending to cure children of 'the evil eye,' and to
interpret the dreams of the women. They are not unfrequently seen
in the coffee-houses, exhibiting their figures in lascivious dances
to the tune of various instruments; yet these females are by no
means unchaste, however their manners and appearance may denote the
contrary, and either Turk or Christian who, stimulated by their
songs and voluptuous movements, should address them with proposals
of a dishonourable nature, would, in all probability, meet with a
decided repulse.

Among the Zingarri are not a few who deal in precious stones, and
some who vend poisons; and the most remarkable individual whom it
has been my fortune to encounter amongst the Gypsies, whether of
the Eastern or Western world, was a person who dealt in both these
articles. He was a native of Constantinople, and in the pursuit of
his trade had visited the most remote and remarkable portions of
the world. He had traversed alone and on foot the greatest part of
India; he spoke several dialects of the Malay, and understood the
original language of Java, that isle more fertile in poisons than
even 'far Iolchos and Spain.' From what I could learn from him, it
appeared that his jewels were in less request than his drugs,
though he assured me that there was scarcely a Bey or Satrap in
Persia or Turkey whom he had not supplied with both. I have seen
this individual in more countries than one, for he flits over the
world like the shadow of a cloud; the last time at Granada in
Spain, whither he had come after paying a visit to his Gitano
brethren in the presidio of Ceuta.

Few Eastern authors have spoken of the Zingarri, notwithstanding
they have been known in the East for many centuries; amongst the
few, none has made more curious mention of them than Arabschah, in
a chapter of his life of Timour or Tamerlane, which is deservedly
considered as one of the three classic works of Arabian literature.
This passage, which, while it serves to illustrate the craft, if
not the valour of the conqueror of half the world, offers some
curious particulars as to Gypsy life in the East at a remote
period, will scarcely be considered out of place if reproduced
here, and the following is as close a translation of it as the
metaphorical style of the original will allow.

'There were in Samarcand numerous families of Zingarri of various
descriptions: some were wrestlers, others gladiators, others
pugilists. These people were much at variance, so that hostilities
and battling were continually arising amongst them. Each band had
its chief and subordinate officers; and it came to pass that Timour
and the power which he possessed filled them with dread, for they
knew that he was aware of their crimes and disorderly way of life.
Now it was the custom of Timour, on departing upon his expeditions,
to leave a viceroy in Samarcand; but no sooner had he left the
city, than forth marched these bands, and giving battle to the
viceroy, deposed him and took possession of the government, so that
on the return of Timour he found order broken, confusion reigning,
and his throne overturned, and then he had much to do in restoring
things to their former state, and in punishing or pardoning the
guilty; but no sooner did he depart again to his wars, and to his
various other concerns, than they broke out into the same excesses,
and this they repeated no less than three times, and he at length
laid a plan for their utter extermination, and it was the
following:- He commenced building a wall, and he summoned unto him
the people small and great, and he allotted to every man his place,
and to every workman his duty, and he stationed the Zingarri and
their chieftains apart; and in one particular spot he placed a band
of soldiers, and he commanded them to kill whomsoever he should
send to them; and having done so, he called to him the heads of the
people, and he filled the cup for them and clothed them in splendid
vests; and when the turn came to the Zingarri, he likewise pledged
one of them, and bestowed a vest upon him, and sent him with a
message to the soldiers, who, as soon as he arrived, tore from him
his vest, and stabbed him, pouring forth the gold of his heart into
the pan of destruction, (14) and in this way they continued until
the last of them was destroyed; and by that blow he exterminated
their race, and their traces, and from that time forward there were
no more rebellions in Samarcand.'

It has of late years been one of the favourite theories of the
learned, that Timour's invasion of Hindostan, and the cruelties
committed by his savage hordes in that part of the world, caused a
vast number of Hindoos to abandon their native land, and that the
Gypsies of the present day are the descendants of those exiles who
wended their weary way to the West. Now, provided the above
passage in the work of Arabschah be entitled to credence, the
opinion that Timour was the cause of the expatriation and
subsequent wandering life of these people, must be abandoned as
untenable. At the time he is stated by the Arabian writer to have
annihilated the Gypsy hordes of Samarcand, he had but just
commenced his career of conquest and devastation, and had not even
directed his thoughts to the invasion of India; yet at this early
period of the history of his life, we find families of Zingarri
established at Samarcand, living much in the same manner as others
of the race have subsequently done in various towns of Europe and
the East; but supposing the event here narrated to be a fable, or
at best a floating legend, it appears singular that, if they left
their native land to escape from Timour, they should never have
mentioned in the Western world the name of that scourge of the
human race, nor detailed the history of their flight and
sufferings, which assuredly would have procured them sympathy; the
ravages of Timour being already but too well known in Europe. That
they came from India is much easier to prove than that they fled
before the fierce Mongol.

Such people as the Gypsies, whom the Bishop of Forli in the year
1422, only sixteen years subsequent to the invasion of India,
describes as a 'raging rabble, of brutal and animal propensities,'
(15) are not such as generally abandon their country on foreign



GITANOS, or Egyptians, is the name by which the Gypsies have been
most generally known in Spain, in the ancient as well as in the
modern period, but various other names have been and still are
applied to them; for example, New Castilians, Germans, and
Flemings; the first of which titles probably originated after the
name of Gitano had begun to be considered a term of reproach and
infamy. They may have thus designated themselves from an
unwillingness to utter, when speaking of themselves, the detested
expression 'Gitano,' a word which seldom escapes their mouths; or
it may have been applied to them first by the Spaniards, in their
mutual dealings and communication, as a term less calculated to
wound their feelings and to beget a spirit of animosity than the
other; but, however it might have originated, New Castilian, in
course of time, became a term of little less infamy than Gitano;
for, by the law of Philip the Fourth, both terms are forbidden to
be applied to them under severe penalties.

That they were called Germans, may be accounted for, either by the
supposition that their generic name of Rommany was misunderstood
and mispronounced by the Spaniards amongst whom they came, or from
the fact of their having passed through Germany in their way to the
south, and bearing passports and letters of safety from the various
German states. The title of Flemings, by which at the present day
they are known in various parts of Spain, would probably never have
been bestowed upon them but from the circumstance of their having
been designated or believed to be Germans, - as German and Fleming
are considered by the ignorant as synonymous terms.

Amongst themselves they have three words to distinguish them and
their race in general: Zincalo, Romano, and Chai; of the first two
of which something has been already said.

They likewise call themselves 'Cales,' by which appellation indeed
they are tolerably well known by the Spaniards, and which is merely
the plural termination of the compound word Zincalo, and signifies,
The black men. Chai is a modification of the word Chal, which, by
the Gitanos of Estremadura, is applied to Egypt, and in many parts
of Spain is equivalent to 'Heaven,' and which is perhaps a
modification of 'Cheros,' the word for heaven in other dialects of
the Gypsy language. Thus Chai may denote, The men of Egypt, or,
The sons of Heaven. It is, however, right to observe, that amongst
the Gitanos, the word Chai has frequently no other signification
than the simple one of 'children.'

It is impossible to state for certainty the exact year of their
first appearance in Spain; but it is reasonable to presume that it
was early in the fifteenth century; as in the year 1417 numerous
bands entered France from the north-east of Europe, and speedily
spread themselves over the greatest part of that country. Of these
wanderers a French author has left the following graphic
description: (16)

'On the 17th of April 1427, appeared in Paris twelve penitents of
Egypt, driven from thence by the Saracens; they brought in their
company one hundred and twenty persons; they took up their quarters
in La Chapelle, whither the people flocked in crowds to visit them.
They had their ears pierced, from which depended a ring of silver;
their hair was black and crispy, and their women were filthy to a
degree, and were sorceresses who told fortunes.'

Such were the people who, after traversing France and scaling the
sides of the Pyrenees, poured down in various bands upon the
sunburnt plains of Spain. Wherever they had appeared they had been
looked upon as a curse and a pestilence, and with much reason.
Either unwilling or unable to devote themselves to any laborious or
useful occupation, they came like flights of wasps to prey upon the
fruits which their more industrious fellow-beings amassed by the
toil of their hands and the sweat of their foreheads; the natural
result being, that wherever they arrived, their fellow-creatures
banded themselves against them. Terrible laws were enacted soon
after their appearance in France, calculated to put a stop to their
frauds and dishonest propensities; wherever their hordes were
found, they were attacked by the incensed rustics or by the armed
hand of justice, and those who were not massacred on the spot, or
could not escape by flight, were, without a shadow of a trial,
either hanged on the next tree, or sent to serve for life in the
galleys; or if females or children, either scourged or mutilated.

The consequence of this severity, which, considering the manners
and spirit of the time, is scarcely to be wondered at, was the
speedy disappearance of the Gypsies from the soil of France.

Many returned by the way they came, to Germany, Hungary, and the
woods and forests of Bohemia; but there is little doubt that by far
the greater portion found a refuge in the Peninsula, a country
which, though by no means so rich and fertile as the one they had
quitted, nor offering so wide and ready a field for the exercise of
those fraudulent arts for which their race had become so infamously
notorious, was, nevertheless, in many respects, suitable and
congenial to them. If there were less gold and silver in the
purses of the citizens to reward the dexterous handler of the knife
and scissors amidst the crowd in the market-place; if fewer sides
of fatted swine graced the ample chimney of the labourer in Spain
than in the neighbouring country; if fewer beeves bellowed in the
plains, and fewer sheep bleated upon the hills, there were far
better opportunities afforded of indulging in wild independence.
Should the halberded bands of the city be ordered out to quell,
seize, or exterminate them; should the alcalde of the village cause
the tocsin to be rung, gathering together the villanos for a
similar purpose, the wild sierra was generally at hand, which, with
its winding paths, its caves, its frowning precipices, and ragged
thickets, would offer to them a secure refuge where they might
laugh to scorn the rage of their baffled pursuers, and from which
they might emerge either to fresh districts or to those which they
had left, to repeat their ravages when opportunity served.

After crossing the Pyrenees, a very short time elapsed before the
Gypsy hordes had bivouacked in the principal provinces of Spain.
There can indeed be little doubt, that shortly after their arrival
they made themselves perfectly acquainted with all the secrets of
the land, and that there was scarcely a nook or retired corner
within Spain, from which the smoke of their fires had not arisen,
or where their cattle had not grazed. People, however, so acute as
they have always proverbially been, would scarcely be slow in
distinguishing the provinces most adapted to their manner of life,
and most calculated to afford them opportunities of practising
those arts to which they were mainly indebted for their
subsistence; the savage hills of Biscay, of Galicia, and the
Asturias, whose inhabitants were almost as poor as themselves,
which possessed no superior breed of horses or mules from amongst
which they might pick and purloin many a gallant beast, and having
transformed by their dexterous scissors, impose him again upon his
rightful master for a high price, - such provinces, where,
moreover, provisions were hard to be obtained, even by pilfering
hands, could scarcely be supposed to offer strong temptations to
these roving visitors to settle down in, or to vex and harass by a
long sojourn.

Valencia and Murcia found far more favour in their eyes; a far more
fertile soil, and wealthier inhabitants, were better calculated to
entice them; there was a prospect of plunder, and likewise a
prospect of safety and refuge, should the dogs of justice be roused
against them. If there were the populous town and village in those
lands, there was likewise the lone waste, and uncultivated spot, to
which they could retire when danger threatened them. Still more
suitable to them must have been La Mancha, a land of tillage, of
horses, and of mules, skirted by its brown sierra, ever eager to
afford its shelter to their dusky race. Equally suitable,
Estremadura and New Castile; but far, far more, Andalusia, with its
three kingdoms, Jaen, Granada, and Seville, one of which was still
possessed by the swarthy Moor, - Andalusia, the land of the proud
steed and the stubborn mule, the land of the savage sierra and the
fruitful and cultivated plain: to Andalusia they hied, in bands of
thirties and sixties; the hoofs of their asses might be heard
clattering in the passes of the stony hills; the girls might be
seen bounding in lascivious dance in the streets of many a town,
and the beldames standing beneath the eaves telling the 'buena
ventura' to many a credulous female dupe; the men the while
chaffered in the fair and market-place with the labourers and
chalanes, casting significant glances on each other, or exchanging
a word or two in Rommany, whilst they placed some uncouth animal in
a particular posture which served to conceal its ugliness from the
eyes of the chapman. Yes, of all provinces of Spain, Andalusia was
the most frequented by the Gitano race, and in Andalusia they most
abound at the present day, though no longer as restless independent
wanderers of the fields and hills, but as residents in villages and
towns, especially in Seville.


HAVING already stated to the reader at what period and by what
means these wanderers introduced themselves into Spain, we shall
now say something concerning their manner of life.

It would appear that, for many years after their arrival in the
Peninsula, their manners and habits underwent no change; they were
wanderers, in the strictest sense of the word, and lived much in
the same way as their brethren exist in the present day in England,
Russia, and Bessarabia, with the exception perhaps of being more
reckless, mischievous, and having less respect for the laws; it is
true that their superiority in wickedness in these points may have
been more the effect of the moral state of the country in which
they were, than of any other operating cause.

Arriving in Spain with a predisposition to every species of crime
and villainy, they were not likely to be improved or reclaimed by
the example of the people with whom they were about to mix; nor was
it probable that they would entertain much respect for laws which,
from time immemorial, have principally served, not to protect the
honest and useful members of society, but to enrich those entrusted
with the administration of them. Thus, if they came thieves, it
is not probable that they would become ashamed of the title of
thief in Spain, where the officers of justice were ever willing to
shield an offender on receiving the largest portion of the booty
obtained. If on their arrival they held the lives of others in
very low estimation, could it be expected that they would become
gentle as lambs in a land where blood had its price, and the
shedder was seldom executed unless he was poor and friendless, and
unable to cram with ounces of yellow gold the greedy hands of the
pursuers of blood, - the alguazil and escribano? therefore, if the
Spanish Gypsies have been more bloody and more wolfishly eager in
the pursuit of booty than those of their race in most other
regions, the cause must be attributed to their residence in a
country unsound in every branch of its civil polity, where right
has ever been in less esteem, and wrong in less disrepute, than in
any other part of the world.

However, if the moral state of Spain was not calculated to have a
favourable effect on the habits and pursuits of the Gypsies, their
manners were as little calculated to operate beneficially, in any
point of view, on the country where they had lately arrived.
Divided into numerous bodies, frequently formidable in point of
number, their presence was an evil and a curse in whatever quarter
they directed their steps. As might be expected, the labourers,
who in all countries are the most honest, most useful, and
meritorious class, were the principal sufferers; their mules and
horses were stolen, carried away to distant fairs, and there
disposed of, perhaps, to individuals destined to be deprived of
them in a similar manner; whilst their flocks of sheep and goats
were laid under requisition to assuage the hungry cravings of these
thievish cormorants.

It was not uncommon for a large band or tribe to encamp in the
vicinity of a remote village scantily peopled, and to remain there
until, like a flight of locusts, they had consumed everything which
the inhabitants possessed for their support; or until they were
scared away by the approach of justice, or by an army of rustics
assembled from the surrounding country. Then would ensue the
hurried march; the women and children, mounted on lean but spirited
asses, would scour along the plains fleeter than the wind; ragged
and savage-looking men, wielding the scourge and goad, would
scamper by their side or close behind, whilst perhaps a small party
on strong horses, armed with rusty matchlocks or sabres, would
bring up the rear, threatening the distant foe, and now and then
saluting them with a hoarse blast from the Gypsy horn:-

'O, when I sit my courser bold,
My bantling in my rear,
And in my hand my musket hold -
O how they quake with fear!'

Let us for a moment suppose some unfortunate traveller, mounted on
a handsome mule or beast of some value, meeting, unarmed and alone,
such a rabble rout at the close of eve, in the wildest part, for
example, of La Mancha; we will suppose that he is journeying from
Seville to Madrid, and that he has left at a considerable distance
behind him the gloomy and horrible passes of the Sierra Morena; his
bosom, which for some time past has been contracted with dreadful
forebodings, is beginning to expand; his blood, which has been
congealed in his veins, is beginning to circulate warmly and
freely; he is fondly anticipating the still distant posada and
savoury omelet. The sun is sinking rapidly behind the savage and
uncouth hills in his rear; he has reached the bottom of a small
valley, where runs a rivulet at which he allows his tired animal to
drink; he is about to ascend the side of the hill; his eyes are
turned upwards; suddenly he beholds strange and uncouth forms at
the top of the ascent - the sun descending slants its rays upon red
cloaks, with here and there a turbaned head, or long streaming
hair. The traveller hesitates, but reflecting that he is no longer
in the mountains, and that in the open road there is no danger of
banditti, he advances. In a moment he is in the midst of the Gypsy
group, in a moment there is a general halt; fiery eyes are turned
upon him replete with an expression which only the eyes of the Roma
possess, then ensues a jabber in a language or jargon which is
strange to the ears of the traveller; at last an ugly urchin
springs from the crupper of a halting mule, and in a lisping accent
entreats charity in the name of the Virgin and the Majoro. The
traveller, with a faltering hand, produces his purse, and is
proceeding to loosen its strings, but he accomplishes not his
purpose, for, struck violently by a huge knotted club in an unseen
hand, he tumbles headlong from his mule. Next morning a naked
corse, besmeared with brains and blood, is found by an arriero; and
within a week a simple cross records the event, according to the
custom of Spain.

'Below there in the dusky pass
Was wrought a murder dread;
The murdered fell upon the grass,
Away the murderer fled.'

To many, such a scene, as above described, will appear purely
imaginary, or at least a mass of exaggeration, but many such
anecdotes are related by old Spanish writers of these people; they
traversed the country in gangs; they were what the Spanish law has
styled Abigeos and Salteadores de Camino, cattle-stealers and
highwaymen; though, in the latter character, they never rose to any
considerable eminence. True it is that they would not hesitate to
attack or even murder the unarmed and defenceless traveller, when
they felt assured of obtaining booty with little or no risk to
themselves; but they were not by constitution adapted to rival
those bold and daring banditti of whom so many terrible anecdotes
are related in Spain and Italy, and who have acquired their renown
by the dauntless daring which they have invariably displayed in the
pursuit of plunder.

Besides trafficking in horses and mules, and now and then attacking
and plundering travellers upon the highway, the Gypsies of Spain
appear, from a very early period, to have plied occasionally the
trade of the blacksmith, and to have worked in iron, forming rude
implements of domestic and agricultural use, which they disposed
of, either for provisions or money, in the neighbourhood of those
places where they had taken up their temporary residence. As their
bands were composed of numerous individuals, there is no
improbability in assuming that to every member was allotted that
branch of labour in which he was most calculated to excel. The
most important, and that which required the greatest share of
cunning and address, was undoubtedly that of the chalan or jockey,
who frequented the fairs with the beasts which he had obtained by
various means, but generally by theft. Highway robbery, though
occasionally committed by all jointly or severally, was probably
the peculiar department of the boldest spirits of the gang; whilst
wielding the hammer and tongs was abandoned to those who, though
possessed of athletic forms, were perhaps, like Vulcan, lame, or
from some particular cause, moral or physical, unsuited for the
other two very respectable avocations. The forge was generally
placed in the heart of some mountain abounding in wood; the gaunt
smiths felled a tree, perhaps with the very axes which their own
sturdy hands had hammered at a former period; with the wood thus
procured they prepared the charcoal which their labour demanded.
Everything is in readiness; the bellows puff until the coal is
excited to a furious glow; the metal, hot, pliant, and ductile, is
laid on the anvil, round which stands the Cyclop group, their
hammers upraised; down they descend successively, one, two, three,
the sparks are scattered on every side. The sparks -

'More than a hundred lovely daughters I see produced at one time,
fiery as roses: in one moment they expire gracefully
circumvolving.' (17)

The anvil rings beneath the thundering stroke, hour succeeds hour,
and still endures the hard sullen toil.

One of the most remarkable features in the history of Gypsies is
the striking similarity of their pursuits in every region of the
globe to which they have penetrated; they are not merely alike in
limb and in feature, in the cast and expression of the eye, in the
colour of the hair, in their walk and gait, but everywhere they
seem to exhibit the same tendencies, and to hunt for their bread by
the same means, as if they were not of the human but rather of the
animal species, and in lieu of reason were endowed with a kind of
instinct which assists them to a very limited extent and no

In no part of the world are they found engaged in the cultivation
of the earth, or in the service of a regular master; but in all
lands they are jockeys, or thieves, or cheats; and if ever they
devote themselves to any toil or trade, it is assuredly in every
material point one and the same. We have found them above, in the
heart of a wild mountain, hammering iron, and manufacturing from it
instruments either for their own use or that of the neighbouring
towns and villages. They may be seen employed in a similar manner
in the plains of Russia, or in the bosom of its eternal forests;
and whoever inspects the site where a horde of Gypsies has
encamped, in the grassy lanes beneath the hazel bushes of merry
England, is generally sure to find relics of tin and other metal,
avouching that they have there been exercising the arts of the
tinker or smith. Perhaps nothing speaks more forcibly for the
antiquity of this sect or caste than the tenacity with which they
have uniformly preserved their peculiar customs since the period of
their becoming generally known; for, unless their habits had become
a part of their nature, which could only have been effected by a
strict devotion to them through a long succession of generations,
it is not to be supposed that after their arrival in civilised
Europe they would have retained and cherished them precisely in the
same manner in the various countries where they found an asylum.

Each band or family of the Spanish Gypsies had its Captain, or, as
he was generally designated, its Count. Don Juan de Quinones, who,
in a small volume published in 1632, has written some details
respecting their way of life, says: 'They roam about, divided into
families and troops, each of which has its head or Count; and to
fill this office they choose the most valiant and courageous
individual amongst them, and the one endowed with the greatest
strength. He must at the same time be crafty and sagacious, and
adapted in every respect to govern them. It is he who settles
their differences and disputes, even when they are residing in a
place where there is a regular justice. He heads them at night
when they go out to plunder the flocks, or to rob travellers on the
highway; and whatever they steal or plunder they divide amongst
them, always allowing the captain a third part of the whole.'

These Counts, being elected for such qualities as promised to be
useful to their troop or family, were consequently liable to be
deposed if at any time their conduct was not calculated to afford
satisfaction to their subjects. The office was not hereditary, and
though it carried along with it partial privileges, was both
toilsome and dangerous. Should the plans for plunder, which it was
the duty of the Count to form, miscarry in the attempt to execute
them; should individuals of the gang fall into the hand of justice,
and the Count be unable to devise a method to save their lives or
obtain their liberty, the blame was cast at the Count's door, and
he was in considerable danger of being deprived of his insignia of
authority, which consisted not so much in ornaments or in dress, as
in hawks and hounds with which the Senor Count took the diversion
of hunting when he thought proper. As the ground which he hunted
over was not his own, he incurred some danger of coming in contact
with the lord of the soil, attended, perhaps, by his armed
followers. There is a tradition (rather apocryphal, it is true),
that a Gitano chief, once pursuing this amusement, was encountered
by a real Count, who is styled Count Pepe. An engagement ensued
between the two parties, which ended in the Gypsies being worsted,
and their chief left dying on the field. The slain chief leaves a
son, who, at the instigation of his mother, steals the infant heir
of his father's enemy, who, reared up amongst the Gypsies, becomes
a chief, and, in process of time, hunting over the same ground,
slays Count Pepe in the very spot where the blood of the Gypsy had
been poured out. This tradition is alluded to in the following

'I have a gallant mare in stall;
My mother gave that mare
That I might seek Count Pepe's hall
And steal his son and heir.'

Martin Del Rio, in his TRACTATUS DE MAGIA, speaks of the Gypsies
and their Counts to the following effect: 'When, in the year 1584,
I was marching in Spain with the regiment, a multitude of these
wretches were infesting the fields. It happened that the feast of
Corpus Domini was being celebrated, and they requested to be
admitted into the town, that they might dance in honour of the
sacrifice, as was customary; they did so, but about midday a great
tumult arose owing to the many thefts which the women committed,
whereupon they fled out of the suburbs, and assembled about St.
Mark's, the magnificent mansion and hospital of the knights of St.
James, where the ministers of justice attempting to seize them were
repulsed by force of arms; nevertheless, all of a sudden, and I
know not how, everything was hushed up. At this time they had a
Count, a fellow who spoke the Castilian idiom with as much purity
as if he had been a native of Toledo; he was acquainted with all
the ports of Spain, and all the difficult and broken ground of the
provinces. He knew the exact strength of every city, and who were
the principal people in each, and the exact amount of their
property; there was nothing relating to the state, however secret,
that he was not acquainted with; nor did he make a mystery of his
knowledge, but publicly boasted of it.'

From the passage quoted above, we learn that the Gitanos in the
ancient times were considered as foreigners who prowled about the
country; indeed, in many of the laws which at various times have
been promulgated against them, they are spoken of as Egyptians, and
as such commanded to leave Spain, and return to their native
country; at one time they undoubtedly were foreigners in Spain,
foreigners by birth, foreigners by language but at the time they
are mentioned by the worthy Del Rio, they were certainly not
entitled to the appellation. True it is that they spoke a language
amongst themselves, unintelligible to the rest of the Spaniards,
from whom they differed considerably in feature and complexion, as
they still do; but if being born in a country, and being bred
there, constitute a right to be considered a native of that
country, they had as much claim to the appellation of Spaniards as
the worthy author himself. Del Rio mentions, as a remarkable
circumstance, the fact of the Gypsy Count speaking Castilian with
as much purity as a native of Toledo, whereas it is by no means
improbable that the individual in question was a native of that
town; but the truth is, at the time we are speaking of, they were
generally believed to be not only foreigners, but by means of
sorcery to have acquired the power of speaking all languages with
equal facility; and Del Rio, who was a believer in magic, and wrote
one of the most curious and erudite treatises on the subject ever
penned, had perhaps adopted that idea, which possibly originated
from their speaking most of the languages and dialects of the
Peninsula, which they picked up in their wanderings. That the
Gypsy chief was so well acquainted with every town of Spain, and
the broken and difficult ground, can cause but little surprise,
when we reflect that the life which the Gypsies led was one above
all others calculated to afford them that knowledge. They were
continually at variance with justice; they were frequently obliged
to seek shelter in the inmost recesses of the hills; and when their
thievish pursuits led them to the cities, they naturally made
themselves acquainted with the names of the principal individuals,
in hopes of plundering them. Doubtless the chief possessed all
this species of knowledge in a superior degree, as it was his
courage, acuteness, and experience alone which placed him at the
head of his tribe, though Del Rio from this circumstance wishes to
infer that the Gitanos were spies sent by foreign foes, and with
some simplicity inquires, 'Quo ant cui rei haec curiosa exploratio?
nonne compescenda vagamundorum haec curiositas, etiam si solum
peregrini et inculpatae vitae.'

With the Counts rested the management and direction of these
remarkable societies; it was they who determined their marches,
counter-marches, advances, and retreats; what was to be attempted
or avoided; what individuals were to be admitted into the
fellowship and privileges of the Gitanos, or who were to be
excluded from their society; they settled disputes and sat in
judgment over offences. The greatest crimes, according to the
Gypsy code, were a quarrelsome disposition, and revealing the
secrets of the brotherhood. By this code the members were
forbidden to eat, drink, or sleep in the house of a Busno, which
signifies any person who is not of the sect of the Gypsies, or to
marry out of that sect; they were likewise not to teach the
language of Roma to any but those who, by birth or inauguration,
belonged to that sect; they were enjoined to relieve their brethren
in distress at any expense or peril; they were to use a peculiar
dress, which is frequently alluded to in the Spanish laws, but the
particulars of which are not stated; and they were to cultivate the
gift of speech to the utmost possible extent, and never to lose
anything which might be obtained by a loose and deceiving tongue,
to encourage which they had many excellent proverbs, for example -

'The poor fool who closes his mouth never winneth a dollar.'

'The river which runneth with sound bears along with it stones and


THE Gitanos not unfrequently made their appearance in considerable
numbers, so as to be able to bid defiance to any force which could
be assembled against them on a sudden; whole districts thus became
a prey to them, and were plundered and devastated.

It is said that, in the year 1618, more than eight hundred of these
wretches scoured the country between Castile and Aragon, committing
the most enormous crimes. The royal council despatched regular
troops against them, who experienced some difficulty in dispersing

But we now proceed to touch upon an event which forms an era in the
history of the Gitanos of Spain, and which for wildness and
singularity throws all other events connected with them and their
race, wherever found, entirely into the shade.


About the middle of the sixteenth century, there resided one
Francisco Alvarez in the city of Logrono, the chief town of Rioja,
a province which borders on Aragon. He was a man above the middle
age, sober, reserved, and in general absorbed in thought; he lived
near the great church, and obtained a livelihood by selling printed
books and manuscripts in a small shop. He was a very learned man,
and was continually reading in the books which he was in the habit
of selling, and some of these books were in foreign tongues and
characters, so foreign, indeed, that none but himself and some of
his friends, the canons, could understand them; he was much visited
by the clergy, who were his principal customers, and took much
pleasure in listening to his discourse.

He had been a considerable traveller in his youth, and had wandered
through all Spain, visiting the various provinces and the most
remarkable cities. It was likewise said that he had visited Italy
and Barbary. He was, however, invariably silent with respect to
his travels, and whenever the subject was mentioned to him, the
gloom and melancholy increased which usually clouded his features.

One day, in the commencement of autumn, he was visited by a priest
with whom he had long been intimate, and for whom he had always
displayed a greater respect and liking than for any other
acquaintance. The ecclesiastic found him even more sad than usual,
and there was a haggard paleness upon his countenance which alarmed
his visitor. The good priest made affectionate inquiries
respecting the health of his friend, and whether anything had of
late occurred to give him uneasiness; adding at the same time, that
he had long suspected that some secret lay heavy upon his mind,
which he now conjured him to reveal, as life was uncertain, and it
was very possible that he might be quickly summoned from earth into
the presence of his Maker.

The bookseller continued for some time in gloomy meditation, till
at last he broke silence in these words:- 'It is true I have a
secret which weighs heavy upon my mind, and which I am still loth
to reveal; but I have a presentiment that my end is approaching,
and that a heavy misfortune is about to fall upon this city: I
will therefore unburden myself, for it were now a sin to remain

'I am, as you are aware, a native of this town, which I first left
when I went to acquire an education at Salamanca; I continued there
until I became a licentiate, when I quitted the university and
strolled through Spain, supporting myself in general by touching
the guitar, according to the practice of penniless students; my
adventures were numerous, and I frequently experienced great
poverty. Once, whilst making my way from Toledo to Andalusia
through the wild mountains, I fell in with and was made captive by
a band of the people called Gitanos, or wandering Egyptians; they
in general lived amongst these wilds, and plundered or murdered
every person whom they met. I should probably have been
assassinated by them, but my skill in music perhaps saved my life.
I continued with them a considerable time, till at last they
persuaded me to become one of them, whereupon I was inaugurated
into their society with many strange and horrid ceremonies, and
having thus become a Gitano, I went with them to plunder and
assassinate upon the roads.

'The Count or head man of these Gitanos had an only daughter, about
my own age; she was very beautiful, but, at the same time,
exceedingly strong and robust; this Gitana was given to me as a
wife or cadjee, and I lived with her several years, and she bore me

'My wife was an arrant Gitana, and in her all the wickedness of her
race seemed to be concentrated. At last her father was killed in
an affray with the troopers of the Hermandad, whereupon my wife and
myself succeeded to the authority which he had formerly exercised
in the tribe. We had at first loved each other, but at last the
Gitano life, with its accompanying wickedness, becoming hateful to
my eyes, my wife, who was not slow in perceiving my altered
disposition, conceived for me the most deadly hatred; apprehending
that I meditated withdrawing myself from the society, and perhaps
betraying the secrets of the band, she formed a conspiracy against
me, and, at one time, being opposite the Moorish coast, I was
seized and bound by the other Gitanos, conveyed across the sea, and
delivered as a slave into the hands of the Moors.

'I continued for a long time in slavery in various parts of Morocco
and Fez, until I was at length redeemed from my state of bondage by
a missionary friar who paid my ransom. With him I shortly after
departed for Italy, of which he was a native. In that country I
remained some years, until a longing to revisit my native land
seized me, when I returned to Spain and established myself here,
where I have since lived by vending books, many of which I brought
from the strange lands which I visited. I kept my history,
however, a profound secret, being afraid of exposing myself to the
laws in force against the Gitanos, to which I should instantly
become amenable, were it once known that I had at any time been a
member of this detestable sect.

'My present wretchedness, of which you have demanded the cause,
dates from yesterday; I had been on a short journey to the
Augustine convent, which stands on the plain in the direction of
Saragossa, carrying with me an Arabian book, which a learned monk
was desirous of seeing. Night overtook me ere I could return. I
speedily lost my way, and wandered about until I came near a

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