Saturday, November 10, 2007


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

The Zincali - An Account of the Gypsies of Spain by George Borrow
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 Roumouniland.
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 northeast,
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
dilapidated edifice with which I was acquainted; I was about to
proceed in the direction of the town, when I heard voices within
the ruined walls; I listened, and recognised the language of the
abhorred Gitanos; I was about to fly, when a word arrested me. It
was Drao, which in their tongue signifies the horrid poison with
which this race are in the habit of destroying the cattle; they now
said that the men of Logrono should rue the Drao which they had
been casting. I heard no more, but fled. What increased my fear
was, that in the words spoken, I thought I recognised the peculiar
jargon of my own tribe; I repeat, that I believe some horrible
misfortune is overhanging this city, and that my own days are
The priest, having conversed with him for some time upon particular
points of the history that he had related, took his leave, advising
him to compose his spirits, as he saw no reason why he should
indulge in such gloomy forebodings.
The very next day a sickness broke out in the town of Logrono. It
was one of a peculiar kind; unlike most others, it did not arise by
slow and gradual degrees, but at once appeared in full violence, in
the shape of a terrific epidemic. Dizziness in the head was the
first symptom: then convulsive retchings, followed by a dreadful
struggle between life and death, which generally terminated in
favour of the grim destroyer. The bodies, after the spirit which
animated them had taken flight, were frightfully swollen, and
exhibited a dark blue colour, checkered with crimson spots.
Nothing was heard within the houses or the streets, but groans of
agony; no remedy was at hand, and the powers of medicine were
exhausted in vain upon this terrible pest; so that within a few
days the greatest part of the inhabitants of Logrono had perished.
The bookseller had not been seen since the commencement of this
frightful visitation.
Once, at the dead of night, a knock was heard at the door of the
priest, of whom we have already spoken; the priest himself
staggered to the door, and opened it, - he was the only one who
remained alive in the house, and was himself slowly recovering from
the malady which had destroyed all the other inmates; a wild
spectral-looking figure presented itself to his eye - it was his
friend Alvarez. Both went into the house, when the bookseller,
glancing gloomily on the wasted features of the priest, exclaimed,
'You too, I see, amongst others, have cause to rue the Drao which
the Gitanos have cast. Know,' he continued, 'that in order to
accomplish a detestable plan, the fountains of Logrono have been
poisoned by emissaries of the roving bands, who are now assembled
in the neighbourhood. On the first appearance of the disorder,
from which I happily escaped by tasting the water of a private
fountain, which I possess in my own house, I instantly recognised
the effects of the poison of the Gitanos, brought by their
ancestors from the isles of the Indian sea; and suspecting their
intentions, I disguised myself as a Gitano, and went forth in the
hope of being able to act as a spy upon their actions. I have been
successful, and am at present thoroughly acquainted with their
designs. They intended, from the first, to sack the town, as soon
as it should have been emptied of its defenders.
'Midday, to-morrow, is the hour in which they have determined to
make the attempt. There is no time to be lost; let us, therefore,
warn those of our townsmen who still survive, in order that they
may make preparations for their defence.'
Whereupon the two friends proceeded to the chief magistrate, who
had been but slightly affected by the disorder; he heard the tale
of the bookseller with horror and astonishment, and instantly took
the best measures possible for frustrating the designs of the
Gitanos; all the men capable of bearing arms in Logrono were
assembled, and weapons of every description put in their hands. By
the advice of the bookseller all the gates of the town were shut,
with the exception of the principal one; and the little band of
defenders, which barely amounted to sixty men, was stationed in the
great square, to which, he said, it was the intention of the
Gitanos to penetrate in the first instance, and then, dividing
themselves into various parties, to sack the place. The bookseller
was, by general desire, constituted leader of the guardians of the
It was considerably past noon; the sky was overcast, and tempest
clouds, fraught with lightning and thunder, were hanging black and
horrid over the town of Logrono. The little troop, resting on
their arms, stood awaiting the arrival of their unnatural enemies;
rage fired their minds as they thought of the deaths of their
fathers, their sons, and their dearest relatives, who had perished,
not by the hand of God, but, like infected cattle, by the hellish
arts of Egyptian sorcerers. They longed for their appearance,
determined to wreak upon them a bloody revenge; not a word was
uttered, and profound silence reigned around, only interrupted by
the occasional muttering of the thunder-clouds. Suddenly, Alvarez,
who had been intently listening, raised his hand with a significant
gesture; presently, a sound was heard - a rustling like the waving
of trees, or the rushing of distant water; it gradually increased,
and seemed to proceed from the narrow street which led from the
principal gate into the square. All eyes were turned in that
direction. . . .
That night there was repique or ringing of bells in the towers of
Logrono, and the few priests who had escaped from the pestilence
sang litanies to God and the Virgin for the salvation of the town
from the hands of the heathen. The attempt of the Gitanos had been
most signally defeated, and the great square and the street were
strewn with their corpses. Oh! what frightful objects: there lay
grim men more black than mulattos, with fury and rage in their
stiffened features; wild women in extraordinary dresses, their
hair, black and long as the tail of the horse, spread all
dishevelled upon the ground; and gaunt and naked children grasping
knives and daggers in their tiny hands. Of the patriotic troop not
one appeared to have fallen; and when, after their enemies had
retreated with howlings of fiendish despair, they told their
numbers, only one man was missing, who was never seen again, and
that man was Alvarez.
In the midst of the combat, the tempest, which had for a long time
been gathering, burst over Logrono, in lightning, thunder,
darkness, and vehement hail.
A man of the town asserted that the last time he had seen Alvarez,
the latter was far in advance of his companions, defending himself
desperately against three powerful young heathen, who seemed to be
acting under the direction of a tall woman who stood nigh, covered
with barbaric ornaments, and wearing on her head a rude silver
crown. (18)
Such is the tale of the Bookseller of Logrono, and such is the
narrative of the attempt of the Gitanos to sack the town in the
time of pestilence, which is alluded to by many Spanish authors,
but more particularly by the learned Francisco de Cordova, in his
DIDASCALIA, one of the most curious and instructive books within
the circle of universal literature.
THE Moors, after their subjugation, and previous to their expulsion
from Spain, generally resided apart, principally in the suburbs of
the towns, where they kept each other in countenance, being hated
and despised by the Spaniards, and persecuted on all occasions. By
this means they preserved, to a certain extent, the Arabic
language, though the use of it was strictly forbidden, and
encouraged each other in the secret exercise of the rites of the
Mohammedan religion, so that, until the moment of their final
expulsion, they continued Moors in almost every sense of the word.
Such places were called Morerias, or quarters of the Moors.
In like manner there were Gitanerias, or quarters of the Gitanos,
in many of the towns of Spain; and in more than one instance
particular barrios or districts are still known by this name,
though the Gitanos themselves have long since disappeared. Even in
the town of Oviedo, in the heart of the Asturias, a province never
famous for Gitanos, there is a place called the Gitaneria, though
no Gitano has been known to reside in the town within the memory of
man, nor indeed been seen, save, perhaps, as a chance visitor at a
The exact period when the Gitanos first formed these colonies
within the towns is not known; the laws, however, which commanded
them to abandon their wandering life under penalty of banishment
and death, and to become stationary in towns, may have induced them
first to take such a step. By the first of these laws, which was
made by Ferdinand and Isabella as far back as the year 1499, they
are commanded to seek out for themselves masters. This injunction
they utterly disregarded. Some of them for fear of the law, or
from the hope of bettering their condition, may have settled down
in the towns, cities, and villages for a time, but to expect that a
people, in whose bosoms was so deeply rooted the love of lawless
independence, would subject themselves to the yoke of servitude,
from any motive whatever, was going too far; as well might it have
been expected, according to the words of the great poet of Persia,
In these Gitanerias, therefore, many Gypsy families resided, but
ever in the Gypsy fashion, in filth and in misery, with little of
the fear of man, and nothing of the fear of God before their eyes.
Here the swarthy children basked naked in the sun before the doors;
here the women prepared love draughts, or told the buena ventura;
and here the men plied the trade of the blacksmith, a forbidden
occupation, or prepared for sale, by disguising them, animals
stolen by themselves or their accomplices. In these places were
harboured the strange Gitanos on their arrival, and here were
discussed in the Rommany language, which, like the Arabic, was
forbidden under severe penalties, plans of fraud and plunder, which
were perhaps intended to be carried into effect in a distant
province and a distant city.
The great body, however, of the Gypsy race in Spain continued
independent wanderers of the plains and the mountains, and indeed
the denizens of the Gitanerias were continually sallying forth,
either for the purpose of reuniting themselves with the wandering
tribes, or of strolling about from town to town, and from fair to
fair. Hence the continual complaints in the Spanish laws against
the Gitanos who have left their places of domicile, from doing
which they were interdicted, even as they were interdicted from
speaking their language and following the occupations of the
blacksmith and horse-dealer, in which they still persist even at
the present day.
The Gitanerias at evening fall were frequently resorted to by
individuals widely differing in station from the inmates of these
places - we allude to the young and dissolute nobility and hidalgos
of Spain. This was generally the time of mirth and festival, and
the Gitanos, male and female, danced and sang in the Gypsy fashion
beneath the smile of the moon. The Gypsy women and girls were the
principal attractions to these visitors; wild and singular as these
females are in their appearance, there can be no doubt, for the
fact has been frequently proved, that they are capable of exciting
passion of the most ardent description, particularly in the bosoms
of those who are not of their race, which passion of course becomes
the more violent when the almost utter impossibility of gratifying
it is known. No females in the world can be more licentious in
word and gesture, in dance and in song, than the Gitanas; but there
they stop: and so of old, if their titled visitors presumed to
seek for more, an unsheathed dagger or gleaming knife speedily
repulsed those who expected that the gem most dear amongst the sect
of the Roma was within the reach of a Busno.
Such visitors, however, were always encouraged to a certain point,
and by this and various other means the Gitanos acquired
connections which frequently stood them in good stead in the hour
of need. What availed it to the honest labourers of the
neighbourhood, or the citizens of the town, to make complaints to
the corregidor concerning the thefts and frauds committed by the
Gitanos, when perhaps the sons of that very corregidor frequented
the nightly dances at the Gitaneria, and were deeply enamoured with
some of the dark-eyed singing-girls? What availed making
complaints, when perhaps a Gypsy sibyl, the mother of those very
girls, had free admission to the house of the corregidor at all
times and seasons, and spaed the good fortune to his daughters,
promising them counts and dukes, and Andalusian knights in
marriage, or prepared philtres for his lady by which she was always
to reign supreme in the affections of her husband? And, above all,
what availed it to the plundered party to complain that his mule or
horse had been stolen, when the Gitano robber, perhaps the husband
of the sibyl and the father of the black-eyed Gitanillas, was at
that moment actually in treaty with my lord the corregidor himself
for supplying him with some splendid thick-maned, long-tailed steed
at a small price, to be obtained, as the reader may well suppose,
by an infraction of the laws? The favour and protection which the
Gitanos experienced from people of high rank is alluded to in the
Spanish laws, and can only be accounted for by the motives above
The Gitanerias were soon considered as public nuisances, on which
account the Gitanos were forbidden to live together in particular
parts of the town, to hold meetings, and even to intermarry with
each other; yet it does not appear that the Gitanerias were ever
suppressed by the arm of the law, as many still exist where these
singular beings 'marry and are given in marriage,' and meet
together to discuss their affairs, which, in their opinion, never
flourish unless those of their fellow-creatures suffer. So much
for the Gitanerias, or Gypsy colonies in the towns of Spain.
'LOS Gitanos son muy malos! - the Gypsies are very bad people,'
said the Spaniards of old times. They are cheats; they are
highwaymen; they practise sorcery; and, lest the catalogue of their
offences should be incomplete, a formal charge of cannibalism was
brought against them. Cheats they have always been, and
highwaymen, and if not sorcerers, they have always done their best
to merit that appellation, by arrogating to themselves supernatural
powers; but that they were addicted to cannibalism is a matter not
so easily proved.
Their principal accuser was Don Juan de Quinones, who, in the work
from which we have already had occasion to quote, gives several
anecdotes illustrative of their cannibal propensities. Most of
these anecdotes, however, are so highly absurd, that none but the
very credulous could ever have vouchsafed them the slightest
credit. This author is particularly fond of speaking of a certain
juez, or judge, called Don Martin Fajardo, who seems to have been
an arrant Gypsy-hunter, and was probably a member of the ancient
family of the Fajardos, which still flourishes in Estremadura, and
with individuals of which we are acquainted. So it came to pass
that this personage was, in the year 1629, at Jaraicejo, in
Estremadura, or, as it is written in the little book in question,
Zaraizejo, in the capacity of judge; a zealous one he undoubtedly
A very strange place is this same Jaraicejo, a small ruinous town
or village, situated on a rising ground, with a very wild country
all about it. The road from Badajoz to Madrid passes through it;
and about two leagues distant, in the direction of Madrid, is the
famous mountain pass of Mirabete, from the top of which you enjoy a
most picturesque view across the Tagus, which flows below, as far
as the huge mountains of Plasencia, the tops of which are generally
covered with snow.
So this Don Martin Fajardo, judge, being at Jaraicejo, laid his
claw upon four Gitanos, and having nothing, as it appears, to
accuse them of, except being Gitanos, put them to the torture, and
made them accuse themselves, which they did; for, on the first
appeal which was made to the rack, they confessed that they had
murdered a female Gypsy in the forest of Las Gamas, and had there
eaten her. . . .
I am myself well acquainted with this same forest of Las Gamas,
which lies between Jaraicejo and Trujillo; it abounds with chestnut
and cork trees, and is a place very well suited either for the
purpose of murder or cannibalism. It will be as well to observe
that I visited it in company with a band of Gitanos, who bivouacked
there, and cooked their supper, which however did not consist of
human flesh, but of a puchera, the ingredients of which were beef,
bacon, garbanzos, and berdolaga, or field-pease and purslain, -
therefore I myself can bear testimony that there is such a forest
as Las Gamas, and that it is frequented occasionally by Gypsies, by
which two points are established by far the most important to the
history in question, or so at least it would be thought in Spain,
for being sure of the forest and the Gypsies, few would be
incredulous enough to doubt the facts of the murder and
cannibalism. . . .
On being put to the rack a second time, the Gitanos confessed that
they had likewise murdered and eaten a female pilgrim in the forest
aforesaid; and on being tortured yet again, that they had served in
the same manner, and in the same forest, a friar of the order of
San Francisco, whereupon they were released from the rack and
executed. This is one of the anecdotes of Quinones.
And it came to pass, moreover, that the said Fajardo, being in the
town of Montijo, was told by the alcalde, that a certain inhabitant
of that place had some time previous lost a mare; and wandering
about the plains in quest of her, he arrived at a place called
Arroyo el Puerco, where stood a ruined house, on entering which he
found various Gitanos employed in preparing their dinner, which
consisted of a quarter of a human body, which was being roasted
before a huge fire: the result, however, we are not told; whether
the Gypsies were angry at being disturbed in their cookery, or
whether the man of the mare departed unobserved.
Quinones, in continuation, states in his book that he learned (he
does not say from whom, but probably from Fajardo) that there was a
shepherd of the city of Gaudix, who once lost his way in the wild
sierra of Gadol: night came on, and the wind blew cold: he
wandered about until he descried a light in the distance, towards
which he bent his way, supposing it to be a fire kindled by
shepherds: on arriving at the spot, however, he found a whole
tribe of Gypsies, who were roasting the half of a man, the other
half being hung on a cork-tree: the Gypsies welcomed him very
heartily, and requested him to be seated at the fire and to sup
with them; but he presently heard them whisper to each other, 'this
is a fine fat fellow,' from which he suspected that they were
meditating a design upon his body: whereupon, feeling himself
sleepy, he made as if he were seeking a spot where to lie, and
suddenly darted headlong down the mountain-side, and escaped from
their hands without breaking his neck.
These anecdotes scarcely deserve comment; first we have the
statement of Fajardo, the fool or knave who tortures wretches, and
then puts them to death for the crimes with which they have taxed
themselves whilst undergoing the agony of the rack, probably with
the hope of obtaining a moment's respite; last comes the tale of
the shepherd, who is invited by Gypsies on a mountain at night to
partake of a supper of human flesh, and who runs away from them on
hearing them talk of the fatness of his own body, as if cannibal
robbers detected in their orgies by a single interloper would have
afforded him a chance of escaping. Such tales cannot be true. (19)
Cases of cannibalism are said to have occurred in Hungary amongst
the Gypsies; indeed, the whole race, in that country, has been
accused of cannibalism, to which we have alluded whilst speaking of
the Chingany: it is very probable, however, that they were quite
innocent of this odious practice, and that the accusation had its
origin in popular prejudice, or in the fact of their foul feeding,
and their seldom rejecting carrion or offal of any description.
The Gazette of Frankfort for the year 1782, Nos. 157 and 207,
states that one hundred and fifty Gypsies were imprisoned charged
with this practice; and that the Empress Teresa sent commissioners
to inquire into the facts of the accusation, who discovered that
they were true; whereupon the empress published a law to oblige all
the Gypsies in her dominions to become stationary, which, however,
had no effect.
Upon this matter we can state nothing on our own knowledge.
After the above anecdotes, it will perhaps not be amiss to devote a
few lines to the subject of Gypsy food and diet. I believe that it
has been asserted that the Romas, in all parts of the world, are
perfectly indifferent as to what they eat, provided only that they
can appease their hunger; and that they have no objection to
partake of the carcasses of animals which have died a natural
death, and have been left to putrefy by the roadside; moreover,
that they use for food all kinds of reptiles and vermin which they
can lay their hands upon.
In this there is a vast deal of exaggeration, but at the same time
it must be confessed that, in some instances, the habits of the
Gypsies in regard to food would seem, at the first glance, to
favour the supposition. This observation chiefly holds good with
respect to those of the Gypsy race who still continue in a
wandering state, and who, doubtless, retain more of the ways and
customs of their forefathers than those who have adopted a
stationary life. There can be no doubt that the wanderers amongst
the Gypsy race are occasionally seen to feast upon carcasses of
cattle which have been abandoned to the birds of the air, yet it
would be wrong, from this fact, to conclude that the Gypsies were
habitual devourers of carrion. Carrion it is true they may
occasionally devour, from want of better food, but many of these
carcasses are not in reality the carrion which they appear, but are
the bodies of animals which the Gypsies have themselves killed by
casting drao, in hope that the flesh may eventually be abandoned to
them. It is utterly useless to write about the habits of the
Gypsies, especially of the wandering tribes, unless you have lived
long and intimately with them; and unhappily, up to the present
time, all the books which have been published concerning them have
been written by those who have introduced themselves into their
society for a few hours, and from what they have seen or heard
consider themselves competent to give the world an idea of the
manners and customs of the mysterious Rommany: thus, because they
have been known to beg the carcass of a hog which they themselves
have poisoned, it has been asserted that they prefer carrion which
has perished of sickness to the meat of the shambles; and because
they have been seen to make a ragout of boror (SNAILS), and to
roast a hotchiwitchu or hedgehog, it has been supposed that
reptiles of every description form a part of their cuisine. It is
high time to undeceive the Gentiles on these points. Know, then, O
Gentile, whether thou be from the land of the Gorgios (20) or the
Busne (21), that the very Gypsies who consider a ragout of snails a
delicious dish will not touch an eel, because it bears resemblance
to a SNAKE; and that those who will feast on a roasted hedgehog
could be induced by no money to taste a squirrel, a delicious and
wholesome species of game, living on the purest and most nutritious
food which the fields and forests can supply. I myself, while
living among the Roms of England, have been regarded almost in the
light of a cannibal for cooking the latter animal and preferring it
to hotchiwitchu barbecued, or ragout of boror. 'You are but half
Rommany, brother,' they would say, 'and you feed gorgiko-nes (LIKE
A GENTILE), even as you talk. Tchachipen (IN TRUTH), if we did not
know you to be of the Mecralliskoe rat (ROYAL BLOOD) of Pharaoh, we
should be justified in driving you forth as a juggel-mush (DOG
MAN), one more fitted to keep company with wild beasts and Gorgios
than gentle Rommanys.'
No person can read the present volume without perceiving, at a
glance, that the Romas are in most points an anomalous people; in
their morality there is much of anomaly, and certainly not less in
their cuisine.
'Los Gitanos son muy malos; llevan ninos hurtados a Berberia. The
Gypsies are very bad people; they steal children and carry them to
Barbary, where they sell them to the Moors' - so said the Spaniards
in old times. There can be little doubt that even before the fall
of the kingdom of Granada, which occurred in the year 1492, the
Gitanos had intercourse with the Moors of Spain. Andalusia, which
has ever been the province where the Gitano race has most abounded
since its arrival, was, until the edict of Philip the Third, which
banished more than a million of Moriscos from Spain, principally
peopled by Moors, who differed from the Spaniards both in language
and religion. By living even as wanderers amongst these people,
the Gitanos naturally became acquainted with their tongue, and with
many of their customs, which of course much facilitated any
connection which they might subsequently form with the
Barbaresques. Between the Moors of Barbary and the Spaniards a
deadly and continued war raged for centuries, both before and after
the expulsion of the Moriscos from Spain. The Gitanos, who cared
probably as little for one nation as the other, and who have no
sympathy and affection beyond the pale of their own sect, doubtless
sided with either as their interest dictated, officiating as spies
for both parties and betraying both.
It is likely enough that they frequently passed over to Barbary
with stolen children of both sexes, whom they sold to the Moors,
who traffic in slaves, whether white or black, even at the present
day; and perhaps this kidnapping trade gave occasion to other
relations. As they were perfectly acquainted, from their wandering
life, with the shores of the Spanish Mediterranean, they must have
been of considerable assistance to the Barbary pirates in their
marauding trips to the Spanish coasts, both as guides and advisers;
and as it was a far easier matter, and afforded a better prospect
of gain, to plunder the Spaniards than the Moors, a people almost
as wild as themselves, they were, on that account, and that only,
more Moors than Christians, and ever willing to assist the former
in their forays on the latter.
Quinones observes: 'The Moors, with whom they hold correspondence,
let them go and come without any let or obstacle: an instance of
this was seen in the year 1627, when two galleys from Spain were
carrying assistance to Marmora, which was then besieged by the
Moors. These galleys struck on a shoal, when the Moors seized all
the people on board, making captives of the Christians and setting
at liberty all the Moors, who were chained to the oar; as for the
Gypsy galley-slaves whom they found amongst these last, they did
not make them slaves, but received them as people friendly to them,
and at their devotion; which matter was public and notorious.'
Of the Moors and the Gitanos we shall have occasion to say
something in the following chapter.
THERE is no portion of the world so little known as Africa in
general; and perhaps of all Africa there is no corner with which
Europeans are so little acquainted as Barbary, which nevertheless
is only separated from the continent of Europe by a narrow strait
of four leagues across.
China itself has, for upwards of a century, ceased to be a land of
mystery to the civilised portion of the world; the enterprising
children of Loyola having wandered about it in every direction
making converts to their doctrine and discipline, whilst the
Russians possess better maps of its vast regions than of their own
country, and lately, owing to the persevering labour and searching
eye of my friend Hyacinth, Archimandrite of Saint John Nefsky, are
acquainted with the number of its military force to a man, and also
with the names and places of residence of its civil servants. Yet
who possesses a map of Fez and Morocco, or would venture to form a
conjecture as to how many fiery horsemen Abderrahman, the mulatto
emperor, could lead to the field, were his sandy dominions
threatened by the Nazarene? Yet Fez is scarcely two hundred
leagues distant from Madrid, whilst Maraks, the other great city of
the Moors, and which also has given its name to an empire, is
scarcely farther removed from Paris, the capital of civilisation:
in a word, we scarcely know anything of Barbary, the scanty
information which we possess being confined to a few towns on the
sea-coast; the zeal of the Jesuit himself being insufficient to
induce him to confront the perils of the interior, in the hopeless
endeavour of making one single proselyte from amongst the wildest
fanatics of the creed of the Prophet Camel-driver.
Are wanderers of the Gypsy race to be found in Barbary? This is a
question which I have frequently asked myself. Several respectable
authors have, I believe, asserted the fact, amongst whom Adelung,
who, speaking of the Gypsies, says: 'Four hundred years have
passed away since they departed from their native land. During
this time, they have spread themselves through the whole of Western
Asia, Europe, and Northern Africa.' (22) But it is one thing to
make an assertion, and another to produce the grounds for making
it. I believe it would require a far greater stock of information
than has hitherto been possessed by any one who has written on the
subject of the Gypsies, to justify him in asserting positively that
after traversing the west of Europe, they spread themselves over
Northern Africa, though true it is that to those who take a
superficial view of the matter, nothing appears easier and more
natural than to come to such a conclusion.
Tarifa, they will say, the most western part of Spain, is opposite
to Tangier, in Africa, a narrow sea only running between, less wide
than many rivers. Bands, therefore, of these wanderers, of course,
on reaching Tarifa, passed over into Africa, even as thousands
crossed the channel from France to England. They have at all times
shown themselves extravagantly fond of a roving life. What land is
better adapted for such a life than Africa and its wilds? What
land, therefore, more likely to entice them?
All this is very plausible. It was easy enough for the Gitanos to
pass over to Tangier and Tetuan from the Spanish towns of Tarifa
and Algeziras. In the last chapter I have stated my belief of the
fact, and that moreover they formed certain connections with the
Moors of the coast, to whom it is likely that they occasionally
sold children stolen in Spain; yet such connection would by no
means have opened them a passage into the interior of Barbary,
which is inhabited by wild and fierce people, in comparison with
whom the Moors of the coast, bad as they always have been, are
gentle and civilised.
To penetrate into Africa, the Gitanos would have been compelled to
pass through the tribes who speak the Shilha language, and who are
the descendants of the ancient Numidians. These tribes are the
most untamable and warlike of mankind, and at the same time the
most suspicious, and those who entertain the greatest aversion to
foreigners. They are dreaded by the Moors themselves, and have
always remained, to a certain degree, independent of the emperors
of Morocco. They are the most terrible of robbers and murderers,
and entertain far more reluctance to spill water than the blood of
their fellow-creatures: the Bedouins, also, of the Arabian race,
are warlike, suspicious, and cruel; and would not have failed
instantly to attack bands of foreign wanderers, wherever they found
them, and in all probability would have exterminated them. Now the
Gitanos, such as they arrived in Barbary, could not have defended
themselves against such enemies, had they even arrived in large
divisions, instead of bands of twenties and thirties, as is their
custom to travel. They are not by nature nor by habit a warlike
race, and would have quailed before the Africans, who, unlike most
other people, engage in wars from what appears to be an innate love
of the cruel and bloody scenes attendant on war.
It may be said, that if the Gitanos were able to make their way
from the north of India, from Multan, for example, the province
which the learned consider to be the original dwelling-place of the
race, to such an immense distance as the western part of Spain,
passing necessarily through many wild lands and tribes, why might
they not have penetrated into the heart of Barbary, and wherefore
may not their descendants be still there, following the same kind
of life as the European Gypsies, that is, wandering about from
place to place, and maintaining themselves by deceit and robbery?
But those who are acquainted but slightly with the condition of
Barbary are aware that it would be less difficult and dangerous for
a company of foreigners to proceed from Spain to Multan, than from
the nearest seaport in Barbary to Fez, an insignificant distance.
True it is, that, from their intercourse with the Moors of Spain,
the Gypsies might have become acquainted with the Arabic language,
and might even have adopted the Moorish dress, ere entering
Barbary; and, moreover, might have professed belief in the religion
of Mahomet; still they would have been known as foreigners, and, on
that account, would have been assuredly attacked by the people of
the interior, had they gone amongst them, who, according to the
usual practice, would either have massacred them or made them
slaves; and as slaves, they would have been separated. The mulatto
hue of their countenances would probably have insured them the
latter fate, as all blacks and mulattos in the dominions of the
Moor are properly slaves, and can be bought and sold, unless by
some means or other they become free, in which event their colour
is no obstacle to their elevation to the highest employments and
dignities, to their becoming pashas of cities and provinces, or
even to their ascending the throne. Several emperors of Morocco
have been mulattos.
Above I have pointed out all the difficulties and dangers which
must have attended the path of the Gitanos, had they passed from
Spain into Barbary, and attempted to spread themselves over that
region, as over Europe and many parts of Asia. To these
observations I have been led by the assertion that they
accomplished this, and no proof of the fact having, as I am aware,
ever been adduced; for who amongst those who have made such a
statement has seen or conversed with the Egyptians of Barbary, or
had sufficient intercourse with them to justify him in the
assertion that they are one and the same people as those of Europe,
from whom they differ about as much as the various tribes which
inhabit various European countries differ from each other? At the
same time, I wish it to be distinctly understood that I am far from
denying the existence of Gypsies in various parts of the interior
of Barbary. Indeed, I almost believe the fact, though the
information which I possess is by no means of a description which
would justify me in speaking with full certainty; I having myself
never come in contact with any sect or caste of people amongst the
Moors, who not only tallied in their pursuits with the Rommany, but
who likewise spoke amongst themselves a dialect of the language of
Roma; nor am I aware that any individual worthy of credit has ever
presumed to say that he has been more fortunate in these respects.
Nevertheless, I repeat that I am inclined to believe that Gypsies
virtually exist in Barbary, and my reasons I shall presently
adduce; but I will here observe, that if these strange outcasts did
indeed contrive to penetrate into the heart of that savage and
inhospitable region, they could only have succeeded after having
become well acquainted with the Moorish language, and when, after a
considerable sojourn on the coast, they had raised for themselves a
name, and were regarded with superstitious fear; in a word, if they
walked this land of peril untouched and unscathed, it was not that
they were considered as harmless and inoffensive people, which,
indeed, would not have protected them, and which assuredly they
were not; it was not that they were mistaken for wandering Moors
and Bedouins, from whom they differed in feature and complexion,
but because, wherever they went, they were dreaded as the
possessors of supernatural powers, and as mighty sorcerers.
There is in Barbary more than one sect of wanderers, which, to the
cursory observer, might easily appear, and perhaps have appeared,
in the right of legitimate Gypsies. For example, there are the
Beni Aros. The proper home of these people is in certain high
mountains in the neighbourhood of Tetuan, but they are to be found
roving about the whole kingdom of Fez. Perhaps it would be
impossible to find, in the whole of Northern Africa, a more
detestable caste. They are beggars by profession, but are
exceedingly addicted to robbery and murder; they are notorious
drunkards, and are infamous, even in Barbary, for their unnatural
lusts. They are, for the most part, well made and of comely
features. I have occasionally spoken with them; they are Moors,
and speak no language but the Arabic.
Then there is the sect of Sidi Hamed au Muza, a very roving people,
companies of whom are generally to be found in all the principal
towns of Barbary. The men are expert vaulters and tumblers, and
perform wonderful feats of address with swords and daggers, to the
sound of wild music, which the women, seated on the ground, produce
from uncouth instruments; by these means they obtain a livelihood.
Their dress is picturesque, scarlet vest and white drawers. In
many respects they not a little resemble the Gypsies; but they are
not an evil people, and are looked upon with much respect by the
Moors, who call them Santons. Their patron saint is Hamed au Muza,
and from him they derive their name. Their country is on the
confines of the Sahara, or great desert, and their language is the
Shilhah, or a dialect thereof. They speak but little Arabic. When
I saw them for the first time, I believed them to be of the Gypsy
caste, but was soon undeceived. A more wandering race does not
exist than the children of Sidi Hamed au Muza. They have even
visited France, and exhibited their dexterity and agility at Paris
and Marseilles.
I will now say a few words concerning another sect which exists in
Barbary, and will here premise, that if those who compose it are
not Gypsies, such people are not to be found in North Africa, and
the assertion, hitherto believed, that they abound there, is devoid
of foundation. I allude to certain men and women, generally termed
by the Moors 'Those of the Dar-bushi-fal,' which word is equivalent
to prophesying or fortune-telling. They are great wanderers, but
have also their fixed dwellings or villages, and such a place is
called 'Char Seharra,' or witch-hamlet. Their manner of life, in
every respect, resembles that of the Gypsies of other countries;
they are wanderers during the greatest part of the year, and
subsist principally by pilfering and fortune-telling. They deal
much in mules and donkeys, and it is believed, in Barbary, that
they can change the colour of any animal by means of sorcery, and
so disguise him as to sell him to his very proprietor, without fear
of his being recognised. This latter trait is quite characteristic
of the Gypsy race, by whom the same thing is practised in most
parts of the world. But the Moors assert, that the children of the
Dar-bushi-fal can not only change the colour of a horse or a mule,
but likewise of a human being, in one night, transforming a white
into a black, after which they sell him for a slave; on which
account the superstitious Moors regard them with the utmost dread,
and in general prefer passing the night in the open fields to
sleeping in their hamlets. They are said to possess a particular
language, which is neither Shilhah nor Arabic, and which none but
themselves understand; from all which circumstances I am led to
believe, that the children of the Dar-bushi-fal are legitimate
Gypsies, descendants of those who passed over to Barbary from
Spain. Nevertheless, as it has never been my fortune to meet or to
converse with any of this caste, though they are tolerably numerous
in Barbary, I am far from asserting that they are of Gypsy race.
More enterprising individuals than myself may, perhaps, establish
the fact. Any particular language or jargon which they speak
amongst themselves will be the best criterion. The word which they
employ for 'water' would decide the point; for the Dar-bushi-fal
are not Gypsies, if, in their peculiar speech, they designate that
blessed element and article most necessary to human existence by
aught else than the Sanscrit term 'Pani,' a word brought by the
race from sunny Ind, and esteemed so holy that they have never even
presumed to modify it.
The following is an account of the Dar-bushi-fal, given me by a Jew
of Fez, who had travelled much in Barbary, and which I insert
almost literally as I heard it from his mouth. Various other
individuals, Moors, have spoken of them in much the same manner.
'In one of my journeys I passed the night in a place called Mulai-
Jacub Munsur.
'Not far from this place is a Char Seharra, or witch-hamlet, where
dwell those of the Dar-bushi-fal. These are very evil people, and
powerful enchanters; for it is well known that if any traveller
stop to sleep in their Char, they will with their sorceries, if he
be a white man, turn him as black as a coal, and will afterwards
sell him as a negro. Horses and mules they serve in the same
manner, for if they are black, they will turn them red, or any
other colour which best may please them; and although the owners
demand justice of the authorities, the sorcerers always come off
best. They have a language which they use among themselves, very
different from all other languages, so much so that it is
impossible to understand them. They are very swarthy, quite as
much so as mulattos, and their faces are exceedingly lean. As for
their legs, they are like reeds; and when they run, the devil
himself cannot overtake them. They tell Dar-bushi-fal with flour;
they fill a plate, and then they are able to tell you anything you
ask them. They likewise tell it with a shoe; they put it in their
mouth, and then they will recall to your memory every action of
your life. They likewise tell Dar-bushi-fal with oil; and indeed
are, in every respect, most powerful sorcerers.
'Two women, once on a time, came to Fez, bringing with them an
exceedingly white donkey, which they placed in the middle of the
square called Faz el Bali; they then killed it, and cut it into
upwards of thirty pieces. Upon the ground there was much of the
donkey's filth and dung; some of this they took in their hands,
when it straight assumed the appearance of fresh dates. There were
some people who were greedy enough to put these dates into their
mouths, and then they found that it was dung. These women deceived
me amongst the rest with a date; when I put it into my mouth, lo
and behold it was the donkey's dung. After they had collected much
money from the spectators, one of them took a needle, and ran it
into the tail of the donkey, crying "Arrhe li dar" (Get home),
whereupon the donkey instantly rose up, and set off running,
kicking every now and then most furiously; and it was remarked,
that not one single trace of blood remained upon the ground, just
as if they had done nothing to it. Both these women were of the
very same Char Seharra which I have already mentioned. They
likewise took paper, and cut it into the shape of a peseta, and a
dollar, and a half-dollar, until they had made many pesetas and
dollars, and then they put them into an earthen pan over a fire,
and when they took them out, they appeared just fresh from the
stamp, and with such money these people buy all they want.
'There was a friend of my grandfather, who came frequently to our
house, who was in the habit of making this money. One day he took
me with him to buy white silk; and when they had shown him some, he
took the silk in his hand, and pressed it to his mouth, and then I
saw that the silk, which was before white, had become green, even
as grass. The master of the shop said, "Pay me for my silk." "Of
what colour was your silk?" he demanded. "White," said the man;
whereupon, turning round, he cried, "Good people, behold, the white
silk is green"; and so he got a pound of silk for nothing; and he
also was of the Char Seharra.
'They are very evil people indeed, and the emperor himself is
afraid of them. The poor wretch who falls into their hands has
cause to rue; they always go badly dressed, and exhibit every
appearance of misery, though they are far from being miserable.
Such is the life they lead.'
There is, of course, some exaggeration in the above account of the
Dar-bushi-fal; yet there is little reason to doubt that there is a
foundation of truth in all the facts stated. The belief that they
are enabled, by sorcery, to change a white into a black man had its
origin in the great skill which they possess in altering the
appearance of a horse or a mule, and giving it another colour.
Their changing white into green silk is a very simple trick, and is
accomplished by dexterously substituting one thing for another.
Had the man of the Dar-bushi-fal been searched, the white silk
would have been found upon him. The Gypsies, wherever they are
found, are fond of this species of fraud. In Germany, for example,
they go to the wine-shop with two pitchers exactly similar, one in
their hand empty, and the other beneath their cloaks filled with
water; when the empty pitcher is filled with wine they pretend to
be dissatisfied with the quality, or to have no money, but contrive
to substitute the pitcher of water in its stead, which the wineseller
generally snatches up in anger, and pours the contents back,
as he thinks, into the butt - but it is not wine but water which he
pours. With respect to the donkey, which APPEARED to be cut in
pieces, but which afterwards, being pricked in the tail, got up and
ran home, I have little to say, but that I have myself seen almost
as strange things without believing in sorcery.
As for the dates of dung, and the paper money, they are mere feats
of legerdemain.
I repeat, that if legitimate Gypsies really exist in Barbary, they
are the men and women of the Dar-bushi-fal.
CHIROMANCY, or the divination of the hand, is, according to the
orthodox theory, the determining from certain lines upon the hand
the quality of the physical and intellectual powers of the
The whole science is based upon the five principal lines in the
hand, and the triangle which they form in the palm. These lines,
which have all their particular and appropriate names, and the
principal of which is called 'the line of life,' are, if we may
believe those who have written on the subject, connected with the
heart, with the genitals, with the brain, with the liver or
stomach, and the head. Torreblanca, (23) in his curious and
learned book on magic, observes: 'In judging these lines you must
pay attention to their substance, colour, and continuance, together
with the disposition of the correspondent member; for, if the line
be well and clearly described, and is of a vivid colour, without
being intermitted or PUNCTURIS INFECTA, it denotes the good
complexion and virtue of its member, according to Aristotle.
'So that if the line of the heart be found sufficiently long and
reasonably deep, and not crossed by other accidental lines, it is
an infallible sign of the health of the heart and the great virtue
of the heart, and the abundance of spirits and good blood in the
heart, and accordingly denotes boldness and liberal genius for
every work.'
In like manner, by means of the hepatal line, it is easy to form an
accurate judgment as to the state of a person's liver, and of his
powers of digestion, and so on with respect to all the other organs
of the body.
After having laid down all the rules of chiromancy with the utmost
possible clearness, the sage Torreblanca exclaims: 'And with these
terminate the canons of true and catholic chiromancy; for as for
the other species by which people pretend to divine concerning the
affairs of life, either past or to come, dignities, fortunes,
children, events, chances, dangers, etc., such chiromancy is not
only reprobated by theologians, but by men of law and physic, as a
foolish, false, vain, scandalous, futile, superstitious practice,
smelling much of divinery and a pact with the devil.'
Then, after mentioning a number of erudite and enlightened men of
the three learned professions, who have written against such absurd
superstitions, amongst whom he cites Martin Del Rio, he falls foul
of the Gypsy wives in this manner: 'A practice turned to profit by
the wives of that rabble of abandoned miscreants whom the Italians
call Cingari, the Latins Egyptians, and we Gitanos, who,
notwithstanding that they are sent by the Turks into Spain for the
purpose of acting as spies upon the Christian religion, pretend
that they are wandering over the world in fulfilment of a penance
enjoined upon them, part of which penance seems to be the living by
fraud and imposition.' And shortly afterwards he remarks: 'Nor do
they derive any authority for such a practice from those words in
Exodus, (24) "et quasi signum in manu tua," as that passage does
not treat of chiromancy, but of the festival of unleavened bread;
the observance of which, in order that it might be memorable to the
Hebrews, the sacred historian said should be as a sign upon the
hand; a metaphor derived from those who, when they wish to remember
anything, tie a thread round their finger, or put a ring upon it;
and still less I ween does that chapter of Job (25) speak in their
favour, where is written, "Qui in manu hominis signat, ut norint
omnes opera sua," because the divine power is meant thereby which
is preached to those here below: for the hand is intended for
power and magnitude, Exod. chap. xiv., (26) or stands for free
will, which is placed in a man's hand, that is, in his power.
Wisdom, chap. xxxvi. "In manibus abscondit lucem," (27) etc. etc.
No, no, good Torreblanca, we know perfectly well that the witchwives
of Multan, who for the last four hundred years have been
running about Spain and other countries, telling fortunes by the
hand, and deriving good profit from the same, are not countenanced
in such a practice by the sacred volume; we yield as little credit
to their chiromancy as we do to that which you call the true and
catholic, and believe that the lines of the hand have as little
connection with the events of life as with the liver and stomach,
notwithstanding Aristotle, who you forget was a heathen, and knew
as little and cared as little for the Scriptures as the Gitanos,
whether male or female, who little reck what sanction any of their
practices may receive from authority, whether divine or human, if
the pursuit enable them to provide sufficient for the existence,
however poor and miserable, of their families and themselves.
A very singular kind of women are the Gitanas, far more remarkable
in most points than their husbands, in whose pursuits of low
cheating and petty robbery there is little capable of exciting much
interest; but if there be one being in the world who, more than
another, deserves the title of sorceress (and where do you find a
word of greater romance and more thrilling interest?), it is the
Gypsy female in the prime and vigour of her age and ripeness of her
understanding - the Gypsy wife, the mother of two or three
children. Mention to me a point of devilry with which that woman
is not acquainted. She can at any time, when it suits her, show
herself as expert a jockey as her husband, and he appears to
advantage in no other character, and is only eloquent when
descanting on the merits of some particular animal; but she can do
much more: she is a prophetess, though she believes not in
prophecy; she is a physician, though she will not taste her own
philtres; she is a procuress, though she is not to be procured; she
is a singer of obscene songs, though she will suffer no obscene
hand to touch her; and though no one is more tenacious of the
little she possesses, she is a cutpurse and a shop-lifter whenever
opportunity shall offer.
In all times, since we have known anything of these women, they
have been addicted to and famous for fortune-telling; indeed, it is
their only ostensible means of livelihood, though they have various
others which they pursue more secretly. Where and how they first
learned the practice we know not; they may have brought it with
them from the East, or they may have adopted it, which is less
likely, after their arrival in Europe. Chiromancy, from the most
remote periods, has been practised in all countries. Neither do we
know, whether in this practice they were ever guided by fixed and
certain rules; the probability, however, is, that they were not,
and that they never followed it but as a means of fraud and
robbery; certainly, amongst all the professors of this art that
ever existed, no people are more adapted by nature to turn it to
account than these females, call them by whatever name you will,
Gitanas, Ziganas, Gypsies, or Bohemians; their forms, their
features, the expression of their countenances are ever wild and
Sibylline, frequently beautiful, but never vulgar. Observe, for
example, the Gitana, even her of Seville. She is standing before
the portal of a large house in one of the narrow Moorish streets of
the capital of Andalusia; through the grated iron door, she looks
in upon the court; it is paved with small marble slabs of almost
snowy whiteness; in the middle is a fountain distilling limpid
water, and all around there is a profusion of macetas, in which
flowering plants and aromatic shrubs are growing, and at each
corner there is an orange tree, and the perfume of the azahar may
be distinguished; you hear the melody of birds from a small aviary
beneath the piazza which surrounds the court, which is surmounted
by a toldo or linen awning, for it is the commencement of May, and
the glorious sun of Andalusia is burning with a splendour too
intense for his rays to be borne with impunity. It is a fairy
scene such as nowhere meets the eye but at Seville, or perhaps at
Fez and Shiraz, in the palaces of the Sultan and the Shah. The
Gypsy looks through the iron-grated door, and beholds, seated near
the fountain, a richly dressed dame and two lovely delicate
maidens; they are busied at their morning's occupation,
intertwining with their sharp needles the gold and silk on the
tambour; several female attendants are seated behind. The Gypsy
pulls the bell, when is heard the soft cry of 'Quien es'; the door,
unlocked by means of a string, recedes upon its hinges, when in
walks the Gitana, the witch-wife of Multan, with a look such as the
tiger-cat casts when she stealeth from her jungle into the plain.
Yes, well may you exclaim 'Ave Maria purissima,' ye dames and
maidens of Seville, as she advances towards you; she is not of
yourselves, she is not of your blood, she or her fathers have
walked to your climate from a distance of three thousand leagues.
She has come from the far East, like the three enchanted kings, to
Cologne; but, unlike them, she and her race have come with hate and
not with love. She comes to flatter, and to deceive, and to rob,
for she is a lying prophetess, and a she-Thug; she will greet you
with blessings which will make your hearts rejoice, but your
hearts' blood would freeze, could you hear the curses which to
herself she murmurs against you; for she says, that in her
children's veins flows the dark blood of the 'husbands,' whilst in
those of yours flows the pale tide of the 'savages,' and therefore
she would gladly set her foot on all your corses first poisoned by
her hands. For all her love - and she can love - is for the Romas;
and all her hate - and who can hate like her? - is for the Busnees;
for she says that the world would be a fair world if there were no
Busnees, and if the Romamiks could heat their kettles undisturbed
at the foot of the olive-trees; and therefore she would kill them
all if she could and if she dared. She never seeks the houses of
the Busnees but for the purpose of prey; for the wild animals of
the sierra do not more abhor the sight of man than she abhors the
countenances of the Busnees. She now comes to prey upon you and to
scoff at you. Will you believe her words? Fools! do you think
that the being before ye has any sympathy for the like of you?
She is of the middle stature, neither strongly nor slightly built,
and yet her every movement denotes agility and vigour. As she
stands erect before you, she appears like a falcon about to soar,
and you are almost tempted to believe that the power of volition is
hers; and were you to stretch forth your hand to seize her, she
would spring above the house-tops like a bird. Her face is oval,
and her features are regular but somewhat hard and coarse, for she
was born amongst rocks in a thicket, and she has been wind-beaten
and sun-scorched for many a year, even like her parents before her;
there is many a speck upon her cheek, and perhaps a scar, but no
dimples of love; and her brow is wrinkled over, though she is yet
young. Her complexion is more than dark, for it is almost that of
a mulatto; and her hair, which hangs in long locks on either side
of her face, is black as coal, and coarse as the tail of a horse,
from which it seems to have been gathered.
There is no female eye in Seville can support the glance of hers, -
so fierce and penetrating, and yet so artful and sly, is the
expression of their dark orbs; her mouth is fine and almost
delicate, and there is not a queen on the proudest throne between
Madrid and Moscow who might not and would not envy the white and
even rows of teeth which adorn it, which seem not of pearl but of
the purest elephant's bone of Multan. She comes not alone; a
swarthy two-year-old bantling clasps her neck with one arm, its
naked body half extant from the coarse blanket which, drawn round
her shoulders, is secured at her bosom by a skewer. Though tender
of age, it looks wicked and sly, like a veritable imp of Roma.
Huge rings of false gold dangle from wide slits in the lobes of her
ears; her nether garments are rags, and her feet are cased in
hempen sandals. Such is the wandering Gitana, such is the witchwife
of Multan, who has come to spae the fortune of the Sevillian
countess and her daughters.
'O may the blessing of Egypt light upon your head, you high-born
lady! (May an evil end overtake your body, daughter of a Busnee
harlot!) and may the same blessing await the two fair roses of the
Nile here flowering by your side! (May evil Moors seize them and
carry them across the water!) O listen to the words of the poor
woman who is come from a distant country; she is of a wise people,
though it has pleased the God of the sky to punish them for their
sins by sending them to wander through the world. They denied
shelter to the Majari, whom you call the queen of heaven, and to
the Son of God, when they flew to the land of Egypt before the
wrath of the wicked king; it is said that they even refused them a
draught of the sweet waters of the great river when the blessed two
were athirst. O you will say that it was a heavy crime; and truly
so it was, and heavily has the Lord punished the Egyptians. He has
sent us a-wandering, poor as you see, with scarcely a blanket to
cover us. O blessed lady, (Accursed be thy dead, as many as thou
mayest have,) we have no money to buy us bread; we have only our
wisdom with which to support ourselves and our poor hungry babes;
when God took away their silks from the Egyptians, and their gold
from the Egyptians, he left them their wisdom as a resource that
they might not starve. O who can read the stars like the
Egyptians? and who can read the lines of the palm like the
Egyptians? The poor woman read in the stars that there was a rich
ventura for all of this goodly house, so she followed the bidding
of the stars and came to declare it. O blessed lady, (I defile thy
dead corse,) your husband is at Granada, fighting with king
Ferdinand against the wild Corahai! (May an evil ball smite him
and split his head!) Within three months he shall return with
twenty captive Moors, round the neck of each a chain of gold. (God
grant that when he enter the house a beam may fall upon him and
crush him!) And within nine months after his return God shall
bless you with a fair chabo, the pledge for which you have sighed
so long. (Accursed be the salt placed in its mouth in the church
when it is baptized!) Your palm, blessed lady, your palm, and the
palms of all I see here, that I may tell you all the rich ventura
which is hanging over this good house; (May evil lightning fall
upon it and consume it!) but first let me sing you a song of Egypt,
that the spirit of the Chowahanee may descend more plenteously upon
the poor woman.'
Her demeanour now instantly undergoes a change. Hitherto she has
been pouring forth a lying and wild harangue without much flurry or
agitation of manner. Her speech, it is true, has been rapid, but
her voice has never been raised to a very high key; but she now
stamps on the ground, and placing her hands on her hips, she moves
quickly to the right and left, advancing and retreating in a
sidelong direction. Her glances become more fierce and fiery, and
her coarse hair stands erect on her head, stiff as the prickles of
the hedgehog; and now she commences clapping her hands, and
uttering words of an unknown tongue, to a strange and uncouth tune.
The tawny bantling seems inspired with the same fiend, and, foaming
at the mouth, utters wild sounds, in imitation of its dam. Still
more rapid become the sidelong movements of the Gitana. Movement!
she springs, she bounds, and at every bound she is a yard above the
ground. She no longer bears the child in her bosom; she plucks it
from thence, and fiercely brandishes it aloft, till at last, with a
yell she tosses it high into the air, like a ball, and then, with
neck and head thrown back, receives it, as it falls, on her hands
and breast, extracting a cry from the terrified beholders. Is it
possible she can be singing? Yes, in the wildest style of her
people; and here is a snatch of the song, in the language of Roma,
which she occasionally screams -
'En los sastos de yesque plai me diquelo,
Doscusanas de sonacai terelo, -
Corojai diquelo abillar,
Y ne asislo chapescar, chapescar.'
'On the top of a mountain I stand,
With a crown of red gold in my hand, -
Wild Moors came trooping o'er the lea,
O how from their fury shall I flee, flee, flee?
O how from their fury shall I flee?'
Such was the Gitana in the days of Ferdinand and Isabella, and much
the same is she now in the days of Isabel and Christina.
Of the Gitanas and their practices I shall have much to say on a
future occasion, when speaking of those of the present time, with
many of whom I have had no little intercourse. All the ancient
Spanish authors who mention these women speak of them in unmeasured
terms of abhorrence, employing against them every abusive word
contained in the language in which they wrote. Amongst other vile
names, they have been called harlots, though perhaps no females on
earth are, and have ever been, more chaste in their own persons,
though at all times willing to encourage licentiousness in others,
from a hope of gain. It is one thing to be a procuress, and
another to be a harlot, though the former has assuredly no reason
to complain if she be confounded with the latter. 'The Gitanas,'
says Doctor Sancho de Moncada, in his discourse concerning the
Gypsies, which I shall presently lay before the reader, 'are public
harlots, common, as it is said, to all the Gitanos, and with
dances, demeanour, and filthy songs, are the cause of infinite harm
to the souls of the vassals of your Majesty (Philip III.), as it is
notorious what infinite harm they have caused in many honourable
houses. The married women whom they have separated from their
husbands, and the maidens whom they have perverted; and finally, in
the best of these Gitanas, any one may recognise all the signs of a
harlot given by the wise king: "they are gadders about,
whisperers, always unquiet in the places and corners."' (28)
The author of Alonso, (29) he who of all the old Spanish writers
has written most graphically concerning the Gitanos, and I believe
with most correctness, puts the following account of the Gitanas,
and their fortune-telling practices, into the entertaining mouth of
his hero:-
'O how many times did these Gitanas carry me along with them, for
being, after all, women, even they have their fears, and were glad
of me as a protector: and so they went through the neighbouring
villages, and entered the houses a-begging, giving to understand
thereby their poverty and necessity, and then they would call aside
the girls, in order to tell them the buena ventura, and the young
fellows the good luck which they were to enjoy, never failing in
the first place to ask for a cuarto or real, in order to make the
sign of the cross; and with these flattering words, they got as
much as they could, although, it is true, not much in money, as
their harvest in that article was generally slight; but enough in
bacon to afford subsistence to their husbands and bantlings. I
looked on and laughed at the simplicity of those foolish people,
who, especially such as wished to be married, were as satisfied and
content with what the Gitana told them, as if an apostle had spoken
The above description of Gitanas telling fortunes amongst the
villages of Navarre, and which was written by a Spanish author at
the commencement of the seventeenth century, is, in every respect,
applicable, as the reader will not fail to have observed, to the
English Gypsy women of the present day, engaged in the same
occupation in the rural districts of England, where the first
demand of the sibyls is invariably a sixpence, in order that they
may cross their hands with silver, and where the same promises are
made, and as easily believed; all which, if it serves to confirm
the opinion that in all times the practices and habits of the
Egyptian race have been, in almost all respects, the same as at the
present day, brings us also to the following mortifying conclusion,
- that mental illumination, amongst the generality of mankind, has
made no progress at all; as we observe in the nineteenth century
the same gross credulity manifested as in the seventeenth, and the
inhabitants of one of the countries most celebrated for the arts of
civilisation, imposed upon by the same stale tricks which served to
deceive two centuries before in Spain, a country whose name has
long and justly been considered as synonymous with every species of
ignorance and barbarism.
The same author, whilst speaking of these female Thugs, relates an
anecdote very characteristic of them; a device at which they are
adepts, which they love to employ, and which is generally attended
with success. It is the more deserving attention, as an instance
of the same description, attended with very similar circumstances,
occurred within the sphere of my own knowledge in my own country.
This species of deceit is styled, in the peculiar language of the
Rommany, HOKKANO BARO, or the 'great trick'; it being considered by
the women as their most fruitful source of plunder. The story, as
related by Alonso, runs as follows:-
'A band of Gitanos being in the neighbourhood of a village, one of
the women went to a house where lived a lady alone. This lady was
a young widow, rich, without children, and of very handsome person.
After having saluted her, the Gypsy repeated the harangue which she
had already studied, to the effect that there was neither bachelor,
widower, nor married man, nobleman, nor gallant, endowed with a
thousand graces, who was not dying for love of her; and then
continued: "Lady, I have contracted a great affection for you, and
since I know that you well merit the riches you possess,
notwithstanding you live heedless of your good fortune, I wish to
reveal to you a secret. You must know, then, that in your cellar
you have a vast treasure; nevertheless you will experience great
difficulty in arriving at it, as it is enchanted, and to remove it
is impossible, save alone on the eve of Saint John. We are now at
the eighteenth of June, and it wants five days to the twenty-third;
therefore, in the meanwhile, collect some jewels of gold and
silver, and likewise some money, whatever you please, provided it
be not copper, and provide six tapers, of white or yellow wax, for
at the time appointed I will come with a sister of mine, when we
will extract from the cellar such abundance of riches, that you
will be able to live in a style which will excite the envy of the
whole country." The ignorant widow, hearing these words, put
implicit confidence in the deceiver, and imagined that she already
possessed all the gold of Arabia and the silver of Potosi.
'The appointed day arrived, and not more punctual were the two
Gypsies, than anxiously expected by the lady. Being asked whether
she had prepared all as she had been desired, she replied in the
affirmative, when the Gypsy thus addressed her: "You must know,
good lady, that gold calls forth gold, and silver calls forth
silver; let us light these tapers, and descend to the cellar before
it grows late, in order that we may have time for our
conjurations." Thereupon the trio, the widow and the two Gypsies,
went down, and having lighted the tapers and placed them in
candlesticks in the shape of a circle, they deposited in the midst
a silver tankard, with some pieces of eight, and some corals tipped
with gold, and other jewels of small value. They then told the
lady, that it was necessary for them all to return to the staircase
by which they had descended to the cellar, and there they uplifted
their hands, and remained for a short time as if engaged in prayer.
'The two Gypsies then bade the widow wait for them, and descended
again, when they commenced holding a conversation, speaking and
answering alternately, and altering their voices in such a manner
that five or six people appeared to be in the cellar. "Blessed
little Saint John," said one, "will it be possible to remove the
treasure which you keep hidden here?" "O yes, and with a little
more trouble it will be yours," replied the Gypsy sister, altering
her voice to a thin treble, as if it proceeded from a child four or
five years old. In the meantime, the lady remained astonished,
expecting the promised riches, and the two Gitanas presently coming
to her, said, "Come up, lady, for our desire is upon the point of
being gratified. Bring down the best petticoat, gown, and mantle
which you have in your chest, that I may dress myself, and appear
in other guise to what I do now." The simple woman, not perceiving
the trick they were playing upon her, ascended with them to the
doorway, and leaving them alone, went to fetch the things which
they demanded. Thereupon the two Gypsies, seeing themselves at
liberty, and having already pocketed the gold and silver which had
been deposited for their conjuration, opened the street door, and
escaped with all the speed they could.
'The beguiled widow returned laden with the clothes, and not
finding those whom she had left waiting, descended into the cellar,
when, perceiving the trick which they had played her, and the
robbery which they had committed in stealing her jewels, she began
to cry and weep, but all in vain. All the neighbours hastened to
her, and to them she related her misfortune, which served more to
raise laughter and jeers at her expense than to excite pity; though
the subtlety of the two she-thieves was universally praised. These
latter, as soon as they had got out of the door, knew well how to
conceal themselves, for having once reached the mountain it was not
possible to find them. So much for their divination, their
foreseeing things to come, their power over the secrets of nature,
and their knowledge of the stars.'
The Gitanas in the olden time appear to have not unfrequently been
subjected to punishment as sorceresses, and with great justice, as
the abominable trade which they drove in philtres and decoctions
certainly entitled them to that appellation, and to the pains and
penalties reserved for those who practised what was termed
Amongst the crimes laid to their charge, connected with the
exercise of occult powers, there is one, however, of which they
were certainly not capable, as it is a purely imaginary one, though
if they were punished for it, they had assuredly little right to
complain, as the chastisement they met was fully merited by
practices equally malefic as the crime imputed to them, provided
that were possible. IT WAS CASTING THE EVIL EYE.
IN the Gitano language, casting the evil eye is called QUERELAR
NASULA, which simply means making sick, and which, according to the
common superstition, is accomplished by casting an evil look at
people, especially children, who, from the tenderness of their
constitution, are supposed to be more easily blighted than those of
a more mature age. After receiving the evil glance, they fall
sick, and die in a few hours.
The Spaniards have very little to say respecting the evil eye,
though the belief in it is very prevalent, especially in Andalusia
amongst the lower orders. A stag's horn is considered a good
safeguard, and on that account a small horn, tipped with silver, is
frequently attached to the children's necks by means of a cord
braided from the hair of a black mare's tail. Should the evil
glance be cast, it is imagined that the horn receives it, and
instantly snaps asunder. Such horns may be purchased in some of
the silversmiths' shops at Seville.
The Gitanos have nothing more to say on this species of sorcery
than the Spaniards, which can cause but little surprise, when we
consider that they have no traditions, and can give no rational
account of themselves, nor of the country from which they come.
Some of the women, however, pretend to have the power of casting
it, though if questioned how they accomplish it, they can return no
answer. They will likewise sell remedies for the evil eye, which
need not be particularised, as they consist of any drugs which they
happen to possess or be acquainted with; the prescribers being
perfectly reckless as to the effect produced on the patient,
provided they receive their paltry reward.
I have known these beings offer to cure the glanders in a horse (an
incurable disorder) with the very same powders which they offer as
a specific for the evil eye.
Leaving, therefore, for a time, the Spaniards and Gitanos, whose
ideas on this subject are very scanty and indistinct, let us turn
to other nations amongst whom this superstition exists, and
endeavour to ascertain on what it is founded, and in what it
consists. The fear of the evil eye is common amongst all oriental
people, whether Turks, Arabs, or Hindoos. It is dangerous in some
parts to survey a person with a fixed glance, as he instantly
concludes that you are casting the evil eye upon him. Children,
particularly, are afraid of the evil eye from the superstitious
fear inculcated in their minds in the nursery. Parents in the East
feel no delight when strangers look at their children in admiration
of their loveliness; they consider that you merely look at them in
order to blight them. The attendants on the children of the great
are enjoined never to permit strangers to fix their glance upon
them. I was once in the shop of an Armenian at Constantinople,
waiting to see a procession which was expected to pass by; there
was a Janisary there, holding by the hand a little boy about six
years of age, the son of some Bey; they also had come to see the
procession. I was struck with the remarkable loveliness of the
child, and fixed my glance upon it: presently it became uneasy,
and turning to the Janisary, said: 'There are evil eyes upon me;
drive them away.' 'Take your eyes off the child, Frank,' said the
Janisary, who had a long white beard, and wore a hanjar. 'What
harm can they do to the child, efendijem?' said I. 'Are they not
the eyes of a Frank?' replied the Janisary; 'but were they the eyes
of Omar, they should not rest on the child.' 'Omar,' said I, 'and
why not Ali? Don't you love Ali?' 'What matters it to you whom I
love,' said the Turk in a rage; 'look at the child again with your
chesm fanar and I will smite you.' 'Bad as my eyes are,' said I,
'they can see that you do not love Ali.' 'Ya Ali, ya Mahoma,
Alahhu!' (30) said the Turk, drawing his hanjar. All Franks, by
which are meant Christians, are considered as casters of the evil
eye. I was lately at Janina in Albania, where a friend of mine, a
Greek gentleman, is established as physician. 'I have been
visiting the child of a Jew that is sick,' said he to me one day;
'scarcely, however, had I left the house, when the father came
running after me. "You have cast the evil eye on my child," said
he; "come back and spit in its face." And I assure you,' continued
my friend, 'that notwithstanding all I could say, he compelled me
to go back and spit in the face of his child.'
Perhaps there is no nation in the world amongst whom this belief is
so firmly rooted and from so ancient a period as the Jews; it being
a subject treated of, and in the gravest manner, by the old
Rabbinical writers themselves, which induces the conclusion that
the superstition of the evil eye is of an antiquity almost as
remote as the origin of the Hebrew race; (and can we go farther
back?) as the oral traditions of the Jews, contained and commented
upon in what is called the Talmud, are certainly not less ancient
than the inspired writings of the Old Testament, and have unhappily
been at all times regarded by them with equal if not greater
The evil eye is mentioned in Scripture, but of course not in the
false and superstitious sense; evil in the eye, which occurs in
Prov. xxiii. v. 6, merely denoting niggardness and illiberality.
The Hebrew words are AIN RA, and stand in contradistinction to AIN
TOUB, or the benignant in eye, which denotes an inclination to
bounty and liberality.
It is imagined that this blight is most easily inflicted when a
person is enjoying himself with little or no care for the future,
when he is reclining in the sun before the door, or when he is full
of health and spirits: it may be cast designedly or not; and the
same effect may be produced by an inadvertent word. It is deemed
partially unlucky to say to any person, 'How well you look'; as the
probabilities are that such an individual will receive a sudden
blight and pine away. We have however no occasion to go to
Hindoos, Turks, and Jews for this idea; we shall find it nearer
home, or something akin to it. Is there one of ourselves, however
enlightened and free from prejudice, who would not shrink, even in
the midst of his highest glee and enjoyment, from saying, 'How
happy I am!' or if the words inadvertently escaped him, would he
not consider them as ominous of approaching evil, and would he not
endeavour to qualify them by saying, 'God preserve me!' - Ay, God
preserve you, brother! Who knows what the morrow will bring forth?
The common remedy for the evil eye, in the East, is the spittle of
the person who has cast it, provided it can be obtained. 'Spit in
the face of my child,' said the Jew of Janina to the Greek
physician: recourse is had to the same means in Barbary, where the
superstition is universal. In that country both Jews and Moors
carry papers about with them scrawled with hieroglyphics, which are
prepared by their respective priests, and sold. These papers,
placed in a little bag, and hung about the person, are deemed
infallible preservatives from the 'evil eye.'
Let us now see what the TALMUD itself says about the evil eye. The
passage which we are about to quote is curious, not so much from
the subject which it treats of, as in affording an example of the
manner in which the Rabbins are wont to interpret the Scripture,
and the strange and wonderful deductions which they draw from words
and phrases apparently of the greatest simplicity.
'Whosoever when about to enter into a city is afraid of evil eyes,
let him grasp the thumb of his right hand with his left hand, and
his left-hand thumb with his right hand, and let him cry in this
manner: "I am such a one, son of such a one, sprung from the seed
of Joseph"; and the evil eyes shall not prevail against him.
Now you should not say BY A WELL, but OVER AN EYE. (32) Rabbi
Joseph Bar Henina makes the following deduction: AND THEY SHALL
OF THE EARTH. (33) Now the fishes of the sea are covered by the
waters, and the evil eye has no power over them; and so over those
of the seed of Joseph the evil eye has no power.'
I have been thus diffuse upon the evil eye, because of late years
it has been a common practice of writers to speak of it without
apparently possessing any farther knowledge of the subject than
what may be gathered from the words themselves.
Like most other superstitions, it is, perhaps, founded on a
physical reality.
I have observed, that only in hot countries, where the sun and moon
are particularly dazzling, the belief in the evil eye is prevalent.
If we turn to Scripture, the wonderful book which is capable of
resolving every mystery, I believe that we shall presently come to
the solution of the evil eye. 'The sun shall not smite thee by
day, nor the moon by night.' Ps. cxxi. v. 6.
Those who wish to avoid the evil eye, instead of trusting in
charms, scrawls, and Rabbinical antidotes, let them never loiter in
the sunshine before the king of day has nearly reached his bourn in
the west; for the sun has an evil eye, and his glance produces
brain fevers; and let them not sleep uncovered beneath the smile of
the moon, for her glance is poisonous, and produces insupportable
itching in the eye, and not unfrequently blindness.
The northern nations have a superstition which bears some
resemblance to the evil eye, when allowance is made for
circumstances. They have no brilliant sun and moon to addle the
brain and poison the eye, but the grey north has its marshes, and
fenny ground, and fetid mists, which produce agues, low fevers, and
moping madness, and are as fatal to cattle as to man. Such
disorders are attributed to elves and fairies. This superstition
still lingers in some parts of England under the name of elf-shot,
whilst, throughout the north, it is called elle-skiod, and ellevild
(fairy wild). It is particularly prevalent amongst shepherds
and cow-herds, the people who, from their manner of life, are most
exposed to the effects of the elf-shot. Those who wish to know
more of this superstition are referred to Thiele's - DANSKE
FOLKESAGN, and to the notes of the KOEMPE-VISER, or popular Danish
WHEN the six hundred thousand men, (34) and the mixed multitude of
women and children, went forth from the land of Egypt, the God whom
they worshipped, the only true God, went before them by day in a
pillar of cloud, to lead them the way, and by night in a pillar of
fire to give them light; this God who rescued them from slavery,
who guided them through the wilderness, who was their captain in
battle, and who cast down before them the strong walls which
encompassed the towns of their enemies, this God they still
remember, after the lapse of more than three thousand years, and
still worship with adoration the most unbounded. If there be one
event in the eventful history of the Hebrews which awakens in their
minds deeper feelings of gratitude than another, it is the exodus;
and that wonderful manifestation of olden mercy still serves them
as an assurance that the Lord will yet one day redeem and gather
together his scattered and oppressed people. 'Art thou not the God
who brought us out of the land of bondage?' they exclaim in the
days of their heaviest trouble and affliction. He who redeemed
Israel from the hand of Pharaoh is yet capable of restoring the
kingdom and sceptre to Israel.
If the Rommany trusted in any God at the period of THEIR exodus,
they must speedily have forgotten him. Coming from Ind, as they
most assuredly did, it was impossible for them to have known the
true, and they must have been followers (if they followed any)
either of Buddh, or Brahmah, those tremendous phantoms which have
led, and are likely still to lead, the souls of hundreds of
millions to destruction; yet they are now ignorant of such names,
nor does it appear that such were ever current amongst them
subsequent to their arrival in Europe, if indeed they ever were.
They brought with them no Indian idols, as far as we are able to
judge at the present time, nor indeed Indian rites or observances,
for no traces of such are to be discovered amongst them.
All, therefore, which relates to their original religion is
shrouded in mystery, and is likely so to remain. They may have
been idolaters, or atheists, or what they now are, totally
neglectful of worship of any kind; and though not exactly prepared
to deny the existence of a Supreme Being, as regardless of him as
if he existed not, and never mentioning his name, save in oaths and
blasphemy, or in moments of pain or sudden surprise, as they have
heard other people do, but always without any fixed belief, trust,
or hope.
There are certainly some points of resemblance between the children
of Roma and those of Israel. Both have had an exodus, both are
exiles and dispersed amongst the Gentiles, by whom they are hated
and despised, and whom they hate and despise, under the names of
Busnees and Goyim; both, though speaking the language of the
Gentiles, possess a peculiar tongue, which the latter do not
understand, and both possess a peculiar cast of countenance, by
which they may, without difficulty, be distinguished from all other
nations; but with these points the similarity terminates. The
Israelites have a peculiar religion, to which they are fanatically
attached; the Romas have none, as they invariably adopt, though
only in appearance, that of the people with whom they chance to
sojourn; the Israelites possess the most authentic history of any
people in the world, and are acquainted with and delight to
recapitulate all that has befallen their race, from ages the most
remote; the Romas have no history, they do not even know the name
of their original country; and the only tradition which they
possess, that of their Egyptian origin, is a false one, whether
invented by themselves or others; the Israelites are of all people
the most wealthy, the Romas the most poor - poor as a Gypsy being
proverbial amongst some nations, though both are equally greedy of
gain; and finally, though both are noted for peculiar craft and
cunning, no people are more ignorant than the Romas, whilst the
Jews have always been a learned people, being in possession of the
oldest literature in the world, and certainly the most important
and interesting.
Sad and weary must have been the path of the mixed rabble of the
Romas, when they left India's sunny land and wended their way to
the West, in comparison with the glorious exodus of the Israelites
from Egypt, whose God went before them in cloud and in fire,
working miracles and astonishing the hearts of their foes.
Even supposing that they worshipped Buddh or Brahmah, neither of
these false deities could have accomplished for them what God
effected for his chosen people, although it is true that the idea
that a Supreme Being was watching over them, in return for the
reverence paid to his image, might have cheered them 'midst storm
and lightning, 'midst mountains and wildernesses, 'midst hunger and
drought; for it is assuredly better to trust even in an idol, in a
tree, or a stone, than to be entirely godless; and the most
superstitious hind of the Himalayan hills, who trusts in the Grand
Foutsa in the hour of peril and danger, is more wise than the most
enlightened atheist, who cherishes no consoling delusion to relieve
his mind, oppressed by the terrible ideas of reality.
But it is evident that they arrived at the confines of Europe
without any certain or rooted faith. Knowing, as we do, with what
tenacity they retain their primitive habits and customs, their sect
being, in all points, the same as it was four hundred years ago, it
appears impossible that they should have forgotten their peculiar
god, if in any peculiar god they trusted.
Though cloudy ideas of the Indian deities might be occasionally
floating in their minds, these ideas, doubtless, quickly passed
away when they ceased to behold the pagodas and temples of Indian
worship, and were no longer in contact with the enthusiastic
adorers of the idols of the East; they passed away even as the dim
and cloudy ideas which they subsequently adopted of the Eternal and
His Son, Mary and the saints, would pass away when they ceased to
be nourished by the sight of churches and crosses; for should it
please the Almighty to reconduct the Romas to Indian climes, who
can doubt that within half a century they would entirely forget all
connected with the religion of the West! Any poor shreds of that
faith which they bore with them they would drop by degrees as they
would relinquish their European garments when they became old, and
as they relinquished their Asiatic ones to adopt those of Europe;
no particular dress makes a part of the things essential to the
sect of Roma, so likewise no particular god and no particular
Where these people first assumed the name of Egyptians, or where
that title was first bestowed upon them, it is difficult to
determine; perhaps, however, in the eastern parts of Europe, where
it should seem the grand body of this nation of wanderers made a
halt for a considerable time, and where they are still to be found
in greater numbers than in any other part. One thing is certain,
that when they first entered Germany, which they speedily overran,
they appeared under the character of Egyptians, doing penance for
the sin of having refused hospitality to the Virgin and her Son,
and, of course, as believers in the Christian faith,
notwithstanding that they subsisted by the perpetration of every
kind of robbery and imposition; Aventinus (ANNALES BOIORUM, 826)
speaking of them says: 'Adeo tamen vana superstitio hominum
mentes, velut lethargus invasit, ut eos violari nefas putet, atque
grassari, furari, imponere passim sinant.'
This singular story of banishment from Egypt, and Wandering through
the world for a period of seven years, for inhospitality displayed
to the Virgin, and which I find much difficulty in attributing to
the invention of people so ignorant as the Romas, tallies strangely
with the fate foretold to the ancient Egyptians in certain chapters
of Ezekiel, so much so, indeed, that it seems to be derived from
that source. The Lord is angry with Egypt because its inhabitants
have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel, and thus he
threatens them by the mouth of his prophet.
'I will make the land of Egypt desolate in the midst of the
countries that are desolate, and her cities among the cities that
are laid waste shall be desolate forty years: and I will scatter
the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the
countries.' Ezek., chap. xxix. v. 12. 'Yet thus saith the Lord
God; at the end of forty years will I gather the Egyptians from the
people whither they were scattered.' v. 13.
'Thus saith the Lord; I will make the multitude of Egypt to cease,
by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.' Chap. xxx. v. 10.
'And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse
them among the countries; and they shall know that I am the Lord.'
Chap. xxx. v. 26.
The reader will at once observe that the apocryphal tale which the
Romas brought into Germany, concerning their origin and wanderings,
agrees in every material point with the sacred prophecy. The
ancient Egyptians were to be driven from their country and
dispersed amongst the nations, for a period of forty years, for
having been the cause of Israel's backsliding, and for not having
known the Lord, - the modern pseudo-Egyptians are to be dispersed
among the nations for seven years, for having denied hospitality to
the Virgin and her child. The prophecy seems only to have been
remodelled for the purpose of suiting the taste of the time; as no
legend possessed much interest in which the Virgin did not figure,
she and her child are here introduced instead of the Israelites,
and the Lord of Heaven offended with the Egyptians; and this legend
appears to have been very well received in Germany, for a time at
least, for, as Aventinus observes, it was esteemed a crime of the
first magnitude to offer any violence to the Egyptian pilgrims, who
were permitted to rob on the highway, to commit larceny, and to
practise every species of imposition with impunity.
The tale, however, of the Romas could hardly have been invented by
themselves, as they were, and still are, utterly unacquainted with
the Scripture; it probably originated amongst the priests and
learned men of the east of Europe, who, startled by the sudden
apparition of bands of people foreign in appearance and language,
skilled in divination and the occult arts, endeavoured to find in
Scripture a clue to such a phenomenon; the result of which was,
that the Romas of Hindustan were suddenly transformed into Egyptian
penitents, a title which they have ever since borne in various
parts of Europe. There are no means of ascertaining whether they
themselves believed from the first in this story; they most
probably took it on credit, more especially as they could give no
account of themselves, there being every reason for supposing that
from time immemorial they had existed in the East as a thievish
wandering sect, as they at present do in Europe, without history or
traditions, and unable to look back for a period of eighty years.
The tale moreover answered their purpose, as beneath the garb of
penitence they could rob and cheat with impunity, for a time at
least. One thing is certain, that in whatever manner the tale of
their Egyptian descent originated, many branches of the sect place
implicit confidence in it at the present day, more especially those
of England and Spain.
Even at the present time there are writers who contend that the
Romas are the descendants of the ancient Egyptians, who were
scattered amongst the nations by the Assyrians. This belief they
principally found upon particular parts of the prophecy from which
we have already quoted, and there is no lack of plausibility in the
arguments which they deduce therefrom. The Egyptians, say they,
were to fall upon the open fields, they were not to be brought
together nor gathered; they were to be dispersed through the
countries, their idols were to be destroyed, and their images were
to cease out of Noph! In what people in the world do these
denunciations appear to be verified save the Gypsies? - a people
who pass their lives in the open fields, who are not gathered
together, who are dispersed through the countries, who have no
idols, no images, nor any fixed or certain religion.
In Spain, the want of religion amongst the Gitanos was speedily
observed, and became quite as notorious as their want of honesty;
they have been styled atheists, heathen idolaters, and Moors. In
the little book of Quinones', we find the subject noticed in the
following manner:-
'They do not understand what kind of thing the church is, and never
enter it but for the purpose of committing sacrilege. They do not
know the prayers; for I examined them myself, males and females,
and they knew them not, or if any, very imperfectly. They never
partake of the Holy Sacraments, and though they marry relations
they procure no dispensations. (35) No one knows whether they are
baptized. One of the five whom I caused to be hung a few days ago
was baptized in the prison, being at the time upwards of thirty
years of age. Don Martin Fajardo says that two Gitanos and a
Gitana, whom he hanged in the village of Torre Perojil, were
baptized at the foot of the gallows, and declared themselves Moors.
'They invariably look out, when they marry, if we can call theirs
marrying, for the woman most dexterous in pilfering and deceiving,
caring nothing whether she is akin to them or married already, (36)
for it is only necessary to keep her company and to call her wife.
Sometimes they purchase them from their husbands, or receive them
as pledges: so says, at least, Doctor Salazar de Mendoza.
'Friar Melchior of Guelama states that he heard asserted of two
Gitanos what was never yet heard of any barbarous nation, namely,
that they exchanged their wives, and that as one was more comely
looking than the other, he who took the handsome woman gave a
certain sum of money to him who took the ugly one. The licentiate
Alonzo Duran has certified to me, that in the year 1623-4, one
Simon Ramirez, captain of a band of Gitanos, repudiated Teresa
because she was old, and married one called Melchora, who was young
and handsome, and that on the day when the repudiation took place
and the bridal was celebrated he was journeying along the road, and
perceived a company feasting and revelling beneath some trees in a
plain within the jurisdiction of the village of Deleitosa, and that
on demanding the cause he was told that it was on account of Simon
Ramirez marrying one Gitana and casting off another; and that the
repudiated woman told him, with an agony of tears, that he
abandoned her because she was old, and married another because she
was young. Certainly Gitanos and Gitanas confessed before Don
Martin Fajardo that they did not really marry, but that in their
banquets and festivals they selected the woman whom they liked, and
that it was lawful for them to have as many as three mistresses,
and on that account they begat so many children. They never keep
fasts nor any ecclesiastical command. They always eat meat, Friday
and Lent not excepted; the morning when I seized those whom I
afterwards executed, which was in Lent, they had three lambs which
they intended to eat for their dinner that day. - Quinones, page
Although what is stated in the above extracts, respecting the
marriages of the Gitanos and their licentious manner of living, is,
for the most part, incorrect, there is no reason to conclude the
same with respect to their want of religion in the olden time, and
their slight regard for the forms and observances of the church, as
their behaviour at the present day serves to confirm what is said
on those points. From the whole, we may form a tolerably correct
idea of the opinions of the time respecting the Gitanos in matters
of morality and religion. A very natural question now seems to
present itself, namely, what steps did the government of Spain,
civil and ecclesiastical, which has so often trumpeted its zeal in
the cause of what it calls the Christian religion, which has so
often been the scourge of the Jew, of the Mahometan, and of the
professors of the reformed faith; what steps did it take towards
converting, punishing, and rooting out from Spain, a sect of demiatheists,
who, besides being cheats and robbers, displayed the most
marked indifference for the forms of the Catholic religion, and
presumed to eat flesh every day, and to intermarry with their
relations, without paying the vicegerent of Christ here on earth
for permission so to do?
The Gitanos have at all times, since their first appearance in
Spain, been notorious for their contempt of religious observances;
yet there is no proof that they were subjected to persecution on
that account. The men have been punished as robbers and murderers,
with the gallows and the galleys; the women, as thieves and
sorceresses, with imprisonment, flagellation, and sometimes death;
but as a rabble, living without fear of God, and, by so doing,
affording an evil example to the nation at large, few people gave
themselves much trouble about them, though they may have
occasionally been designated as such in a royal edict, intended to
check their robberies, or by some priest from the pulpit, from
whose stable they had perhaps contrived to extract the mule which
previously had the honour of ambling beneath his portly person.
The Inquisition, which burnt so many Jews and Moors, and
conscientious Christians, at Seville and Madrid, and in other parts
of Spain, seems to have exhibited the greatest clemency and
forbearance to the Gitanos. Indeed, we cannot find one instance of
its having interfered with them. The charge of restraining the
excesses of the Gitanos was abandoned entirely to the secular
authorities, and more particularly to the Santa Hermandad, a kind
of police instituted for the purpose of clearing the roads of
robbers. Whilst I resided at Cordova, I was acquainted with an
aged ecclesiastic, who was priest of a village called Puente, at
about two leagues' distance from the city. He was detained in
Cordova on account of his political opinions, though he was
otherwise at liberty. We lived together at the same house; and he
frequently visited me in my apartment.
This person, who was upwards of eighty years of age, had formerly
been inquisitor at Cordova. One night, whilst we were seated
together, three Gitanos entered to pay me a visit, and on observing
the old ecclesiastic, exhibited every mark of dissatisfaction, and
speaking in their own idiom, called him a BALICHOW, and abused
priests in general in most unmeasured terms. On their departing, I
inquired of the old man whether he, who having been an inquisitor,
was doubtless versed in the annals of the holy office, could inform
me whether the Inquisition had ever taken any active measures for
the suppression and punishment of the sect of the Gitanos:
whereupon he replied, 'that he was not aware of one case of a
Gitano having been tried or punished by the Inquisition'; adding
these remarkable words: 'The Inquisition always looked upon them
with too much contempt to give itself the slightest trouble
concerning them; for as no danger either to the state, or the
church of Rome, could proceed from the Gitanos, it was a matter of
perfect indifference to the holy office whether they lived without
religion or not. The holy office has always reserved its anger for
people very different; the Gitanos having at all times been GENTE
Indeed, most of the persecutions which have arisen in Spain against
Jews, Moors, and Protestants, sprang from motives with which
fanaticism and bigotry, of which it is true the Spaniards have
their full share, had very little connection. Religion was assumed
as a mask to conceal the vilest and most detestable motives which
ever yet led to the commission of crying injustice; the Jews were
doomed to persecution and destruction on two accounts, - their
great riches, and their high superiority over the Spaniards in
learning and intellect. Avarice has always been the dominant
passion in Spanish minds, their rage for money being only to be
compared to the wild hunger of wolves for horse-flesh in the time
of winter: next to avarice, envy of superior talent and
accomplishment is the prevailing passion. These two detestable
feelings united, proved the ruin of the Jews in Spain, who were,
for a long time, an eyesore, both to the clergy and laity, for
their great riches and learning. Much the same causes insured the
expulsion of the Moriscos, who were abhorred for their superior
industry, which the Spaniards would not imitate; whilst the
reformation was kept down by the gaunt arm of the Inquisition, lest
the property of the church should pass into other and more
deserving hands. The faggot piles in the squares of Seville and
Madrid, which consumed the bodies of the Hebrew, the Morisco, and
the Protestant, were lighted by avarice and envy, and those same
piles would likewise have consumed the mulatto carcass of the
Gitano, had he been learned and wealthy enough to become obnoxious
to the two master passions of the Spaniards.
Of all the Spanish writers who have written concerning the Gitanos,
the one who appears to have been most scandalised at the want of
religion observable amongst them, and their contempt for things
sacred, was a certain Doctor Sancho De Moncada.
This worthy, whom we have already had occasion to mention, was
Professor of Theology at the University of Toledo, and shortly
after the expulsion of the Moriscos had been brought about by the
intrigues of the monks and robbers who thronged the court of Philip
the Third, he endeavoured to get up a cry against the Gitanos
similar to that with which for the last half-century Spain had
resounded against the unfortunate and oppressed Africans, and to
effect this he published a discourse, entitled 'The Expulsion of
the Gitanos,' addressed to Philip the Third, in which he conjures
that monarch, for the sake of morality and everything sacred, to
complete the good work he had commenced, and to send the Gitanos
packing after the Moriscos.
Whether this discourse produced any benefit to the author, we have
no means of ascertaining. One thing is certain, that it did no
harm to the Gitanos, who still continue in Spain.
If he had other expectations, he must have understood very little
of the genius of his countrymen, or of King Philip and his court.
It would have been easier to get up a crusade against the wild cats
of the sierra, than against the Gitanos, as the former have skins
to reward those who slay them. His discourse, however, is well
worthy of perusal, as it exhibits some learning, and comprises many
curious details respecting the Gitanos, their habits, and their
practices. As it is not very lengthy, we here subjoin it, hoping
that the reader will excuse its many absurdities, for the sake of
its many valuable facts.
'The people of God were always afflicted by the Egyptians, but the
Supreme King delivered them from their hands by means of many
miracles, which are related in the Holy Scriptures; and now,
without having recourse to so many, but only by means of the
miraculous talent which your Majesty possesses for expelling such
reprobates, he will, doubtless, free this kingdom from them, which
is what is supplicated in this discourse, and it behoves us, in the
first place, to consider
'Writers generally agree that the first time the Gitanos were seen
in Europe was the year 1417, which was in the time of Pope Martinus
the Fifth and King Don John the Second; others say that Tamerlane
had them in his camp in 1401, and that their captain was Cingo,
from whence it is said that they call themselves Cingary. But the
opinions concerning their origin are infinite.
'The first is that they are foreigners, though authors differ much
with respect to the country from whence they came. The majority
say that they are from Africa, and that they came with the Moors
when Spain was lost; others that they are Tartars, Persians,
Cilicians, Nubians, from Lower Egypt, from Syria, or from other
parts of Asia and Africa, and others consider them to be
descendants of Chus, son of Cain; others say that they are of
European origin, Bohemians, Germans, or outcasts from other nations
of this quarter of the world.
'The second and sure opinion is, that those who prowl about Spain
are not Egyptians, but swarms of wasps and atheistical wretches,
without any kind of law or religion, Spaniards, who have introduced
this Gypsy life or sect, and who admit into it every day all the
idle and broken people of Spain. There are some foreigners who
would make Spain the origin and fountain of all the Gypsies of
Europe, as they say that they proceeded from a river in Spain
called Cija, of which Lucan makes mention; an opinion, however, not
much adopted amongst the learned. In the opinion of respectable
authors, they are called Cingary or Cinli, because they in every
respect resemble the bird cinclo, which we call in Spanish
Motacilla, or aguzanieve (wagtail), which is a vagrant bird and
builds no nest, (37) but broods in those of other birds, a bird
restless and poor of plumage, as AElian writes.
'There is not a nation which does not consider them as a most
pernicious rabble; even the Turks and Moors abominate them, amongst
whom this sect is found under the names of Torlaquis, (38)
Hugiemalars, and Dervislars, of whom some historians make mention,
and all agree that they are most evil people, and highly
detrimental to the country where they are found.
'In the first place, because in all parts they are considered as
enemies of the states where they wander, and as spies and traitors
to the crown; which was proven by the emperors Maximilian and
Albert, who declared them to be such in public edicts; a fact easy
to be believed, when we consider that they enter with ease into the
enemies' country, and know the languages of all nations.
'Secondly, because they are idle vagabond people, who are in no
respect useful to the kingdom; without commerce, occupation, or
trade of any description; and if they have any it is making
picklocks and pothooks for appearance sake, being wasps, who only
live by sucking and impoverishing the country, sustaining
themselves by the sweat of the miserable labourers, as a German
poet has said of them:-
"Quos aliena juvant, propriis habitare molestum,
Fastidit patrium non nisi nosse solum."
They are much more useless than the Moriscos, as these last were of
some service to the state and the royal revenues, but the Gitanos
are neither labourers, gardeners, mechanics, nor merchants, and
only serve, like the wolves, to plunder and to flee.
'Thirdly, because the Gitanas are public harlots, common, as it is
said, to all the Gitanos, and with dances, demeanour, and filthy
songs, are the cause of continual detriment to the souls of the
vassals of your Majesty, it being notorious that they have done
infinite harm in many honourable houses by separating the married
women from their husbands, and perverting the maidens: and
finally, in the best of these Gitanas any one may recognise all the
signs of a harlot given by the wise king; they are gadders about,
whisperers, always unquiet in places and corners.
'Fourthly, because in all parts they are accounted famous thieves,
about which authors write wonderful things; we ourselves have
continual experience of this fact in Spain, where there is scarcely
a corner where they have not committed some heavy offence.
'Father Martin Del Rio says they were notorious when he was in Leon
in the year 1584; as they even attempted to sack the town of
Logrono in the time of the pest, as Don Francisco De Cordoba writes
in his DIDASCALIA. Enormous cases of their excesses we see in
infinite processes in all the tribunals, and particularly in that
of the Holy Brotherhood; their wickedness ascending to such a
pitch, that they steal children, and carry them for sale to
Barbary; the reason why the Moors call them in Arabic, RASO
CHERANY, (39) which, as Andreas Tebetus writes, means MASTER
THIEVES. Although they are addicted to every species of robbery,
they mostly practise horse and cattle stealing, on which account
they are called in law ABIGEOS, and in Spanish QUATREROS, from
which practice great evils result to the poor labourers. When they
cannot steal cattle, they endeavour to deceive by means of them,
acting as TERCEROS, in fairs and markets.
'Fifthly, because they are enchanters, diviners, magicians,
chiromancers, who tell the future by the lines of the hand, which
is what they call BUENA VENTURA, and are in general addicted to all
kind of superstition.
'This is the opinion entertained of them universally, and which is
confirmed every day by experience; and some think that they are
caller Cingary, from the great Magian Cineus, from whom it is said
they learned their sorceries, and from which result in Spain
(especially amongst the vulgar) great errors, and superstitious
credulity, mighty witchcrafts, and heavy evils, both spiritual and
'Sixthly, because very devout men consider them as heretics, and
many as Gentile idolaters, or atheists, without any religion,
although they exteriorly accommodate themselves to the religion of
the country in which they wander, being Turks with the Turks,
heretics with the heretics, and, amongst the Christians, baptizing
now and then a child for form's sake. Friar Jayme Bleda produces a
hundred signs, from which he concludes that the Moriscos were not
Christians, all which are visible in the Gitanos; very few are
known to baptize their children; they are not married, but it is
believed that they keep the women in common; they do not use
dispensations, nor receive the sacraments; they pay no respect to
images, rosaries, bulls, neither do they hear mass, nor divine
services; they never enter the churches, nor observe fasts, Lent,
nor any ecclesiastical precept; which enormities have been attested
by long experience, as every person says.
'Finally, they practise every kind of wickedness in safety, by
discoursing amongst themselves in a language with which they
understand each other without being understood, which in Spain is
called Gerigonza, which, as some think, ought to be called
Cingerionza, or language of Cingary. The king our lord saw the
evil of such a practice in the law which he enacted at Madrid, in
the year 1566, in which he forbade the Arabic to the Moriscos, as
the use of different languages amongst the natives of one kingdom
opens a door to treason, and is a source of heavy inconvenience;
and this is exemplified more in the case of the Gitanos than of any
other people.
'The civil law ordains that vagrants be seized wherever they are
found, without any favour being shown to them; in conformity with
which, the Gitanos in the Greek empire were given as slaves to
those who should capture them; as respectable authors write.
Moreover, the emperor, our lord, has decreed by a law made in
Toledo, in the year 1525, THAT THE THIRD TIME THEY BE FOUND
THOSE WHO CAPTURE THEM. Which can be easily justified, inasmuch as
there is no shepherd who does not place barriers against the
wolves, and does not endeavour to save his flock, and I have
already exposed to your Majesty the damage which the Gitanos
perpetrate in Spain.
'The reasons are many. The first, for being spies, and traitors to
the crown; the second as idlers and vagabonds.
'It ought always to be considered, that no sooner did the race of
man begin, after the creation of the world, than the important
point of civil policy arose of condemning vagrants to death; for
Cain was certain that he should meet his destruction in wandering
as a vagabond for the murder of Abel. ERO VAGUS ET PROFUGUS IN
stands here as the natural consequence of VAGUS ERO; as it is
evident, that whoever shall see me must kill me, because he sees me
a wanderer. And it must always be remembered, that at that time
there were no people in the world but the parents and brothers of
Cain, as St. Ambrose has remarked. Moreover, God, by the mouth of
Jeremias, menaced his people, that all should devour them whilst
they went wandering amongst the mountains. And it is a doctrine
entertained by theologians, that the mere act of wandering, without
anything else, carries with it a vehement suspicion of capital
crime. Nature herself demonstrates it in the curious political
system of the bees, in whose well-governed republic the drones are
killed in April, when they commence working.
'The third, because they are stealers of four-footed beasts, who
are condemned to death by the laws of Spain, in the wise code of
the famous King Don Alonso; which enactment became a part of the
common law.
'The fourth, for wizards, diviners, and for practising arts which
are prohibited under pain of death by the divine law itself. And
Saul is praised for having caused this law to be put in execution
in the beginning of his reign; and the Holy Scripture attributes to
the breach of it (namely, his consulting the witch) his disastrous
death, and the transfer of the kingdom to David. The Emperor
Constantine the Great, and other emperors who founded the civil
law, condemned to death those who should practise such
facinorousness, - as the President of Tolosa has written.
'The last and most urgent cause is, that they are heretics, if what
is said be truth; and it is the practice of the law in Spain to
burn such.
'Firstly, they are comprehended as hale beggars in the law of the
wise king, Don Alonso, by which he expelled all sturdy beggars, as
being idle and useless.
'Secondly, the law expels public harlots from the city; and of this
matter I have already said something in my second chapter.
'Thirdly, as people who cause scandal, and who, as is visible at
the first glance, are prejudicial to morals and common decency.
Now, it is established by the statute law of these kingdoms, that
such people be expelled therefrom; it is said so in the wellpondered
words of the edict for the expulsion of the Moors: "And
forasmuch as the sense of good and Christian government makes it a
matter of conscience to expel from the kingdoms the things which
cause scandal, injury to honest subjects, danger to the state, and
above all, disloyalty to the Lord our God." Therefore, considering
the incorrigibility of the Gitanos, the Spanish kings made many
holy laws in order to deliver their subjects from such pernicious
'Fourthly, the Catholic princes, Ferdinand and Isabella, by a law
which they made in Medina del Campo, in the year 1494, and which
the emperor our lord renewed in Toledo in 1523, and in Madrid in
1528 and 1534, and the late king our lord, in 1560, banished them
perpetually from Spain, and gave them as slaves to whomsoever
should find them, after the expiration of the term specified in the
edict - laws which are notorious even amongst strangers. The words
are:- "We declare to be vagabonds, and subject to the aforesaid
penalty, the Egyptians and foreign tinkers, who by laws and
statutes of these kingdoms are commanded to depart therefrom; and
the poor sturdy beggars, who contrary to the order given in the new
edict, beg for alms and wander about."
All the doctors, who are of opinion that the Gitanos may be
condemned to death, would consider it as an act of mercy in your
Majesty to banish them perpetually from Spain, and at the same time
as exceedingly just. Many and learned men not only consider that
it is just to expel them, but cannot sufficiently wonder that they
are tolerated in Christian states, and even consider that such
toleration is an insult to the kingdoms.
'Whilst engaged in writing this, I have seen a very learned
memorial, in which Doctor Salazar de Mendoza makes the same
supplication to your Majesty which is made in this discourse,
holding it to be the imperious duty of every good government.
'It stands in reason that the prince is bound to watch for the
welfare of his subjects, and the wrongs which those of your Majesty
receive from the Gitanos I have already exposed in my second
chapter; it being a point worthy of great consideration that the
wrongs caused by the Moriscos moved your royal and merciful bosom
to drive them out, although they were many, and their departure
would be felt as a loss to the population, the commerce, the royal
revenues, and agriculture. Now, with respect to the Gitanos, as
they are few, and perfectly useless for everything, it appears more
necessary to drive them forth, the injuries which they cause being
so numerous.
'Secondly, because the Gitanos, as I have already said, are
Spaniards; and as others profess the sacred orders of religion,
even so do these fellows profess gypsying, which is robbery and all
the other vices enumerated in chapter the second. And whereas it
is just to banish from the kingdom those who have committed any
heavy delinquency, it is still more so to banish those who profess
to be injurious to all.
'Thirdly, because all the kings and rulers have always endeavoured
to eject from their kingdoms the idle and useless. And it is very
remarkable, that the law invariably commands them to be expelled,
and the republics of Athens and Corinth were accustomed to do so -
casting them forth like dung, even as Athenaeus writes: NOS GENUS
profession of the Gypsy is idleness.
'Fourthly, because the Gitanos are diviners, enchanters, and
mischievous wretches, and the law commands us to expel such from
the state.
'In the fifth place, because your Majesty, in the Cortes at present
assembled, has obliged your royal conscience to fulfil all the
articles voted for the public service, and the forty-ninth says:
"One of the things at present most necessary to be done in these
kingdoms, is to afford a remedy for the robberies, plundering and
murders committed by the Gitanos, who go wandering about the
country, stealing the cattle of the poor, and committing a thousand
outrages, living without any fear of God, and being Christians only
in name. It is therefore deemed expedient, that your Majesty
command them to quit these kingdoms within six months, to be
reckoned from the day of the ratification of these presents, and
that they do not return to the same under pain of death."
'Against this, two things may possibly be urged:-
'The first, that the laws of Spain give unto the Gitanos the
alternative of residing in large towns, which, it appears, would be
better than expelling them. But experience, recognised by grave
and respectable men, has shown that it is not well to harbour these
people; for their houses are dens of thieves, from whence they
prowl abroad to rob the land.
'The second, that it appears a pity to banish the women and
children. But to this can be opposed that holy act of your Majesty
which expelled the Moriscos, and the children of the Moriscos, for
the reason given in the royal edict. WHENEVER ANY DETESTABLE CRIME
most detestable crimes of all are those which the Gitanos commit,
since it is notorious that they subsist on what they steal; and as
to the children, there is no law which obliges us to bring up wolfwhelps,
to cause here-after certain damage to the flock.
'Every one who considers the manner of your Majesty's government as
the truly Christian pattern must entertain fervent hope that the
advice proffered in this discourse will be attended to; more
especially on reflecting that not only the good, but even the most
barbarous kings have acted up to it in their respective dominions.
'Pharaoh was bad enough, nevertheless he judged that the children
of Israel were dangerous to the state, because they appeared to him
to be living without any certain occupation; and for this very
reason the Chaldeans cast them out of Babylon. Amasis, king of
Egypt, drove all the vagrants from his kingdom, forbidding them to
return under pain of death. The Soldan of Egypt expelled the
Torlaquis. The Moors did the same; and Bajazet cast them out of
all the Ottoman empire, according to Leo Clavius.
'In the second place, the Christian princes have deemed it an
important measure of state.
'The emperor our Lord, in the German Diets of the year 1548,
expelled the Gitanos from all his empire, and these were the words
of the decree: "Zigeuner quos compertum est proditores esse, et
exploratores hostium nusquam in imperio locum inveniunto. In
deprehensos vis et injuria sine fraude esto. Fides publica
Zigeuners ne dator, nec data servator."
'The King of France, Francis, expelled them from thence; and the
Duke of Terranova, when Governor of Milan for our lord the king,
obliged them to depart from that territory under pain of death.
'Thirdly, there is one grand reason which ought to be conclusive in
moving him who so much values himself in being a faithful son of
the church, - I mean the example which Pope Pius the Fifth gave to
all the princes; for he drove the Gitanos from all his domains, and
in the year 1568, he expelled the Jews, assigning as reasons for
their expulsion those which are more closely applicable to the
Gitanos; - namely, that they sucked the vitals of the state,
without being of any utility whatever; that they were thieves
themselves, and harbourers of others; that they were wizards,
diviners, and wretches who induced people to believe that they knew
the future, which is what the Gitanos at present do by telling
'Your Majesty has already freed us from greater and more dangerous
enemies; finish, therefore, the enterprise begun, whence will
result universal joy and security, and by which your Majesty will
earn immortal honour. Amen.
'O Regum summe, horum plura ne temnas (absit) ne forte tempsisse
Hispaniae periculosum existat.'
PERHAPS there is no country in which more laws have been framed,
having in view the extinction and suppression of the Gypsy name,
race, and manner of life, than Spain. Every monarch, during a
period of three hundred years, appears at his accession to the
throne to have considered that one of his first and most imperative
duties consisted in suppressing or checking the robberies, frauds,
and other enormities of the Gitanos, with which the whole country
seems to have resounded since the time of their first appearance.
They have, by royal edicts, been repeatedly banished from Spain,
under terrible penalties, unless they renounced their inveterate
habits; and for the purpose of eventually confounding them with the
residue of the population, they have been forbidden, even when
stationary, to reside together, every family being enjoined to live
apart, and neither to seek nor to hold communication with others of
the race.
We shall say nothing at present as to the wisdom which dictated
these provisions, nor whether others might not have been devised,
better calculated to produce the end desired. Certain it is, that
the laws were never, or very imperfectly, put in force, and for
reasons with which their expediency or equity (which no one at the
time impugned) had no connection whatever.
It is true that, in a country like Spain, abounding in wildernesses
and almost inaccessible mountains, the task of hunting down and
exterminating or banishing the roving bands would have been found
one of no slight difficulty, even if such had ever been attempted;
but it must be remembered, that from an early period colonies of
Gitanos have existed in the principal towns of Spain, where the men
have plied the trades of jockeys and blacksmiths, and the women
subsisted by divination, and all kinds of fraud. These colonies
were, of course, always within the reach of the hand of justice,
yet it does not appear that they were more interfered with than the
roving and independent bands, and that any serious attempts were
made to break them up, though notorious as nurseries and refuges of
It is a lamentable fact, that pure and uncorrupt justice has never
existed in Spain, as far at least as record will allow us to judge;
not that the principles of justice have been less understood there
than in other countries, but because the entire system of
justiciary administration has ever been shamelessly profligate and
Spanish justice has invariably been a mockery, a thing to be bought
and sold, terrible only to the feeble and innocent, and an
instrument of cruelty and avarice.
The tremendous satires of Le Sage upon Spanish corregidors and
alguazils are true, even at the present day, and the most notorious
offenders can generally escape, if able to administer sufficient
bribes to the ministers (40) of what is misnamed justice.
The reader, whilst perusing the following extracts from the laws
framed against the Gitanos, will be filled with wonder that the
Gypsy sect still exists in Spain, contrary to the declared will of
the sovereign and the nation, so often repeated during a period of
three hundred years; yet such is the fact, and it can only be
accounted for on the ground of corruption.
It was notorious that the Gitanos had powerful friends and
favourers in every district, who sanctioned and encouraged them in
their Gypsy practices. These their fautors were of all ranks and
grades, from the corregidor of noble blood to the low and obscure
escribano; and from the viceroy of the province to the archer of
the Hermandad.
To the high and noble, they were known as Chalanes, and to the
plebeian functionaries, as people who, notwithstanding their
general poverty, could pay for protection.
A law was even enacted against these protectors of the Gitanos,
which of course failed, as the execution of the law was confided to
the very delinquents against whom it was directed. Thus, the
Gitano bought, sold, and exchanged animals openly, though he
subjected himself to the penalty of death by so doing, or left his
habitation when he thought fit, though such an act, by the law of
the land, was punishable with the galleys.
In one of their songs they have commemorated the impunity with
which they wandered about. The escribano, to whom the Gitanos of
the neighbourhood pay contribution, on a strange Gypsy being
brought before him, instantly orders him to be liberated, assigning
as a reason that he is no Gitano, but a legitimate Spaniard:-
'I left my house, and walked about
They seized me fast, and bound:
It is a Gypsy thief, they shout,
The Spaniards here have found.
'From out the prison me they led,
Before the scribe they brought;
It is no Gypsy thief, he said,
The Spaniards here have caught.'
In a word, nothing was to be gained by interfering with the
Gitanos, by those in whose hands the power was vested; but, on the
contrary, something was to be lost. The chief sufferers were the
labourers, and they had no power to right themselves, though their
wrongs were universally admitted, and laws for their protection
continually being made, which their enemies contrived to set at
nought; as will presently be seen.
The first law issued against the Gypsies appears to have been that
of Ferdinand and Isabella, at Medina del Campo, in 1499. In this
edict they were commanded, under certain penalties, to become
stationary in towns and villages, and to provide themselves with
masters whom they might serve for their maintenance, or in default
thereof, to quit the kingdom at the end of sixty days. No mention
is made of the country to which they were expected to betake
themselves in the event of their quitting Spain. Perhaps, as they
are called Egyptians, it was concluded that they would forthwith
return to Egypt; but the framers of the law never seem to have
considered what means these Egyptians possessed of transporting
their families and themselves across the sea to such a distance, or
if they betook themselves to other countries, what reception a host
of people, confessedly thieves and vagabonds, were likely to meet
with, or whether it was fair in the TWO CHRISTIAN PRINCES to get
rid of such a nuisance at the expense of their neighbours. Such
matters were of course left for the Gypsies themselves to settle.
In this edict, a class of individuals is mentioned in conjunction
with the Gitanos, or Gypsies, but distinguished from them by the
name of foreign tinkers, or Calderos estrangeros. By these, we
presume, were meant the Calabrians, who are still to be seen upon
the roads of Spain, wandering about from town to town, in much the
same way as the itinerant tinkers of England at the present day. A
man, half a savage, a haggard woman, who is generally a Spaniard, a
wretched child, and still more miserable donkey, compose the group;
the gains are of course exceedingly scanty, nevertheless this life,
seemingly so wretched, has its charms for these outcasts, who live
without care and anxiety, without a thought beyond the present
hour, and who sleep as sound in ruined posadas and ventas, or in
ravines amongst rocks and pines, as the proudest grandee in his
palace at Seville or Madrid.
Don Carlos and Donna Juanna, at Toledo, 1539, confirmed the edict
of Medina del Campo against the Egyptians, with the addition, that
if any Egyptian, after the expiration of the sixty days, should be
found wandering about, he should be sent to the galleys for six
years, if above the age of twenty and under that of fifty, and if
under or above those years, punished as the preceding law provides.
Philip the Second, at Madrid, 1586, after commanding that all the
laws and edicts be observed, by which the Gypsies are forbidden to
wander about, and commanded to establish themselves, ordains, with
the view of restraining their thievish and cheating practices, that
none of them be permitted to sell anything, either within or
without fairs or markets, if not provided with a testimony signed
by the notary public, to prove that they have a settled residence,
and where it may be; which testimony must also specify and describe
the horses, cattle, linen, and other things, which they carry forth
for sale; otherwise they are to be punished as thieves, and what
they attempt to sell considered as stolen property.
Philip the Third, at Belem, in Portugal, 1619, commands all the
Gypsies of the kingdom to quit the same within the term of six
months, and never to return, under pain of death; those who should
wish to remain are to establish themselves in cities, towns, and
villages, of one thousand families and upwards, and are not to be
allowed the use of the dress, name, and language of Gypsies, IN
are moreover forbidden, under the same penalty, to have anything to
do with the buying or selling of cattle, whether great or small.
The most curious portion of the above law is the passage in which
these people are declared not to be Gypsies by nation. If they are
not Gypsies, who are they then? Spaniards? If so, what right had
the King of Spain to send the refuse of his subjects abroad, to
corrupt other lands, over which he had no jurisdiction?
The Moors were sent back to Africa, under some colour of justice,
as they came originally from that part of the world; but what would
have been said to such a measure, if the edict which banished them
had declared that they were not Moors, but Spaniards?
The law, moreover, in stating that they are not Gypsies by nation,
seems to have forgotten that in that case it would be impossible to
distinguish them from other Spaniards, so soon as they should have
dropped the name, language, and dress of Gypsies. How, provided
they were like other Spaniards, and did not carry the mark of
another nation on their countenances, could it be known whether or
not they obeyed the law, which commanded them to live only in
populous towns or villages, or how could they be detected in the
buying or selling of cattle, which the law forbids them under pain
of death?
The attempt to abolish the Gypsy name and manner of life might have
been made without the assertion of a palpable absurdity.
Philip the Fourth, May 8, 1633, after reference to the evil lives
and want of religion of the Gypsies, and the complaints made
against them by prelates and others, declares 'that the laws
hitherto adopted since the year 1499, have been inefficient to
restrain their excesses; that they are not Gypsies by origin or
nature, but have adopted this form of life'; and then, after
forbidding them, according to custom, the dress and language of
Gypsies, under the usual severe penalties, he ordains:-
'1st. That under the same penalties, the aforesaid people shall,
within two months, leave the quarters (barrios) where they now live
with the denomination of Gitanos, and that they shall separate from
each other, and mingle with the other inhabitants, and that they
shall hold no more meetings, neither in public nor in secret; that
the ministers of justice are to observe, with particular diligence,
how they fulfil these commands, and whether they hold communication
with each other, or marry amongst themselves; and how they fulfil
the obligations of Christians by assisting at sacred worship in the
churches; upon which latter point they are to procure information
with all possible secrecy from the curates and clergy of the
parishes where the Gitanos reside.
'2ndly. And in order to extirpate, in every way, the name of
Gitanos, we ordain that they be not called so, and that no one
venture to call them so, and that such shall be esteemed a very
heavy injury, and shall be punished as such, if proved, and that
nought pertaining to the Gypsies, their name, dress, or actions, be
represented, either in dances or in any other performance, under
the penalty of two years' banishment, and a mulct of fifty thousand
maravedis to whomsoever shall offend for the first time, and double
punishment for the second.'
The above two articles seem to have in view the suppression and
breaking up of the Gypsy colonies established in the large towns,
more especially the suburbs; farther on, mention is made of the
wandering bands.
'4thly. And forasmuch as we have understood that numerous Gitanos
rove in bands through various parts of the kingdom, committing
robberies in uninhabited places, and even invading some small
villages, to the great terror and danger of the inhabitants, we
give by this our law a general commission to all ministers of
justice, whether appertaining to royal domains, lordships, or
abbatial territories, that every one may, in his district, proceed
to the imprisonment and chastisement of the delinquents, and may
pass beyond his own jurisdiction in pursuit of them; and we also
command all the ministers of justice aforesaid, that on receiving
information that Gitanos or highwaymen are prowling in their
districts, they do assemble at an appointed day, and with the
necessary preparation of men and arms they do hunt down, take, and
deliver them under a good guard to the nearest officer holding the
royal commission.'
Carlos the Second followed in the footsteps of his predecessors,
with respect to the Gitanos. By a law of the 20th of November
1692, he inhibits the Gitanos from living in towns of less than one
thousand heads of families (vecinos), and pursuing any trade or
employment, save the cultivation of the ground; from going in the
dress of Gypsies, or speaking the language or gibberish which they
use; from living apart in any particular quarter of the town; from
visiting fairs with cattle, great or small, or even selling or
exchanging such at any time, unless with the testimonial of the
public notary, that they were bred within their own houses. By
this law they are also forbidden to have firearms in their
So far from being abashed by this law, or the preceding one, the
Gitanos seem to have increased in excesses of every kind. Only
three years after (12th June 1695), the same monarch deemed it
necessary to publish a new law for their persecution and
chastisement. This law, which is exceedingly severe, consists of
twenty-nine articles. By the fourth they are forbidden any other
exercise or manner of life than that of the cultivation of the
fields, in which their wives and children, if of competent age, are
to assist them.
Of every other office, employment, or commerce, they are declared
incapable, and especially of being BLACKSMITHS.
By the fifth, they are forbidden to keep horses or mares, either
within or without their houses, or to make use of them in any way
whatever, under the penalty of two months' imprisonment and the
forfeiture of such animals; and any one lending them a horse or a
mare is to forfeit the same, if it be found in their possession.
They are declared only capable of keeping a mule, or some lesser
beast, to assist them in their labour, or for the use of their
By the twelfth, they are to be punished with six years in the
galleys, if they leave the towns or villages in which they are
located, and pass to others, or wander in the fields or roads; and
they are only to be permitted to go out, in order to exercise the
pursuit of husbandry. In this edict, particular mention is made of
the favour and protection shown to the Gitanos, by people of
various descriptions, by means of which they had been enabled to
follow their manner of life undisturbed, and to baffle the severity
of the laws:-
'Article 16. - And because we understand that the continuance in
these kingdoms of those who are called Gitanos has depended on the
favour, protection, and assistance which they have experienced from
persons of different stations, we do ordain, that whosoever,
against whom shall be proved the fact of having, since the day of
the publication hereof, favoured, received, or assisted the said
Gitanos, in any manner whatever, whether within their houses or
without, the said person, provided he is noble, shall be subjected
to the fine of six thousand ducats, the half of which shall be
applied to our treasury, and the other half to the expenses of the
prosecution; and, if a plebeian, to a punishment of ten years in
the galleys. And we declare, that in order to proceed to the
infliction of such fine and punishment, the evidence of two
respectable witnesses, without stain or suspicion, shall be
esteemed legitimate and conclusive, although they depose to
separate acts, or three depositions of the Gitanos themselves, MADE
UPON THE RACK, although they relate to separate and different acts
of abetting and harbouring.'
The following article is curious, as it bears evidence to Gypsy
craft and cunning:-
'Article 18. - And whereas it is very difficult to prove against
the Gitanos the robberies and delinquencies which they commit,
partly because they happen in uninhabited places, but more
especially on account of the MALICE and CUNNING with which they
execute them; we do ordain, in order that they may receive the
merited chastisement, that to convict, in these cases, those who
are called Gitanos, the depositions of the persons whom they have
robbed in uninhabited places shall be sufficient, provided there
are at least two witnesses to one and the same fact, and these of
good fame and reputation; and we also declare, that the CORPUS
DELICTI may be proved in the same manner in these cases, in order
that the culprits may be proceeded against, and condemned to the
corresponding pains and punishments.'
The council of Madrid published a schedule, 18th of August 1705,
from which it appears that the villages and roads were so much
infested by the Gitano race, that there was neither peace nor
safety for labourers and travellers; the corregidors and justices
are therefore exhorted to use their utmost endeavour to apprehend
these outlaws, and to execute upon them the punishments enjoined by
the preceding law. The ministers of justice are empowered to fire
upon them as public enemies, wherever they meet them, in case of
resistance or refusal to deliver up the arms they carry about them.
Philip the Fifth, by schedule, October 1st, 1726, forbade any
complaints which the Gitanos might have to make against the
inferior justices being heard in the higher tribunals, and, on that
account, banished all the Gypsy women from Madrid, and, indeed,
from all towns where royal audiences were held, it being the custom
of the women to flock up to the capital from the small towns and
villages, under pretence of claiming satisfaction for wrongs
inflicted upon their husbands and relations, and when there to
practise the art of divination, and to sing obscene songs through
the streets; by this law, also, the justices are particularly
commanded not to permit the Gitanos to leave their places of
domicile, except in cases of very urgent necessity.
This law was attended with the same success as the others; the
Gitanos left their places of domicile whenever they thought proper,
frequented the various fairs, and played off their jockey tricks as
usual, or traversed the country in armed gangs, plundering the
small villages, and assaulting travellers.
The same monarch, in October, published another law against them,
from St. Lorenzo, of the Escurial. From the words of this edict,
and the measures resolved upon, the reader may form some idea of
the excesses of the Gitanos at this period. They are to be hunted
down with fire and sword, and even the sanctity of the temples is
to be invaded in their pursuit, and the Gitanos dragged from the
horns of the altar, should they flee thither for refuge. It was
impossible, in Spain, to carry the severity of persecution farther,
as the very parricide was in perfect safety, could he escape to the
church. Here follows part of this law:-
'I have resolved that all the lord-lieutenants, intendants, and
corregidors shall publish proclamations, and fix edicts, to the
effect that all the Gitanos who are domiciled in the cities and
towns of their jurisdiction shall return within the space of
fifteen days to their places of domicile, under penalty of being
declared, at the expiration of that term, as public banditti,
subject to be fired at in the event of being found with arms, or
without them, beyond the limits of their places of domicile; and at
the expiration of the term aforesaid, the lord-lieutenants,
intendants, and corregidors are strictly commanded, that either
they themselves, or suitable persons deputed by them, march out
with armed soldiery, or if there be none at hand, with the
militias, and their officers, accompanied by the horse rangers,
destined for the protection of the revenue, for the purpose of
scouring the whole district within their jurisdiction, making use
of all possible diligence to apprehend such Gitanos as are to be
found on the public roads and other places beyond their domiciliary
bounds, and to inflict upon them the penalty of death, for the mere
act of being found.
'And in the event of their taking refuge in sacred places, they are
empowered to drag them forth, and conduct them to the neighbouring
prisons and fortresses, and provided the ecclesiastical judges
proceed against the secular, in order that they be restored to the
church, they are at liberty to avail themselves of the recourse to
force, countenanced by laws declaring, even as I now declare, that
all the Gitanos who shall leave their allotted places of abode, are
to be held as incorrigible rebels, and enemies of the public
From this period, until the year 1780, various other laws and
schedules were directed against the Gitanos, which, as they contain
nothing very new or remarkable, we may be well excused from
particularising. In 1783, a law was passed by the government,
widely differing in character from any which had hitherto been
enacted in connection with the Gitano caste or religion in Spain.
CARLOS TERCERO, or Charles the Third, ascended the throne of Spain
in the year 1759, and died in 1788. No Spanish monarch has left
behind a more favourable impression on the minds of the generality
of his countrymen; indeed, he is the only one who is remembered at
all by all ranks and conditions; - perhaps he took the surest means
for preventing his name being forgotten, by erecting a durable
monument in every large town, - we do not mean a pillar surmounted
by a statue, or a colossal figure on horseback, but some useful and
stately public edifice. All the magnificent modern buildings which
attract the eye of the traveller in Spain, sprang up during the
reign of Carlos Tercero, - for example, the museum at Madrid, the
gigantic tobacco fabric at Seville, - half fortress, half
manufactory, - and the Farol, at Coruna. We suspect that these
erections, which speak to the eye, have gained him far greater
credit amongst Spaniards than the support which he afforded to
liberal opinions, which served to fan the flame of insurrection in
the new world, and eventually lost for Spain her transatlantic
We have said that he left behind him a favourable impression
amongst the generality of his countrymen; by which we mean the
great body found in every nation, who neither think nor reason, -
for there are amongst the Spaniards not a few who deny that any of
his actions entitle him to the gratitude of the nation. 'All his
thoughts,' say they, 'were directed to hunting - and hunting alone;
and all the days of the year he employed himself either in hunting
or in preparation for the sport. In one expedition, in the parks
of the Pardo, he spent several millions of reals. The noble
edifices which adorn Spain, though built by his orders, are less
due to his reign than to the anterior one, - to the reign of
Ferdinand the Sixth, who left immense treasures, a small portion of
which Carlos Tercero devoted to these purposes, squandering away
the remainder. It is said that Carlos Tercero was no friend to
superstition; yet how little did Spain during his time gain in
religious liberty! The great part of the nation remained
intolerant and theocratic as before, the other and smaller section
turned philosophic, but after the insane manner of the French
revolutionists, intolerant in its incredulity, and believing more
in the ENCYCLOPEDIE than in the Gospel of the Nazarene.' (41)
We should not have said thus much of Carlos Tercero, whose
character has been extravagantly praised by the multitude, and
severely criticised by the discerning few who look deeper than the
surface of things, if a law passed during his reign did not connect
him intimately with the history of the Gitanos, whose condition to
a certain extent it has already altered, and over whose future
destinies there can be no doubt that it will exert considerable
influence. Whether Carlos Tercero had anything farther to do with
its enactment than subscribing it with his own hand, is a point
difficult to determine; the chances are that he had not; there is
damning evidence to prove that in many respects he was a mere
Nimrod, and it is not probable that such a character would occupy
his thoughts much with plans for the welfare of his people,
especially such a class as the Gitanos, however willing to build
public edifices, gratifying to his vanity, with the money which a
provident predecessor had amassed.
The law in question is dated 19th September 1783. It is entitled,
'Rules for repressing and chastising the vagrant mode of life, and
other excesses, of those who are called Gitanos.' It is in many
respects widely different from all the preceding laws, and on that
account we have separated it from them, deeming it worthy of
particular notice. It is evidently the production of a
comparatively enlightened spirit, for Spain had already begun to
emerge from the dreary night of monachism and bigotry, though the
light which beamed upon her was not that of the Gospel, but of
modern philosophy. The spirit, however, of the writers of the
ENCYCLOPEDIE is to be preferred to that of TORQUEMADA AND MONCADA,
and however deeply we may lament the many grievous omissions in the
law of Carlos Tercero (for no provision was made for the spiritual
instruction of the Gitanos), we prefer it in all points to that of
Philip the Third, and to the law passed during the reign of that
unhappy victim of monkish fraud, perfidy, and poison, Charles the
Whoever framed the law of Carlos Tercero with respect to the
Gitanos, had sense enough to see that it would be impossible to
reclaim and bring them within the pale of civilised society by
pursuing the course invariably adopted on former occasions - to see
that all the menacing edicts for the last three hundred years,
breathing a spirit of blood and persecution, had been unable to
eradicate Gitanismo from Spain; but on the contrary, had rather
served to extend it. Whoever framed this law was, moreover, well
acquainted with the manner of administering justice in Spain, and
saw the folly of making statutes which were never put into effect.
Instead, therefore, of relying on corregidors and alguazils for the
extinction of the Gypsy sect, the statute addresses itself more
particularly to the Gitanos themselves, and endeavours to convince
them that it would be for their interest to renounce their much
cherished Gitanismo. Those who framed the former laws had
invariably done their best to brand this race with infamy, and had
marked out for its members, in the event of abandoning their Gypsy
habits, a life to which death itself must have been preferable in
every respect. They were not to speak to each other, nor to
intermarry, though, as they were considered of an impure caste, it
was scarcely to be expected that the other Spaniards would form
with them relations of love or amity, and they were debarred the
exercise of any trade or occupation but hard labour, for which
neither by nature nor habit they were at all adapted. The law of
Carlos Tercero, on the contrary, flung open to them the whole
career of arts and sciences, and declared them capable of following
any trade or profession to which they might please to addict
themselves. Here follow extracts from the above-mentioned law:-
'Art. 1. I declare that those who go by the name of Gitanos are
not so by origin or nature, nor do they proceed from any infected
'2. I therefore command that neither they, nor any one of them
shall use the language, dress, or vagrant kind of life which they
have followed unto the present time, under the penalties here below
'3. I forbid all my vassals, of whatever state, class, and
condition they may be, to call or name the above-mentioned people
by the names of Gitanos, or new Castilians, under the same
penalties to which those are subject who injure others by word or
'5. It is my will that those who abandon the said mode of life,
dress, language, or jargon, be admitted to whatever offices or
employments to which they may apply themselves, and likewise to any
guilds or communities, without any obstacle or contradiction being
offered to them, or admitted under this pretext within or without
courts of law.
'6. Those who shall oppose and refuse the admission of this class
of reclaimed people to their trades and guilds shall be mulcted ten
ducats for the first time, twenty for the second, and a double
quantity for the third; and during the time they continue in their
opposition they shall be prohibited from exercising the same trade,
for a certain period, to be determined by the judge, and
proportioned to the opposition which they display.
'7. I grant the term of ninety days, to be reckoned from the
publication of this law in the principal town of every district, in
order that all the vagabonds of this and any other class may retire
to the towns and villages where they may choose to locate
themselves, with the exception, for the present, of the capital and
the royal residences, in order that, abandoning the dress,
language, and behaviour of those who are called Gitanos, they may
devote themselves to some honest office, trade, or occupation, it
being a matter of indifference whether the same be connected with
labour or the arts.
'8. It will not be sufficient for those who have been formerly
known to follow this manner of life to devote themselves solely to
the occupation of shearing and clipping animals, nor to the traffic
of markets and fairs, nor still less to the occupation of keepers
of inns and ventas in uninhabited places, although they may be
innkeepers within towns, which employment shall be considered as
sufficient, provided always there be no well-founded indications of
their being delinquents themselves, or harbourers of such people.
'9. At the expiration of ninety days, the justices shall proceed
against the disobedient in the following manner:- Those who, having
abandoned the dress, name, language or jargon, association, and
manners of Gitanos, and shall have moreover chosen and established
a domicile, but shall not have devoted themselves to any office or
employment, though it be only that of day-labourers, shall be
considered as vagrants, and be apprehended and punished according
to the laws in force against such people without any distinction
being made between them and the other vassals.
'10. Those who henceforth shall commit any crimes, having
abandoned the language, dress, and manners of Gitanos, chosen a
domicile, and applied themselves to any office, shall be prosecuted
and chastised like others guilty of the same crimes, without any
difference being made between them.
'11. But those who shall have abandoned the aforesaid dress,
language and behaviour, and those who, pretending to speak and
dress like the other vassals, and even to choose a domiciliary
residence, shall continue to go forth, wandering about the roads
and uninhabited places, although it be with the pretext of visiting
markets and fairs, such people shall be pursued and taken by the
justices, and a list of them formed, with their names and
appellations, age, description, with the places where they say they
reside and were born.
'16. I, however, except from punishment the children and young
people of both sexes who are not above sixteen years of age.
'17. Such, although they may belong to a family, shall be
separated from their parents who wander about and have no
employment, and shall be destined to learn something, or shall be
placed out in hospices or houses of instruction.
'20. When the register of the Gitanos who have proved disobedient
shall have taken place, it shall be notified and made known to
them, that in case of another relapse, the punishment of death
shall be executed upon them without remission, on the examination
of the register, and proof being adduced that they have returned to
their former life.'
What effect was produced by this law, and whether its results at
all corresponded to the views of those who enacted it, will be
gathered from the following chapters of this work, in which an
attempt will be made to delineate briefly the present condition of
the Gypsies in Spain.
ABOUT twelve in the afternoon of the 6th of January 1836, I crossed
the bridge of the Guadiana, a boundary river between Portugal and
Spain, and entered Badajoz, a strong town in the latter kingdom,
containing about eight thousand inhabitants, supposed to have been
founded by the Romans. I instantly returned thanks to God for
having preserved me in a journey of five days through the wilds of
the Alemtejo, the province of Portugal the most infested by robbers
and desperate characters, which I had traversed with no other human
companion than a lad, almost an idiot, who was to convey back the
mules which had brought me from Aldea Gallega. I intended to make
but a short stay, and as a diligence would set out for Madrid the
day next but one to my arrival, I purposed departing therein for
the capital of Spain.
I was standing at the door of the inn where I had taken up my
temporary abode; the weather was gloomy, and rain seemed to be at
hand; I was thinking on the state of the country I had just
entered, which was involved in bloody anarchy and confusion, and
where the ministers of a religion falsely styled Catholic and
Christian were blowing the trump of war, instead of preaching the
love-engendering words of the blessed Gospel.
Suddenly two men, wrapped in long cloaks, came down the narrow and
almost deserted street; they were about to pass, and the face of
the nearest was turned full towards me; I knew to whom the
countenance which he displayed must belong, and I touched him on
the arm. The man stopped, and likewise his companion; I said a
certain word, to which, after an exclamation of surprise, he
responded in the manner I expected. The men were Gitanos or
Gypsies, members of that singular family or race which has diffused
itself over the face of the civilised globe, and which, in all
lands, has preserved more or less its original customs and its own
peculiar language.
We instantly commenced discoursing in the Spanish dialect of this
language, with which I was tolerably well acquainted. I asked my
two newly-made acquaintances whether there were many of their race
in Badajoz and the vicinity: they informed me that there were
eight or ten families in the town, and that there were others at
Merida, a town about six leagues distant. I inquired by what means
they lived, and they replied that they and their brethren
principally gained a livelihood by trafficking in mules and asses,
but that all those in Badajoz were very poor, with the exception of
one man, who was exceedingly BALBALO, or rich, as he was in
possession of many mules and other cattle. They removed their
cloaks for a moment, and I found that their under-garments were
They left me in haste, and went about the town informing the rest
that a stranger had arrived who spoke Rommany as well as
themselves, who had the face of a Gitano, and seemed to be of the
'errate,' or blood. In less than half an hour the street before
the inn was filled with the men, women, and children of Egypt. I
went out amongst them, and my heart sank within me as I surveyed
them: so much vileness, dirt, and misery I had never seen amongst
a similar number of human beings; but worst of all was the evil
expression of their countenances, which spoke plainly that they
were conversant with every species of crime, and it was not long
before I found that their countenances did not belie them. After
they had asked me an infinity of questions, and felt my hands,
face, and clothes, they retired to their own homes.
That same night the two men of whom I have already particularly
spoken came to see me. They sat down by the brasero in the middle
of the apartment, and began to smoke small paper cigars. We
continued for a considerable time in silence surveying each other.
Of the two Gitanos one was an elderly man, tall and bony, with
lean, skinny, and whimsical features, though perfectly those of a
Gypsy; he spoke little, and his expressions were generally singular
and grotesque. His companion, who was the man whom I had first
noticed in the street, differed from him in many respects; he could
be scarcely thirty, and his figure, which was about the middle
height, was of Herculean proportions; shaggy black hair, like that
of a wild beast, covered the greatest part of his immense head; his
face was frightfully seamed with the small-pox, and his eyes, which
glared like those of ferrets, peered from beneath bushy eyebrows;
he wore immense moustaches, and his wide mouth was garnished with
teeth exceedingly large and white. There was one peculiarity about
him which must not be forgotten: his right arm was withered, and
hung down from his shoulder a thin sapless stick, which contrasted
strangely with the huge brawn of the left. A figure so perfectly
wild and uncouth I had scarcely ever before seen. He had now flung
aside his cloak, and sat before me gaunt in his rags and nakedness.
In spite of his appearance, however, he seemed to be much the most
sensible of the two; and the conversation which ensued was carried
on chiefly between him and myself. This man, whom I shall call the
first Gypsy, was the first to break silence; and he thus addressed
me, speaking in Spanish, broken with words of the Gypsy tongue:-
FIRST GYPSY. - 'Arromali (in truth), I little thought when I saw
the errano standing by the door of the posada that I was about to
meet a brother - one too who, though well dressed, was not ashamed
to speak to a poor Gitano; but tell me, I beg you, brother, from
whence you come; I have heard that you have just arrived from
Laloro, but I am sure you are no Portuguese; the Portuguese are
very different from you; I know it, for I have been in Laloro; I
rather take you to be one of the Corahai, for I have heard say that
there is much of our blood there. You are a Corahano, are you
MYSELF. - 'I am no Moor, though I have been in the country. I was
born in an island in the West Sea, called England, which I suppose
you have heard spoken of.'
FIRST GYPSY. - 'Yes, yes, I have a right to know something of the
English. I was born in this foros, and remember the day when the
English hundunares clambered over the walls, and took the town from
the Gabine: well do I remember that day, though I was but a child;
the streets ran red with blood and wine! Are there Gitanos then
amongst the English?'
MYSELF. - 'There are numbers, and so there are amongst most nations
of the world.'
SECOND GYPSY. - 'Vaya! And do the English Calore gain their bread
in the same way as those of Spain? Do they shear and trim? Do
they buy and change beasts, and (lowering his voice) do they now
and then chore a gras?' (42)
MYSELF. - 'They do most of these things: the men frequent fairs
and markets with horses, many of which they steal; and the women
tell fortunes and perform all kinds of tricks, by which they gain
more money than their husbands.'
FIRST GYPSY. - 'They would not be callees if they did not: I have
known a Gitana gain twenty ounces of gold, by means of the hokkano
baro, in a few hours, whilst the silly Gypsy, her husband, would be
toiling with his shears for a fortnight, trimming the horses of the
Busne, and yet not be a dollar richer at the end of the time.'
MYSELF. - 'You seem wretchedly poor. Are you married?'
FIRST GYPSY. - 'I am, and to the best-looking and cleverest callee
in Badajoz; nevertheless we have never thriven since the day of our
marriage, and a curse seems to rest upon us both. Perhaps I have
only to thank myself; I was once rich, and had never less than six
borricos to sell or exchange, but the day before my marriage I sold
all I possessed, in order to have a grand fiesta. For three days
we were merry enough; I entertained every one who chose to come in,
and flung away my money by handfuls, so that when the affair was
over I had not a cuarto in the world; and the very people who had
feasted at my expense refused me a dollar to begin again, so we
were soon reduced to the greatest misery. True it is, that I now
and then shear a mule, and my wife tells the bahi (fortune) to the
servant-girls, but these things stand us in little stead: the
people are now very much on the alert, and my wife, with all her
knowledge, has been unable to perform any grand trick which would
set us up at once. She wished to come to see you, brother, this
night, but was ashamed, as she has no more clothes than myself.
Last summer our distress was so great that we crossed the frontier
into Portugal: my wife sung, and I played the guitar, for though I
have but one arm, and that a left one, I have never felt the want
of the other. At Estremoz I was cast into prison as a thief and
vagabond, and there I might have remained till I starved with
hunger. My wife, however, soon got me out: she went to the lady
of the corregidor, to whom she told a most wonderful bahi,
promising treasures and titles, and I wot not what; so I was set at
liberty, and returned to Spain as quick as I could.'
MYSELF. - 'Is it not the custom of the Gypsies of Spain to relieve
each other in distress? - it is the rule in other countries.'
FIRST GYPSY. - 'El krallis ha nicobado la liri de los Cales - (The
king has destroyed the law of the Gypsies); we are no longer the
people we were once, when we lived amongst the sierras and deserts,
and kept aloof from the Busne; we have lived amongst the Busne till
we are become almost like them, and we are no longer united, ready
to assist each other at all times and seasons, and very frequently
the Gitano is the worst enemy of his brother.'
MYSELF. - 'The Gitanos, then, no longer wander about, but have
fixed residences in the towns and villages?'
FIRST GYPSY. - 'In the summer time a few of us assemble together,
and live about amongst the plains and hills, and by doing so we
frequently contrive to pick up a horse or a mule for nothing, and
sometimes we knock down a Busne, and strip him, but it is seldom we
venture so far. We are much looked after by the Busne, who hold us
in great dread, and abhor us. Sometimes, when wandering about, we
are attacked by the labourers, and then we defend ourselves as well
as we can. There is no better weapon in the hands of a Gitano than
his "cachas," or shears, with which he trims the mules. I once
snipped off the nose of a Busne, and opened the greater part of his
cheek in an affray up the country near Trujillo.'
MYSELF. - 'Have you travelled much about Spain?'
FIRST GYPSY. - 'Very little; I have never been out of this province
of Estremadura, except last year, as I told you, into Portugal.
When we wander we do not go far, and it is very rare that we are
visited by our brethren of other parts. I have never been in
Andalusia, but I have heard say that the Gitanos are many in
Andalusia, and are more wealthy than those here, and that they
follow better the Gypsy law.'
MYSELF. - 'What do you mean by the Gypsy law?'
FIRST GYPSY. - 'Wherefore do you ask, brother? You know what is
meant by the law of the Cales better even than ourselves.'
MYSELF. - 'I know what it is in England and in Hungary, but I can
only give a guess as to what it is in Spain.'
BOTH GYPSIES. - 'What do you consider it to be in Spain?'
MYSELF. - 'Cheating and choring the Busne on all occasions, and
being true to the errate in life and in death.'
At these words both the Gitanos sprang simultaneously from their
seats, and exclaimed with a boisterous shout - 'Chachipe.'
This meeting with the Gitanos was the occasion of my remaining at
Badajoz a much longer time than I originally intended. I wished to
become better acquainted with their condition and manners, and
above all to speak to them of Christ and His Word; for I was
convinced, that should I travel to the end of the universe, I
should meet with no people more in need of a little Christian
exhortation, and I accordingly continued at Badajoz for nearly
three weeks.
During this time I was almost constantly amongst them, and as I
spoke their language, and was considered by them as one of
themselves, I had better opportunity of arriving at a fair
conclusion respecting their character than any other person could
have had, whether Spanish or foreigner, without such an advantage.
I found that their ways and pursuits were in almost every respect
similar to those of their brethren in other countries. By cheating
and swindling they gained their daily bread; the men principally by
the arts of the jockey, - by buying, selling, and exchanging
animals, at which they are wonderfully expert; and the women by
telling fortunes, selling goods smuggled from Portugal, and dealing
in love-draughts and diablerie. The most innocent occupation which
I observed amongst them was trimming and shearing horses and mules,
which in their language is called 'monrabar,' and in Spanish
'esquilar'; and even whilst exercising this art, they not
unfrequently have recourse to foul play, doing the animal some
covert injury, in hope that the proprietor will dispose of it to
themselves at an inconsiderable price, in which event they soon
restore it to health; for knowing how to inflict the harm, they
know likewise how to remove it.
Religion they have none; they never attend mass, nor did I ever
hear them employ the names of God, Christ, and the Virgin, but in
execration and blasphemy. From what I could learn, it appeared
that their fathers had entertained some belief in metempsychosis;
but they themselves laughed at the idea, and were of opinion that
the soul perished when the body ceased to breathe; and the argument
which they used was rational enough, so far as it impugned
metempsychosis: 'We have been wicked and miserable enough in this
life,' they said; 'why should we live again?'
I translated certain portions of Scripture into their dialect,
which I frequently read to them; especially the parable of Lazarus
and the Prodigal Son, and told them that the latter had been as
wicked as themselves, and both had suffered as much or more; but
that the sufferings of the former, who always looked forward to a
blessed resurrection, were recompensed by admission, in the life to
come, to the society of Abraham and the Prophets, and that the
latter, when he repented of his sins, was forgiven, and received
into as much favour as the just son.
They listened with admiration; but, alas! not of the truths, the
eternal truths, I was telling them, but to find that their broken
jargon could be written and read. The only words denoting anything
like assent to my doctrine which I ever obtained, were the
following from the mouth of a woman: 'Brother, you tell us strange
things, though perhaps you do not lie; a month since I would sooner
have believed these tales, than that this day I should see one who
could write Rommany.'
Two or three days after my arrival, I was again visited by the
Gypsy of the withered arm, who I found was generally termed Paco,
which is the diminutive of Francisco; he was accompanied by his
wife, a rather good-looking young woman with sharp intelligent
features, and who appeared in every respect to be what her husband
had represented her on the former visit. She was very poorly clad,
and notwithstanding the extreme sharpness of the weather, carried
no mantle to protect herself from its inclemency, - her raven black
hair depended behind as far down as her hips. Another Gypsy came
with them, but not the old fellow whom I had before seen. This was
a man about forty-five, dressed in a zamarra of sheep-skin, with a
high-crowned Andalusian hat; his complexion was dark as pepper, and
his eyes were full of sullen fire. In his appearance he exhibited
a goodly compound of Gypsy and bandit.
PACO. - 'Laches chibeses te dinele Undebel (May God grant you good
days, brother). This is my wife, and this is my wife's father.'
MYSELF. - 'I am glad to see them. What are their names?'
PACO. - 'Maria and Antonio; their other name is Lopez.'
MYSELF. - 'Have they no Gypsy names?'
PACO. - 'They have no other names than these.'
MYSELF. - 'Then in this respect the Gitanos of Spain are unlike
those of my country. Every family there has two names; one by
which they are known to the Busne, and another which they use
amongst themselves.'
ANTONIO. - 'Give me your hand, brother! I should have come to see
you before, but I have been to Olivenzas in search of a horse.
What I have heard of you has filled me with much desire to know
you, and I now see that you can tell me many things which I am
ignorant of. I am Zincalo by the four sides - I love our blood,
and I hate that of the Busne. Had I my will I would wash my face
every day in the blood of the Busne, for the Busne are made only to
be robbed and to be slaughtered; but I love the Calore, and I love
to hear of things of the Calore, especially from those of foreign
lands; for the Calore of foreign lands know more than we of Spain,
and more resemble our fathers of old.'
MYSELF. - 'Have you ever met before with Calore who were not
ANTONIO. - 'I will tell you, brother. I served as a soldier in the
war of the independence against the French. War, it is true, is
not the proper occupation of a Gitano, but those were strange
times, and all those who could bear arms were compelled to go forth
to fight: so I went with the English armies, and we chased the
Gabine unto the frontier of France; and it happened once that we
joined in desperate battle, and there was a confusion, and the two
parties became intermingled and fought sword to sword and bayonet
to bayonet, and a French soldier singled me out, and we fought for
a long time, cutting, goring, and cursing each other, till at last
we flung down our arms and grappled; long we wrestled, body to
body, but I found that I was the weaker, and I fell. The French
soldier's knee was on my breast, and his grasp was on my throat,
and he seized his bayonet, and he raised it to thrust me through
the jaws; and his cap had fallen off, and I lifted up my eyes
wildly to his face, and our eyes met, and I gave a loud shriek, and
cried Zincalo, Zincalo! and I felt him shudder, and he relaxed his
grasp and started up, and he smote his forehead and wept, and then
he came to me and knelt down by my side, for I was almost dead, and
he took my hand and called me Brother and Zincalo, and he produced
his flask and poured wine into my mouth, and I revived, and he
raised me up, and led me from the concourse, and we sat down on a
knoll, and the two parties were fighting all around, and he said,
"Let the dogs fight, and tear each others' throats till they are
all destroyed, what matters it to the Zincali? they are not of our
blood, and shall that be shed for them?" So we sat for hours on
the knoll and discoursed on matters pertaining to our people; and I
could have listened for years, for he told me secrets which made my
ears tingle, and I soon found that I knew nothing, though I had
before considered myself quite Zincalo; but as for him, he knew the
whole cuenta; the Bengui Lango (43) himself could have told him
nothing but what he knew. So we sat till the sun went down and the
battle was over, and he proposed that we should both flee to his
own country and live there with the Zincali; but my heart failed
me; so we embraced, and he departed to the Gabine, whilst I
returned to our own battalions.'
MYSELF. - 'Do you know from what country he came?'
ANTONIO. - 'He told me that he was a Mayoro.'
MYSELF. - 'You mean a Magyar or Hungarian.'
ANTONIO. - 'Just so; and I have repented ever since that I did not
follow him.'
MYSELF. - 'Why so?'
ANTONIO. - 'I will tell you: the king has destroyed the law of the
Cales, and has put disunion amongst us. There was a time when the
house of every Zincalo, however rich, was open to his brother,
though he came to him naked; and it was then the custom to boast of
the "errate." It is no longer so now: those who are rich keep
aloof from the rest, will not speak in Calo, and will have no
dealings but with the Busne. Is there not a false brother in this
foros, the only rich man among us, the swine, the balichow? he is
married to a Busnee and he would fain appear as a Busno! Tell me
one thing, has he been to see you? The white blood, I know he has
not; he was afraid to see you, for he knew that by Gypsy law he was
bound to take you to his house and feast you, whilst you remained,
like a prince, like a crallis of the Cales, as I believe you are,
even though he sold the last gras from the stall. Who have come to
see you, brother? Have they not been such as Paco and his wife,
wretches without a house, or, at best, one filled with cold and
poverty; so that you have had to stay at a mesuna, at a posada of
the Busne; and, moreover, what have the Cales given you since you
have been residing here? Nothing, I trow, better than this
rubbish, which is all I can offer you, this Meligrana de los
Here he produced a pomegranate from the pocket of his zamarra, and
flung it on the table with such force that the fruit burst, and the
red grains were scattered on the floor.
The Gitanos of Estremadura call themselves in general Chai or
Chabos, and say that their original country was Chal or Egypt. I
frequently asked them what reason they could assign for calling
themselves Egyptians, and whether they could remember the names of
any places in their supposed fatherland; but I soon found that,
like their brethren in other parts of the world, they were unable
to give any rational account of themselves, and preserved no
recollection of the places where their forefathers had wandered;
their language, however, to a considerable extent, solved the
riddle, the bulk of which being Hindui, pointed out India as the
birthplace of their race, whilst the number of Persian, Sclavonian,
and modern Greek words with which it is checkered, spoke plainly as
to the countries through which these singular people had wandered
before they arrived in Spain.
They said that they believed themselves to be Egyptians, because
their fathers before them believed so, who must know much better
than themselves. They were fond of talking of Egypt and its former
greatness, though it was evident that they knew nothing farther of
the country and its history than what they derived from spurious
biblical legends current amongst the Spaniards; only from such
materials could they have composed the following account of the
manner of their expulsion from their native land.
'There was a great king in Egypt, and his name was Pharaoh. He had
numerous armies, with which he made war on all countries, and
conquered them all. And when he had conquered the entire world, he
became sad and sorrowful; for as he delighted in war, he no longer
knew on what to employ himself. At last he bethought him on making
war on God; so he sent a defiance to God, daring him to descend
from the sky with his angels, and contend with Pharaoh and his
armies; but God said, I will not measure my strength with that of a
man. But God was incensed against Pharaoh, and resolved to punish
him; and he opened a hole in the side of an enormous mountain, and
he raised a raging wind, and drove before it Pharaoh and his armies
to that hole, and the abyss received them, and the mountain closed
upon them; but whosoever goes to that mountain on the night of St.
John can hear Pharaoh and his armies singing and yelling therein.
And it came to pass, that when Pharaoh and his armies had
disappeared, all the kings and the nations which had become subject
to Egypt revolted against Egypt, which, having lost her king and
her armies, was left utterly without defence; and they made war
against her, and prevailed against her, and took her people and
drove them forth, dispersing them over all the world.'
So that now, say the Chai, 'Our horses drink the water of the
Guadiana' - (Apilyela gras Chai la panee Lucalee).
'The region of Chal was our dear native soil,
Where in fulness of pleasure we lived without toil;
Till dispersed through all lands, 'twas our fortune to be -
Our steeds, Guadiana, must now drink of thee.
'Once kings came from far to kneel down at our gate,
And princes rejoic'd on our meanest to wait;
But now who so mean but would scorn our degree -
Our steeds, Guadiana, must now drink of thee.
'For the Undebel saw, from his throne in the cloud,
That our deeds they were foolish, our hearts they were proud;
And in anger he bade us his presence to flee -
Our steeds, Guadiana, must now drink of thee.
'Our horses should drink of no river but one;
It sparkles through Chal, 'neath the smile of the sun,
But they taste of all streams save that only, and see -
Apilyela gras Chai la panee Lucalee.'
IN Madrid the Gitanos chiefly reside in the neighbourhood of the
'mercado,' or the place where horses and other animals are sold, -
in two narrow and dirty lanes, called the Calle de la Comadre and
the Callejon de Lavapies. It is said that at the beginning of last
century Madrid abounded with these people, who, by their lawless
behaviour and dissolute lives, gave occasion to great scandal; if
such were the case, their numbers must have considerably diminished
since that period, as it would be difficult at any time to collect
fifty throughout Madrid. These Gitanos seem, for the most part, to
be either Valencians or of Valencian origin, as they in general
either speak or understand the dialect of Valencia; and whilst
speaking their own peculiar jargon, the Rommany, are in the habit
of making use of many Valencian words and terms.
The manner of life of the Gitanos of Madrid differs in no material
respect from that of their brethren in other places. The men,
every market-day, are to be seen on the skirts of the mercado,
generally with some miserable animal - for example, a foundered
mule or galled borrico, by means of which they seldom fail to gain
a dollar or two, either by sale or exchange. It must not, however,
be supposed that they content themselves with such paltry earnings.
Provided they have any valuable animal, which is not unfrequently
the case, they invariably keep such at home snug in the stall,
conducting thither the chapman, should they find any, and
concluding the bargain with the greatest secrecy. Their general
reason for this conduct is an unwillingness to exhibit anything
calculated to excite the jealousy of the chalans, or jockeys of
Spanish blood, who on the slightest umbrage are in the habit of
ejecting them from the fair by force of palos or cudgels, in which
violence the chalans are to a certain extent countenanced by law;
for though by the edict of Carlos the Third the Gitanos were in
other respects placed upon an equality with the rest of the
Spaniards, they were still forbidden to obtain their livelihood by
the traffic of markets and fairs.
They have occasionally however another excellent reason for not
exposing the animal in the public mercado - having obtained him by
dishonest means. The stealing, concealing, and receiving animals
when stolen, are inveterate Gypsy habits, and are perhaps the last
from which the Gitano will be reclaimed, or will only cease when
the race has become extinct. In the prisons of Madrid, either in
that of the Saladero or De la Corte, there are never less than a
dozen Gitanos immured for stolen horses or mules being found in
their possession, which themselves or their connections have
spirited away from the neighbouring villages, or sometimes from a
considerable distance. I say spirited away, for so well do the
thieves take their measures, and watch their opportunity, that they
are seldom or never taken in the fact.
The Madrilenian Gypsy women are indefatigable in the pursuit of
prey, prowling about the town and the suburbs from morning till
night, entering houses of all descriptions, from the highest to the
lowest; telling fortunes, or attempting to play off various kinds
of Gypsy tricks, from which they derive much greater profit, and of
which we shall presently have occasion to make particular mention.
From Madrid let us proceed to Andalusia, casting a cursory glance
on the Gitanos of that country. I found them very numerous at
Granada, which in the Gitano language is termed Meligrana. Their
general condition in this place is truly miserable, far exceeding
in wretchedness the state of the tribes of Estremadura. It is
right to state that Granada itself is the poorest city in Spain;
the greatest part of the population, which exceeds sixty thousand,
living in beggary and nakedness, and the Gitanos share in the
general distress.
Many of them reside in caves scooped in the sides of the ravines
which lead to the higher regions of the Alpujarras, on a skirt of
which stands Granada. A common occupation of the Gitanos of
Granada is working in iron, and it is not unfrequent to find these
caves tenanted by Gypsy smiths and their families, who ply the
hammer and forge in the bowels of the earth. To one standing at
the mouth of the cave, especially at night, they afford a
picturesque spectacle. Gathered round the forge, their bronzed and
naked bodies, illuminated by the flame, appear like figures of
demons; while the cave, with its flinty sides and uneven roof,
blackened by the charcoal vapours which hover about it in festoons,
seems to offer no inadequate representation of fabled purgatory.
Working in iron was an occupation strictly forbidden to the Gitanos
by the ancient laws, on what account does not exactly appear;
though, perhaps, the trade of the smith was considered as too much
akin to that of the chalan to be permitted to them. The Gypsy
smith of Granada is still a chalan, even as his brother in England
is a jockey and tinker alternately.
Whilst speaking of the Gitanos of Granada, we cannot pass by in
silence a tragedy which occurred in this town amongst them, some
fifteen years ago, and the details of which are known to every
Gitano in Spain, from Catalonia to Estremadura. We allude to the
murder of Pindamonas by Pepe Conde. Both these individuals were
Gitanos; the latter was a celebrated contrabandista, of whom many
remarkable tales are told. On one occasion, having committed some
enormous crime, he fled over to Barbary and turned Moor, and was
employed by the Moorish emperor in his wars, in company with the
other renegade Spaniards, whose grand depot or presidio is the town
of Agurey in the kingdom of Fez. After the lapse of some years,
when his crime was nearly forgotten, he returned to Granada, where
he followed his old occupations of contrabandista and chalan.
Pindamonas was a Gitano of considerable wealth, and was considered
as the most respectable of the race at Granada, amongst whom he
possessed considerable influence. Between this man and Pepe Conde
there existed a jealousy, especially on the part of the latter,
who, being a man of proud untamable spirit, could not well brook a
superior amongst his own people. It chanced one day that
Pindamonas and other Gitanos, amongst whom was Pepe Conde, were in
a coffee-house. After they had all partaken of some refreshment,
they called for the reckoning, the amount of which Pindamonas
insisted on discharging. It will be necessary here to observe,
that on such occasions in Spain it is considered as a species of
privilege to be allowed to pay, which is an honour generally
claimed by the principal man of the party. Pepe Conde did not fail
to take umbrage at the attempt of Pindamonas, which he considered
as an undue assumption of superiority, and put in his own claim;
but Pindamonas insisted, and at last flung down the money on the
table, whereupon Pepe Conde instantly unclasped one of those
terrible Manchegan knives which are generally carried by the
contrabandistas, and with a frightful gash opened the abdomen of
Pindamonas, who presently expired.
After this exploit, Pepe Conde fled, and was not seen for some
time. The cave, however, in which he had been in the habit of
residing was watched, as a belief was entertained that sooner or
later he would return to it, in the hope of being able to remove
some of the property contained in it. This belief was well
founded. Early one morning he was observed to enter it, and a band
of soldiers was instantly despatched to seize him. This
circumstance is alluded to in a Gypsy stanza:-
'Fly, Pepe Conde, seek the hill;
To flee's thy only chance;
With bayonets fixed, thy blood to spill,
See soldiers four advance.'
And before the soldiers could arrive at the cave, Pepe Conde had
discovered their approach and fled, endeavouring to make his escape
amongst the rocks and barrancos of the Alpujarras. The soldiers
instantly pursued, and the chase continued a considerable time.
The fugitive was repeatedly summoned to surrender himself, but
refusing, the soldiers at last fired, and four balls entered the
heart of the Gypsy contrabandista and murderer.
Once at Madrid I received a letter from the sister's son of
Pindamonas, dated from the prison of the Saladero. In this letter
the writer, who it appears was in durance for stealing a pair of
mules, craved my charitable assistance and advice; and possibly in
the hope of securing my favour, forwarded some uncouth lines
commemorative of the death of his relation, and commencing thus:-
'The death of Pindamonas fill'd all the world with pain;
At the coffee-house's portal, by Pepe he was slain.'
The faubourg of Triana, in Seville, has from time immemorial been
noted as a favourite residence of the Gitanos; and here, at the
present day, they are to be found in greater number than in any
other town in Spain. This faubourg is indeed chiefly inhabited by
desperate characters, as, besides the Gitanos, the principal part
of the robber population of Seville is here congregated. Perhaps
there is no part even of Naples where crime so much abounds, and
the law is so little respected, as at Triana, the character of
whose inmates was so graphically delineated two centuries and a
half back by Cervantes, in one of the most amusing of his tales.
In the vilest lanes of this suburb, amidst dilapidated walls and
ruined convents, exists the grand colony of Spanish Gitanos. Here
they may be seen wielding the hammer; here they may be seen
trimming the fetlocks of horses, or shearing the backs of mules and
borricos with their cachas; and from hence they emerge to ply the
same trade in the town, or to officiate as terceros, or to buy,
sell, or exchange animals in the mercado, and the women to tell the
bahi through the streets, even as in other parts of Spain,
generally attended by one or two tawny bantlings in their arms or
by their sides; whilst others, with baskets and chafing-pans,
proceed to the delightful banks of the Len Baro, (45) by the Golden
Tower, where, squatting on the ground and kindling their charcoal,
they roast the chestnuts which, when well prepared, are the
favourite bonne bouche of the Sevillians; whilst not a few, in
league with the contrabandistas, go from door to door offering for
sale prohibited goods brought from the English at Gibraltar. Such
is Gitano life at Seville; such it is in the capital of Andalusia.
It is the common belief of the Gitanos of other provinces that in
Andalusia the language, customs, habits, and practices peculiar to
their race are best preserved. This opinion, which probably
originated from the fact of their being found in greater numbers in
this province than in any other, may hold good in some instances,
but certainly not in all. In various parts of Spain I have found
the Gitanos retaining their primitive language and customs better
than in Seville, where they most abound: indeed, it is not plain
that their number has operated at all favourably in this respect.
At Cordova, a town at the distance of twenty leagues from Seville,
which scarcely contains a dozen Gitano families, I found them
living in much more brotherly amity, and cherishing in a greater
degree the observances of their forefathers.
I shall long remember these Cordovese Gitanos, by whom I was very
well received, but always on the supposition that I was one of
their own race. They said that they never admitted strangers to
their houses save at their marriage festivals, when they flung
their doors open to all, and save occasionally people of influence
and distinction, who wished to hear their songs and converse with
their women; but they assured me, at the same time, that these they
invariably deceived, and merely made use of as instruments to serve
their own purposes. As for myself, I was admitted without scruple
to their private meetings, and was made a participator of their
most secret thoughts. During our intercourse some remarkable
scenes occurred. One night more than twenty of us, men and women,
were assembled in a long low room on the ground floor, in a dark
alley or court in the old gloomy town of Cordova. After the
Gitanos had discussed several jockey plans, and settled some
private bargains amongst themselves, we all gathered round a huge
brasero of flaming charcoal, and began conversing SOBRE LAS COSAS
DE EGYPTO, when I proposed that, as we had no better means of
amusing ourselves, we should endeavour to turn into the Calo
language some pieces of devotion, that we might see whether this
language, the gradual decay of which I had frequently heard them
lament, was capable of expressing any other matters than those
which related to horses, mules, and Gypsy traffic. It was in this
cautious manner that I first endeavoured to divert the attention of
these singular people to matters of eternal importance. My
suggestion was received with acclamations, and we forthwith
proceeded to the translation of the Apostles' creed. I first
recited in Spanish, in the usual manner and without pausing, this
noble confession, and then repeated it again, sentence by sentence,
the Gitanos translating as I proceeded. They exhibited the
greatest eagerness and interest in their unwonted occupation, and
frequently broke into loud disputes as to the best rendering - many
being offered at the same time. In the meanwhile, I wrote down
from their dictation; and at the conclusion I read aloud the
translation, the result of the united wisdom of the assembly,
whereupon they all raised a shout of exultation, and appeared not a
little proud of the composition.
The Cordovese Gitanos are celebrated esquiladors. Connected with
them and the exercise of the ARTE DE ESQUILAR, in Gypsy monrabar, I
have a curious anecdote to relate. In the first place, however, it
may not be amiss to say something about the art itself, of all
relating to which it is possible that the reader may be quite
Nothing is more deserving of remark in Spanish grooming than the
care exhibited in clipping and trimming various parts of the horse,
where the growth of hair is considered as prejudicial to the
perfect health and cleanliness of the animal, particular attention
being always paid to the pastern, that part of the foot which lies
between the fetlock and the hoof, to guard against the arestin -
that cutaneous disorder which is the dread of the Spanish groom, on
which account the services of a skilful esquilador are continually
in requisition.
The esquilador, when proceeding to the exercise of his vocation,
generally carries under his arm a small box containing the
instruments necessary, and which consist principally of various
pairs of scissors, and the ACIAL, two short sticks tied together
with whipcord at the end, by means of which the lower lip of the
horse, should he prove restive, is twisted, and the animal reduced
to speedy subjection. In the girdle of the esquilador are stuck
the large scissors called in Spanish TIJERAS, and in the Gypsy
tongue CACHAS, with which he principally works. He operates upon
the backs, ears, and tails of mules and borricos, which are
invariably sheared quite bare, that if the animals are galled,
either by their harness or the loads which they carry, the wounds
may be less liable to fester, and be more easy to cure. Whilst
engaged with horses, he confines himself to the feet and ears. The
esquiladores in the two Castiles, and in those provinces where the
Gitanos do not abound, are for the most part Aragonese; but in the
others, and especially in Andalusia, they are of the Gypsy race.
The Gitanos are in general very expert in the use of the cachas,
which they handle in a manner practised nowhere but in Spain; and
with this instrument the poorer class principally obtain their
In one of their couplets allusion is made to this occupation in the
following manner:-
'I'll rise to-morrow bread to earn,
For hunger's worn me grim;
Of all I meet I'll ask in turn,
If they've no beasts to trim.'
Sometimes, whilst shearing the foot of a horse, exceedingly small
scissors are necessary for the purpose of removing fine solitary
hairs; for a Spanish groom will tell you that a horse's foot behind
ought to be kept as clean and smooth as the hand of a senora: such
scissors can only be procured at Madrid. My sending two pair of
this kind to a Cordovese Gypsy, from whom I had experienced much
attention whilst in that city, was the occasion of my receiving a
singular epistle from another whom I scarcely knew, and which I
shall insert as being an original Gypsy composition, and in some
points not a little characteristic of the people of whom I am now
'Cordova, 20th day of January, 1837.
'After saluting you and hoping that you are well, I proceed to tell
you that the two pair of scissors arrived at this town of Cordova
with him whom you sent them by; but, unfortunately, they were given
to another Gypsy, whom you neither knew nor spoke to nor saw in
your life; for it chanced that he who brought them was a friend of
mine, and he told me that he had brought two pair of scissors which
an Englishman had given him for the Gypsies; whereupon I,
understanding it was yourself, instantly said to him, "Those
scissors are for me"; he told me, however, that he had already
given them to another, and he is a Gypsy who was not even in
Cordova during the time you were. Nevertheless, Don Jorge, I am
very grateful for your thus remembering me, although I did not
receive your present, and in order that you may know who I am, my
name is Antonio Salazar, a man pitted with the small-pox, and the
very first who spoke to you in Cordova in the posada where you
were; and you told me to come and see you next day at eleven, and I
went, and we conversed together alone. Therefore I should wish you
to do me the favour to send me scissors for trimming beasts, - good
scissors, mind you, - such would be a very great favour, and I
should be ever grateful, for here in Cordova there are none, or if
there be, they are good for nothing. Senor Don Jorge, you remember
I told you that I was an esquilador by trade, and only by that I
got bread for my babes. Senor Don Jorge, if you do send me the
scissors for trimming, pray write and direct to the alley De la
Londiga, No. 28, to Antonio Salazar, in Cordova. This is what I
have to tell you, and do you ever command your trusty servant, who
kisses your hand and is eager to serve you.
'That I may clip and trim the beasts, a pair of cachas grant,
If not, I fear my luckless babes will perish all of want.'
'If thou a pair of cachas grant, that I my babes may feed,
I'll pray to the Almighty God, that thee he ever speed.'
It is by no means my intention to describe the exact state and
condition of the Gitanos in every town and province where they are
to be found; perhaps, indeed, it will be considered that I have
already been more circumstantial and particular than the case
required. The other districts which they inhabit are principally
those of Catalonia, Murcia, and Valencia; and they are likewise to
be met with in the Basque provinces, where they are called
Egipcioac, or Egyptians. What I next purpose to occupy myself with
are some general observations on the habits, and the physical and
moral state of the Gitanos throughout Spain, and of the position
which they hold in society.
ALREADY, from the two preceding chapters, it will have been
perceived that the condition of the Gitanos in Spain has been
subjected of late to considerable modification. The words of the
Gypsy of Badajoz are indeed, in some respects, true; they are no
longer the people that they were; the roads and 'despoblados' have
ceased to be infested by them, and the traveller is no longer
exposed to much danger on their account; they at present confine
themselves, for the most part, to towns and villages, and if they
occasionally wander abroad, it is no longer in armed bands,
formidable for their numbers, and carrying terror and devastation
in all directions, bivouacking near solitary villages, and
devouring the substance of the unfortunate inhabitants, or
occasionally threatening even large towns, as in the singular case
of Logrono, mentioned by Francisco de Cordova. As the reader will
probably wish to know the cause of this change in the lives and
habits of these people, we shall, as briefly as possible, afford as
much information on the subject as the amount of our knowledge will
One fact has always struck us with particular force in the history
of these people, namely, that Gitanismo - which means Gypsy
villainy of every description - flourished and knew nothing of
decay so long as the laws recommended and enjoined measures the
most harsh and severe for the suppression of the Gypsy sect; the
palmy days of Gitanismo were those in which the caste was
proscribed, and its members, in the event of renouncing their Gypsy
habits, had nothing farther to expect than the occupation of
tilling the earth, a dull hopeless toil; then it was that the
Gitanos paid tribute to the inferior ministers of justice, and were
engaged in illicit connection with those of higher station, and by
such means baffled the law, whose vengeance rarely fell upon their
heads; and then it was that they bid it open defiance, retiring to
the deserts and mountains, and living in wild independence by
rapine and shedding of blood; for as the law then stood they would
lose all by resigning their Gitanismo, whereas by clinging to it
they lived either in the independence so dear to them, or beneath
the protection of their confederates. It would appear that in
proportion as the law was harsh and severe, so was the Gitano bold
and secure. The fiercest of these laws was the one of Philip the
Fifth, passed in the year 1745, which commands that the refractory
Gitanos be hunted down with fire and sword; that it was quite
inefficient is satisfactorily proved by its being twice reiterated,
once in the year '46, and again in '49, which would scarcely have
been deemed necessary had it quelled the Gitanos. This law, with
some unimportant modifications, continued in force till the year
'83, when the famous edict of Carlos Tercero superseded it. Will
any feel disposed to doubt that the preceding laws had served to
foster what they were intended to suppress, when we state the
remarkable fact, that since the enactment of that law, as humane as
DISTINCT PEOPLE? The caste of the Gitano still exists, but it is
neither so extensive nor so formidable as a century ago, when the
law in denouncing Gitanismo proposed to the Gitanos the
alternatives of death for persisting in their profession, or
slavery for abandoning it.
There are fierce and discontented spirits amongst them, who regret
such times, and say that Gypsy law is now no more, that the Gypsy
no longer assists his brother, and that union has ceased among
them. If this be true, can better proof be adduced of the
beneficial working of the later law? A blessing has been conferred
on society, and in a manner highly creditable to the spirit of
modern times; reform has been accomplished, not by persecution, not
by the gibbet and the rack, but by justice and tolerance. The
traveller has flung aside his cloak, not compelled by the angry
buffeting of the north wind, but because the mild, benignant
weather makes such a defence no longer necessary. The law no
longer compels the Gitanos to stand back to back, on the principal
of mutual defence, and to cling to Gitanismo to escape from
servitude and thraldom.
Taking everything into consideration, and viewing the subject in
all its bearings with an impartial glance, we are compelled to come
to the conclusion that the law of Carlos Tercero, the provisions of
which were distinguished by justice and clemency, has been the
principal if not the only cause of the decline of Gitanismo in
Spain. Some importance ought to be attached to the opinion of the
Gitanos themselves on this point. 'El Crallis ha nicobado la liri
de los Cales,' is a proverbial saying among them. By Crallis, or
King, they mean Carlos Tercero, so that the saying, the proverbial
saying, may be thus translated: THE LAW OF CARLOS TERCERO HAS
By the law the schools are open to them, and there is no art or
science which they may not pursue, if they are willing. Have they
availed themselves of the rights which the law has conferred upon
Up to the present period but little - they still continue jockeys
and blacksmiths; but some of these Gypsy chalans, these bronzed
smiths, these wild-looking esquiladors, can read or write in the
proportion of one man in three or four; what more can be expected?
Would you have the Gypsy bantling, born in filth and misery, 'midst
mules and borricos, amidst the mud of a choza or the sand of a
barranco, grasp with its swarthy hands the crayon and easel, the
compass, or the microscope, or the tube which renders more distinct
the heavenly orbs, and essay to become a Murillo, or a Feijoo, or a
Lorenzo de Hervas, as soon as the legal disabilities are removed
which doomed him to be a thievish jockey or a sullen husbandman?
Much will have been accomplished, if, after the lapse of a hundred
years, one hundred human beings shall have been evolved from the
Gypsy stock, who shall prove sober, honest, and useful members of
society, - that stock so degraded, so inveterate in wickedness and
evil customs, and so hardened by brutalising laws. Should so many
beings, should so many souls be rescued from temporal misery and
eternal woe; should only the half of that number, should only the
tenth, nay, should only one poor wretched sheep be saved, there
will be joy in heaven, for much will have been accomplished on
earth, and those lines will have been in part falsified which
filled the stout heart of Mahmoud with dismay:-
'For the root that's unclean, hope if you can;
No washing e'er whitens the black Zigan:
The tree that's bitter by birth and race,
If in paradise garden to grow you place,
And water it free with nectar and wine,
From streams in paradise meads that shine,
At the end its nature it still declares,
For bitter is all the fruit it bears.
If the egg of the raven of noxious breed
You place 'neath the paradise bird, and feed
The splendid fowl upon its nest,
With immortal figs, the food of the blest,
And give it to drink from Silisbel, (46)
Whilst life in the egg breathes Gabriel,
A raven, a raven, the egg shall bear,
And the fostering bird shall waste its care.' -
The principal evidence which the Gitanos have hitherto given that a
partial reformation has been effected in their habits, is the
relinquishment, in a great degree, of that wandering life of which
the ancient laws were continually complaining, and which was the
cause of infinite evils, and tended not a little to make the roads
Doubtless there are those who will find some difficulty in
believing that the mild and conciliatory clauses of the law in
question could have much effect in weaning the Gitanos from this
inveterate habit, and will be more disposed to think that this
relinquishment was effected by energetic measures resorted to by
the government, to compel them to remain in their places of
location. It does not appear, however, that such measures were
ever resorted to. Energy, indeed, in the removal of a nuisance, is
scarcely to be expected from Spaniards under any circumstances.
All we can say on the subject, with certainty, is, that since the
repeal of the tyrannical laws, wandering has considerably decreased
among the Gitanos.
Since the law has ceased to brand them, they have come nearer to
the common standard of humanity, and their general condition has
been ameliorated. At present, only the very poorest, the parias of
the race, are to be found wandering about the heaths and mountains,
and this only in the summer time, and their principal motive,
according to their own confession, is to avoid the expense of house
rent; the rest remain at home, following their avocations, unless
some immediate prospect of gain, lawful or unlawful, calls them
forth; and such is frequently the case. They attend most fairs,
women and men, and on the way frequently bivouac in the fields, but
this practice must not be confounded with systematic wandering.
Gitanismo, therefore, has not been extinguished, only modified; but
that modification has been effected within the memory of man,
whilst previously near four centuries elapsed, during which no
reform had been produced amongst them by the various measures
devised, all of which were distinguished by an absence not only of
true policy, but of common-sense; it is therefore to be hoped, that
if the Gitanos are abandoned to themselves, by which we mean no
arbitrary laws are again enacted for their extinction, the sect
will eventually cease to be, and its members become confounded with
the residue of the population; for certainly no Christian nor
merely philanthropic heart can desire the continuance of any sect
or association of people whose fundamental principle seems to be to
hate all the rest of mankind, and to live by deceiving them; and
such is the practice of the Gitanos.
During the last five years, owing to the civil wars, the ties which
unite society have been considerably relaxed; the law has been
trampled under foot, and the greatest part of Spain overrun with
robbers and miscreants, who, under pretence of carrying on partisan
warfare, and not unfrequently under no pretence at all, have
committed the most frightful excesses, plundering and murdering the
defenceless. Such a state of things would have afforded the
Gitanos a favourable opportunity to resume their former kind of
life, and to levy contributions as formerly, wandering about in
bands. Certain it is, however, that they have not sought to repeat
their ancient excesses, taking advantage of the troubles of the
country; they have gone on, with a few exceptions, quietly pursuing
that part of their system to which they still cling, their
jockeyism, which, though based on fraud and robbery, is far
preferable to wandering brigandage, which necessarily involves the
frequent shedding of blood. Can better proof be adduced, that
Gitanismo owes its decline, in Spain, not to force, not to
persecution, not to any want of opportunity of exercising it, but
to some other cause? - and we repeat that we consider the principal
if not the only cause of the decline of Gitanismo to be the
conferring on the Gitanos the rights and privileges of other
We have said that the Gitanos have not much availed themselves of
the permission, which the law grants them, of embarking in various
spheres of life. They remain jockeys, but they have ceased to be
wanderers; and the grand object of the law is accomplished. The
law forbids them to be jockeys, or to follow the trade of trimming
and shearing animals, without some other visible mode of
subsistence. This provision, except in a few isolated instances,
they evade; and the law seeks not, and perhaps wisely, to disturb
them, content with having achieved so much. The chief evils of
Gitanismo which still remain consist in the systematic frauds of
the Gypsy jockeys and the tricks of the women. It is incurring
considerable risk to purchase a horse or a mule, even from the most
respectable Gitano, without a previous knowledge of the animal and
his former possessor, the chances being that it is either diseased
or stolen from a distance. Of the practices of the females,
something will be said in particular in a future chapter.
The Gitanos in general are very poor, a pair of large cachas and
various scissors of a smaller description constituting their whole
capital; occasionally a good hit is made, as they call it, but the
money does not last long, being quickly squandered in feasting and
revelry. He who has habitually in his house a couple of donkeys is
considered a thriving Gitano; there are some, however, who are
wealthy in the strict sense of the word, and carry on a very
extensive trade in horses and mules. These, occasionally, visit
the most distant fairs, traversing the greatest part of Spain.
There is a celebrated cattle-fair held at Leon on St. John's or
Midsummer Day, and on one of these occasions, being present, I
observed a small family of Gitanos, consisting of a man of about
fifty, a female of the same age, and a handsome young Gypsy, who
was their son; they were richly dressed after the Gypsy fashion,
the men wearing zamarras with massy clasps and knobs of silver, and
the woman a species of riding-dress with much gold embroidery, and
having immense gold rings attached to her ears. They came from
Murcia, a distance of one hundred leagues and upwards. Some
merchants, to whom I was recommended, informed me that they had
credit on their house to the amount of twenty thousand dollars.
They experienced rough treatment in the fair, and on a very
singular account: immediately on their appearing on the ground,
the horses in the fair, which, perhaps, amounted to three thousand,
were seized with a sudden and universal panic; it was one of those
strange incidents for which it is difficult to assign a rational
cause; but a panic there was amongst the brutes, and a mighty one;
the horses neighed, screamed, and plunged, endeavouring to escape
in all directions; some appeared absolutely possessed, stamping and
tearing, their manes and tails stiffly erect, like the bristles of
the wild boar - many a rider lost his seat. When the panic had
ceased, and it did cease almost as suddenly as it had arisen, the
Gitanos were forthwith accused as the authors of it; it was said
that they intended to steal the best horses during the confusion,
and the keepers of the ground, assisted by a rabble of chalans, who
had their private reasons for hating the Gitanos, drove them off
the field with sticks and cudgels. So much for having a bad name.
These wealthy Gitanos, when they are not ashamed of their blood or
descent, and are not addicted to proud fancies, or 'barbales,' as
they are called, possess great influence with the rest of their
brethren, almost as much as the rabbins amongst the Jews; their
bidding is considered law, and the other Gitanos are at their
devotion. On the contrary, when they prefer the society of the
Busne to that of their own race, and refuse to assist their less
fortunate brethren in poverty or in prison, they are regarded with
unbounded contempt and abhorrence, as in the case of the rich Gypsy
of Badajoz, and are not unfrequently doomed to destruction: such
characters are mentioned in their couplets:-
'The Gypsy fiend of Manga mead,
Who never gave a straw,
He would destroy, for very greed,
The good Egyptian law.
'The false Juanito day and night
Had best with caution go;
The Gypsy carles of Yeira height
Have sworn to lay him low.'
However some of the Gitanos may complain that there is no longer
union to be found amongst them, there is still much of that fellowfeeling
which springs from a consciousness of proceeding from one
common origin, or, as they love to term it, 'blood.' At present
their system exhibits less of a commonwealth than when they roamed
in bands amongst the wilds, and principally subsisted by foraging,
each individual contributing to the common stock, according to his
success. The interests of individuals are now more distinct, and
that close connection is of course dissolved which existed when
they wandered about, and their dangers, gains, and losses were felt
in common; and it can never be too often repeated that they are no
longer a proscribed race, with no rights nor safety save what they
gained by a close and intimate union. Nevertheless, the Gitano,
though he naturally prefers his own interest to that of his
brother, and envies him his gain when he does not expect to share
in it, is at all times ready to side with him against the Busno,
because the latter is not a Gitano, but of a different blood, and
for no other reason. When one Gitano confides his plans to
another, he is in no fear that they will be betrayed to the Busno,
for whom there is no sympathy, and when a plan is to be executed
which requires co-operation, they seek not the fellowship of the
Busne, but of each other, and if successful, share the gain like
As a proof of the fraternal feeling which is not unfrequently
displayed amongst the Gitanos, I shall relate a circumstance which
occurred at Cordova a year or two before I first visited it. One
of the poorest of the Gitanos murdered a Spaniard with the fatal
Manchegan knife; for this crime he was seized, tried, and found
guilty. Blood-shedding in Spain is not looked upon with much
abhorrence, and the life of the culprit is seldom taken, provided
he can offer a bribe sufficient to induce the notary public to
report favourably upon his case; but in this instance money was of
no avail; the murdered individual left behind him powerful friends
and connections, who were determined that justice should take its
course. It was in vain that the Gitanos exerted all their
influence with the authorities in behalf of their comrade, and such
influence was not slight; it was in vain that they offered
extravagant sums that the punishment of death might be commuted to
perpetual slavery in the dreary presidio of Ceuta; I was credibly
informed that one of the richest Gitanos, by name Fruto, offered
for his own share of the ransom the sum of five thousand crowns,
whilst there was not an individual but contributed according to his
means - nought availed, and the Gypsy was executed in the Plaza.
The day before the execution, the Gitanos, perceiving that the fate
of their brother was sealed, one and all quitted Cordova, shutting
up their houses and carrying with them their horses, their mules,
their borricos, their wives and families, and the greatest part of
their household furniture. No one knew whither they directed their
course, nor were they seen in Cordova for some months, when they
again suddenly made their appearance; a few, however, never
returned. So great was the horror of the Gitanos at what had
occurred, that they were in the habit of saying that the place was
cursed for evermore; and when I knew them, there were many amongst
them who, on no account, would enter the Plaza which had witnessed
the disgraceful end of their unfortunate brother.
The position which the Gitanos hold in society in Spain is the
lowest, as might be expected; they are considered at best as
thievish chalans, and the women as half sorceresses, and in every
respect thieves; there is not a wretch, however vile, the outcast
of the prison and the presidio, who calls himself Spaniard, but
would feel insulted by being termed Gitano, and would thank God
that he is not; and yet, strange to say, there are numbers, and
those of the higher classes, who seek their company, and endeavour
to imitate their manners and way of speaking. The connections
which they form with the Spaniards are not many; occasionally some
wealthy Gitano marries a Spanish female, but to find a Gitana
united to a Spaniard is a thing of the rarest occurrence, if it
ever takes place. It is, of course, by intermarriage alone that
the two races will ever commingle, and before that event is brought
about, much modification must take place amongst the Gitanos, in
their manners, in their habits, in their affections, and their
dislikes, and, perhaps, even in their physical peculiarities; much
must be forgotten on both sides, and everything is forgotten in the
course of time.
The number of the Gitano population of Spain at the present day may
be estimated at about forty thousand. At the commencement of the
present century it was said to amount to sixty thousand. There can
be no doubt that the sect is by no means so numerous as it was at
former periods; witness those barrios in various towns still
denominated Gitanerias, but from whence the Gitanos have
disappeared even like the Moors from the Morerias. Whether this
diminution in number has been the result of a partial change of
habits, of pestilence or sickness, of war or famine, or of all
these causes combined, we have no means of determining, and shall
abstain from offering conjectures on the subject.
IN the autumn of the year 1839, I landed at Tarifa, from the coast
of Barbary. I arrived in a small felouk laden with hides for
Cadiz, to which place I was myself going. We stopped at Tarifa in
order to perform quarantine, which, however, turned out a mere
farce, as we were all permitted to come on shore; the master of the
felouk having bribed the port captain with a few fowls. We formed
a motley group. A rich Moor and his son, a child, with their
Jewish servant Yusouf, and myself with my own man Hayim Ben Attar,
a Jew. After passing through the gate, the Moors and their
domestics were conducted by the master to the house of one of his
acquaintance, where he intended they should lodge; whilst a sailor
was despatched with myself and Hayim to the only inn which the
place afforded. I stopped in the street to speak to a person whom
I had known at Seville. Before we had concluded our discourse,
Hayim, who had walked forward, returned, saying that the quarters
were good, and that we were in high luck, for that he knew the
people of the inn were Jews. 'Jews,' said I, 'here in Tarifa, and
keeping an inn, I should be glad to see them.' So I left my
acquaintance, and hastened to the house. We first entered a
stable, of which the ground floor of the building consisted, and
ascending a flight of stairs entered a very large room, and from
thence passed into a kitchen, in which were several people. One of
these was a stout, athletic, burly fellow of about fifty, dressed
in a buff jerkin, and dark cloth pantaloons. His hair was black as
a coal and exceedingly bushy, his face much marked from some
disorder, and his skin as dark as that of a toad. A very tall
woman stood by the dresser, much resembling him in feature, with
the same hair and complexion, but with more intelligence in her
eyes than the man, who looked heavy and dogged. A dark woman, whom
I subsequently discovered to be lame, sat in a corner, and two or
three swarthy girls, from fifteen to eighteen years of age, were
flitting about the room. I also observed a wicked-looking boy, who
might have been called handsome, had not one of his eyes been
injured. 'Jews,' said I, in Moorish, to Hayim, as I glanced at
these people and about the room; 'these are not Jews, but children
of the Dar-bushi-fal.'
'List to the Corahai,' said the tall woman, in broken Gypsy slang,
'hear how they jabber (hunelad como chamulian), truly we will make
them pay for the noise they raise in the house.' Then coming up to
me, she demanded with a shout, fearing otherwise that I should not
understand, whether I would not wish to see the room where I was to
sleep. I nodded: whereupon she led me out upon a back terrace,
and opening the door of a small room, of which there were three,
asked me if it would suit. 'Perfectly,' said I, and returned with
her to the kitchen.
'O, what a handsome face! what a royal person!' exclaimed the whole
family as I returned, in Spanish, but in the whining, canting tones
peculiar to the Gypsies, when they are bent on victimising. 'A
more ugly Busno it has never been our chance to see,' said the same
voices in the next breath, speaking in the jargon of the tribe.
'Won't your Moorish Royalty please to eat something?' said the tall
hag. 'We have nothing in the house; but I will run out and buy a
fowl, which I hope may prove a royal peacock to nourish and
strengthen you.' 'I hope it may turn to drow in your entrails,'
she muttered to the rest in Gypsy. She then ran down, and in a
minute returned with an old hen, which, on my arrival, I had
observed below in the stable. 'See this beautiful fowl,' said she,
'I have been running over all Tarifa to procure it for your
kingship; trouble enough I have had to obtain it, and dear enough
it has cost me. I will now cut its throat.' 'Before you kill it,'
said I, 'I should wish to know what you paid for it, that there may
be no dispute about it in the account.' 'Two dollars I paid for
it, most valorous and handsome sir; two dollars it cost me, out of
my own quisobi - out of my own little purse.' I saw it was high
time to put an end to these zalamerias, and therefore exclaimed in
Gitano, 'You mean two brujis (reals), O mother of all the witches,
and that is twelve cuartos more than it is worth.' 'Ay Dios mio,
whom have we here?' exclaimed the females. 'One,' I replied, 'who
knows you well and all your ways. Speak! am I to have the hen for
two reals? if not, I shall leave the house this moment.' 'O yes,
to be sure, brother, and for nothing if you wish it,' said the tall
woman, in natural and quite altered tones; 'but why did you enter
the house speaking in Corahai like a Bengui? We thought you a
Busno, but we now see that you are of our religion; pray sit down
and tell us where you have been.' . .
MYSELF. - 'Now, my good people, since I have answered your
questions, it is but right that you should answer some of mine;
pray who are you? and how happens it that you are keeping this
GYPSY HAG. - 'Verily, brother, we can scarcely tell you who we are.
All we know of ourselves is, that we keep this inn, to our trouble
and sorrow, and that our parents kept it before us; we were all
born in this house, where I suppose we shall die.'
MYSELF. - 'Who is the master of the house, and whose are these
GYPSY HAG. - 'The master of the house is the fool, my brother, who
stands before you without saying a word; to him belong these
children, and the cripple in the chair is his wife, and my cousin.
He has also two sons who are grown-up men; one is a chumajarri
(shoemaker), and the other serves a tanner.'
MYSELF. - 'Is it not contrary to the law of the Cales to follow
such trades?'
GYPSY HAG. - 'We know of no law, and little of the Cales
themselves. Ours is the only Calo family in Tarifa, and we never
left it in our lives, except occasionally to go on the smuggling
lay to Gibraltar. True it is that the Cales, when they visit
Tarifa, put up at our house, sometimes to our cost. There was one
Rafael, son of the rich Fruto of Cordova, here last summer, to buy
up horses, and he departed a baria and a half in our debt; however,
I do not grudge it him, for he is a handsome and clever Chabo - a
fellow of many capacities. There was more than one Busno had cause
to rue his coming to Tarifa.'
MYSELF. - 'Do you live on good terms with the Busne of Tarifa?'
GYPSY HAG. - 'Brother, we live on the best terms with the Busne of
Tarifa; especially with the errays. The first people in Tarifa
come to this house, to have their baji told by the cripple in the
chair and by myself. I know not how it is, but we are more
considered by the grandees than the poor, who hate and loathe us.
When my first and only infant died, for I have been married, the
child of one of the principal people was put to me to nurse, but I
hated it for its white blood, as you may well believe. It never
throve, for I did it a private mischief, and though it grew up and
is now a youth, it is - mad.'
MYSELF. - 'With whom will your brother's children marry? You say
there are no Gypsies here.'
GYPSY HAG. - 'Ay de mi, hermano! It is that which grieves me. I
would rather see them sold to the Moors than married to the Busne.
When Rafael was here he wished to persuade the chumajarri to
accompany him to Cordova, and promised to provide for him, and to
find him a wife among the Callees of that town; but the faint heart
would not, though I myself begged him to comply. As for the
curtidor (tanner), he goes every night to the house of a Busnee;
and once, when I reproached him with it, he threatened to marry
her. I intend to take my knife, and to wait behind the door in the
dark, and when she comes out to gash her over the eyes. I trow he
will have little desire to wed with her then.'
MYSELF. - 'Do many Busne from the country put up at this house?'
GYPSY HAG. - 'Not so many as formerly, brother; the labourers from
the Campo say that we are all thieves; and that it is impossible
for any one but a Calo to enter this house without having the shirt
stripped from his back. They go to the houses of their
acquaintance in the town, for they fear to enter these doors. I
scarcely know why, for my brother is the veriest fool in Tarifa.
Were it not for his face, I should say that he is no Chabo, for he
cannot speak, and permits every chance to slip through his fingers.
Many a good mule and borrico have gone out of the stable below,
which he might have secured, had he but tongue enough to have
cozened the owners. But he is a fool, as I said before; he cannot
speak, and is no Chabo.'
How far the person in question, who sat all the while smoking his
pipe, with the most unperturbed tranquillity, deserved the
character bestowed upon him by his sister, will presently appear.
It is not my intention to describe here all the strange things I
both saw and heard in this Gypsy inn. Several Gypsies arrived from
the country during the six days that I spent within its walls; one
of them, a man, from Moron, was received with particular
cordiality, he having a son, whom he was thinking of betrothing to
one of the Gypsy daughters. Some females of quality likewise
visited the house to gossip, like true Andalusians. It was
singular to observe the behaviour of the Gypsies to these people,
especially that of the remarkable woman, some of whose conversation
I have given above. She whined, she canted, she blessed, she
talked of beauty of colour, of eyes, of eyebrows, and pestanas
(eyelids), and of hearts which were aching for such and such a
lady. Amongst others, came a very fine woman, the widow of a
colonel lately slain in battle; she brought with her a beautiful
innocent little girl, her daughter, between three and four years of
age. The Gypsy appeared to adore her; she sobbed, she shed tears,
she kissed the child, she blessed it, she fondled it. I had my eye
upon her countenance, and it brought to my recollection that of a
she-wolf, which I had once seen in Russia, playing with her whelp
beneath a birch-tree. 'You seem to love that child very much, O my
mother,' said I to her, as the lady was departing.
GYPSY HAG. - 'No lo camelo, hijo! I do not love it, O my son, I do
not love it; I love it so much, that I wish it may break its leg as
it goes downstairs, and its mother also.'
On the evening of the fourth day, I was seated on the stone bench
at the stable door, taking the fresco; the Gypsy innkeeper sat
beside me, smoking his pipe, and silent as usual; presently a man
and woman with a borrico, or donkey, entered the portal. I took
little or no notice of a circumstance so slight, but I was
presently aroused by hearing the Gypsy's pipe drop upon the ground.
I looked at him, and scarcely recognised his face. It was no
longer dull, black, and heavy, but was lighted up with an
expression so extremely villainous that I felt uneasy. His eyes
were scanning the recent comers, especially the beast of burden,
which was a beautiful female donkey. He was almost instantly at
their side, assisting to remove its housings, and the alforjas, or
bags. His tongue had become unloosed, as if by sorcery; and far
from being unable to speak, he proved that, when it suited his
purpose, he could discourse with wonderful volubility. The donkey
was soon tied to the manger, and a large measure of barley emptied
before it, the greatest part of which the Gypsy boy presently
removed, his father having purposely omitted to mix the barley with
the straw, with which the Spanish mangers are always kept filled.
The guests were hurried upstairs as soon as possible. I remained
below, and subsequently strolled about the town and on the beach.
It was about nine o'clock when I returned to the inn to retire to
rest; strange things had evidently been going on during my absence.
As I passed through the large room on my way to my apartment, lo,
the table was set out with much wine, fruits, and viands. There
sat the man from the country, three parts intoxicated; the Gypsy,
already provided with another pipe, sat on his knee, with his right
arm most affectionately round his neck; on one side sat the
chumajarri drinking and smoking, on the other the tanner. Behold,
poor humanity, thought I to myself, in the hands of devils; in this
manner are human souls ensnared to destruction by the fiends of the
pit. The females had already taken possession of the woman at the
other end of the table, embracing her, and displaying every mark of
friendship and affection. I passed on, but ere I reached my
apartment I heard the words mule and donkey. 'Adios,' said I, for
I but too well knew what was on the carpet.
In the back stable the Gypsy kept a mule, a most extraordinary
animal, which was employed in bringing water to the house, a task
which it effected with no slight difficulty; it was reported to be
eighteen years of age; one of its eyes had been removed by some
accident, it was foundered, and also lame, the result of a broken
leg. This animal was the laughing-stock of all Tarifa; the Gypsy
grudged it the very straw on while alone he fed it, and had
repeatedly offered it for sale at a dollar, which he could never
obtain. During the night there was much merriment going on, and I
could frequently distinguish the voice of the Gypsy raised to a
boisterous pitch. In the morning the Gypsy hag entered my
apartment, bearing the breakfast of myself and Hayim. 'What were
you about last night?' said I.
'We were bargaining with the Busno, evil overtake him, and he has
exchanged us the ass, for the mule and the reckoning,' said the
hag, in whose countenance triumph was blended with anxiety.
'Was he drunk when he saw the mule?' I demanded.
'He did not see her at all, O my son, but we told him we had a
beautiful mule, worth any money, which we were anxious to dispose
of, as a donkey suited our purpose better. We are afraid that when
he sees her he will repent his bargain, and if he calls off within
four-and-twenty hours, the exchange is null, and the justicia will
cause us to restore the ass; we have, however, already removed her
to our huerta out of the town, where we have hid her below the
ground. Dios sabe (God knows) how it will turn out.'
When the man and woman saw the lame, foundered, one-eyed creature,
for which and the reckoning they had exchanged their own beautiful
borrico, they stood confounded. It was about ten in the morning,
and they had not altogether recovered from the fumes of the wine of
the preceding night; at last the man, with a frightful oath,
exclaimed to the innkeeper, 'Restore my donkey, you Gypsy villain!'
'It cannot be, brother,' replied the latter, 'your donkey is by
this time three leagues from here: I sold her this morning to a
man I do not know, and I am afraid I shall have a hard bargain with
her, for he only gave two dollars, as she was unsound. O, you have
taken me in, I am a poor fool as they call me here, and you
understand much, very much, baribu.' (47)
'Her value was thirty-five dollars, thou demon,' said the
countryman, 'and the justicia will make you pay that.'
'Come, come, brother,' said the Gypsy, 'all this is mere
conversation; you have a capital bargain, to-day the mercado is
held, and you shall sell the mule; I will go with you myself. O,
you understand baribu; sister, bring the bottle of anise; the senor
and the senora must drink a copita.' After much persuasion, and
many oaths, the man and woman were weak enough to comply; when they
had drunk several glasses, they departed for the market, the Gypsy
leading the mule. In about two hours they returned with the
wretched beast, but not exactly as they went; a numerous crowd
followed, laughing and hooting. The man was now frantic, and the
woman yet more so. They forced their way upstairs to collect their
baggage, which they soon effected, and were about to leave the
house, vowing revenge. Now ensued a truly terrific scene, there
were no more blandishments; the Gypsy men and women were in arms,
uttering the most frightful execrations; as the woman came
downstairs, the females assailed her like lunatics; the cripple
poked at her with a stick, the tall hag clawed at her hair, whilst
the father Gypsy walked close beside the man, his hand on his
clasp-knife, looking like nothing in this world: the man, however,
on reaching the door, turned to him and said: 'Gypsy demon, my
borrico by three o'clock - or you know the rest, the justicia.'
The Gypsies remained filled with rage and disappointment; the hag
vented her spite on her brother. ''Tis your fault,' said she;
'fool! you have no tongue; you a Chabo, you can't speak'; whereas,
within a few hours, he had perhaps talked more than an auctioneer
during a three days' sale: but he reserved his words for fitting
occasions, and now sat as usual, sullen and silent, smoking his
The man and woman made their appearance at three o'clock, but they
came - intoxicated; the Gypsy's eyes glistened - blandishment was
again had recourse to. 'Come and sit down with the cavalier here,'
whined the family; 'he is a friend of ours, and will soon arrange
matters to your satisfaction.' I arose, and went into the street;
the hag followed me. 'Will you not assist us, brother, or are you
no Chabo?' she muttered.
'I will have nothing to do with your matters,' said I.
'I know who will,' said the hag, and hurried down the street.
The man and woman, with much noise, demanded their donkey; the
innkeeper made no answer, and proceeded to fill up several glasses
with the ANISADO. In about a quarter of an hour, the Gypsy hag
returned with a young man, well dressed, and with a genteel air,
but with something wild and singular in his eyes. He seated
himself by the table, smiled, took a glass of liquor, drank part of
it, smiled again, and handed it to the countryman. The latter
seeing himself treated in this friendly manner by a caballero, was
evidently much flattered, took off his hat to the newcomer, and
drank, as did the woman also. The glass was filled, and refilled,
till they became yet more intoxicated. I did not hear the young
man say a word: he appeared a passive automaton. The Gypsies,
however, spoke for him, and were profuse of compliments. It was
now proposed that the caballero should settle the dispute; a long
and noisy conversation ensued, the young man looking vacantly on:
the strange people had no money, and had already run up another
bill at a wine-house to which they had retired. At last it was
proposed, as if by the young man, that the Gypsy should purchase
his own mule for two dollars, and forgive the strangers the
reckoning of the preceding night. To this they agreed, being
apparently stultified with the liquor, and the money being paid to
them in the presence of witnesses, they thanked the friendly
mediator, and reeled away.
Before they left the town that night, they had contrived to spend
the entire two dollars, and the woman, who first recovered her
senses, was bitterly lamenting that they had permitted themselves
to be despoiled so cheaply of a PRENDA TAN PRECIOSA, as was the
donkey. Upon the whole, however, I did not much pity them. The
woman was certainly not the man's wife. The labourer had probably
left his village with some strolling harlot, bringing with him the
animal which had previously served to support himself and family.
I believe that the Gypsy read, at the first glance, their history,
and arranged matters accordingly. The donkey was soon once more in
the stable, and that night there was much rejoicing in the Gypsy
Who was the singular mediator? He was neither more nor less than
the foster child of the Gypsy hag, the unfortunate being whom she
had privately injured in his infancy. After having thus served
them as an instrument in their villainy, he was told to go home. .
. .
It was at Madrid one fine afternoon in the beginning of March 1838,
that, as I was sitting behind my table in a cabinete, as it is
called, of the third floor of No. 16, in the Calle de Santiago,
having just taken my meal, my hostess entered and informed me that
a military officer wished to speak to me, adding, in an undertone,
that he looked a STRANGE GUEST. I was acquainted with no military
officer in the Spanish service; but as at that time I expected
daily to be arrested for having distributed the Bible, I thought
that very possibly this officer might have been sent to perform
that piece of duty. I instantly ordered him to be admitted,
whereupon a thin active figure, somewhat above the middle height,
dressed in a blue uniform, with a long sword hanging at his side,
tripped into the room. Depositing his regimental hat on the
ground, he drew a chair to the table, and seating himself, placed
his elbows on the board, and supporting his face with his hands,
confronted me, gazing steadfastly upon me, without uttering a word.
I looked no less wistfully at him, and was of the same opinion as
my hostess, as to the strangeness of my guest. He was about fifty,
with thin flaxen hair covering the sides of his head, which at the
top was entirely bald. His eyes were small, and, like ferrets',
red and fiery. His complexion like a brick, a dull red, checkered
with spots of purple. 'May I inquire your name and business, sir?'
I at length demanded.
STRANGER. - 'My name is Chaleco of Valdepenas; in the time of the
French I served as bragante, fighting for Ferdinand VII. I am now
a captain on half-pay in the service of Donna Isabel; as for my
business here, it is to speak with you. Do you know this book?'
MYSELF. - 'This book is Saint Luke's Gospel in the Gypsy language;
how can this book concern you?'
STRANGER. - 'No one more. It is in the language of my people.'
MYSELF. - 'You do not pretend to say that you are a Calo?'
STRANGER. - 'I do! I am Zincalo, by the mother's side. My father,
it is true, was one of the Busne; but I glory in being a Calo, and
care not to acknowledge other blood.'
MYSELF. - 'How became you possessed of that book?'
STRANGER. - 'I was this morning in the Prado, where I met two women
of our people, and amongst other things they told me that they had
a gabicote in our language. I did not believe them at first, but
they pulled it out, and I found their words true. They then spoke
to me of yourself, and told me where you live, so I took the book
from them and am come to see you.'
MYSELF. - 'Are you able to understand this book?'
STRANGER. - 'Perfectly, though it is written in very crabbed
language: (48) but I learnt to read Calo when very young. My
mother was a good Calli, and early taught me both to speak and read
it. She too had a gabicote, but not printed like this, and it
treated of a different matter.'
MYSELF. - 'How came your mother, being a good Calli, to marry one
of a different blood?'
STRANGER. - 'It was no fault of hers; there was no remedy. In her
infancy she lost her parents, who were executed; and she was
abandoned by all, till my father, taking compassion on her, brought
her up and educated her: at last he made her his wife, though
three times her age. She, however, remembered her blood and hated
my father, and taught me to hate him likewise, and avoid him. When
a boy, I used to stroll about the plains, that I might not see my
father; and my father would follow me and beg me to look upon him,
and would ask me what I wanted; and I would reply, Father, the only
thing I want is to see you dead.'
MYSELF. - 'That was strange language from a child to its parent.'
STRANGER. - 'It was - but you know the couplet, (49) which says, "I
do not wish to be a lord - I am by birth a Gypsy - I do not wish to
be a gentleman - I am content with being a Calo!"'
MYSELF. - 'I am anxious to hear more of your history - pray
STRANGER. - 'When I was about twelve years old my father became
distracted, and died. I then continued with my mother for some
years; she loved me much, and procured a teacher to instruct me in
Latin. At last she died, and then there was a pleyto (law-suit).
I took to the sierra and became a highwayman; but the wars broke
out. My cousin Jara, of Valdepenas, raised a troop of brigantes.
(50) I enlisted with him and distinguished myself very much; there
is scarcely a man or woman in Spain but has heard of Jara and
Chaleco. I am now captain in the service of Donna Isabel - I am
covered with wounds - I am - ugh! ugh! ugh - !'
He had commenced coughing, and in a manner which perfectly
astounded me. I had heard hooping coughs, consumptive coughs,
coughs caused by colds, and other accidents, but a cough so
horrible and unnatural as that of the Gypsy soldier, I had never
witnessed in the course of my travels. In a moment he was bent
double, his frame writhed and laboured, the veins of his forehead
were frightfully swollen, and his complexion became black as the
blackest blood; he screamed, he snorted, he barked, and appeared to
be on the point of suffocation - yet more explosive became the
cough; and the people of the house, frightened, came running into
the apartment. I cries, 'The man is perishing, run instantly for a
surgeon!' He heard me, and with a quick movement raised his left
hand as if to countermand the order; another struggle, then one
mighty throe, which seemed to search his deepest intestines; and he
remained motionless, his head on his knee. The cough had left him,
and within a minute or two he again looked up.
'That is a dreadful cough, friend,' said I, when he was somewhat
recovered. 'How did you get it?'
GYPSY SOLDIER. - 'I am - shot through the lungs - brother! Let me
but take breath, and I will show you the hole - the agujero.'
He continued with me a considerable time, and showed not the
slightest disposition to depart; the cough returned twice, but not
so violently; - at length, having an engagement, I arose, and
apologising, told him I must leave him. The next day he came again
at the same hour, but he found me not, as I was abroad dining with
a friend. On the third day, however, as I was sitting down to
dinner, in he walked, unannounced. I am rather hospitable than
otherwise, so I cordially welcomed him, and requested him to
partake of my meal. 'Con mucho gusto,' he replied, and instantly
took his place at the table. I was again astonished, for if his
cough was frightful, his appetite was yet more so. He ate like a
wolf of the sierra; - soup, puchero, fowl and bacon disappeared
before him in a twinkling. I ordered in cold meat, which he
presently despatched; a large piece of cheese was then produced.
We had been drinking water.
'Where is the wine?' said he.
'I never use it,' I replied.
He looked blank. The hostess, however, who was present waiting,
said, 'If the gentleman wish for wine, I have a bota nearly full,
which I will instantly fetch.'
The skin bottle, when full, might contain about four quarts. She
filled him a very large glass, and was removing the skin, but he
prevented her, saying, 'Leave it, my good woman; my brother here
will settle with you for the little I shall use.'
He now lighted his cigar, and it was evident that he had made good
his quarters. On the former occasion I thought his behaviour
sufficiently strange, but I liked it still less on the present.
Every fifteen minutes he emptied his glass, which contained at
least a pint; his conversation became horrible. He related the
atrocities which he had committed when a robber and bragante in La
Mancha. 'It was our custom,' said he, 'to tie our prisoners to the
olive-trees, and then, putting our horses to full speed, to tilt at
them with our spears.' As he continued to drink he became waspish
and quarrelsome: he had hitherto talked Castilian, but he would
now only converse in Gypsy and in Latin, the last of which
languages he spoke with great fluency, though ungrammatically. He
told me that he had killed six men in duels; and, drawing his
sword, fenced about the room. I saw by the manner in which he
handled it, that he was master of his weapon. His cough did not
return, and he said it seldom afflicted him when he dined well. He
gave me to understand that he had received no pay for two years.
'Therefore you visit me,' thought I. At the end of three hours,
perceiving that he exhibited no signs of taking his departure, I
arose, and said I must again leave him. 'As you please, brother,'
said he; 'use no ceremony with me, I am fatigued, and will wait a
little while.' I did not return till eleven at night, when my
hostess informed me that he had just departed, promising to return
next day. He had emptied the bota to the last drop, and the cheese
produced being insufficient for him, he sent for an entire Dutch
cheese on my account; part of which he had eaten and the rest
carried away. I now saw that I had formed a most troublesome
acquaintance, of whom it was highly necessary to rid myself, if
possible; I therefore dined out for the next nine days.
For a week he came regularly at the usual hour, at the end of which
time he desisted; the hostess was afraid of him, as she said that
he was a brujo or wizard, and only spoke to him through the wicket.
On the tenth day I was cast into prison, where I continued several
weeks. Once, during my confinement, he called at the house, and
being informed of my mishap, drew his sword, and vowed with
horrible imprecations to murder the prime minister of Ofalia, for
having dared to imprison his brother. On my release, I did not
revisit my lodgings for some days, but lived at an hotel. I
returned late one afternoon, with my servant Francisco, a Basque of
Hernani, who had served me with the utmost fidelity during my
imprisonment, which he had voluntarily shared with me. The first
person I saw on entering was the Gypsy soldier, seated by the
table, whereon were several bottles of wine which he had ordered
from the tavern, of course on my account. He was smoking, and
looked savage and sullen; perhaps he was not much pleased with the
reception he had experienced. He had forced himself in, and the
woman of the house sat in a corner looking upon him with dread. I
addressed him, but he would scarcely return an answer. At last he
commenced discoursing with great volubility in Gypsy and Latin. I
did not understand much of what he said. His words were wild and
incoherent, but he repeatedly threatened some person. The last
bottle was now exhausted: he demanded more. I told him in a
gentle manner that he had drunk enough. He looked on the ground
for some time, then slowly, and somewhat hesitatingly, drew his
sword and laid it on the table. It was become dark. I was not
afraid of the fellow, but I wished to avoid anything unpleasant. I
called to Francisco to bring lights, and obeying a sign which I
made him, he sat down at the table. The Gypsy glared fiercely upon
him - Francisco laughed, and began with great glee to talk in
Basque, of which the Gypsy understood not a word. The Basques,
like all Tartars, (51) and such they are, are paragons of fidelity
and good nature; they are only dangerous when outraged, when they
are terrible indeed. Francisco, to the strength of a giant joined
the disposition of a lamb. He was beloved even in the patio of the
prison, where he used to pitch the bar and wrestle with the
murderers and felons, always coming off victor. He continued
speaking Basque. The Gypsy was incensed; and, forgetting the
languages in which, for the last hour, he had been speaking,
complained to Francisco of his rudeness in speaking any tongue but
Castilian. The Basque replied by a loud carcajada, and slightly
touched the Gypsy on the knee. The latter sprang up like a mine
discharged, seized his sword, and, retreating a few steps, made a
desperate lunge at Francisco.
The Basques, next to the Pasiegos, (52) are the best cudgel-players
in Spain, and in the world. Francisco held in his hand part of a
broomstick, which he had broken in the stable, whence he had just
ascended. With the swiftness of lightning he foiled the stroke of
Chaleco, and, in another moment, with a dexterous blow, struck the
sword out of his hand, sending it ringing against the wall.
The Gypsy resumed his seat and his cigar. He occasionally looked
at the Basque. His glances were at first atrocious, but presently
changed their expression, and appeared to me to become prying and
eagerly curious. He at last arose, picked up his sword, sheathed
it, and walked slowly to the door; when there he stopped, turned
round, advanced close to Francisco, and looked him steadfastly in
the face. 'My good fellow,' said he, 'I am a Gypsy, and can read
baji. Do you know where you will be at this time to-morrow?' (53)
Then, laughing like a hyena, he departed, and I never saw him
At that time on the morrow, Francisco was on his death-bed. He had
caught the jail fever, which had long raged in the Carcel de la
Corte, where I was imprisoned. In a few days he was buried, a mass
of corruption, in the Campo Santo of Madrid.
THE Gitanos, in their habits and manner of life, are much less
cleanly than the Spaniards. The hovels in which they reside
exhibit none of the neatness which is observable in the habitations
of even the poorest of the other race. The floors are unswept, and
abound with filth and mud, and in their persons they are scarcely
less vile. Inattention to cleanliness is a characteristic of the
Gypsies, in all parts of the world.
The Bishop of Forli, as far back as 1422, gives evidence upon this
point, and insinuates that they carried the plague with them; as he
observes that it raged with peculiar violence the year of their
appearance at Forli. (54)
At the present day they are almost equally disgusting, in this
respect, in Hungary, England, and Spain. Amongst the richer
Gitanos, habits of greater cleanliness of course exist than amongst
the poorer. An air of sluttishness, however, pervades their
dwellings, which, to an experienced eye, would sufficiently attest
that the inmates were Gitanos, in the event of their absence.
What can be said of the Gypsy dress, of which such frequent mention
is made in the Spanish laws, and which is prohibited together with
the Gypsy language and manner of life? Of whatever it might
consist in former days, it is so little to be distinguished from
the dress of some classes amongst the Spaniards, that it is almost
impossible to describe the difference. They generally wear a highpeaked,
narrow-brimmed hat, a zamarra of sheep-skin in winter, and,
during summer, a jacket of brown cloth; and beneath this they are
fond of exhibiting a red plush waistcoat, something after the
fashion of the English jockeys, with numerous buttons and clasps.
A faja, or girdle of crimson silk, surrounds the waist, where, not
unfrequently, are stuck the cachas which we have already described.
Pantaloons of coarse cloth or leather descend to the knee; the legs
are protected by woollen stockings, and sometimes by a species of
spatterdash, either of cloth or leather; stout high-lows complete
the equipment.
Such is the dress of the Gitanos of most parts of Spain. But it is
necessary to remark that such also is the dress of the chalans, and
of the muleteers, except that the latter are in the habit of
wearing broad sombreros as preservatives from the sun. This dress
appears to be rather Andalusian than Gitano; and yet it certainly
beseems the Gitano better than the chalan or muleteer. He wears it
with more easy negligence or jauntiness, by which he may be
recognised at some distance, even from behind.
It is still more difficult to say what is the peculiar dress of the
Gitanas; they wear not the large red cloaks and immense bonnets of
coarse beaver which distinguish their sisters of England; they have
no other headgear than a handkerchief, which is occasionally
resorted to as a defence against the severity of the weather; their
hair is sometimes confined by a comb, but more frequently is
permitted to stray dishevelled down their shoulders; they are fond
of large ear-rings, whether of gold, silver, or metal, resembling
in this respect the poissardes of France. There is little to
distinguish them from the Spanish women save the absence of the
mantilla, which they never carry. Females of fashion not
unfrequently take pleasure in dressing a la Gitana, as it is
called; but this female Gypsy fashion, like that of the men, is
more properly the fashion of Andalusia, the principal
characteristic of which is the saya, which is exceedingly short,
with many rows of flounces.
True it is that the original dress of the Gitanos, male and female,
whatever it was, may have had some share in forming the Andalusian
fashion, owing to the great number of these wanderers who found
their way to that province at an early period. The Andalusians are
a mixed breed of various nations, Romans, Vandals, Moors; perhaps
there is a slight sprinkling of Gypsy blood in their veins, and of
Gypsy fashion in their garb.
The Gitanos are, for the most part, of the middle size, and the
proportions of their frames convey a powerful idea of strength and
activity united; a deformed or weakly object is rarely found
amongst them in persons of either sex; such probably perish in
their infancy, unable to support the hardships and privations to
which the race is still subjected from its great poverty, and these
same privations have given and still give a coarseness and
harshness to their features, which are all strongly marked and
expressive. Their complexion is by no means uniform, save that it
is invariably darker than the general olive hue of the Spaniards;
not unfrequently countenances as dark as those of mulattos present
themselves, and in some few instances of almost negro blackness.
Like most people of savage ancestry, their teeth are white and
strong; their mouths are not badly formed, but it is in the eye
more than in any other feature that they differ from other human
There is something remarkable in the eye of the Gitano: should his
hair and complexion become fair as those of the Swede or the Finn,
and his jockey gait as grave and ceremonious as that of the native
of Old Castile, were he dressed like a king, a priest, or a
warrior, still would the Gitano be detected by his eye, should it
continue unchanged. The Jew is known by his eye, but then in the
Jew that feature is peculiarly small; the Chinese has a remarkable
eye, but then the eye of the Chinese is oblong, and even with the
face, which is flat; but the eye of the Gitano is neither large nor
small, and exhibits no marked difference in its shape from the eyes
of the common cast. Its peculiarity consists chiefly in a strange
staring expression, which to be understood must be seen, and in a
thin glaze, which steals over it when in repose, and seems to emit
phosphoric light. That the Gypsy eye has sometimes a peculiar
effect, we learn from the following stanza:-
'A Gypsy stripling's glossy eye
Has pierced my bosom's core,
A feat no eye beneath the sky
Could e'er effect before.'
The following passages are extracted from a Spanish work, (55) and
cannot be out of place here, as they relate to those matters to
which we have devoted this chapter.
'The Gitanos have an olive complexion and very marked physiognomy;
their cheeks are prominent, their lips thick, their eyes vivid and
black; their hair is long, black, and coarse, and their teeth very
white. The general expression of their physiognomy is a compound
of pride, slavishness, and cunning. They are, for the most part,
of good stature, well formed, and support with facility fatigue and
every kind of hardship. When they discuss any matter, or speak
among themselves, whether in Catalan, in Castilian, or in Germania,
which is their own peculiar jargon, they always make use of much
gesticulation, which contributes to give to their conversation and
to the vivacity of their physiognomy a certain expression, still
more penetrating and characteristic.
To this work we shall revert on a future occasion.
'When a Gitano has occasion to speak of some business in which his
interest is involved, he redoubles his gestures in proportion as he
knows the necessity of convincing those who hear him, and fears
their impassibility. If any rancorous idea agitate him in the
course of his narrative; if he endeavour to infuse into his
auditors sentiments of jealousy, vengeance, or any violent passion,
his features become exaggerated, and the vivacity of his glances,
and the contraction of his lips, show clearly, and in an imposing
manner, the foreign origin of the Gitanos, and all the customs of
barbarous people. Even his very smile has an expression hard and
disagreeable. One might almost say that joy in him is a forced
sentiment, and that, like unto the savage man, sadness is the
dominant feature of his physiognomy.
'The Gitana is distinguished by the same complexion, and almost the
same features. In her frame she is as well formed, and as flexible
as the Gitano. Condemned to suffer the same privations and wants,
her countenance, when her interest does not oblige her to dissemble
her feelings, presents the same aspect of melancholy, and shows
besides, with more energy, the rancorous passions of which the
female heart is susceptible. Free in her actions, her carriage,
and her pursuits, she speaks, vociferates, and makes more gestures
than the Gitano, and, in imitation of him, her arms are in
continual motion, to give more expression to the imagery with which
she accompanies her discourse; her whole body contributes to her
gesture, and to increase its force; endeavouring by these means to
sharpen the effect of language in itself insufficient; and her
vivid and disordered imagination is displayed in her appearance and
'When she turns her hand to any species of labour, her hurried
action, the disorder of her hair, which is scarcely subjected by a
little comb, and her propensity to irritation, show how little she
loves toil, and her disgust for any continued occupation.
'In her disputes, the air of menace and high passion, the flow of
words, and the facility with which she provokes and despises
danger, indicate manners half barbarous, and ignorance of other
means of defence. Finally, both in males and females, their
physical constitution, colour, agility, and flexibility, reveal to
us a caste sprung from a burning clime, and devoted to all those
exercises which contribute to evolve bodily vigour, and certain
mental faculties.
'The dress of the Gitano varies with the country which he inhabits.
Both in Rousillon and Catalonia his habiliments generally consist
of jacket, waistcoat, pantaloons, and a red faja, which covers part
of his waistcoat; on his feet he wears hempen sandals, with much
ribbon tied round the leg as high as the calf; he has, moreover,
either woollen or cotton stockings; round his neck he wears a
handkerchief, carelessly tied; and in the winter he uses a blanket
or mantle, with sleeves, cast over the shoulder; his head is
covered with the indispensable red cap, which appears to be the
favourite ornament of many nations in the vicinity of the
Mediterranean and Caspian Sea.
'The neck and the elbows of the jacket are adorned with pieces of
blue and yellow cloth embroidered with silk, as well as the seams
of the pantaloons; he wears, moreover, on the jacket or the
waistcoat, various rows of silver buttons, small and round,
sustained by rings or chains of the same metal. The old people,
and those who by fortune, or some other cause, exercise, in
appearance, a kind of authority over the rest, are almost always
dressed in black or dark-blue velvet. Some of those who affect
elegance amongst them keep for holidays a complete dress of skyblue
velvet, with embroidery at the neck, pocket-holes, arm-pits,
and in all the seams; in a word, with the exception of the turban,
this was the fashion of dress of the ancient Moors of Granada, the
only difference being occasioned by time and misery.
'The dress of the Gitanas is very varied: the young girls, or
those who are in tolerably easy circumstances, generally wear a
black bodice laced up with a string, and adjusted to their figures,
and contrasting with the scarlet-coloured saya, which only covers a
part of the leg; their shoes are cut very low, and are adorned with
little buckles of silver; the breast, and the upper part of the
bodice, are covered either with a white handkerchief, or one of
some vivid colour; and on the head is worn another handkerchief,
tied beneath the chin, one of the ends of which falls on the
shoulder, in the manner of a hood. When the cold or the heat
permit, the Gitana removes the hood, without untying the knots, and
exhibits her long and shining tresses restrained by a comb. The
old women, and the very poor, dress in the same manner, save that
their habiliments are more coarse and the colours less in harmony.
Amongst them misery appears beneath the most revolting aspect;
whilst the poorest Gitano preserves a certain deportment which
would make his aspect supportable, if his unquiet and ferocious
glance did not inspire us with aversion.'
WHILST their husbands are engaged in their jockey vocation, or in
wielding the cachas, the Callees, or Gypsy females, are seldom
idle, but are endeavouring, by various means, to make all the gain
they can. The richest amongst them are generally contrabandistas,
and in the large towns go from house to house with prohibited
goods, especially silk and cotton, and occasionally with tobacco.
They likewise purchase cast-off female wearing-apparel, which, when
vamped up and embellished, they sometimes contrive to sell as new,
with no inconsiderable profit.
Gitanas of this description are of the most respectable class; the
rest, provided they do not sell roasted chestnuts, or esteras,
which are a species of mat, seek a livelihood by different tricks
and practices, more or less fraudulent; for example -
LA BAHI, or fortune-telling, which is called in Spanish, BUENA
VENTURA. - This way of extracting money from the credulity of dupes
is, of all those practised by the Gypsies, the readiest and most
easy; promises are the only capital requisite, and the whole art of
fortune-telling consists in properly adapting these promises to the
age and condition of the parties who seek for information. The
Gitanas are clever enough in the accomplishment of this, and in
most cases afford perfect satisfaction. Their practice chiefly
lies amongst females, the portion of the human race most given to
curiosity and credulity. To the young maidens they promise lovers,
handsome invariably, and sometimes rich; to wives children, and
perhaps another husband; for their eyes are so penetrating, that
occasionally they will develop your most secret thoughts and
wishes; to the old, riches - and nothing but riches; for they have
sufficient knowledge of the human heart to be aware that avarice is
the last passion that becomes extinct within it. These riches are
to proceed either from the discovery of hidden treasures or from
across the water; from the Americas, to which the Spaniards still
look with hope, as there is no individual in Spain, however poor,
but has some connection in those realms of silver and gold, at
whose death he considers it probable that he may succeed to a
brilliant 'herencia.' The Gitanas, in the exercise of this
practice, find dupes almost as readily amongst the superior
classes, as the veriest dregs of the population. It is their
boast, that the best houses are open to them; and perhaps in the
space of one hour, they will spae the bahi to a duchess, or
countess, in one of the hundred palaces of Madrid, and to half a
dozen of the lavanderas engaged in purifying the linen of the
capital, beneath the willows which droop on the banks of the
murmuring Manzanares. One great advantage which the Gypsies
possess over all other people is an utter absence of MAUVAISE
HONTE; their speech is as fluent, and their eyes as unabashed, in
the presence of royalty, as before those from whom they have
nothing to hope or fear; the result being, that most minds quail
before them. There were two Gitanas at Madrid, one Pepita by name,
and the other La Chicharona; the first was a spare, shrewd, witchlike
female, about fifty, and was the mother-in-law of La
Chicharona, who was remarkable for her stoutness. These women
subsisted entirely by fortune-telling and swindling. It chanced
that the son of Pepita, and husband of Chicharona, having spirited
away a horse, was sent to the presidio of Malaga for ten years of
hard labour. This misfortune caused inexpressible affliction to
his wife and mother, who determined to make every effort to procure
his liberation. The readiest way which occurred to them was to
procure an interview with the Queen Regent Christina, who they
doubted not would forthwith pardon the culprit, provided they had
an opportunity of assailing her with their Gypsy discourse; for, to
use their own words, 'they well knew what to say.' I at that time
lived close by the palace, in the street of Santiago, and daily,
for the space of a month, saw them bending their steps in that
One day they came to me in a great hurry, with a strange expression
on both their countenances. 'We have seen Christina, hijo' (my
son), said Pepita to me.
'Within the palace?' I inquired.
'Within the palace, O child of my garlochin,' answered the sibyl:
'Christina at last saw and sent for us, as I knew she would; I told
her "bahi," and Chicharona danced the Romalis (Gypsy dance) before
'What did you tell her?'
'I told her many things,' said the hag, 'many things which I need
not tell you: know, however, that amongst other things, I told her
that the chabori (little queen) would die, and then she would be
Queen of Spain. I told her, moreover, that within three years she
would marry the son of the King of France, and it was her bahi to
die Queen of France and Spain, and to be loved much, and hated
'And did you not dread her anger, when you told her these things?'
'Dread her, the Busnee?' screamed Pepita: 'No, my child, she
dreaded me far more; I looked at her so - and raised my finger so -
and Chicharona clapped her hands, and the Busnee believed all I
said, and was afraid of me; and then I asked for the pardon of my
son, and she pledged her word to see into the matter, and when we
came away, she gave me this baria of gold, and to Chicharona this
other, so at all events we have hokkanoed the queen. May an evil
end overtake her body, the Busnee!'
Though some of the Gitanas contrive to subsist by fortune-telling
alone, the generality of them merely make use of it as an
instrument towards the accomplishment of greater things. The
immediate gains are scanty; a few cuartos being the utmost which
they receive from the majority of their customers. But the bahi is
an excellent passport into houses, and when they spy a convenient
opportunity, they seldom fail to avail themselves of it. It is
necessary to watch them strictly, as articles frequently disappear
in a mysterious manner whilst Gitanas are telling fortunes. The
bahi, moreover, is occasionally the prelude to a device which we
shall now attempt to describe, and which is called HOKKANO BARO, or
the great trick, of which we have already said something in the
former part of this work. It consists in persuading some credulous
person to deposit whatever money and valuables the party can muster
in a particular spot, under the promise that the deposit will
increase many manifold. Some of our readers will have difficulty
in believing that any people can be found sufficiently credulous to
allow themselves to be duped by a trick of this description, the
grossness of the intended fraud seeming too palpable. Experience,
however, proves the contrary. The deception is frequently
practised at the present day, and not only in Spain but in England
- enlightened England - and in France likewise; an instance being
given in the memoirs of Vidocq, the late celebrated head of the
secret police of Paris, though, in that instance, the perpetrator
of the fraud was not a Gypsy. The most subtle method of
accomplishing the hokkano baro is the following:-
When the dupe - a widow we will suppose, for in these cases the
dupes are generally widows - has been induced to consent to make
the experiment, the Gitana demands of her whether she has in the
house some strong chest with a safe lock. On receiving an
affirmative answer, she will request to see all the gold and silver
of any description which she may chance to have in her possession.
The treasure is shown her; and when the Gitana has carefully
inspected and counted it, she produces a white handkerchief,
saying, Lady, I give you this handkerchief, which is blessed.
Place in it your gold and silver, and tie it with three knots. I
am going for three days, during which period you must keep the
bundle beneath your pillow, permitting no one to go near it, and
observing the greatest secrecy, otherwise the money will take wings
and fly away. Every morning during the three days it will be well
to open the bundle, for your own satisfaction, to see that no
misfortune has befallen your treasure; be always careful, however,
to fasten it again with the three knots. On my return, we will
place the bundle, after having inspected it, in the chest, which
you shall yourself lock, retaining the key in your possession.
But, thenceforward, for three weeks, you must by no means unlock
the chest, nor look at the treasure - if you do it will fly away.
Only follow my directions, and you will gain much, very much,
The Gitana departs, and, during the three days, prepares a bundle
as similar as possible to the one which contains the money of her
dupe, save that instead of gold ounces, dollars, and plate, its
contents consist of copper money and pewter articles of little or
no value. With this bundle concealed beneath her cloak, she
returns at the end of three days to her intended victim. The
bundle of real treasure is produced and inspected, and again tied
up by the Gitana, who then requests the other to open the chest,
which done, she formally places A BUNDLE in it; but, in the
meanwhile, she has contrived to substitute the fictitious for the
real one. The chest is then locked, the lady retaining the key.
The Gitana promises to return at the end of three weeks, to open
the chest, assuring the lady that if it be not unlocked until that
period, it will be found filled with gold and silver; but
threatening that in the event of her injunctions being disregarded,
the money deposited will vanish. She then walks off with great
deliberation, bearing away the spoil. It is needless to say that
she never returns.
There are other ways of accomplishing the hokkano baro. The most
simple, and indeed the one most generally used by the Gitanas, is
to persuade some simple individual to hide a sum of money in the
earth, which they afterwards carry away. A case of this
description occurred within my own knowledge, at Madrid, towards
the latter part of the year 1837. There was a notorious Gitana, of
the name of Aurora; she was about forty years of age, a Valencian
by birth, and immensely fat. This amiable personage, by some
means, formed the acquaintance of a wealthy widow lady; and was not
slow in attempting to practise the hokkano baro upon her. She
succeeded but too well. The widow, at the instigation of Aurora,
buried one hundred ounces of gold beneath a ruined arch in a field,
at a short distance from the wall of Madrid. The inhumation was
effected at night by the widow alone. Aurora was, however, on the
watch, and, in less than ten minutes after the widow had departed,
possessed herself of the treasure; perhaps the largest one ever
acquired by this kind of deceit. The next day the widow had
certain misgivings, and, returning to the spot, found her money
gone. About six months after this event, I was imprisoned in the
Carcel de la Corte, at Madrid, and there I found Aurora, who was in
durance for defrauding the widow. She said that it had been her
intention to depart for Valencia with the 'barias,' as she styled
her plunder, but the widow had discovered the trick too soon, and
she had been arrested. She added, however, that she had contrived
to conceal the greatest part of the property, and that she expected
her liberation in a few days, having been prodigal of bribes to the
'justicia.' In effect, her liberation took place sooner than my
own. Nevertheless, she had little cause to triumph, as before she
left the prison she had been fleeced of the last cuarto of her illgotten
gain, by alguazils and escribanos, who, she admitted,
understood hokkano baro much better than herself.
When I next saw Aurora, she informed me that she was once more on
excellent terms with the widow, whom she had persuaded that the
loss of the money was caused by her own imprudence, in looking for
it before the appointed time; the spirit of the earth having
removed it in anger. She added that her dupe was quite disposed to
make another venture, by which she hoped to retrieve her former
USTILAR PASTESAS. - Under this head may be placed various kinds of
theft committed by the Gitanos. The meaning of the words is
stealing with the hands; but they are more generally applied to the
filching of money by dexterity of hand, when giving or receiving
change. For example: a Gitana will enter a shop, and purchase
some insignificant article, tendering in payment a baria or golden
ounce. The change being put down before her on the counter, she
counts the money, and complains that she has received a dollar and
several pesetas less than her due. It seems impossible that there
can be any fraud on her part, as she has not even taken the pieces
in her hand, but merely placed her fingers upon them; pushing them
on one side. She now asks the merchant what he means by attempting
to deceive the poor woman. The merchant, supposing that he has
made a mistake, takes up the money, counts it, and finds in effect
that the just sum is not there. He again hands out the change, but
there is now a greater deficiency than before, and the merchant is
convinced that he is dealing with a witch. The Gitana now pushes
the money to him, uplifts her voice, and talks of the justicia.
Should the merchant become frightened, and, emptying a bag of
dollars, tell her to pay herself, as has sometimes been the case,
she will have a fine opportunity to exercise her powers, and whilst
taking the change will contrive to convey secretly into her sleeves
five or six dollars at least; after which she will depart with much
vociferation, declaring that she will never again enter the shop of
so cheating a picaro.
Of all the Gitanas at Madrid, Aurora the fat was, by their own
confession, the most dexterous at this species of robbery; she
having been known in many instances, whilst receiving change for an
ounce, to steal the whole value, which amounts to sixteen dollars.
It was not without reason that merchants in ancient times were,
according to Martin Del Rio, advised to sell nothing out of their
shops to Gitanas, as they possessed an infallible secret for
attracting to their own purses from the coffers of the former the
money with which they paid for the articles they purchased. This
secret consisted in stealing a pastesas, which they still practise.
Many accounts of witchcraft and sorcery, which are styled old
women's tales, are perhaps equally well founded. Real actions have
been attributed to wrong causes.
Shoplifting, and other kinds of private larceny, are connected with
stealing a pastesas, for in all dexterity of hand is required.
Many of the Gitanas of Madrid are provided with large pockets, or
rather sacks, beneath their gowns, in which they stow away their
plunder. Some of these pockets are capacious enough to hold, at
one time, a dozen yards of cloth, a Dutch cheese and a bottle of
wine. Nothing that she can eat, drink, or sell, comes amiss to a
veritable Gitana; and sometimes the contents of her pocket would
afford materials for an inventory far more lengthy and curious than
the one enumerating the effects found on the person of the manmountain
at Lilliput.
CHIVING DRAO. - In former times the Spanish Gypsies of both sexes
were in the habit of casting a venomous preparation into the
mangers of the cattle for the purpose of causing sickness. At
present this practice has ceased, or nearly so; the Gitanos,
however, talk of it as universal amongst their ancestors. They
were in the habit of visiting the stalls and stables secretly, and
poisoning the provender of the animals, who almost immediately
became sick. After a few days the Gitanos would go to the
labourers and offer to cure the sick cattle for a certain sum, and
if their proposal was accepted would in effect perform the cure.
Connected with the cure was a curious piece of double dealing.
They privately administered an efficacious remedy, but pretended to
cure the animals not by medicines but by charms, which consisted of
small variegated beans, called in their language bobis, (56)
dropped into the mangers. By this means they fostered the idea,
already prevalent, that they were people possessed of supernatural
gifts and powers, who could remove diseases without having recourse
to medicine. By means of drao, they likewise procured themselves
food; poisoning swine, as their brethren in England still do, (57)
and then feasting on the flesh, which was abandoned as worthless:
witness one of their own songs:-
'By Gypsy drow the Porker died,
I saw him stiff at evening tide,
But I saw him not when morning shone,
For the Gypsies ate him flesh and bone.'
By drao also they could avenge themselves on their enemies by
destroying their cattle, without incurring a shadow of suspicion.
Revenge for injuries, real or imaginary, is sweet to all
unconverted minds; to no one more than the Gypsy, who, in all parts
of the world, is, perhaps, the most revengeful of human beings.
Vidocq in his memoirs states, that having formed a connection with
an individual whom he subsequently discovered to be the captain of
a band of Walachian Gypsies, the latter, whose name was Caroun,
wished Vidocq to assist in scattering certain powders in the
mangers of the peasants' cattle; Vidocq, from prudential motives,
refused the employment. There can be no doubt that these powders
were, in substance, the drao of the Spanish Gitanos.
LA BAR LACHI, OR THE LOADSTONE. - If the Gitanos in general be
addicted to any one superstition, it is certainly with respect to
this stone, to which they attribute all kinds of miraculous powers.
There can be no doubt, that the singular property which it
possesses of attracting steel, by filling their untutored minds
with amazement, first gave rise to this veneration, which is
carried beyond all reasonable bounds.
They believe that he who is in possession of it has nothing to fear
from steel or lead, from fire or water, and that death itself has
no power over him. The Gypsy contrabandistas are particularly
anxious to procure this stone, which they carry upon their persons
in their expeditions; they say, that in the event of being pursued
by the jaracanallis, or revenue officers, whirlwinds of dust will
arise, and conceal them from the view of their enemies; the horsestealers
say much the same thing, and assert that they are
uniformly successful, when they bear about them the precious stone.
But it is said to be able to effect much more. Extraordinary
things are related of its power in exciting the amorous passions,
and, on this account, it is in great request amongst the Gypsy
hags; all these women are procuresses, and find persons of both
sexes weak and wicked enough to make use of their pretended
knowledge in the composition of love-draughts and decoctions.
In the case of the loadstone, however, there is no pretence, the
Gitanas believing all they say respecting it, and still more; this
is proved by the eagerness with which they seek to obtain the stone
in its natural state, which is somewhat difficult to accomplish.
In the museum of natural curiosities at Madrid there is a large
piece of loadstone originally extracted from the American mines.
There is scarcely a Gitana in Madrid who is not acquainted with
this circumstance, and who does not long to obtain the stone, or a
part of it; its being placed in a royal museum serving to augment,
in their opinion, its real value. Several attempts have been made
to steal it, all of which, however, have been unsuccessful. The
Gypsies seem not to be the only people who envy royalty the
possession of this stone. Pepita, the old Gitana of whose talent
at telling fortunes such honourable mention has already been made,
informed me that a priest, who was muy enamorado (in love),
proposed to her to steal the loadstone, offering her all his
sacerdotal garments in the event of success: whether the singular
reward that was promised had but slight temptations for her, or
whether she feared that her dexterity was not equal to the
accomplishment of the task, we know not, but she appears to have
declined attempting it. According to the Gypsy account, the person
in love, if he wish to excite a corresponding passion in another
quarter by means of the loadstone, must swallow, IN AGUARDIENTE, a
small portion of the stone pulverised, at the time of going to
rest, repeating to himself the following magic rhyme:-
'To the Mountain of Olives one morning I hied,
Three little black goats before me I spied,
Those three little goats on three cars I laid,
Black cheeses three from their milk I made;
The one I bestow on the loadstone of power,
That save me it may from all ills that lower;
The second to Mary Padilla I give,
And to all the witch hags about her that live;
The third I reserve for Asmodeus lame,
That fetch me he may whatever I name.'
subject we cannot be very explicit. It is customary with the
Gitanas to sell, under this title, various roots and herbs, to
unfortunate females who are desirous of producing a certain result;
these roots are boiled in white wine, and the abominable decoction
is taken fasting. I was once shown the root of the good baron,
which, in this instance, appeared to be parsley root. By the good
baron is meant his Satanic majesty, on whom the root is very
appropriately fathered.
IT is impossible to dismiss the subject of the Spanish Gypsies
without offering some remarks on their marriage festivals. There
is nothing which they retain connected with their primitive rites
and principles, more characteristic perhaps of the sect of the
Rommany, of the sect of the HUSBANDS AND WIVES, than what relates
to the marriage ceremony, which gives the female a protector, and
the man a helpmate, a sharer of his joys and sorrows. The Gypsies
are almost entirely ignorant of the grand points of morality; they
have never had sufficient sense to perceive that to lie, to steal,
and to shed human blood violently, are crimes which are sure,
eventually, to yield bitter fruits to those who perpetrate them;
but on one point, and that one of no little importance as far as
temporal happiness is concerned, they are in general wiser than
those who have had far better opportunities than such unfortunate
outcasts, of regulating their steps, and distinguishing good from
evil. They know that chastity is a jewel of high price, and that
conjugal fidelity is capable of occasionally flinging a sunshine
even over the dreary hours of a life passed in the contempt of
almost all laws, whether human or divine.
There is a word in the Gypsy language to which those who speak it
attach ideas of peculiar reverence, far superior to that connected
with the name of the Supreme Being, the creator of themselves and
the universe. This word is LACHA, which with them is the corporeal
chastity of the females; we say corporeal chastity, for no other do
they hold in the slightest esteem; it is lawful amongst them, nay
praiseworthy, to be obscene in look, gesture, and discourse, to be
accessories to vice, and to stand by and laugh at the worst
abominations of the Busne, provided their LACHA YE TRUPOS, or
corporeal chastity, remains unblemished. The Gypsy child, from her
earliest years, is told by her strange mother, that a good Calli
need only dread one thing in this world, and that is the loss of
Lacha, in comparison with which that of life is of little
consequence, as in such an event she will be provided for, but what
provision is there for a Gypsy who has lost her Lacha? 'Bear this
in mind, my child,' she will say, 'and now eat this bread, and go
forth and see what you can steal.'
A Gypsy girl is generally betrothed at the age of fourteen to the
youth whom her parents deem a suitable match, and who is generally
a few years older than herself. Marriage is invariably preceded by
betrothment; and the couple must then wait two years before their
union can take place, according to the law of the Cales. During
this period it is expected that they treat each other as common
acquaintance; they are permitted to converse, and even occasionally
to exchange slight presents. One thing, however, is strictly
forbidden, and if in this instance they prove contumacious, the
betrothment is instantly broken and the pair are never united, and
thenceforward bear an evil reputation amongst their sect. This one
thing is, going into the campo in each other's company, or having
any rendezvous beyond the gate of the city, town, or village, in
which they dwell. Upon this point we can perhaps do no better than
quote one of their own stanzas:-
'Thy sire and mother wrath and hate
Have vowed against us, love!
The first, first night that from the gate
We two together rove.'
With all the other Gypsies, however, and with the Busne or
Gentiles, the betrothed female is allowed the freest intercourse,
going whither she will, and returning at all times and seasons.
With respect to the Busne, indeed, the parents are invariably less
cautious than with their own race, as they conceive it next to an
impossibility that their child should lose her Lacha by any
intercourse with THE WHITE BLOOD; and true it is that experience
has proved that their confidence in this respect is not altogether
idle. The Gitanas have in general a decided aversion to the white
men; some few instances, however, to the contrary are said to have
A short time previous to the expiration of the term of the
betrothment, preparations are made for the Gypsy bridal. The
wedding-day is certainly an eventful period in the life of every
individual, as he takes a partner for better or for worse, whom he
is bound to cherish through riches and poverty; but to the Gypsy
particularly the wedding festival is an important affair. If he is
rich, he frequently becomes poor before it is terminated; and if he
is poor, he loses the little which he possesses, and must borrow of
his brethren; frequently involving himself throughout life, to
procure the means of giving a festival; for without a festival, he
could not become a Rom, that is, a husband, and would cease to
belong to this sect of Rommany.
There is a great deal of what is wild and barbarous attached to
these festivals. I shall never forget a particular one at which I
was present. After much feasting, drinking, and yelling, in the
Gypsy house, the bridal train sallied forth - a frantic spectacle.
First of all marched a villainous jockey-looking fellow, holding in
his hands, uplifted, a long pole, at the top of which fluttered in
the morning air a snow-white cambric handkerchief, emblem of the
bride's purity. Then came the betrothed pair, followed by their
nearest friends; then a rabble rout of Gypsies, screaming and
shouting, and discharging guns and pistols, till all around rang
with the din, and the village dogs barked. On arriving at the
church gate, the fellow who bore the pole stuck it into the ground
with a loud huzza, and the train, forming two ranks, defiled into
the church on either side of the pole and its strange ornaments.
On the conclusion of the ceremony, they returned in the same manner
in which they had come.
Throughout the day there was nothing going on but singing,
drinking, feasting, and dancing; but the most singular part of the
festival was reserved for the dark night. Nearly a ton weight of
sweetmeats had been prepared, at an enormous expense, not for the
gratification of the palate, but for a purpose purely Gypsy. These
sweetmeats of all kinds, and of all forms, but principally yemas,
or yolks of eggs prepared with a crust of sugar (a delicious bonnebouche),
were strewn on the floor of a large room, at least to the
depth of three inches. Into this room, at a given signal, tripped
the bride and bridegroom DANCING ROMALIS, followed amain by all the
Gitanos and Gitanas, DANCING ROMALIS. To convey a slight idea of
the scene is almost beyond the power of words. In a few minutes
the sweetmeats were reduced to a powder, or rather to a mud, the
dancers were soiled to the knees with sugar, fruits, and yolks of
eggs. Still more terrific became the lunatic merriment. The men
sprang high into the air, neighed, brayed, and crowed; whilst the
Gitanas snapped their fingers in their own fashion, louder than
castanets, distorting their forms into all kinds of obscene
attitudes, and uttering words to repeat which were an abomination.
In a corner of the apartment capered the while Sebastianillo, a
convict Gypsy from Melilla, strumming the guitar most furiously,
and producing demoniacal sounds which had some resemblance to
Malbrun (Malbrouk), and, as he strummed, repeating at intervals the
Gypsy modification of the song:-
'Chala Malbrun chinguerar,
Birandon, birandon, birandera -
Chala Malbrun chinguerar,
No se bus trutera -
No se bus trutera.
No se bus trutera.
La romi que le camela,
Birandon, birandon,' etc.
The festival endures three days, at the end of which the greatest
part of the property of the bridegroom, even if he were previously
in easy circumstances, has been wasted in this strange kind of riot
and dissipation. Paco, the Gypsy of Badajoz, attributed his ruin
to the extravagance of his marriage festival; and many other
Gitanos have confessed the same thing of themselves. They said
that throughout the three days they appeared to be under the
influence of infatuation, having no other wish or thought but to
make away with their substance; some have gone so far as to cast
money by handfuls into the street. Throughout the three days all
the doors are kept open, and all corners, whether Gypsies or Busne,
welcomed with a hospitality which knows no bounds.
In nothing do the Jews and Gitanos more resemble each other than in
their marriages, and what is connected therewith. In both sects
there is a betrothment: amongst the Jews for seven, amongst the
Gitanos for a period of two years. In both there is a wedding
festival, which endures amongst the Jews for fifteen and amongst
the Gitanos for three days, during which, on both sides, much that
is singular and barbarous occurs, which, however, has perhaps its
origin in antiquity the most remote. But the wedding ceremonies of
the Jews are far more complex and allegorical than those of the
Gypsies, a more simple people. The Nazarene gazes on these
ceremonies with mute astonishment; the washing of the bride - the
painting of the face of herself and her companions with chalk and
carmine - her ensconcing herself within the curtains of the bed
with her female bevy, whilst the bridegroom hides himself within
his apartment with the youths his companions - her envelopment in
the white sheet, in which she appears like a corse, the
bridegroom's going to sup with her, when he places himself in the
middle of the apartment with his eyes shut, and without tasting a
morsel. His going to the synagogue, and then repairing to
breakfast with the bride, where he practises the same self-denial -
the washing of the bridegroom's plate and sending it after him,
that he may break his fast - the binding his hands behind him - his
ransom paid by the bride's mother - the visit of the sages to the
bridegroom - the mulct imposed in case he repent - the killing of
the bullock at the house of the bridegroom - the present of meat
and fowls, meal and spices, to the bride - the gold and silver -
that most imposing part of the ceremony, the walking of the bride
by torchlight to the house of her betrothed, her eyes fixed in
vacancy, whilst the youths of her kindred sing their wild songs
around her - the cup of milk and the spoon presented to her by the
bridegroom's mother - the arrival of the sages in the morn - the
reading of the Ketuba - the night - the half-enjoyment - the old
woman - the tantalising knock at the door - and then the festival
of fishes which concludes all, and leaves the jaded and wearied
couple to repose after a fortnight of persecution.
The Jews, like the Gypsies, not unfrequently ruin themselves by the
riot and waste of their marriage festivals. Throughout the entire
fortnight, the houses, both of bride and bridegroom, are flung open
to all corners; - feasting and song occupy the day - feasting and
song occupy the hours of the night, and this continued revel is
only broken by the ceremonies of which we have endeavoured to
convey a faint idea. In these festivals the sages or ULEMMA take a
distinguished part, doing their utmost to ruin the contracted
parties, by the wonderful despatch which they make of the fowls and
viands, sweetmeats, AND STRONG WATERS provided for the occasion.
After marriage the Gypsy females generally continue faithful to
their husbands through life; giving evidence that the exhortations
of their mothers in early life have not been without effect. Of
course licentious females are to be found both amongst the matrons
and the unmarried; but such instances are rare, and must be
considered in the light of exceptions to a principle. The Gypsy
women (I am speaking of those of Spain), as far as corporeal
chastity goes, are very paragons; but in other respects, alas! -
little can be said in praise of their morality.
WHILST in Spain I devoted as much time as I could spare from my
grand object, which was to circulate the Gospel through that
benighted country, to attempt to enlighten the minds of the Gitanos
on the subject of religion. I cannot say that I experienced much
success in my endeavours; indeed, I never expected much, being
fully acquainted with the stony nature of the ground on which I was
employed; perhaps some of the seed that I scattered may eventually
spring up and yield excellent fruit. Of one thing I am certain:
if I did the Gitanos no good, I did them no harm.
It has been said that there is a secret monitor, or conscience,
within every heart, which immediately upbraids the individual on
the commission of a crime; this may be true, but certainly the
monitor within the Gitano breast is a very feeble one, for little
attention is ever paid to its reproofs. With regard to conscience,
be it permitted to observe, that it varies much according to
climate, country, and religion; perhaps nowhere is it so terrible
and strong as in England; I need not say why. Amongst the English,
I have seen many individuals stricken low, and broken-hearted, by
the force of conscience; but never amongst the Spaniards or
Italians; and I never yet could observe that the crimes which the
Gitanos were daily and hourly committing occasioned them the
slightest uneasiness.
One important discovery I made among them: it was, that no
individual, however wicked and hardened, is utterly GODLESS. Call
it superstition, if you will, still a certain fear and reverence of
something sacred and supreme would hang about them. I have heard
Gitanos stiffly deny the existence of a Deity, and express the
utmost contempt for everything holy; yet they subsequently never
failed to contradict themselves, by permitting some expression to
escape which belied their assertions, and of this I shall presently
give a remarkable instance.
I found the women much more disposed to listen to anything I had to
say than the men, who were in general so taken up with their
traffic that they could think and talk of nothing else; the women,
too, had more curiosity and more intelligence; the conversational
powers of some of them I found to be very great, and yet they were
destitute of the slightest rudiments of education, and were thieves
by profession. At Madrid I had regular conversaziones, or, as they
are called in Spanish, tertulias, with these women, who generally
visited me twice a week; they were perfectly unreserved towards me
with respect to their actions and practices, though their
behaviour, when present, was invariably strictly proper. I have
already had cause to mention Pepa the sibyl, and her daughter-inlaw,
Chicharona; the manners of the first were sometimes almost
elegant, though, next to Aurora, she was the most notorious shethug
in Madrid; Chicharona was good-humoured, like most fat
personages. Pepa had likewise two daughters, one of whom, a very
remarkable female, was called La Tuerta, from the circumstance of
her having but one eye, and the other, who was a girl of about
thirteen, La Casdami, or the scorpion, from the malice which she
occasionally displayed.
Pepa and Chicharona were invariably my most constant visitors. One
day in winter they arrived as usual; the One-eyed and the Scorpion
following behind.
MYSELF. - 'I am glad to see you, Pepa: what have you been doing
this morning?'
PEPA. - 'I have been telling baji, and Chicharona has been stealing
a pastesas; we have had but little success, and have come to warm
ourselves at the brasero. As for the One-eyed, she is a very
sluggard (holgazana), she will neither tell fortunes nor steal.'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'Hold your peace, mother of the Bengues; I will
steal, when I see occasion, but it shall not be a pastesas, and I
will hokkawar (deceive), but it shall not be by telling fortunes.
If I deceive, it shall be by horses, by jockeying. (58) If I
steal, it shall be on the road - I'll rob. You know already what I
am capable of, yet knowing that, you would have me tell fortunes
like yourself, or steal like Chicharona. Me dinela conche (it
fills me with fury) to be asked to tell fortunes, and the next
Busnee that talks to me of bajis, I will knock all her teeth out.'
THE SCORPION. - 'My sister is right; I, too, would sooner be a
salteadora (highwaywoman), or a chalana (she-jockey), than steal
with the hands, or tell bajis.'
MYSELF. - 'You do not mean to say, O Tuerta, that you are a jockey,
and that you rob on the highway.'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'I am a chalana, brother, and many a time I have
robbed upon the road, as all our people know. I dress myself as a
man, and go forth with some of them. I have robbed alone, in the
pass of the Guadarama, with my horse and escopeta. I alone once
robbed a cuadrilla of twenty Gallegos, who were returning to their
own country, after cutting the harvests of Castile; I stripped them
of their earnings, and could have stripped them of their very
clothes had I wished, for they were down on their knees like
cowards. I love a brave man, be he Busne or Gypsy. When I was not
much older than the Scorpion, I went with several others to rob the
cortijo of an old man; it was more than twenty leagues from here.
We broke in at midnight, and bound the old man: we knew he had
money; but he said no, and would not tell us where it was; so we
tortured him, pricking him with our knives and burning his hands
over the lamp; all, however, would not do. At last I said, "Let us
try the PIMIENTOS"; so we took the green pepper husks, pulled open
his eyelids, and rubbed the pupils with the green pepper fruit.
That was the worst pinch of all. Would you believe it? the old man
bore it. Then our people said, "Let us kill him," but I said, no,
it were a pity: so we spared him, though we got nothing. I have
loved that old man ever since for his firm heart, and should have
wished him for a husband.'
THE SCORPION. - 'Ojala, that I had been in that cortijo, to see
such sport!'
MYSELF. - 'Do you fear God, O Tuerta?'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'Brother, I fear nothing.'
MYSELF. - 'Do you believe in God, O Tuerta?'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'Brother, I do not; I hate all connected with that
name; the whole is folly; me dinela conche. If I go to church, it
is but to spit at the images. I spat at the bulto of Maria this
morning; and I love the Corojai, and the Londone, (59) because they
are not baptized.'
MYSELF. - 'You, of course, never say a prayer.'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'No, no; there are three or four old words, taught
me by some old people, which I sometimes say to myself; I believe
they have both force and virtue.'
MYSELF. - 'I would fain hear; pray tell me them.'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'Brother, they are words not to be repeated.'
MYSELF. - 'Why not?'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'They are holy words, brother.'
MYSELF. - 'Holy! You say there is no God; if there be none, there
can be nothing holy; pray tell me the words, O Tuerta.'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'Brother, I dare not.'
MYSELF. - 'Then you do fear something.'
and now I wish I had not said them.'
MYSELF. - 'You are distracted, O Tuerta: the words say simply,
'Dwell within us, blessed Maria.' You have spitten on her bulto
this morning in the church, and now you are afraid to repeat four
words, amongst which is her name.'
THE ONE-EYED. - 'I did not understand them; but I wish I had not
said them.'
. . . . . . .
I repeat that there is no individual, however hardened, who is
utterly GODLESS.
The reader will have already gathered from the conversations
reported in this volume, and especially from the last, that there
is a wide difference between addressing Spanish Gitanos and Gitanas
and English peasantry: of a certainty what will do well for the
latter is calculated to make no impression on these thievish halfwild
people. Try them with the Gospel, I hear some one cry, which
speaks to all: I did try them with the Gospel, and in their own
language. I commenced with Pepa and Chicharona. Determined that
they should understand it, I proposed that they themselves should
translate it. They could neither read nor write, which, however,
did not disqualify them from being translators. I had myself
previously translated the whole Testament into the Spanish Rommany,
but I was desirous to circulate amongst the Gitanos a version
conceived in the exact language in which they express their ideas.
The women made no objection, they were fond of our tertulias, and
they likewise reckoned on one small glass of Malaga wine, with
which I invariably presented them. Upon the whole, they conducted
themselves much better than could have been expected. We commenced
with Saint Luke: they rendering into Rommany the sentences which I
delivered to them in Spanish. They proceeded as far as the eighth
chapter, in the middle of which they broke down. Was that to be
wondered at? The only thing which astonished me was, that I had
induced two such strange beings to advance so far in a task so
unwonted, and so entirely at variance with their habits, as
These chapters I frequently read over to them, explaining the
subject in the best manner I was able. They said it was lacho, and
jucal, and misto, all of which words express approval of the
quality of a thing. Were they improved, were their hearts softened
by these Scripture lectures? I know not. Pepa committed a rather
daring theft shortly afterwards, which compelled her to conceal
herself for a fortnight; it is quite possible, however, that she
may remember the contents of those chapters on her death-bed; if
so, will the attempt have been a futile one?
I completed the translation, supplying deficiencies from my own
version begun at Badajoz in 1836. This translation I printed at
Madrid in 1838; it was the first book which ever appeared in
Rommany, and was called 'Embeo e Majaro Lucas,' or Gospel of Luke
the Saint. I likewise published, simultaneously, the same Gospel
in Basque, which, however, I had no opportunity of circulating.
The Gitanos of Madrid purchased the Gypsy Luke freely: many of the
men understood it, and prized it highly, induced of course more by
the language than the doctrine; the women were particularly anxious
to obtain copies, though unable to read; but each wished to have
one in her pocket, especially when engaged in thieving expeditions,
for they all looked upon it in the light of a charm, which would
preserve them from all danger and mischance; some even went so far
as to say, that in this respect it was equally efficacious as the
Bar Lachi, or loadstone, which they are in general so desirous of
possessing. Of this Gospel (61) five hundred copies were printed,
of which the greater number I contrived to circulate amongst the
Gypsies in various parts; I cast the book upon the waters and left
it to its destiny.
I have counted seventeen Gitanas assembled at one time in my
apartment in the Calle de Santiago in Madrid; for the first quarter
of an hour we generally discoursed upon indifferent matters, I then
by degrees drew their attention to religion and the state of souls.
I finally became so bold that I ventured to speak against their
inveterate practices, thieving and lying, telling fortunes, and
stealing a pastesas; this was touching upon delicate ground, and I
experienced much opposition and much feminine clamour. I
persevered, however, and they finally assented to all I said, not
that I believe that my words made much impression upon their
hearts. In a few months matters were so far advanced that they
would sing a hymn; I wrote one expressly for them in Rommany, in
which their own wild couplets were, to a certain extent, imitated.
The people of the street in which I lived, seeing such numbers of
these strange females continually passing in and out, were struck
with astonishment, and demanded the reason. The answers which they
obtained by no means satisfied them. 'Zeal for the conversion of
souls, - the souls too of Gitanas, - disparate! the fellow is a
scoundrel. Besides he is an Englishman, and is not baptized; what
cares he for souls? They visit him for other purposes. He makes
base ounces, which they carry away and circulate. Madrid is
already stocked with false money.' Others were of opinion that we
met for the purposes of sorcery and abomination. The Spaniard has
no conception that other springs of action exist than interest or
My little congregation, if such I may call it, consisted entirely
of women; the men seldom or never visited me, save they stood in
need of something which they hoped to obtain from me. This
circumstance I little regretted, their manners and conversation
being the reverse of interesting. It must not, however, be
supposed that, even with the women, matters went on invariably in a
smooth and satisfactory manner. The following little anecdote will
show what slight dependence can be placed upon them, and how
disposed they are at all times to take part in what is grotesque
and malicious. One day they arrived, attended by a Gypsy jockey
whom I had never previously seen. We had scarcely been seated a
minute, when this fellow, rising, took me to the window, and
without any preamble or circumlocution, said - 'Don Jorge, you
shall lend me two barias' (ounces of gold). 'Not to your whole
race, my excellent friend,' said I; 'are you frantic? Sit down and
be discreet.' He obeyed me literally, sat down, and when the rest
departed, followed with them. We did not invariably meet at my own
house, but occasionally at one in a street inhabited by Gypsies.
On the appointed day I went to this house, where I found the women
assembled; the jockey was also present. On seeing me he advanced,
again took me aside, and again said - 'Don Jorge, you shall lend me
two barias.' I made him no answer, but at once entered on the
subject which brought me thither. I spoke for some time in
Spanish; I chose for the theme of my discourse the situation of the
Hebrews in Egypt, and pointed out its similarity to that of the
Gitanos in Spain. I spoke of the power of God, manifested in
preserving both as separate and distinct people amongst the nations
until the present day. I warmed with my subject. I subsequently
produced a manuscript book, from which I read a portion of
Scripture, and the Lord's Prayer and Apostles' Creed, in Rommany.
When I had concluded I looked around me.
The features of the assembly were twisted, and the eyes of all
turned upon me with a frightful squint; not an individual present
but squinted, - the genteel Pepa, the good-humoured Chicharona, the
Casdami, etc. etc. The Gypsy fellow, the contriver of the jest,
squinted worst of all. Such are Gypsies.
THERE is no nation in the world, however exalted or however
degraded, but is in possession of some peculiar poetry. If the
Chinese, the Hindoos, the Greeks, and the Persians, those splendid
and renowned races, have their moral lays, their mythological
epics, their tragedies, and their immortal love songs, so also have
the wild and barbarous tribes of Soudan, and the wandering
Esquimaux, their ditties, which, however insignificant in
comparison with the compositions of the former nations, still are
entitled in every essential point to the name of poetry; if poetry
mean metrical compositions intended to soothe and recreate the mind
fatigued by the cares, distresses, and anxieties to which mortality
is subject.
The Gypsies too have their poetry. Of that of the Russian Zigani
we have already said something. It has always been our opinion,
and we believe that in this we are by no means singular, that in
nothing can the character of a people be read with greater
certainty and exactness than in its songs. How truly do the
warlike ballads of the Northmen and the Danes, their DRAPAS and
KOEMPE-VISER, depict the character of the Goth; and how equally do
the songs of the Arabians, replete with homage to the one high,
uncreated, and eternal God, 'the fountain of blessing,' 'the only
conqueror,' lay bare to us the mind of the Moslem of the desert,
whose grand characteristic is religious veneration, and
uncompromising zeal for the glory of the Creator.
And well and truly do the coplas and gachaplas of the Gitanos
depict the character of the race. This poetry, for poetry we will
call it, is in most respects such as might be expected to originate
among people of their class; a set of Thugs, subsisting by cheating
and villainy of every description; hating the rest of the human
species, and bound to each other by the bonds of common origin,
language, and pursuits. The general themes of this poetry are the
various incidents of Gitano life and the feelings of the Gitanos.
A Gypsy sees a pig running down a hill, and imagines that it cries
'Ustilame Caloro!' (62) - a Gypsy reclining sick on the prison
floor beseeches his wife to intercede with the alcayde for the
removal of the chain, the weight of which is bursting his body -
the moon arises, and two Gypsies, who are about to steal a steed,
perceive a Spaniard, and instantly flee - Juanito Ralli, whilst
going home on his steed, is stabbed by a Gypsy who hates him -
Facundo, a Gypsy, runs away at the sight of the burly priest of
Villa Franca, who hates all Gypsies. Sometimes a burst of wild
temper gives occasion to a strain - the swarthy lover threatens to
slay his betrothed, even AT THE FEET OF JESUS, should she prove
unfaithful. It is a general opinion amongst the Gitanos that
Spanish women are very fond of Rommany chals and Rommany. There is
a stanza in which a Gitano hopes to bear away a beauty of Spanish
race by means of a word of Rommany whispered in her ear at the
Amongst these effusions are even to be found tender and beautiful
thoughts; for Thugs and Gitanos have their moments of gentleness.
True it is that such are few and far between, as a flower or a
shrub is here and there seen springing up from the interstices of
the rugged and frightful rocks of which the Spanish sierras are
composed: a wicked mother is afraid to pray to the Lord with her
own lips, and calls on her innocent babe to beseech him to restore
peace and comfort to her heart - an imprisoned youth appears to
have no earthly friend on whom he can rely, save his sister, and
wishes for a messenger to carry unto her the tale of his
sufferings, confident that she would hasten at once to his
assistance. And what can be more touching than the speech of the
relenting lover to the fair one whom he has outraged?
'Extend to me the hand so small,
Wherein I see thee weep,
For O thy balmy tear-drops all
I would collect and keep.'
This Gypsy poetry consists of quartets, or rather couplets, but two
rhymes being discernible, and those generally imperfect, the vowels
alone agreeing in sound. Occasionally, however, sixains, or
stanzas of six lines, are to be found, but this is of rare
occurrence. The thought, anecdote or adventure described, is
seldom carried beyond one stanza, in which everything is expressed
which the poet wishes to impart. This feature will appear singular
to those who are unacquainted with the character of the popular
poetry of the south, and are accustomed to the redundancy and
frequently tedious repetition of a more polished muse. It will be
well to inform such that the greater part of the poetry sung in the
south, and especially in Spain, is extemporary. The musician
composes it at the stretch of his voice, whilst his fingers are
tugging at the guitar; which style of composition is by no means
favourable to a long and connected series of thought. Of course,
the greater part of this species of poetry perishes as soon as
born. A stanza, however, is sometimes caught up by the bystanders,
and committed to memory; and being frequently repeated, makes, in
time, the circuit of the country. For example, the stanza about
Coruncho Lopez, which was originally made at the gate of a venta by
a Miquelet, (63) who was conducting the said Lopez to the galleys
for a robbery. It is at present sung through the whole of the
peninsula, however insignificant it may sound to foreign ears:-
'Coruncho Lopez, gallant lad,
A smuggling he would ride;
He stole his father's ambling prad,
And therefore to the galleys sad
Coruncho now I guide.'
The couplets of the Gitanos are composed in the same off-hand
manner, and exactly resemble in metre the popular ditties of the
Spaniards. In spirit, however, as well as language, they are in
general widely different, as they mostly relate to the Gypsies and
their affairs, and not unfrequently abound with abuse of the Busne
or Spaniards. Many of these creations have, like the stanza of
Coruncho Lopez, been wafted over Spain amongst the Gypsy tribes,
and are even frequently repeated by the Spaniards themselves; at
least, by those who affect to imitate the phraseology of the
Gitanos. Those which appear in the present collection consist
partly of such couplets, and partly of such as we have ourselves
taken down, as soon as they originated, not unfrequently in the
midst of a circle of these singular people, dancing and singing to
their wild music. In no instance have they been subjected to
modification; and the English translation is, in general, very
faithful to the original, as will easily be perceived by referring
to the lexicon. To those who may feel disposed to find fault with
or criticise these songs, we have to observe, that the present work
has been written with no other view than to depict the Gitanos such
as they are, and to illustrate their character; and, on that
account, we have endeavoured, as much as possible, to bring them
before the reader, and to make them speak for themselves. They are
a half-civilised, unlettered people, proverbial for a species of
knavish acuteness, which serves them in lieu of wisdom. To place
in the mouth of such beings the high-flown sentiments of modern
poetry would not answer our purpose, though several authors have
not shrunk from such an absurdity.
These couplets have been collected in Estremadura and New Castile,
in Valencia and Andalusia; the four provinces where the Gitano race
most abounds. We wish, however, to remark, that they constitute
scarcely a tenth part of our original gleanings, from which we have
selected one hundred of the most remarkable and interesting.
The language of the originals will convey an exact idea of the
Rommany of Spain, as used at the present day amongst the Gitanos in
the fairs, when they are buying and selling animals, and wish to
converse with each other in a way unintelligible to the Spaniards.
We are free to confess that it is a mere broken jargon, but it
answers the purpose of those who use it; and it is but just to
remark that many of its elements are of the most remote antiquity,
and the most illustrious descent, as will be shown hereafter. We
have uniformly placed the original by the side of the translation;
for though unwilling to make the Gitanos speak in any other manner
than they are accustomed, we are equally averse to have it supposed
that many of the thoughts and expressions which occur in these
songs, and which are highly objectionable, originated with
ourselves. (64)
Unto a refuge me they led,
To save from dungeon drear;
Then sighing to my wife I said,
I leave my baby dear.
Back from the refuge soon I sped,
My child's sweet face to see;
Then sternly to my wife I said,
You've seen the last of me.
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.
Pray, little baby, pray the Lord,
Since guiltless still thou art,
That peace and comfort he afford
To this poor troubled heart.
The false Juanito, day and night,
Had best with caution go,
The Gypsy carles of Yeira height
Have sworn to lay him low.
There runs a swine down yonder hill,
As fast as e'er he can,
And as he runs he crieth still,
Come, steal me, Gypsy man.
I wash'd not in the limpid flood
The shirt which binds my frame;
But in Juanito Ralli's blood
I bravely wash'd the same.
I sallied forth upon my grey,
With him my hated foe,
And when we reach'd the narrow way
I dealt a dagger blow.
To blessed Jesus' holy feet
I'd rush to kill and slay
My plighted lass so fair and sweet,
Should she the wanton play.
I for a cup of water cried,
But they refus'd my prayer,
Then straight into the road I hied,
And fell to robbing there.
I ask'd for fire to warm my frame,
But they'd have scorn'd my prayer,
If I, to pay them for the same,
Had stripp'd my body bare.
Then came adown the village street,
With little babes that cry,
Because they have no crust to eat,
A Gypsy company;
And as no charity they meet,
They curse the Lord on high.
I left my house and walk'd about,
They seized me fast and bound;
It is a Gypsy thief, they shout,
The Spaniards here have found.
From out the prison me they led,
Before the scribe they brought;
It is no Gypsy thief, he said,
The Spaniards here have caught.
Throughout the night, the dusky night,
I prowl in silence round,
And with my eyes look left and right,
For him, the Spanish hound,
That with my knife I him may smite,
And to the vitals wound.
Will no one to the sister bear
News of her brother's plight,
How in this cell of dark despair,
To cruel death he's dight?
The Lord, as e'en the Gentiles state,
By Egypt's race was bred,
And when he came to man's estate,
His blood the Gentiles shed.
O never with the Gentiles wend,
Nor deem their speeches true;
Or else, be certain in the end
Thy blood will lose its hue.
From out the prison me they bore,
Upon an ass they placed,
And scourg'd me till I dripp'd with gore,
As down the road it paced.
They bore me from the prison nook,
They bade me rove at large;
When out I'd come a gun I took,
And scathed them with its charge.
My mule so bonny I bestrode,
To Portugal I'd flee,
And as I o'er the water rode
A man came suddenly;
And he his love and kindness show'd
By setting his dog on me.
Unless within a fortnight's space
Thy face, O maid, I see;
Flamenca, of Egyptian race,
My lady love shall be.
Flamenca, of Egyptian race,
If thou wert only mine,
Within a bonny crystal case
For life I'd thee enshrine.
Sire nor mother me caress,
For I have none on earth;
One little brother I possess,
And he's a fool by birth.
Thy sire and mother wrath and hate
Have vow'd against me, love!
The first, first night that from the gate
We two together rove.
Come to the window, sweet love, do,
And I will whisper there,
In Rommany, a word or two,
And thee far off will bear.
A Gypsy stripling's sparkling eye
Has pierced my bosom's core,
A feat no eye beneath the sky
Could e'er effect before.
Dost bid me from the land begone,
And thou with child by me?
Each time I come, the little one,
I'll greet in Rommany.
With such an ugly, loathly wife
The Lord has punish'd me;
I dare not take her for my life
Where'er the Spaniards be.
O, I am not of gentle clan,
I'm sprung from Gypsy tree;
And I will be no gentleman,
But an Egyptian free.
On high arose the moon so fair,
The Gypsy 'gan to sing:
I see a Spaniard coming there,
I must be on the wing.
This house of harlotry doth smell,
I flee as from the pest;
Your mother likes my sire too well;
To hie me home is best.
The girl I love more dear than life,
Should other gallant woo,
I'd straight unsheath my dudgeon knife
And cut his weasand through;
Or he, the conqueror in the strife,
The same to me should do.
Loud sang the Spanish cavalier,
And thus his ditty ran:
God send the Gypsy lassie here,
And not the Gypsy man.
At midnight, when the moon began
To show her silver flame,
There came to him no Gypsy man,
The Gypsy lassie came.
THE Gitanos, abject and vile as they have ever been, have
nevertheless found admirers in Spain, individuals who have taken
pleasure in their phraseology, pronunciation, and way of life; but
above all, in the songs and dances of the females. This desire for
cultivating their acquaintance is chiefly prevalent in Andalusia,
where, indeed, they most abound; and more especially in the town of
Seville, the capital of the province, where, in the barrio or
Faubourg of Triana, a large Gitano colon has long flourished, with
the denizens of which it is at all times easy to have intercourse,
especially to those who are free of their money, and are willing to
purchase such a gratification at the expense of dollars and
When we consider the character of the Andalusians in general, we
shall find little to surprise us in this predilection for the
Gitanos. They are an indolent frivolous people, fond of dancing
and song, and sensual amusements. They live under the most
glorious sun and benign heaven in Europe, and their country is by
nature rich and fertile, yet in no province of Spain is there more
beggary and misery; the greater part of the land being
uncultivated, and producing nothing but thorns and brushwood,
affording in itself a striking emblem of the moral state of its
Though not destitute of talent, the Andalusians are not much
addicted to intellectual pursuits, at least in the present day.
The person in most esteem among them is invariably the greatest
MAJO, and to acquire that character it is necessary to appear in
the dress of a Merry Andrew, to bully, swagger, and smoke
continually, to dance passably, and to strum the guitar. They are
fond of obscenity and what they term PICARDIAS. Amongst them
learning is at a terrible discount, Greek, Latin, or any of the
languages generally termed learned, being considered in any light
but accomplishments, but not so the possession of thieves' slang or
the dialect of the Gitanos, the knowledge of a few words of which
invariably creates a certain degree of respect, as indicating that
the individual is somewhat versed in that kind of life or TRATO for
which alone the Andalusians have any kind of regard.
In Andalusia the Gitano has been studied by those who, for various
reasons, have mingled with the Gitanos. It is tolerably well
understood by the chalans, or jockeys, who have picked up many
words in the fairs and market-places which the former frequent. It
has, however, been cultivated to a greater degree by other
individuals, who have sought the society of the Gitanos from a zest
for their habits, their dances, and their songs; and such
individuals have belonged to all classes, amongst them have been
noblemen and members of the priestly order.
Perhaps no people in Andalusia have been more addicted in general
to the acquaintance of the Gitanos than the friars, and preeminently
amongst these the half-jockey half-religious personages
of the Cartujan convent at Xeres. This community, now suppressed,
was, as is well known, in possession of a celebrated breed of
horses, which fed in the pastures of the convent, and from which
they derived no inconsiderable part of their revenue. These
reverend gentlemen seem to have been much better versed in the
points of a horse than in points of theology, and to have
understood thieves' slang and Gitano far better than the language
of the Vulgate. A chalan, who had some knowledge of the Gitano,
related to me the following singular anecdote in connection with
this subject.
He had occasion to go to the convent, having been long in treaty
with the friars for a steed which he had been commissioned by a
nobleman to buy at any reasonable price. The friars, however, were
exorbitant in their demands. On arriving at the gate, he sang to
the friar who opened it a couplet which he had composed in the
Gypsy tongue, in which he stated the highest price which he was
authorised to give for the animal in question; whereupon the friar
instantly answered in the same tongue in an extemporary couplet
full of abuse of him and his employer, and forthwith slammed the
door in the face of the disconcerted jockey.
An Augustine friar of Seville, called, we believe, Father Manso,
who lived some twenty years ago, is still remembered for his
passion for the Gitanos; he seemed to be under the influence of
fascination, and passed every moment that he could steal from his
clerical occupations in their company. His conduct at last became
so notorious that he fell under the censure of the Inquisition,
before which he was summoned; whereupon he alleged, in his defence,
that his sole motive for following the Gitanos was zeal for their
spiritual conversion. Whether this plea availed him we know not;
but it is probable that the Holy Office dealt mildly with him; such
offenders, indeed, have never had much to fear from it. Had he
been accused of liberalism, or searching into the Scriptures,
instead of connection with the Gitanos, we should, doubtless, have
heard either of his execution or imprisonment for life in the cells
of the cathedral of Seville.
Such as are thus addicted to the Gitanos and their language, are
called, in Andalusia, Los del' Aficion, or those of the
predilection. These people have, during the last fifty years,
composed a spurious kind of Gypsy literature: we call it spurious
because it did not originate with the Gitanos, who are, moreover,
utterly unacquainted with it, and to whom it would be for the most
part unintelligible. It is somewhat difficult to conceive the
reason which induced these individuals to attempt such
compositions; the only probable one seems to have been a desire to
display to each other their skill in the language of their
predilection. It is right, however, to observe, that most of these
compositions, with respect to language, are highly absurd, the
greatest liberties being taken with the words picked up amongst the
Gitanos, of the true meaning of which the writers, in many
instances, seem to have been entirely ignorant. From what we can
learn, the composers of this literature flourished chiefly at the
commencement of the present century: Father Manso is said to have
been one of the last. Many of their compositions, which are both
in poetry and prose, exist in manuscript in a compilation made by
one Luis Lobo. It has never been our fortune to see this
compilation, which, indeed, we scarcely regret, as a rather curious
circumstance has afforded us a perfect knowledge of its contents.
Whilst at Seville, chance made us acquainted with a highly
extraordinary individual, a tall, bony, meagre figure, in a
tattered Andalusian hat, ragged capote, and still more ragged
pantaloons, and seemingly between forty and fifty years of age.
The only appellation to which he answered was Manuel. His
occupation, at the time we knew him, was selling tickets for the
lottery, by which he obtained a miserable livelihood in Seville and
the neighbouring villages. His appearance was altogether wild and
uncouth, and there was an insane expression in his eye. Observing
us one day in conversation with a Gitana, he addressed us, and we
soon found that the sound of the Gitano language had struck a chord
which vibrated through the depths of his soul. His history was
remarkable; in his early youth a manuscript copy of the compilation
of Luis Lobo had fallen into his hands. This book had so taken
hold of his imagination, that he studied it night and day until he
had planted it in his memory from beginning to end; but in so
doing, his brain, like that of the hero of Cervantes, had become
dry and heated, so that he was unfitted for any serious or useful
occupation. After the death of his parents he wandered about the
streets in great distress, until at last he fell into the hands of
certain toreros, or bull-fighters, who kept him about them, in
order that he might repeat to them the songs of the AFICION. They
subsequently carried him to Madrid, where, however, they soon
deserted him after he had experienced much brutality from their
hands. He returned to Seville, and soon became the inmate of a
madhouse, where he continued several years. Having partially
recovered from his malady, he was liberated, and wandered about as
before. During the cholera at Seville, when nearly twenty thousand
human beings perished, he was appointed conductor of one of the
death-carts, which went through the streets for the purpose of
picking up the dead bodies. His perfect inoffensiveness eventually
procured him friends, and he obtained the situation of vendor of
lottery tickets. He frequently visited us, and would then recite
long passages from the work of Lobo. He was wont to say that he
was the only one in Seville, at the present day, acquainted with
the language of the Aficion; for though there were many pretenders,
their knowledge was confined to a few words.
From the recitation of this individual, we wrote down the
Brijindope, or Deluge, and the poem on the plague which broke out
in Seville in the year 1800. These and some songs of less
consequence, constitute the poetical part of the compilation in
question; the rest, which is in prose, consisting chiefly of
translations from the Spanish, of proverbs and religious pieces.
I with fear and terror quake,
Whilst the pen to write I take;
I will utter many a pray'r
To the heaven's Regent fair,
That she deign to succour me,
And I'll humbly bend my knee;
For but poorly do I know
With my subject on to go;
Therefore is my wisest plan
Not to trust in strength of man.
I my heavy sins bewail,
Whilst I view the wo and wail
Handed down so solemnly
In the book of times gone by.
Onward, onward, now I'll move
In the name of Christ above,
And his Mother true and dear,
She who loves the wretch to cheer.
All I know, and all I've heard
I will state - how God appear'd
And to Noah thus did cry:
Weary with the world am I;
Let an ark by thee be built,
For the world is lost in guilt;
And when thou hast built it well,
Loud proclaim what now I tell:
Straight repent ye, for your Lord
In his hand doth hold a sword.
And good Noah thus did call:
Straight repent ye one and all,
For the world with grief I see
Lost in vileness utterly.
God's own mandate I but do,
He hath sent me unto you.
Laugh'd the world to bitter scorn,
I his cruel sufferings mourn;
Brawny youths with furious air
Drag the Patriarch by the hair;
Lewdness governs every one:
Leaves her convent now the nun,
And the monk abroad I see
Practising iniquity.
Now I'll tell how God, intent
To avenge, a vapour sent,
With full many a dreadful sign -
Mighty, mighty fear is mine:
As I hear the thunders roll,
Seems to die my very soul;
As I see the world o'erspread
All with darkness thick and dread;
I the pen can scarcely ply
For the tears which dim my eye,
And o'ercome with grievous wo,
Fear the task I must forego
I have purposed to perform. -
Hark, I hear upon the storm
Thousand, thousand devils fly,
Who with awful howlings cry:
Now's the time and now's the hour,
We have licence, we have power
To obtain a glorious prey. -
I with horror turn away;
Tumbles house and tumbles wall;
Thousands lose their lives and all,
Voiding curses, screams and groans,
For the beams, the bricks and stones
Bruise and bury all below -
Nor is that the worst, I trow,
For the clouds begin to pour
Floods of water more and more,
Down upon the world with might,
Never pausing day or night.
Now in terrible distress
All to God their cries address,
And his Mother dear adore, -
But the time of grace is o'er,
For the Almighty in the sky
Holds his hand upraised on high.
Now's the time of madden'd rout,
Hideous cry, despairing shout;
Whither, whither shall they fly?
For the danger threat'ningly
Draweth near on every side,
And the earth, that's opening wide,
Swallows thousands in its womb,
Who would 'scape the dreadful doom.
Of dear hope exists no gleam,
Still the water down doth stream;
Ne'er so little a creeping thing
But from out its hold doth spring:
See the mouse, and see its mate
Scour along, nor stop, nor wait;
See the serpent and the snake
For the nearest highlands make;
The tarantula I view,
Emmet small and cricket too,
All unknowing where to fly,
In the stifling waters die.
See the goat and bleating sheep,
See the bull with bellowings deep.
And the rat with squealings shrill,
They have mounted on the hill:
See the stag, and see the doe,
How together fond they go;
Lion, tiger-beast, and pard,
To escape are striving hard:
Followed by her little ones,
See the hare how swift she runs:
Asses, he and she, a pair.
Mute and mule with bray and blare,
And the rabbit and the fox,
Hurry over stones and rocks,
With the grunting hog and horse,
Till at last they stop their course -
On the summit of the hill
All assembled stand they still;
In the second part I'll tell
Unto them what there befell.
When I last did bid farewell,
I proposed the world to tell,
Higher as the Deluge flow'd,
How the frog and how the toad,
With the lizard and the eft,
All their holes and coverts left,
And assembled on the height;
Soon I ween appeared in sight
All that's wings beneath the sky,
Bat and swallow, wasp and fly,
Gnat and sparrow, and behind
Comes the crow of carrion kind;
Dove and pigeon are descried,
And the raven fiery-eyed,
With the beetle and the crane
Flying on the hurricane:
See they find no resting-place,
For the world's terrestrial space
Is with water cover'd o'er,
Soon they sink to rise no more:
'To our father let us flee!'
Straight the ark-ship openeth he,
And to everything that lives
Kindly he admission gives.
Of all kinds a single pair,
And the members safely there
Of his house he doth embark,
Then at once he shuts the ark;
Everything therein has pass'd,
There he keeps them safe and fast.
O'er the mountain's topmost peak
Now the raging waters break.
Till full twenty days are o'er,
'Midst the elemental roar,
Up and down the ark forlorn,
Like some evil thing is borne:
O what grief it is to see
Swimming on the enormous sea
Human corses pale and white,
More, alas! than I can write:
O what grief, what grief profound,
But to think the world is drown'd:
True a scanty few are left,
All are not of life bereft,
So that, when the Lord ordain,
They may procreate again,
In a world entirely new,
Better people and more true,
To their Maker who shall bow;
And I humbly beg you now,
Ye in modern times who wend,
That your lives ye do amend;
For no wat'ry punishment,
But a heavier shall be sent;
For the blessed saints pretend
That the latter world shall end
To tremendous fire a prey,
And to ashes sink away.
To the Ark I now go back,
Which pursues its dreary track,
Lost and 'wilder'd till the Lord
In his mercy rest accord.
Early of a morning tide
They unclosed a window wide,
Heaven's beacon to descry,
And a gentle dove let fly,
Of the world to seek some trace,
And in two short hours' space
It returns with eyes that glow,
In its beak an olive bough.
With a loud and mighty sound,
They exclaim: 'The world we've found.'
To a mountain nigh they drew,
And when there themselves they view,
Bound they swiftly on the shore,
And their fervent thanks outpour,
Lowly kneeling to their God;
Then their way a couple trod,
Man and woman, hand in hand,
Bent to populate the land,
To the Moorish region fair -
And another two repair
To the country of the Gaul;
In this manner wend they all,
And the seeds of nations lay.
I beseech ye'll credence pay,
For our father, high and sage,
Wrote the tale in sacred page,
As a record to the world,
Record sad of vengeance hurl'd.
I, a low and humble wight,
Beg permission now to write
Unto all that in our land
Tongue Egyptian understand.
May our Virgin Mother mild
Grant to me, her erring child,
Plenteous grace in every way,
And success. Amen I say.
I'm resolved now to tell
In the speech of Gypsy-land
All the horror that befell
In this city huge and grand.
In the eighteenth hundred year
In the midst of summertide,
God, with man dissatisfied,
His right hand on high did rear,
With a rigour most severe;
Whence we well might understand
He would strict account demand
Of our lives and actions here.
The dread event to render clear
Now the pen I take in hand.
At the dread event aghast,
Straight the world reform'd its course;
Yet is sin in greater force,
Now the punishment is past;
For the thought of God is cast
All and utterly aside,
As if death itself had died.
Therefore to the present race
These memorial lines I trace
In old Egypt's tongue of pride.
As the streets you wander'd through
How you quail'd with fear and dread,
Heaps of dying and of dead
At the leeches' door to view.
To the tavern O how few
To regale on wine repair;
All a sickly aspect wear.
Say what heart such sights could brook -
Wail and woe where'er you look -
Wail and woe and ghastly care.
Plying fast their rosaries,
See the people pace the street,
And for pardon God entreat
Long and loud with streaming eyes.
And the carts of various size,
Piled with corses, high in air,
To the plain their burden bear.
O what grief it is to me
Not a friar or priest to see
In this city huge and fair.
'I am not very willing that any language should be totally
extinguished; the similitude and derivation of languages afford the
most indubitable proof of the traduction of nations, and the
genealogy of mankind; they add often physical certainty to
historical evidence of ancient migrations, and of the revolutions
of ages which left no written monuments behind them.' - JOHNSON.
THE Gypsy dialect of Spain is at present very much shattered and
broken, being rather the fragments of the language which the
Gypsies brought with them from the remote regions of the East than
the language itself: it enables, however, in its actual state, the
Gitanos to hold conversation amongst themselves, the import of
which is quite dark and mysterious to those who are not of their
race, or by some means have become acquainted with their
vocabulary. The relics of this tongue, singularly curious in
themselves, must be ever particularly interesting to the
philological antiquarian, inasmuch as they enable him to arrive at
a satisfactory conclusion respecting the origin of the Gypsy race.
During the later part of the last century, the curiosity of some
learned individuals, particularly Grellmann, Richardson, and
Marsden, induced them to collect many words of the Romanian
language, as spoken in Germany, Hungary, and England, which, upon
analysing, they discovered to be in general either pure Sanscrit or
Hindustani words, or modifications thereof; these investigations
have been continued to the present time by men of equal curiosity
and no less erudition, the result of which has been the
establishment of the fact, that the Gypsies of those countries are
the descendants of a tribe of Hindus who for some particular reason
had abandoned their native country. In England, of late, the
Gypsies have excited particular attention; but a desire far more
noble and laudable than mere antiquarian curiosity has given rise
to it, namely, the desire of propagating the glory of Christ
amongst those who know Him not, and of saving souls from the jaws
of the infernal wolf. It is, however, with the Gypsies of Spain,
and not with those of England and other countries, that we are now
occupied, and we shall merely mention the latter so far as they may
serve to elucidate the case of the Gitanos, their brethren by blood
and language. Spain for many centuries has been the country of
error; she has mistaken stern and savage tyranny for rational
government; base, low, and grovelling superstition for clear,
bright, and soul-ennobling religion; sordid cheating she has
considered as the path to riches; vexatious persecution as the path
to power; and the consequence has been, that she is now poor and
powerless, a pagan amongst the pagans, with a dozen kings, and with
none. Can we be surprised, therefore, that, mistaken in policy,
religion, and moral conduct, she should have fallen into error on
points so naturally dark and mysterious as the history and origin
of those remarkable people whom for the last four hundred years she
has supported under the name of Gitanos? The idea entertained at
the present day in Spain respecting this race is, that they are the
descendants of the Moriscos who remained in Spain, wandering about
amongst the mountains and wildernesses, after the expulsion of the
great body of the nation from the country in the time of Philip the
Third, and that they form a distinct body, entirely unconnected
with the wandering tribes known in other countries by the names of
Bohemians, Gypsies, etc. This, like all unfounded opinions, of
course originated in ignorance, which is always ready to have
recourse to conjecture and guesswork, in preference to travelling
through the long, mountainous, and stony road of patient
investigation; it is, however, an error far more absurd and more
destitute of tenable grounds than the ancient belief that the
Gitanos were Egyptians, which they themselves have always professed
to be, and which the original written documents which they brought
with them on their first arrival in Western Europe, and which bore
the signature of the king of Bohemia, expressly stated them to be.
The only clue to arrive at any certainty respecting their origin,
is the language which they still speak amongst themselves; but
before we can avail ourselves of the evidence of this language, it
will be necessary to make a few remarks respecting the principal
languages and dialects of that immense tract of country, peopled by
at least eighty millions of human beings, generally known by the
name of Hindustan, two Persian words tantamount to the land of Ind,
or, the land watered by the river Indus.
The most celebrated of these languages is the Sanskrida, or, as it
is known in Europe, the Sanscrit, which is the language of religion
of all those nations amongst whom the faith of Brahma has been
adopted; but though the language of religion, by which we mean the
tongue in which the religious books of the Brahmanic sect were
originally written and are still preserved, it has long since
ceased to be a spoken language; indeed, history is silent as to any
period when it was a language in common use amongst any of the
various tribes of the Hindus; its knowledge, as far as reading and
writing it went, having been entirely confined to the priests of
Brahma, or Brahmans, until within the last half-century, when the
British, having subjugated the whole of Hindustan, caused it to be
openly taught in the colleges which they established for the
instruction of their youth in the languages of the country. Though
sufficiently difficult to acquire, principally on account of its
prodigious richness in synonyms, it is no longer a sealed language,
- its laws, structure, and vocabulary being sufficiently well known
by means of numerous elementary works, adapted to facilitate its
study. It has been considered by famous philologists as the mother
not only of all the languages of Asia, but of all others in the
world. So wild and preposterous an idea, however, only serves to
prove that a devotion to philology, whose principal object should
be the expansion of the mind by the various treasures of learning
and wisdom which it can unlock, sometimes only tends to its
bewilderment, by causing it to embrace shadows for reality. The
most that can be allowed, in reason, to the Sanscrit is that it is
the mother of a certain class or family of languages, for example,
those spoken in Hindustan, with which most of the European, whether
of the Sclavonian, Gothic, or Celtic stock, have some connection.
True it is that in this case we know not how to dispose of the
ancient Zend, the mother of the modern Persian, the language in
which were written those writings generally attributed to
Zerduscht, or Zoroaster, whose affinity to the said tongues is as
easily established as that of the Sanscrit, and which, in respect
to antiquity, may well dispute the palm with its Indian rival.
Avoiding, however, the discussion of this point, we shall content
ourselves with observing, that closely connected with the Sanscrit,
if not derived from it, are the Bengali, the high Hindustani, or
grand popular language of Hindustan, generally used by the learned
in their intercourse and writings, the languages of Multan,
Guzerat, and other provinces, without mentioning the mixed dialect
called Mongolian Hindustani, a corrupt jargon of Persian, Turkish,
Arabic, and Hindu words, first used by the Mongols, after the
conquest, in their intercourse with the natives. Many of the
principal languages of Asia are totally unconnected with the
Sanscrit, both in words and grammatical structure; these are mostly
of the great Tartar family, at the head of which there is good
reason for placing the Chinese and Tibetian.
Bearing the same analogy to the Sanscrit tongue as the Indian
dialects specified above, we find the Rommany, or speech of the
Roma, or Zincali, as they style themselves, known in England and
Spain as Gypsies and Gitanos. This speech, wherever it is spoken,
is, in all principal points, one and the same, though more or less
corrupted by foreign words, picked up in the various countries to
which those who use it have penetrated. One remarkable feature
must not be passed over without notice, namely, the very
considerable number of Sclavonic words, which are to be found
embedded within it, whether it be spoken in Spain or Germany, in
England or Italy; from which circumstance we are led to the
conclusion, that these people, in their way from the East,
travelled in one large compact body, and that their route lay
through some region where the Sclavonian language, or a dialect
thereof, was spoken. This region I have no hesitation in asserting
to have been Bulgaria, where they probably tarried for a
considerable period, as nomad herdsmen, and where numbers of them
are still to be found at the present day. Besides the many
Sclavonian words in the Gypsy tongue, another curious feature
attracts the attention of the philologist - an equal or still
greater quantity of terms from the modern Greek; indeed, we have
full warranty for assuming that at one period the Spanish section,
if not the rest of the Gypsy nation, understood the Greek language
well, and that, besides their own Indian dialect, they occasionally
used it for considerably upwards of a century subsequent to their
arrival, as amongst the Gitanos there were individuals to whom it
was intelligible so late as the year 1540.
Where this knowledge was obtained it is difficult to say, - perhaps
in Bulgaria, where two-thirds of the population profess the Greek
religion, or rather in Romania, where the Romaic is generally
understood; that they DID understand the Romaic in 1540, we gather
from a very remarkable work, called EL ESTUDIOSO CORTESANO, written
by Lorenzo Palmireno: this learned and highly extraordinary
individual was by birth a Valencian, and died about 1580; he was
professor at various universities - of rhetoric at Valencia, of
Greek at Zaragossa, where he gave lectures, in which he explained
the verses of Homer; he was a proficient in Greek, ancient and
modern, and it should be observed that, in the passage which we are
about to cite, he means himself by the learned individual who held
conversation with the Gitanos. (66) EL ESTUDIOSO CORTESANO was
reprinted at Alcala in 1587, from which edition we now copy.
'Who are the Gitanos? I answer; these vile people first began to
show themselves in Germany, in the year 1417, where they call them
Tartars or Gentiles; in Italy they are termed Ciani. They pretend
that they come from Lower Egypt, and that they wander about as a
penance, and to prove this, they show letters from the king of
Poland. They lie, however, for they do not lead the life of
penitents, but of dogs and thieves. A learned person, in the year
1540, prevailed with them, by dint of much persuasion, to show him
the king's letter, and he gathered from it that the time of their
penance was already expired; he spoke to them in the Egyptian
tongue; they said, however, as it was a long time since their
departure from Egypt, they did not understand it; he then spoke to
them in the vulgar Greek, such as is used at present in the Morea
and Archipelago; SOME UNDERSTOOD IT, others did not; so that as all
did not understand it, we may conclude that the language which they
use is a feigned one, (67) got up by thieves for the purpose of
concealing their robberies, like the jargon of blind beggars.'
Still more abundant, however, than the mixture of Greek, still more
abundant than the mixture of Sclavonian, is the alloy in the Gypsy
language, wherever spoken, of modern Persian words, which
circumstance will compel us to offer a few remarks on the share
which the Persian has had in the formation of the dialects of
India, as at present spoken.
The modern Persian, as has been already observed, is a daughter of
the ancient Zend, and, as such, is entitled to claim affinity with
the Sanscrit, and its dialects. With this language none in the
world would be able to vie in simplicity and beauty, had not the
Persians, in adopting the religion of Mahomet, unfortunately
introduces into their speech an infinity of words of the rude
coarse language used by the barbaric Arab tribes, the immediate
followers of the warlike Prophet. With the rise of Islam the
modern Persian was doomed to be carried into India. This country,
from the time of Alexander, had enjoyed repose from external
aggression, had been ruled by its native princes, and been
permitted by Providence to exercise, without control or reproof,
the degrading superstitions, and the unnatural and bloody rites of
a religion at the formation of which the fiends of cruelty and lust
seem to have presided; but reckoning was now about to be demanded
of the accursed ministers of this system for the pain, torture, and
misery which they had been instrumental in inflicting on their
countrymen for the gratification of their avarice, filthy passions,
and pride; the new Mahometans were at hand - Arab, Persian, and
Afghan, with the glittering scimitar upraised, full of zeal for the
glory and adoration of the one high God, and the relentless
persecutors of the idol-worshippers. Already, in the four hundred
and twenty-sixth year of the Hegeira, we read of the destruction of
the great Butkhan, or image-house of Sumnaut, by the armies of the
far-conquering Mahmoud, when the dissevered heads of the Brahmans
rolled down the steps of the gigantic and Babel-like temple of the
great image -
[Text which cannot be reproduced - Arabic?]
(This image grim, whose name was Laut,
Bold Mahmoud found when he took Sumnaut.)
It is not our intention to follow the conquests of the Mahometans
from the days of Walid and Mahmoud to those of Timour and Nadir;
sufficient to observe, that the greatest part of India was subdued,
new monarchies established, and the old religion, though far too
powerful and widely spread to be extirpated, was to a considerable
extent abashed and humbled before the bright rising sun of Islam.
The Persian language, which the conquerors (68) of whatever
denomination introduced with them to Hindustan, and which their
descendants at the present day still retain, though not lords of
the ascendant, speedily became widely extended in these regions,
where it had previously been unknown. As the language of the
court, it was of course studied and acquired by all those natives
whose wealth, rank, and influence necessarily brought them into
connection with the ruling powers; and as the language of the camp,
it was carried into every part of the country where the duties of
the soldiery sooner or later conducted them; the result of which
relations between the conquerors and conquered was the adoption
into the popular dialects of India of an infinity of modern Persian
words, not merely those of science, such as it exists in the East,
and of luxury and refinement, but even those which serve to express
many of the most common objects, necessities, and ideas, so that at
the present day a knowledge of the Persian is essential for the
thorough understanding of the principal dialects of Hindustan, on
which account, as well as for the assistance which it affords in
communication with the Mahometans, it is cultivated with peculiar
care by the present possessors of the land.
No surprise, therefore, can be entertained that the speech of the
Gitanos in general, who, in all probability, departed from
Hindustan long subsequent to the first Mahometan invasions,
abounds, like other Indian dialects, with words either purely
Persian, or slightly modified to accommodate them to the genius of
the language. Whether the Rommany originally constituted part of
the natives of Multan or Guzerat, and abandoned their native land
to escape from the torch and sword of Tamerlane and his Mongols, as
Grellmann and others have supposed, or whether, as is much more
probable, they were a thievish caste, like some others still to be
found in Hindustan, who fled westward, either from the vengeance of
justice, or in pursuit of plunder, their speaking Persian is alike
satisfactorily accounted for. With the view of exhibiting how
closely their language is connected with the Sanscrit and Persian,
we subjoin the first ten numerals in the three tongues, those of
the Gypsy according to the Hungarian dialect. (69)
Gypsy. Persian. Sanscrit. (70)
1 Jek Ek Ega
2 Dui Du Dvaya
3 Trin Se Treya
4 Schtar Chehar Tschatvar
5 Pansch Pansch Pantscha
6 Tschov Schesche Schasda
7 Efta Heft Sapta
8 Ochto Hescht Aschta
9 Enija Nu Nava
10 Dosch De Dascha
It would be easy for us to adduce a thousand instances, as striking
as the above, of the affinity of the Gypsy tongue to the Persian,
Sanscrit, and the Indian dialects, but we have not space for
further observation on a point which long since has been
sufficiently discussed by others endowed with abler pens than our
own; but having made these preliminary remarks, which we deemed
necessary for the elucidation of the subject, we now hasten to
speak of the Gitano language as used in Spain, and to determine, by
its evidence (and we again repeat, that the language is the only
criterion by which the question can be determined), how far the
Gitanos of Spain are entitled to claim connection with the tribes
who, under the names of Zingani, etc., are to be found in various
parts of Europe, following, in general, a life of wandering
adventure, and practising the same kind of thievish arts which
enable those in Spain to obtain a livelihood at the expense of the
more honest and industrious of the community.
The Gitanos of Spain, as already stated, are generally believed to
be the descendants of the Moriscos, and have been asserted to be
such in printed books. (71) Now they are known to speak a language
or jargon amongst themselves which the other natives of Spain do
not understand; of course, then, supposing them to be of Morisco
origin, the words of this tongue or jargon, which are not Spanish,
are the relics of the Arabic or Moorish tongue once spoken in
Spain, which they have inherited from their Moorish ancestors. Now
it is well known, that the Moorish of Spain was the same tongue as
that spoken at present by the Moors of Barbary, from which country
Spain was invaded by the Arabs, and to which they again retired
when unable to maintain their ground against the armies of the
Christians. We will, therefore, collate the numerals of the
Spanish Gitano with those of the Moorish tongue, preceding both
with those of the Hungarian Gypsy, of which we have already made
use, for the purpose of making clear the affinity of that language
to the Sanscrit and Persian. By this collation we shall at once
perceive whether the Gitano of Spain bears most resemblance to the
Arabic, or the Rommany of other lands.
Hungarian Spanish Moorish
Gypsy. Gitano. Arabic.
1 Jek Yeque Wahud
2 Dui Dui Snain
3 Trin Trin Slatza
4 Schtar Estar Arba
5 Pansch Pansche Khamsa
6 Tschov Job. Zoi Seta
7 Efta Hefta Sebea
8 Ochto Otor Sminia
9 Enija Esnia (Nu. PERS.) Tussa
10 Dosch Deque Aschra
We believe the above specimens will go very far to change the
opinion of those who have imbibed the idea that the Gitanos of
Spain are the descendants of Moors, and are of an origin different
from that of the wandering tribes of Rommany in other parts of the
world, the specimens of the two dialects of the Gypsy, as far as
they go, being so strikingly similar, as to leave no doubt of their
original identity, whilst, on the contrary, with the Moorish
neither the one nor the other exhibits the slightest point of
similarity or connection. But with these specimens we shall not
content ourselves, but proceed to give the names of the most common
things and objects in the Hungarian and Spanish Gitano,
collaterally, with their equivalents in the Moorish Arabic; from
which it will appear that whilst the former are one and the same
language, they are in every respect at variance with the latter.
When we consider that the Persian has adopted so many words and
phrases from the Arabic, we are at first disposed to wonder that a
considerable portion of these words are not to be discovered in
every dialect of the Gypsy tongue, since the Persian has lent it so
much of its vocabulary. Yet such is by no means the case, as it is
very uncommon, in any one of these dialects, to discover words
derived from the Arabic. Perhaps, however, the following
consideration will help to solve this point. The Gitanos, even
before they left India, were probably much the same rude, thievish,
and ignorant people as they are at the present day. Now the words
adopted by the Persian from the Arabic, and which it subsequently
introduced into the dialects of India, are sounds representing
objects and ideas with which such a people as the Gitanos could
necessarily be but scantily acquainted, a people whose circle of
ideas only embraces physical objects, and who never commune with
their own minds, nor exert them but in devising low and vulgar
schemes of pillage and deceit. Whatever is visible and common is
seldom or never represented by the Persians, even in their books,
by the help of Arabic words: the sun and stars, the sea and river,
the earth, its trees, its fruits, its flowers, and all that it
produces and supports, are seldom named by them by other terms than
those which their own language is capable of affording; but in
expressing the abstract thoughts of their minds, and they are a
people who think much and well, they borrow largely from the
language of their religion - the Arabic. We therefore, perhaps,
ought not to be surprised that in the scanty phraseology of the
Gitanos, amongst so much Persian, we find so little that is Arabic;
had their pursuits been less vile, their desires less animal, and
their thoughts less circumscribed, it would probably have been
otherwise; but from time immemorial they have shown themselves a
nation of petty thieves, horse-traffickers, and the like, without a
thought of the morrow, being content to provide against the evil of
the passing day.
The following is a comparison of words in the three languages:-
Hungarian Spanish Moorish
Gypsy.(72) Gitano. Arabic.
Bone Cokalos Cocal Adorn
City Forjus Foros Beled
Day Dives Chibes Youm
Drink (to) Piava Piyar Yeschrab
Ear Kan Can Oothin
Eye Jakh Aquia Ein
Feather Por Porumia Risch
Fire Vag Yaque Afia
Fish Maczo Macho Hutz
Foot Pir Piro, pindro Rjil
Gold Sonkai Sonacai Dahab
Great Baro Baro Quibir
Hair Bala Bal Schar
He, pron. Wow O Hu
Head Tschero Jero Ras
House Ker Quer Dar
Husband Rom Ron Zooje
Lightning Molnija Maluno Brak
Love (to) Camaba Camelar Yehib
Man Manusch Manu Rajil
Milk Tud Chuti Helib
Mountain Bar Bur Djibil
Mouth Mui Mui Fum
Name Nao Nao Ism
Night Rat Rachi Lila
Nose Nakh Naqui Munghar
Old Puro Puro Shaive
Red Lal Lalo Hamr
Salt Lon Lon Mela
Sing Gjuwawa Gilyabar Iganni
Sun Cam Can Schems
Thief Tschor Choro Haram
Thou Tu Tucue Antsin
Tongue Tschib Chipe Lsan
Tooth Dant Dani Sinn
Tree Karscht Caste Schizara
Water Pani Pani Ma
Wind Barbar Barban Ruhk
We shall offer no further observations respecting the affinity of
the Spanish Gitano to the other dialects, as we conceive we have
already afforded sufficient proof of its original identity with
them, and consequently shaken to the ground the absurd opinion that
the Gitanos of Spain are the descendants of the Arabs and Moriscos.
We shall now conclude with a few remarks on the present state of
the Gitano language in Spain, where, perhaps, within the course of
a few years, it will have perished, without leaving a vestige of
its having once existed; and where, perhaps, the singular people
who speak it are likewise doomed to disappear, becoming sooner or
later engulfed and absorbed in the great body of the nation,
amongst whom they have so long existed a separate and peculiar
Though the words or a part of the words of the original tongue
still remain, preserved by memory amongst the Gitanos, its
grammatical peculiarities have disappeared, the entire language
having been modified and subjected to the rules of Spanish grammar,
with which it now coincides in syntax, in the conjugation of verbs,
and in the declension of its nouns. Were it possible or necessary
to collect all the relics of this speech, they would probably
amount to four or five thousand words; but to effect such an
achievement, it would be necessary to hold close and long
intercourse with almost every Gitano in Spain, and to extract, by
various means, the peculiar information which he might be capable
of affording; for it is necessary to state here, that though such
an amount of words may still exist amongst the Gitanos in general,
no single individual of their sect is in possession of one-third
part thereof, nor indeed, we may add, those of any single city or
province of Spain; nevertheless all are in possession, more or
less, of the language, so that, though of different provinces, they
are enabled to understand each other tolerably well, when
discoursing in this their characteristic speech. Those who travel
most are of course best versed in it, as, independent of the words
of their own village or town, they acquire others by intermingling
with their race in various places. Perhaps there is no part of
Spain where it is spoken better than in Madrid, which is easily
accounted for by the fact, that Madrid, as the capital, has always
been the point of union of the Gitanos, from all those provinces of
Spain where they are to be found. It is least of all preserved in
Seville, notwithstanding that its Gitano population is very
considerable, consisting, however, almost entirely of natives of
the place. As may well be supposed, it is in all places best
preserved amongst the old people, their children being
comparatively ignorant of it, as perhaps they themselves are in
comparison with their own parents. We are persuaded that the
Gitano language of Spain is nearly at its last stage of existence,
which persuasion has been our main instigator to the present
attempt to collect its scanty remains, and by the assistance of the
press, rescue it in some degree from destruction. It will not be
amiss to state here, that it is only by listening attentively to
the speech of the Gitanos, whilst discoursing amongst themselves,
that an acquaintance with their dialect can be formed, and by
seizing upon all unknown words as they fall in succession from
their lips. Nothing can be more useless and hopeless than the
attempt to obtain possession of their vocabulary by inquiring of
them how particular objects and ideas are styled; for with the
exception of the names of the most common things, they are totally
incapable, as a Spanish writer has observed, of yielding the
required information, owing to their great ignorance, the shortness
of their memories, or rather the state of bewilderment to which
their minds are brought by any question which tends to bring their
reasoning faculties into action, though not unfrequently the very
words which have been in vain required of them will, a minute
subsequently, proceed inadvertently from their mouths.
We now take leave of their language. When wishing to praise the
proficiency of any individual in their tongue, they are in the
habit of saying, 'He understands the seven jargons.' In the Gospel
which we have printed in this language, and in the dictionary which
we have compiled, we have endeavoured, to the utmost of our
ability, to deserve that compliment; and at all times it will
afford us sincere and heartfelt pleasure to be informed that any
Gitano, capable of appreciating the said little works, has
observed, whilst reading them or hearing them read: It is clear
that the writer of these books understood
'So I went with them to a music booth, where they made me almost
drunk with gin, and began to talk their FLASH LANGUAGE, which I did
not understand.' - Narrative of the Exploits of Henry Simms,
executed at Tyburn, 1746.
'Hablaronse los dos en Germania, de lo qual resulto darme un
abraco, y ofrecerseme.' - QUEVEDO. Vida dal gran Tacano.
HAVING in the preceding article endeavoured to afford all necessary
information concerning the Rommany, or language used by the Gypsies
amongst themselves, we now propose to turn our attention to a
subject of no less interest, but which has hitherto never been
treated in a manner calculated to lead to any satisfactory result
or conclusion; on the contrary, though philosophic minds have been
engaged in its consideration, and learned pens have not disdained
to occupy themselves with its details, it still remains a singular
proof of the errors into which the most acute and laborious writers
are apt to fall, when they take upon themselves the task of writing
on matters which cannot be studied in the closet, and on which no
information can be received by mixing in the society of the wise,
the lettered, and the respectable, but which must be investigated
in the fields, and on the borders of the highways, in prisons, and
amongst the dregs of society. Had the latter system been pursued
in the matter now before us, much clearer, more rational, and more
just ideas would long since have been entertained respecting the
Germania, or language of thieves.
In most countries of Europe there exists, amongst those who obtain
their existence by the breach of the law, and by preying upon the
fruits of the labours of the quiet and orderly portion of society,
a particular jargon or dialect, in which the former discuss their
schemes and plans of plunder, without being in general understood
by those to whom they are obnoxious. The name of this jargon
varies with the country in which it is spoken. In Spain it is
called 'Germania'; in France, 'Argot'; in Germany, 'Rothwelsch,' or
Red Italian; in Italy, 'Gergo'; whilst in England it is known by
many names; for example, 'cant, slang, thieves' Latin,' etc. The
most remarkable circumstance connected with the history of this
jargon is, that in all the countries in which it is spoken, it has
invariably, by the authors who have treated of it, and who are
numerous, been confounded with the Gypsy language, and asserted to
be the speech of those wanderers who have so long infested Europe
under the name of Gitanos, etc. How far this belief is founded in
justice we shall now endeavour to show, with the premise that
whatever we advance is derived, not from the assertions or opinions
of others, but from our own observation; the point in question
being one which no person is capable of solving, save him who has
mixed with Gitanos and thieves, - not with the former merely or the
latter, but with both.
We have already stated what is the Rommany or language of the
Gypsies. We have proved that when properly spoken it is to all
intents and purposes entitled to the appellation of a language, and
that wherever it exists it is virtually the same; that its origin
is illustrious, it being a daughter of the Sanscrit, and in
consequence in close connection with some of the most celebrated
languages of the East, although it at present is only used by the
most unfortunate and degraded of beings, wanderers without home and
almost without country, as wherever they are found they are
considered in the light of foreigners and interlopers. We shall
now state what the language of thieves is, as it is generally
spoken in Europe; after which we shall proceed to analyse it
according to the various countries in which it is used.
The dialect used for their own peculiar purposes amongst thieves is
by no means entitled to the appellation of a language, but in every
sense to that of a jargon or gibberish, it being for the most part
composed of words of the native language of those who use it,
according to the particular country, though invariably in a meaning
differing more or less from the usual and received one, and for the
most part in a metaphorical sense. Metaphor and allegory, indeed,
seem to form the nucleus of this speech, notwithstanding that other
elements are to be distinguished; for it is certain that in every
country where it is spoken, it contains many words differing from
the language of that country, and which may either be traced to
foreign tongues, or are of an origin at which, in many instances,
it is impossible to arrive. That which is most calculated to
strike the philosophic mind when considering this dialect, is
doubtless the fact of its being formed everywhere upon the same
principle - that of metaphor, in which point all the branches
agree, though in others they differ as much from each other as the
languages on which they are founded; for example, as the English
and German from the Spanish and Italian. This circumstance
naturally leads to the conclusion that the robber language has not
arisen fortuitously in the various countries where it is at present
spoken, but that its origin is one and the same, it being probably
invented by the outlaws of one particular country; by individuals
of which it was, in course of time, carried to others, where its
principles, if not its words, were adopted; for upon no other
supposition can we account for its general metaphorical character
in regions various and distant. It is, of course, impossible to
state with certainty the country in which this jargon first arose,
yet there is cogent reason for supposing that it may have been
Italy. The Germans call it Rothwelsch, which signifies 'Red
Italian,' a name which appears to point out Italy as its
birthplace; and which, though by no means of sufficient importance
to determine the question, is strongly corroborative of the
supposition, when coupled with the following fact. We have already
intimated, that wherever it is spoken, this speech, though composed
for the most part of words of the language of the particular
country, applied in a metaphorical sense, exhibits a considerable
sprinkling of foreign words; now of these words no slight number
are Italian or bastard Latin, whether in Germany, whether in Spain,
or in other countries more or less remote from Italy. When we
consider the ignorance of thieves in general, their total want of
education, the slight knowledge which they possess even of their
mother tongue, it is hardly reasonable to suppose that in any
country they were ever capable of having recourse to foreign
languages, for the purpose of enriching any peculiar vocabulary or
phraseology which they might deem convenient to use among
themselves; nevertheless, by associating with foreign thieves, who
had either left their native country for their crimes, or from a
hope of reaping a rich harvest of plunder in other lands, it would
be easy for them to adopt a considerable number of words belonging
to the languages of their foreign associates, from whom perhaps
they derived an increase of knowledge in thievish arts of every
description. At the commencement of the fifteenth century no
nation in Europe was at all calculated to vie with the Italian in
arts of any kind, whether those whose tendency was the benefit or
improvement of society, or those the practice of which serves to
injure and undermine it. The artists and artisans of Italy were to
be found in all the countries of Europe, from Madrid to Moscow, and
so were its charlatans, its jugglers, and multitudes of its
children, who lived by fraud and cunning. Therefore, when a
comprehensive view of the subject is taken, there appears to be
little improbability in supposing, that not only were the Italians
the originators of the metaphorical robber jargon, which has been
termed 'Red Italian,' but that they were mainly instrumental in
causing it to be adopted by the thievish race in various countries
of Europe.
It is here, however, necessary to state, that in the robber jargon
of Europe, elements of another language are to be discovered, and
perhaps in greater number than the Italian words. The language
which we allude to is the Rommany; this language has been, in
general, confounded with the vocabulary used among thieves, which,
however, is a gross error, so gross, indeed, that it is almost
impossible to conceive the manner in which it originated: the
speech of the Gypsies being a genuine language of Oriental origin,
and the former little more than a phraseology of convenience,
founded upon particular European tongues. It will be sufficient
here to remark, that the Gypsies do not understand the jargon of
the thieves, whilst the latter, with perhaps a few exceptions, are
ignorant of the language of the former. Certain words, however, of
the Rommany have found admission into the said jargon, which may be
accounted for by the supposition that the Gypsies, being themselves
by birth, education, and profession, thieves of the first water,
have, on various occasions, formed alliances with the outlaws of
the various countries in which they are at present to be found,
which association may have produced the result above alluded to;
but it will be as well here to state, that in no country of Europe
have the Gypsies forsaken or forgotten their native tongue, and in
its stead adopted the 'Germania,' 'Red Italian,' or robber jargon,
although in some they preserve their native language in a state of
less purity than in others. We are induced to make this statement
from an assertion of the celebrated Lorenzo Hervas, who, in the
third volume of his CATALOGO DE LAS LENGUAS, trat. 3, cap. vi., p.
311, expresses himself to the following effect:- 'The proper
language of the Gitanos neither is nor can be found amongst those
who scattered themselves through the western kingdoms of Europe,
but only amongst those who remained in the eastern, where they are
still to be found. The former were notably divided and disunited,
receiving into their body a great number of European outlaws, on
which account the language in question was easily adulterated and
soon perished. In Spain, and also in Italy, the Gitanos have
totally forgotten and lost their native language; yet still wishing
to converse with each other in a language unknown to the Spaniards
and Italians, they have invented some words, and have transformed
many others by changing the signification which properly belongs to
them in Spanish and Italian.' In proof of which assertion he then
exhibits a small number of words of the 'Red Italian,' or
allegorical tongue of the thieves of Italy.
It is much to be lamented that a man like Hervas, so learned, of
such knowledge, and upon the whole well-earned celebrity, should
have helped to propagate three such flagrant errors as are
contained in the passages above quoted: 1st. That the Gypsy
language, within a very short period after the arrival of those who
spoke it in the western kingdoms of Europe, became corrupted, and
perished by the admission of outlaws into the Gypsy fraternity.
2ndly. That the Gypsies, in order to supply the loss of their
native tongue, invented some words, and modified others, from the
Spanish and Italian. 3rdly. That the Gypsies of the present day
in Spain and Italy speak the allegorical robber dialect.
Concerning the first assertion, namely, that the Gypsies of the
west lost their language shortly after their arrival, by mixing
with the outlaws of those parts, we believe that its erroneousness
will be sufficiently established by the publication of the present
volume, which contains a dictionary of the Spanish Gitano, which we
have proved to be the same language in most points as that spoken
by the eastern tribes. There can be no doubt that the Gypsies have
at various times formed alliances with the robbers of particular
countries, but that they ever received them in considerable numbers
into their fraternity, as Hervas has stated, so as to become
confounded with them, the evidence of our eyesight precludes the
possibility of believing. If such were the fact, why do the
Italian and Spanish Gypsies of the present day still present
themselves as a distinct race, differing from the other inhabitants
of the west of Europe in feature, colour, and constitution? Why
are they, in whatever situation and under whatever circumstances,
to be distinguished, like Jews, from the other children of the
Creator? But it is scarcely necessary to ask such a question, or
indeed to state that the Gypsies of Spain and Italy have kept
themselves as much apart as, or at least have as little mingled
their blood with the Spaniards and Italians as their brethren in
Hungaria and Transylvania with the inhabitants of those countries,
on which account they still strikingly resemble them in manners,
customs, and appearance. The most extraordinary assertion of
Hervas is perhaps his second, namely, that the Gypsies have
invented particular words to supply the place of others which they
had lost. The absurdity of this supposition nearly induces us to
believe that Hervas, who has written so much and so laboriously on
language, was totally ignorant of the philosophy of his subject.
There can be no doubt, as we have before admitted, that in the
robber jargon, whether spoken in Spain, Italy, or England, there
are many words at whose etymology it is very difficult to arrive;
yet such a fact is no excuse for the adoption of the opinion that
these words are of pure invention. A knowledge of the Rommany
proves satisfactorily that many have been borrowed from that
language, whilst many others may be traced to foreign tongues,
especially the Latin and Italian. Perhaps one of the strongest
grounds for concluding that the origin of language was divine is
the fact that no instance can be adduced of the invention, we will
not say of a language, but even of a single word that is in use in
society of any kind. Although new dialects are continually being
formed, it is only by a system of modification, by which roots
almost coeval with time itself are continually being reproduced
under a fresh appearance, and under new circumstances. The third
assertion of Hervas, as to the Gitanos speaking the allegorical
language of which he exhibits specimens, is entitled to about equal
credence as the two former. The truth is, that the entire store of
erudition of the learned Jesuit, and he doubtless was learned to a
remarkable degree, was derived from books, either printed or
manuscript. He compared the Gypsy words in the publication of
Grellmann with various vocabularies, which had long been in
existence, of the robber jargons of Spain and Italy, which jargons
by a strange fatuity had ever been considered as belonging to the
Gypsies. Finding that the Gypsy words of Grellmann did not at all
correspond with the thieves' slang, he concluded that the Gypsies
of Spain and Italy had forgotten their own language, and to supply
its place had invented the jargons aforesaid, but he never gave
himself the trouble to try whether the Gypsies really understood
the contents of his slang vocabularies; had he done so, he would
have found that the slang was about as unintelligible to the
Gypsies as he would have found the specimens of Grellmann
unintelligible to the thieves had he quoted those specimens to
them. The Gypsies of Spain, it will be sufficient to observe,
speak the language of which a vocabulary is given in the present
work, and those of Italy who are generally to be found existing in
a half-savage state in the various ruined castles, relics of the
feudal times, with which Italy abounds, a dialect very similar, and
about as much corrupted. There are, however, to be continually
found in Italy roving bands of Rommany, not natives of the country,
who make excursions from Moldavia and Hungaria to France and Italy,
for the purpose of plunder; and who, if they escape the hand of
justice, return at the expiration of two or three years to their
native regions, with the booty they have amassed by the practice of
those thievish arts, perhaps at one period peculiar to their race,
but at present, for the most part, known and practised by thieves
in general. These bands, however, speak the pure Gypsy language,
with all its grammatical peculiarities. It is evident, however,
that amongst neither of these classes had Hervas pushed his
researches, which had he done, it is probable that his
investigations would have resulted in a work of a far different
character from the confused, unsatisfactory, and incorrect details
of which is formed his essay on the language of the Gypsies.
Having said thus much concerning the robber language in general, we
shall now proceed to offer some specimens of it, in order that our
readers may be better able to understand its principles. We shall
commence with the Italian dialect, which there is reason for
supposing to be the prototype of the rest. To show what it is, we
avail ourselves of some of the words adduced by Hervas, as
specimens of the language of the Gitanos of Italy. 'I place them,'
he observes, 'with the signification which the greater number
properly have in Italian.'
Robber jargon Proper signification of
of Italy. the words.
Arm { Ale Wings
{ Barbacane Barbican
Belly Fagiana Pheasant
Devil Rabuino Perhaps RABBIN, which,
in Hebrew, is Master
Earth Calcosa Street, road
Eye Balco Balcony
Father Grimo Old, wrinkled
Fire Presto Quick
God Anticrotto Probably ANTICHRIST
Hair Prusa (73)
{ Elmo Helmet
Head { Borella (74)
{ Chiurla (75)
Heart Salsa Sauce
Man Osmo From the Italian UOMO,
which is man
Moon Mocoloso di Wick of the firmament
Sant' Alto
Night Brunamaterna Mother-brown
Nose Gambaro Crab
Sun Ruffo di Sant' Red one of the firmament
Tongue { Serpentina Serpent-like
{ Danosa Hurtful
Water { Lenza Fishing-net
{ Vetta (76) Top, bud
The Germania of Spain may be said to divide itself into two
dialects, the ancient and modern. Of the former there exists a
vocabulary, published first by Juan Hidalgo, in the year 1609, at
Barcelona, and reprinted in Madrid, 1773. Before noticing this
work, it will perhaps be advisable to endeavour to ascertain the
true etymology of the word Germania, which signifies the slang
vocabulary, or robber language of Spain. We have no intention to
embarrass our readers by offering various conjectures respecting
its origin; its sound, coupled with its signification, affording
sufficient evidence that it is but a corruption of Rommany, which
properly denotes the speech of the Roma or Gitanos. The thieves
who from time to time associated with this wandering people, and
acquired more or less of their language, doubtless adopted this
term amongst others, and, after modifying it, applied it to the
peculiar phraseology which, in the course of time, became prevalent
amongst them. The dictionary of Hidalgo is appended to six
ballads, or romances, by the same author, written in the Germanian
dialect, in which he describes the robber life at Seville at the
period in which he lived. All of these romances possess their
peculiar merit, and will doubtless always be considered valuable,
and be read as faithful pictures of scenes and habits which now no
longer exist. In the prologue, the author states that his
principal motive for publishing a work written in so strange a
language was his observing the damage which resulted from an
ignorance of the Germania, especially to the judges and ministers
of justice, whose charge it is to cleanse the public from the
pernicious gentry who use it. By far the greatest part of the
vocabulary consists of Spanish words used allegorically, which are,
however, intermingled with many others, most of which may be traced
to the Latin and Italian, others to the Sanscrit or Gitano,
Russian, Arabic, Turkish, Greek, and German languages. (77) The
circumstances of words belonging to some of the languages last
enumerated being found in the Gitano, which at first may strike the
reader as singular, and almost incredible, will afford but slight
surprise, when he takes into consideration the peculiar
circumstances of Spain during the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. Spain was at that period the most powerful monarchy in
Europe; her foot reposed upon the Low Countries, whilst her
gigantic arms embraced a considerable portion of Italy.
Maintaining always a standing army in Flanders and in Italy, it
followed as a natural consequence, that her Miquelets and soldiers
became tolerably conversant with the languages of those countries;
and, in course of time, returning to their native land, not a few,
especially of the former class, a brave and intrepid, but always a
lawless and dissolute species of soldiery, either fell in or
returned to evil society, and introduced words which they had
learnt abroad into the robber phraseology; whilst returned galleyslaves
from Algiers, Tunis, and Tetuan, added to its motley variety
of words from the relics of the broken Arabic and Turkish, which
they had acquired during their captivity. The greater part of the
Germania, however, remained strictly metaphorical, and we are aware
of no better means of conveying an idea of the principle on which
it is formed, than by quoting from the first romance of Hidalgo,
where particular mention is made of this jargon:-
'A la cama llama Blanda
Donde Sornan en poblado
A la Fresada Vellosa,
Que mucho vello ha criado.
Dice a la sabana Alba
Porque es alba en sumo grado,
A la camisa Carona,
Al jubon llama apretado:
Dice al Sayo Tapador
Porque le lleva tapado.
Llama a los zapatos Duros,
Que las piedras van pisando.
A la capa llama nuve,
Dice al Sombrero Texado.
Respeto llama a la Espada,
Que por ella es respetado,' etc. etc.
HIDALGO, p. 22-3.
After these few remarks on the ancient Germania of Spain, we now
proceed to the modern, which differs considerably from the former.
The principal cause of this difference is to be attributed to the
adoption by the Spanish outlaws, in latter years, of a considerable
number of words belonging to, or modified from, the Rommany, or
language of the Gitanos. The Gitanos of Spain, during the last
half-century, having, in a great degree, abandoned the wandering
habit of life which once constituted one of their most remarkable
peculiarities, and residing, at present, more in the cities than in
the fields, have come into closer contact with the great body of
the Spanish nation than was in former days their practice. From
their living thus in towns, their language has not only undergone
much corruption, but has become, to a slight degree, known to the
dregs of society, amongst whom they reside. The thieves' dialect
of the present day exhibits, therefore, less of the allegorical
language preserved in the pages of Hidalgo than of the Gypsy
tongue. It must be remarked, however, that it is very scanty, and
that the whole robber phraseology at present used in Spain barely
amounts to two hundred words, which are utterly insufficient to
express the very limited ideas of the outcasts who avail themselves
of it.
Concerning the Germania of France, or 'Argot,' as it is called, it
is unnecessary to make many observations, as what has been said of
the language of Hidalgo and the Red Italian is almost in every
respect applicable to it. As early as the middle of the sixteenth
century a vocabulary of this jargon was published under the title
of LANGUE DES ESCROCS, at Paris. Those who wish to study it as it
at present exists can do no better than consult LES MEMOIRES DE
VIDOCQ, where a multitude of words in Argot are to be found, and
also several songs, the subjects of which are thievish adventures.
The first vocabulary of the 'Cant Language,' or English Germania,
appeared in the year 1680, appended to the life of THE ENGLISH
ROGUE, a work which, in many respects, resembles the HISTORY OF
GUZMAN D'ALFARACHE, though it is written with considerably more
genius than the Spanish novel, every chapter abounding with
remarkable adventures of the robber whose life it pretends to
narrate, and which are described with a kind of ferocious energy,
which, if it do not charm the attention of the reader, at least
enslaves it, holding it captive with a chain of iron. Amongst his
other adventures, the hero falls in with a Gypsy encampment, is
enrolled amongst the fraternity, and is allotted a 'mort,' or
concubine; a barbarous festival ensues, at the conclusion of which
an epithalamium is sung in the Gypsy language, as it is called in
the work in question. Neither the epithalamium, however, nor the
vocabulary, are written in the language of the English Gypsies, but
in the 'Cant,' or allegorical robber dialect, which is sufficient
proof that the writer, however well acquainted with thieves in
general, their customs and manners of life, was in respect to the
Gypsies profoundly ignorant. His vocabulary, however, has been
always accepted as the speech of the English Gypsies, whereas it is
at most entitled to be considered as the peculiar speech of the
thieves and vagabonds of his time. The cant of the present day,
which, though it differs in some respects from the vocabulary
already mentioned, is radically the same, is used not only by the
thieves in town and country, but by the jockeys of the racecourse
and the pugilists of the 'ring.' As a specimen of the cant of
England, we shall take the liberty of quoting the epithalamium to
which we have above alluded:-
'Bing out, bien morts, and tour and tour
Bing out, bien morts and tour;
For all your duds are bing'd awast,
The bien cove hath the loure. (78)
'I met a dell, I viewed her well,
She was benship to my watch:
So she and I did stall and cloy
Whatever we could catch.
'This doxy dell can cut ben whids,
And wap well for a win,
And prig and cloy so benshiply,
All daisy-ville within.
'The hoyle was up, we had good luck,
In frost for and in snow;
Men they did seek, then we did creep
And plant the roughman's low.'
It is scarcely necessary to say anything more upon the Germania in
general or in particular; we believe that we have achieved the task
which we marked out for ourselves, and have conveyed to our readers
a clear and distinct idea of what it is. We have shown that it has
been erroneously confounded with the Rommany, or Gitano language,
with which it has nevertheless some points of similarity. The two
languages are, at the present day, used for the same purpose,
namely, to enable habitual breakers of the law to carry on their
consultations with more secrecy and privacy than by the ordinary
means. Yet it must not be forgotten that the thieves' jargon was
invented for that purpose, whilst the Rommany, originally the
proper and only speech of a particular nation, has been preserved
from falling into entire disuse and oblivion, because adapted to
answer the same end. It was impossible to treat of the Rommany in
a manner calculated to exhaust the subject, and to leave no ground
for future cavilling, without devoting a considerable space to the
consideration of the robber dialect, on which account we hope we
shall be excused many of the dry details which we have introduced
into the present essay. There is a link of connection between the
history of the Roma, or wanderers from Hindustan, who first made
their appearance in Europe at the commencement of the fifteenth
century, and that of modern roguery. Many of the arts which the
Gypsies proudly call their own, and which were perhaps at one
period peculiar to them, have become divulged, and are now
practised by the thievish gentry who infest the various European
states, a result which, we may assert with confidence, was brought
about by the alliance of the Gypsies being eagerly sought on their
first arrival by the thieves, who, at one period, were less skilful
than the former in the ways of deceit and plunder; which kind of
association continued and held good until the thieves had acquired
all they wished to learn, when they left the Gypsies in the fields
and plains, so dear to them from their vagabond and nomad habits,
and returned to the towns and cities. Yet from this temporary
association were produced two results; European fraud became
sharpened by coming into contact with Asiatic craft, whilst
European tongues, by imperceptible degrees, became recruited with
various words (some of them wonderfully expressive), many of which
have long been stumbling-stocks to the philologist, who, whilst
stigmatising them as words of mere vulgar invention, or of unknown
origin, has been far from dreaming that by a little more research
he might have traced them to the Sclavonic, Persian, or Romaic, or
perhaps to the mysterious object of his veneration, the Sanscrit,
the sacred tongue of the palm-covered regions of Ind; words
originally introduced into Europe by objects too miserable to
occupy for a moment his lettered attention - the despised denizens
of the tents of Roma.
Those who have done me the honour to peruse this strange wandering
book of mine, must frequently have noticed the word 'Busno,' a term
bestowed by the Spanish Gypsy on his good friend the Spaniard. As
the present will probably be the last occasion which I shall have
to speak of the Gitanos or anything relating to them, it will
perhaps be advisable to explain the meaning of this word. In the
vocabulary appended to former editions I have translated Busno by
such words as Gentile, savage, person who is not a Gypsy, and have
stated that it is probably connected with a certain Sanscrit noun
signifying an impure person. It is, however, derived immediately
from a Hungarian term, exceedingly common amongst the lower orders
of the Magyars, to their disgrace be it spoken. The Hungarian
Gypsies themselves not unfrequently style the Hungarians Busnoes,
in ridicule of their unceasing use of the word in question. The
first Gypsies who entered Spain doubtless brought with them the
term from Hungary, the language of which country they probably
understood to a certain extent. That it was not ill applied by
them in Spain no one will be disposed to deny when told that it
exactly corresponds with the Shibboleth of the Spaniards, 'Carajo,'
an oath equally common in Spain as its equivalent in Hungary.
Busno, therefore, in Spanish means EL DEL CARAJO, or he who has
that term continually in his mouth. The Hungarian words in Spanish
Gypsy may amount to ten or twelve, a very inconsiderable number;
but the Hungarian Gypsy tongue itself, as spoken at the present
day, exhibits only a slight sprinkling of Hungarian words, whilst
it contains many words borrowed from the Wallachian, some of which
have found their way into Spain, and are in common use amongst the
'TACHIPEN if I jaw 'doi, I can lel a bit of tan to hatch: N'etist
I shan't puch kekomi wafu gorgies.'
The above sentence, dear reader, I heard from the mouth of Mr.
Petulengro, the last time that he did me the honour to visit me at
my poor house, which was the day after Mol-divvus (79), 1842: he
stayed with me during the greater part of the morning, discoursing
on the affairs of Egypt, the aspect of which, he assured me, was
becoming daily worse and worse. 'There is no living for the poor
people, brother,' said he, 'the chokengres (police) pursue us from
place to place, and the gorgios are become either so poor or
miserly, that they grudge our cattle a bite of grass by the
wayside, and ourselves a yard of ground to light a fire upon.
Unless times alter, brother, and of that I see no probability,
unless you are made either poknees or mecralliskoe geiro (justice
of the peace or prime minister), I am afraid the poor persons will
have to give up wandering altogether, and then what will become of
'However, brother,' he continued, in a more cheerful tone, 'I am no
hindity mush, (80) as you well know. I suppose you have not forgot
how, fifteen years ago, when you made horseshoes in the little
dingle by the side of the great north road, I lent you fifty
cottors (81) to purchase the wonderful trotting cob of the
innkeeper with the green Newmarket coat, which three days after you
sold for two hundred.
'Well, brother, if you had wanted the two hundred instead of the
fifty, I could have lent them to you, and would have done so, for I
knew you would not be long pazorrhus to me. I am no hindity mush,
brother, no Irishman; I laid out the other day twenty pounds in
buying ruponoe peamengries; (82) and in the Chonggav, (83) have a
house of my own with a yard behind it.
Well, dear reader, this last is the translation of the Gypsy
sentence which heads the chapter, and which is a very
characteristic specimen of the general way of speaking of the
English Gypsies.
The language, as they generally speak it, is a broken jargon, in
which few of the grammatical peculiarities of the Rommany are to be
distinguished. In fact, what has been said of the Spanish Gypsy
dialect holds good with respect to the English as commonly spoken:
yet the English dialect has in reality suffered much less than the
Spanish, and still retains its original syntax to a certain extent,
its peculiar manner of conjugating verbs, and declining nouns and
Moro Dad, savo djives oteh drey o charos, te caumen Gorgio ta
Romany Chal tiro nav, te awel tiro tem, te kairen tiro lav aukko
prey puv, sar kairdios oteh drey o charos. Dey men to-divvus moro
divvuskoe moro, ta for-dey men pazorrhus tukey sar men for-denna
len pazorrhus amande; ma muk te petrenna drey caik temptacionos;
ley men abri sor doschder. Tiro se o tem, Mi-duvel, tiro o zoozlu
vast, tiro sor koskopen drey sor cheros. Avali. Ta-chipen.
Batu monro sos socabas ote enre ye char, que camele Gacho ta Romani
Cha tiro nao, qu'abillele tiro chim, querese tiro lao acoi opre ye
puve sarta se querela ote enre ye char. Dinanos sejonia monro
manro de cata chibes, ta estormenanos monrias bisauras sasta mu
estormenamos a monrias bisabadores; na nos meques petrar enre
cayque pajandia, lillanos abri de saro chungalipen. Persos tiro
sinela o chim, Undevel, tiro ye silna bast, tiro saro lachipen enre
saro chiros. Unga. Chachipe.
OUR Father who dwellest there in heaven, may Gentile and Gypsy love
thy name, thy kingdom come, may they do thy word here on earth as
it is done there in heaven. Give us to-day our daily bread, (84)
and forgive us indebted to thee as we forgive them indebted to us,
(85) suffer not that we fall into NO temptation, take us out from
all evil. (86) Thine (87) is the kingdom my God, thine the strong
hand, thine all goodness in all time. Aye. Truth.
The following short sentences in Hungarian Gypsy, in addition to
the prayer to the Virgin given in the Introduction, will perhaps
not prove unacceptable to the reader. In no part of the world is
the Gypsy tongue at the present day spoken with more purity than in
Hungary, (88) where it is used by the Gypsies not only when they
wish to be unintelligible to the Hungarians, but in their common
conversation amongst themselves.
From these sentences the reader, by the help of the translations
which accompany them, may form a tolerable idea not only of what
the Gypsy tongue is, but of the manner in which the Hungarian
Gypsies think and express themselves. They are specimens of
genuine Gypsy talk - sentences which I have myself heard proceed
from the mouths of the Czigany; they are not Busno thoughts done
into gentle Rommany. Some of them are given here as they were
written down by me at the time, others as I have preserved them in
my memory up to the present moment. It is not improbable that at
some future time I may return to the subject of the Hungarian
Vare tava soskei me puchelas cai soskei avillara catari.
Mango le gulo Devlas vas o erai, hodj o erai te pirel misto, te
n'avel pascotia l'eras, ta na avel o erai nasvalo.
Cana cames aves pale.
Ki'som dhes keral avel o rai catari? (89)
Kit somu berschengro hal tu? (90)
Cade abri mai lachi e mol sar ando foro.
Sin o mas balichano, ta i gorkhe garasheskri; (91) sin o manro
parno, cai te felo do garashangro.
Yeck quartalli mol ando lende.
Ande mol ote mestchibo.
Khava piava - dui shel, tri shel predinava.
Damen Devla saschipo ando mure cocala.
Te rosarow labio tarraco le Mujeskey miro pralesco, ta vela mi anao
tukey le Mujeskey miro pralesky.
Llundun baro foro, bishwar mai baro sar Cosvaro.
Nani yag, mullas.
Nasiliom cai purdiom but; besh te pansch bersch mi homas slugadhis
pa Baron Splini regimentos.
Saro chiro cado Del; cavo o puro dinas o Del.
Me camov te jav ando Buka-resti - cado Bukaresti lachico tem dur
drom jin keri.
Mi hom nasvallo.
Soskei nai jas ke baro ful-cheri?
Wei mangue ke nani man love nastis jav.
Belgra sho mille pu cado Cosvarri; hin oter miro chabo.
Te vas Del l'erangue ke meclan man abri ando a pan-dibo.
Opre rukh sarkhi ye chiriclo, ca kerel anre e chiricli.
Ca hin tiro ker?
Ando calo berkho, oter bin miro ker, av prala mensar; jas mengue
Ando bersch dui chiro, ye ven, ta nilei.
O felhegos del o breschino, te purdel o barbal.
Hir mi Devlis camo but cavo erai - lacho manus o, Anglus, tama
rakarel Ungarica; avel catari ando urdon le trin gras-tensas -
beshel cate abri po buklo tan; le poivasis ando bas irinel ando
lel. Bo zedun stadji ta bari barba.
Much I ponder why you ask me (questions), and why you should come
I pray the sweet Goddess for the gentleman, that the gentleman may
journey well, that misfortune come not to the gentleman, and that
the gentleman fall not sick.
When you please come back.
How many days did the gentleman take to come hither?
How many years old are you?
Here out better (is) the wine than in the city.
The meat is of pig, and the gherkins cost a grosh - the bread is
white, and the lard costs two groshen.
One quart of wine amongst us.
In wine there (is) happiness.
I will eat, I will drink - two hundred, three hundred I will place
Give us Goddess health in our bones.
I will seek a waistcoat, which I have, for Moses my brother, and I
will change names with Moses my brother. (92)
London (is) a big city, twenty times more big than Colosvar.
There is no fire, it is dead.
I have suffered and toiled much: twenty and five years I was
serving in Baron Splini's regiment.
Every time (cometh) from God; that old (age) God gave.
I wish to go unto Bukarest - from Bukarest, the good country, (it
is) a far way unto (my) house.
I am sick.
Why do you not go to the great physician
Because I have no money I can't go
Belgrade (is) six miles of land from Colosvar; there is my son.
May God help the gentlemen that they let me out (from) in the
On the tree (is) the nest of the bird, where makes eggs the female
Where is your house?
In the black mountain, there is my house; come brother with me; let
us go to my house.
In the year (are) two seasons, the winter and summer.
The cloud gives the rain, and puffs (forth) the wind.
By my God I love much that gentleman - a good man he, an
Englishman, but he speaks Hungarian; he came (93) hither in a
waggon with three horses, he sits here out in the wilderness; (94)
with a pencil in his hand he writes in a book. He has a green hat
and a big beard.
[This section of the book could not be transcribed as it contained
many non-european languages]
IT is with the view of preserving as many as possible of the
monuments of the Spanish Gypsy tongue that the author inserts the
following pieces; they are for the most part, whether original or
translated, the productions of the 'Aficion' of Seville, of whom
something has been said in the Preface to the Spurious Gypsy Poetry
of Andalusia; not the least remarkable, however, of these pieces is
a genuine Gypsy composition, the translation of the Apostles' Creed
by the Gypsies of Cordova, made under the circumstances detailed in
the second part of the first volume. To all have been affixed
translations, more or less literal, to assist those who may wish to
form some acquaintance with the Gitano language.
BATO Nonrro sos socabas on o tarpe, manjirificado quejesa tute
acnao; abillanos or tute sichen, y querese tute orependola andial
on la chen sata on o tarpe; or manrro nonrro de cata chibel
dinanoslo sejonia, y estormenanos nonrrias bisauras andial sata
gaberes estormenamos a nonrros bisaraores; y nasti nes muques
petrar on la bajanbo, bus listrabanos de chorre. - Anarania.
FATHER Our, who dwellest in the heaven, sanctified become thy name;
come-to-us the thy kingdom, and be-done thy will so in the earth as
in the heaven; the bread our of every day give-us-it to-day, and
pardon-us our debts so as we-others pardon (to) our debtors; and
not let us fall in the temptation, but deliver-us from wickedness.
- Amen.
Panchabo on Ostebe Bato saro-asisilable, Perbaraor de o tarpe y la
chen, y on Gresone desquero Beyio Chabal nonrrio Erano, sos guillo
sar-trujatapucherido per troecane y sardana de or Chanispero
Manjaro, y purelo de Manjari ostelinda debla; Bricholo ostele de or
asislar de Brono Alienicato; guillo trejuficao, mule y cabanao; y
sundilo a los casinobes, (95) y a or brodelo chibel repurelo de
enrre los mules, y encalomo a los otarpes, y soscabela bestique a
la tabastorre de Ostebe Bato saro-asisilable, ende aoter a de
abillar a sarplar a los Apucheris y mules. Panchabo on or
Chanispero Manjaro, la Manjari Cangari Pebuldorica y Rebuldorica,
la Erunon de los Manjaros, or Estormen de los crejetes, la repurelo
de la mansenquere y la chibiben verable. - Anarania, Tebleque.
I believe in God, Father all-powerful, creator of the heaven and
the earth, and in Christ his only Son our Lord, who went conceived
by deed and favour of the Spirit Holy, and born of blessed goddess
divine; suffered under (of) the might of Bronos Alienicatos; (96)
went crucified, dead and buried; and descended to the
conflagrations, and on the third day revived (97) from among the
dead, and ascended to the heavens, and dwells seated at the righthand
of God, Father all-powerful, from there he-has to come to
impeach (to) the living and dead. I believe in the Spirit Holy,
the Holy Church Catholic and Apostolic, the communion of the
saints, the remission of the sins, the re-birth of the flesh, and
the life everlasting. - Amen, Jesus.
O Debla quirindia, Day de saros los Bordeles on coin panchabo: per
los duquipenes sos naquelastes a or pindre de la trejul de tute
Chaborro majarolisimo te manguelo, Debla, me alcorabises de tute
chaborro or estormen de sares las dojis y crejetes sos menda
udicare aquerao on andoba surdete. - Anarania, Tebleque.
Ostebe te berarbe Ostelinda! perdoripe sirles de sardana; or Erano
sin sartute; bresban tute sirles enrre sares las rumiles, y bresban
sin or frujero de tute po. - Tebleque.
Manjari Ostelinda, day de Ostebe, brichardila per gaberes
crejetaores aocana y on la ocana de nonrra beriben! - Anarania,
Chimuclani or Bato, or Chabal, or Chanispero manjaro; sata sia on
or presimelo, aocana, y gajeres: on los sicles de los sicles. -
O most holy Virgin, Mother of all the Christians in whom I believe;
for the agony which thou didst endure at the foot of the cross of
thy most blessed Son, I entreat thee, Virgin, that thou wilt obtain
for me, from thy Son, the remission of all the crimes and sins
which I may have committed in this world. - Amen, Jesus.
God save thee, Maria! full art thou of grace; the Lord is with
thee; blessed art thou amongst all women, and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb. - Jesus.
Holy Maria, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and in the hour
of our death! - Amen, Jesus.
Glory (to) the Father, the Son, (and) the Holy Ghost; as was in the
beginning, now, and for ever: in the ages of the ages. - Amen.
Pachabelo en Un-debel batu tosaro-baro, que ha querdi el char y la
chique; y en Un-debel chinoro su unico chaboro erano de amangue,
que chalo en el trupo de la Majari por el Duquende Majoro, y abio
del veo de la Majari; guillo curado debajo de la sila de Pontio
Pilato el chinobaro; guillo mulo y garabado; se chale a las
jacharis; al trin chibe se ha sicobado de los mules al char; sinela
bejado a las baste de Un-debel barrea; y de ote abiara a juzgar a
los mules y a los que no lo sinelan; pachabelo en el Majaro; la
Cangri Majari barea; el jalar de los Majaries; lo meco de los
grecos; la resureccion de la maas, y la ochi que no marela.
I believe in God the Father all-great, who has made the heaven and
the earth; and in God the young, his only Son, the Lord of us, who
went into the body of the blessed (maid) by (means of) the Holy
Ghost, and came out of the womb of the blessed; he was tormented
beneath the power of Pontius Pilate, the great Alguazil; was dead
and buried; he went (down) to the fires; on the third day he raised
himself from the dead unto the heaven; he is seated at the major
hand of God; and from thence he shall come to judge the dead and
those who are not (dead). I believe in the blessed one; in the
church holy and great; the banquet of the saints; the remission of
sins; the resurrection of the flesh, and the life which does not
Or soscabela juco y terable garipe no le sin perfine anelar
Bus yes manupe cha machagarno le pendan chuchipon los brochabos.
Sacais sos ne dicobelan calochin ne bridaquelan.
Coin terelare trasardos e dinastes nasti le buchare berrandanas a
desquero contique.
On sares las cachimanes de Sersen abillen reches.
Bus mola yes chirriclo on la ba sos gres balogando.
A Ostebe brichardilando y sar or mochique dinelando.
Bus mola quesar jero de gabuno sos manpori de bombardo.
Dicar y panchabar, sata penda Manjaro Lillar.
Or esorjie de or narsichisle sin chismar lachinguel.
Las queles mistos grobelas: per macara chibel la piri y de rachi
la operisa.
Aunsos me dicas vriardao de jorpoy ne sirlo braco.
Chachipe con jujana - Calzones de buchi y medias de lana.
Chuquel sos pirela cocal terela.
Len sos sonsi bela pani o reblandani terela.
He who is lean and has scabs needs not carry a net. (98)
When a man goes drunk the boys say to him 'suet.' (99)
Eyes which see not break no heart.
He who has a roof of glass let him not fling stones at his
Into all the taverns of Spain may reeds come.
A bird in the hand is worth more than a hundred flying.
To God (be) praying and with the flail plying.
It is worth more to be the head of a mouse than the tail of a lion.
To see and to believe, as Saint Thomas says.
The extreme (100) of a dwarf is to spit largely.
Houses well managed:- at mid-day the stew-pan, (101) and at night
Although thou seest me dressed in wool I am no sheep.
Truth with falsehood-Breeches of silk and stockings of Wool. (102)
The dog who walks finds a bone.
The river which makes a noise (103) has either water or stones.
Dica Calli sos linastes terelas, plasarandote misto men calochin
desquinao de trinchas punis y canrrias, sata anjella terelaba
dicando on los chorres naquelos sos me tesumiaste, y andial reutila
a men Jeli, dinela gao a sos menda orobibele; men puni sin trincha
per la quimbila nevel de yes manu barbalo; sos saro se muca per or
jandorro. Lo sos bus prejeno Calli de los Bengorros sin sos nu
muqueis per yes manu barbalo. . . . On tute orchiri nu chismo,
tramisto on coin te araquera, sos menda terela men nostus pa avel
sos me camela bus sos tute.
Reflect, O Callee! (104) what motives hast thou (now that my heart
is doting on thee, having rested awhile from so many cares and
griefs which formerly it endured, beholding the evil passages which
thou preparedst for me;) to recede thus from my love, giving
occasion to me to weep. My agony is great on account of thy recent
acquaintance with a rich man; for every thing is abandoned for
money's sake. What I most feel, O Callee, of the devils is, that
thou abandonest me for a rich man . . . I spit upon thy beauty, and
also upon him who converses with thee, for I keep my money for
another who loves me more than thou.
Gajeres sin corbo rifian soscabar yes manu persibarao, per sos saro
se linbidian odoros y beslli, y per esegriton apuchelan on sardana
de saros los Benjes, techescando grejos y olajais - de sustiri sos
lo resaronomo niquilla murmo; y andial lo fendi sos terelamos de
querar sin techescarle yes sulibari a or Jeli, y ne panchabar on
caute manusardi, persos trutan a yesque lili.
It is always a strange danger for a man to live in concubinage,
because all turns to jealousy and quarrelling, and at last they
live in the favour of all the devils, voiding oaths and curses: so
that what is cheap turns out dear. So the best we can do, is to
cast a bridle on love, and trust to no woman, for they (105) make a
man mad.
On grejelo chiro begoreo yesque berbanilla de chores a la burda de
yes mostipelo a oleba rachi - Andial sos la prejenaron los cambrais
presimelaron a cobadrar; sar andoba linaste changano or lanbro, se
sustino de la charipe de lapa, utilo la pusca, y niquillo
platanando per or platesquero de or mostipelo a la burda sos
socabelaba pandi, y per or jobi de la clichi chibelo or jundro de
la pusca, le dino pesquibo a or langute, y le sumuquelo yes
bruchasno on la tesquera a or Jojerian de los ostilaores y lo
techesco de or grate a ostele. Andial sos los debus quimbilos
dicobelaron a desquero Jojerian on chen sar las canrriales de la
Beriben, lo chibelaron espusifias a los grastes, y niquillaron
chapescando, trutando la romuy apala, per bausale de las machas o
almedalles de liripio.
On a certain time arrived a band of thieves at the gate of a farmhouse
at midnight. So soon as the dogs heard them they began to
bark, which causing (106) the labourer to awake, he raised himself
from his bed with a start, took his musket, and went running to the
court-yard of the farm-house to the gate, which was shut, placed
the barrel of his musket to the keyhole, gave his finger its
desire, (107) and sent a bullet into the forehead of the captain of
the robbers, casting him down from his horse. Soon as the other
fellows saw their captain on the ground in the agonies of death,
they clapped spurs to their horses, and galloped off fleeing,
turning their faces back on account of the flies (108) or almonds
of lead.
Y soscabando dicando dico los Barbalos sos techescaban desqueros
mansis on or Gazofilacio; y dico tramisto yesque pispiricha
chorrorita, sos techescaba duis chinorris saraballis, y penelo: en
chachipe os penelo, sos caba chorrorri pispiricha a techescao bus
sos sares los aveles: persos saros ondobas han techescao per los
mansis de Ostebe, de lo sos les costuna; bus caba e desquero
chorrorri a techescao saro or susalo sos terelaba. Y pendo a
cormunis, sos pendaban del cangaripe, soscabelaba uriardao de
orchiris berrandanas, y de denes: Cabas buchis sos dicais,
abillaran chibeles, bus ne muquelara berrandana costune berrandana,
sos ne quesesa demarabea. Y le prucharon y pendaron: Docurdo, bus
quesa ondoba? Y sos simachi abicara bus ondoba presimare? Ondole
penclo: Dicad, sos nasti queseis jonjabaos; persos butes abillaran
on men acnao, pendando: man sirlo, y or chiro soscabela pajes:
Garabaos de guillelar apala, de ondolayos: y bus junureis barganas
y sustines, ne os espajueis; persos sin perfine sos ondoba chundee
brotobo, bus nasti quesa escotria or egresiton. Oclinde les
pendaba: se sustinara sueste sartra sueste, y sichen sartra
sichen, y abicara bareles dajiros de chenes per los gaos, y
retreques y bocatas, y abicara buchengeres espajuis, y bareles
simachis de otarpe: bus anjella de saro ondoba os sinastraran y
preguillaran, enregandoos a la Socreteria, y los ostardos, y os
legeraran a los Oclayes, y a los Baquedunis, per men acnao: y
ondoba os chundeara on chachipe. Terelad pus seraji on bros
garlochines de ne orobrar anjella sata abicais de brudilar, persos
man os dinare rotuni y chanar, la sos ne asislaran resistir ne
sartra pendar satos bros enormes. Y quesareis enregaos de bros
batos, y opranos, y sastris, y monrrores, y queraran merar a
cormuni de averes; y os cangelaran saros per men acnao; bus ne
carjibara ies bal de bros jeros. Sar bras opachirima avelareis
bras orchis: pus bus dicareis a Jerusalen relli, oclinde chanad
sos, desquero petra soscabela pajes; oclinde los soscabelan on la
Chutea, chapesguen a los tober-jelis; y los que on macara de
ondolaya, niquillense; y lo sos on los oltariques, nasti enrren on
ondolaya; persos ondoba sen chibeles de Abillaza, pa sos chundeen
sares las buchis soscabelan libanas; bus isna de las araris, y de
las sos dinan de oropielar on asirios chibeles; persos abicara bare
quichartura costune la chen, e guillara pa andoba Gao; y petraran a
surabi de janrro; y quesan legeraos sinastros a sares las chenes, y
Jerusalen quesa omana de los suestiles, sasta sos quejesen los
chiros de las sichenes; y abicara simaches on or orcan, y on la
chimutia, y on las uchurganis; y on la chen chalabeo on la suete
per or dan sos bausalara la loria y des-queros gulas; muquelando
los romares bifaos per dajiralo de las buchis sos costune abillaran
a saro or surdete; persos los solares de los otarpes quesan sarchalabeaos;
y oclinde dicaran a or Chaboro e Manu abillar costune
yesque minrricla sar baro asislar y Chimusolano: bus presimelaren
a chundear caba buchis, dicad, y sustinad bros jeros, persos pajes
soscabela bras redencion.
And whilst looking he saw the rich who cast their treasures into
the treasury; and he saw also a poor widow, who cast two small
coins, and he said: In truth I tell you, that this poor widow has
cast more than all the others; because all those have cast, as
offerings to God, from that which to them abounded; but she from
her poverty has cast all the substance which she had. And he said
to some, who said of the temple, that it was adorned with fair
stones, and with gifts: These things which ye see, days shall
come, when stone shall not remain upon stone, which shall not be
demolished. And they asked him and said: Master, when shall this
be? and what sign shall there be when this begins? He said: See,
that ye be not deceived, because many shall come in my name,
saying: I am (he), and the time is near: beware ye of going after
them: and when ye shall hear (of) wars and revolts do not fear,
because it is needful that this happen first, for the end shall not
be immediately. Then he said to them: Nation shall rise against
nation, and country against country, and there shall be great
tremblings of earth among the towns, and pestilences and famines;
and there shall be frightful things, and great signs in the heaven:
but before all this they shall make ye captive, and shall
persecute, delivering ye over to the synagogue, and prisons; and
they shall carry ye to the kings, and the governors, on account of
my name: and this shall happen to you for truth. Keep then firm
in your hearts, not to think before how ye have to answer, for I
will give you mouth and wisdom, which all your enemies shall not be
able to resist, or contradict. And ye shall be delivered over by
your fathers, and brothers, and relations, and friends, and they
shall put to death some of you; and all shall hate you for my name;
but not one hair of your heads shall perish. With your patience ye
shall possess your souls: but when ye shall see Jerusalem
surrounded, then know that its fall is near; then those who are in
Judea, let them escape to the mountains; and those who are in the
midst of her, let them go out; and those who are in the fields, let
them not enter into her; because those are days of vengeance, that
all the things which are written may happen; but alas to the
pregnant and those who give suck in those days, for there shall be
great distress upon the earth, and it shall move onward against
this people; and they shall fall by the edge of the sword; and they
shall be carried captive to all the countries, and Jerusalem shall
be trodden by the nations, until are accomplished the times of the
nations; and there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and
in the stars; and in the earth trouble of nations from the fear
which the sea and its billows shall cause; leaving men frozen with
terror of the things which shall come upon all the world; because
the powers of the heavens shall be shaken; and then they shall see
the Son of Man coming upon a cloud with great power and glory:
when these things begin to happen, look ye, and raise your heads,
for your redemption is near.
'TACHIPEN if I jaw 'doi, I can lel a bit of tan to hatch: N'etist
I shan't puch kekomi wafu gorgies.'
The above sentence, dear reader, I heard from the mouth of Mr.
Petulengro, the last time that he did me the honour to visit me at
my poor house, which was the day after Mol-divvus, (109) 1842: he
stayed with me during the greatest part of the morning, discoursing
on the affairs of Egypt, the aspect of which, he assured me, was
becoming daily worse and worse. 'There is no living for the poor
people, brother,' said he, 'the chok-engres (police) pursue us from
place to place, and the gorgios are become either so poor or
miserly, that they grudge our cattle a bite of grass by the way
side, and ourselves a yard of ground to light a fire upon. Unless
times alter, brother, and of that I see no probability, unless you
are made either poknees or mecralliskoe geiro (justice of the peace
or prime minister), I am afraid the poor persons will have to give
up wandering altogether, and then what will become of them?
'However, brother,' he continued, in a more cheerful tone, 'I am no
hindity mush, (110) as you well know. I suppose you have not
forgot how, fifteen years ago, when you made horse-shoes in the
little dingle by the side of the great north road, I lent you fifty
cottors (111) to purchase the wonderful trotting cob of the
innkeeper with the green Newmarket coat, which three days after you
sold for two hundred.
'Well, brother, if you had wanted the two hundred, instead of the
fifty, I could have lent them to you, and would have done so, for I
knew you would not be long pazorrhus to me. I am no hindity mush,
brother, no Irishman; I laid out the other day twenty pounds in
buying rupenoe peam-engries; (112) and in the Chong-gav, (113) have
a house of my own with a yard behind it.
Well, dear reader, this last is the translation of the Gypsy
sentence which heads the chapter, and which is a very
characteristic specimen of the general way of speaking of the
English Gypsies.
The language, as they generally speak it, is a broken jargon, in
which few of the grammatical peculiarities of the Rommany are to be
distinguished. In fact, what has been said of the Spanish Gypsy
dialect holds good with respect to the English as commonly spoken:
yet the English dialect has in reality suffered much less than the
Spanish, and still retains its original syntax to a certain extent,
its peculiar manner of conjugating verbs, and declining nouns and
pronouns. I must, however, qualify this last assertion, by
observing that in the genuine Rommany there are no prepositions,
but, on the contrary, post-positions; now, in the case of the
English dialect, these post-positions have been lost, and their
want, with the exception of the genitive, has been supplied with
English prepositions, as may be seen by a short example:-
Hungarian Gypsy.(114) English Gypsy. English.
Job Yow He
Leste Leste Of him
Las Las To him
Les Los Him
Lester From leste From him
Leha With leste With him
Hungarian Gypsy English Gypsy. English
Jole Yaun They
Lente Lente Of them
Len Len To them
Len Len Them
Lender From Lende From them
The following comparison of words selected at random from the
English and Spanish dialects of the Rommany will, perhaps, not be
uninteresting to the philologist or even to the general reader.
Could a doubt be at present entertained that the Gypsy language is
virtually the same in all parts of the world where it is spoken, I
conceive that such a vocabulary would at once remove it.
English Gypsy. Spanish Gypsy.
Ant Cria Crianse
Bread Morro Manro
City Forus Foros
Dead Mulo Mulo
Enough Dosta Dosta
Fish Matcho Macho
Great Boro Baro
House Ker Quer
Iron Saster Sas
King Krallis Cralis
Love(I) Camova Camelo
Moon Tchun Chimutra
Night Rarde Rati
Onion Purrum Porumia
Poison Drav Drao
Quick Sig Sigo
Rain Brishindo Brejindal
Sunday Koorokey Curque
Teeth Danor Dani
Village Gav Gao
White Pauno Parno
Yes Avali Ungale
As specimens of how the English dialect maybe written, the
following translations of the Lord's Prayer and Belief will perhaps
Miry dad, odoi oprey adrey tiro tatcho tan; Medeveleskoe si tiro
nav; awel tiro tem, be kairdo tiro lav acoi drey pov sa odoi adrey
kosgo tan: dey mande ke-divvus miry diry morro, ta fordel man sor
so me pazzorrus tute, sa me fordel sor so wavior mushor pazzorrus
amande; ma riggur man adrey kek dosch, ley man abri sor wafodu;
tiro se o tem, tiro or zoozli-wast, tiro or corauni, kanaw ta everkomi.
Avali. Tatchipen.
My Father, yonder up within thy good place; god-like be thy name;
come thy kingdom, be done thy word here in earth as yonder in good
place. Give to me to-day my dear bread, and forgive me all that I
am indebted to thee, as I forgive all that other men are indebted
to me; not lead me into any ill; take me out (of) all evil; thine
is the kingdom, thine the strong hand, thine the crown, now and
evermore. Yea. Truth.
Me apasavenna drey mi-dovvel, Dad soro-ruslo, savo kedas charvus ta
pov: apasavenna drey olescro yeck chavo moro arauno Christos, lias
medeveleskoe Baval-engro, beano of wendror of medeveleskoe gairy
Mary: kurredo tuley me-cralliskoe geiro Pontius Pilaten wast;
nasko pre rukh, moreno, chivios adrey o hev; jas yov tuley o kalo
dron ke wafudo tan, bengeskoe stariben; jongorasa o trito divvus,
atchasa opre to tatcho tan, Mi-dovvels kair; bestela kanaw odoi pre
Mi-dovvels tacho wast Dad soro-boro; ava sig to lel shoonaben opre
mestepen and merripen. Apasa-venna en develeskoe Baval-engro; Boro
develeskoe congri, develeskoe pios of sore tacho foky ketteney,
soror wafudu-penes fordias, soror mulor jongorella, kek merella
apopli. Avali, palor.
I believe in my God, Father all powerful, who made heaven and
earth; I believe in his one Son our Lord Christ, conceived by Holy
Ghost, (117) born of bowels of Holy Virgin Mary, beaten under the
royal governor Pontius Pilate's hand; hung on a tree, slain, put
into the grave; went he down the black road to bad place, the
devil's prison; he awaked the third day, ascended up to good place,
my God's house; sits now there on my God's right hand Father-allpowerful;
shall come soon to hold judgment over life and death. I
believe in Holy Ghost; Great Holy Church, Holy festival of all good
people together, all sins forgiveness, that all dead arise, no more
die again. Yea, brothers.
As I was a jawing to the gav yeck divvus,
I met on the dron miro Rommany chi:
I puch'd yoi whether she com sar mande;
And she penn'd: tu si wafo Rommany,
And I penn'd, I shall ker tu miro tacho Rommany,
Fornigh tute but dui chave:
Methinks I'll cam tute for miro merripen,
If tu but pen, thou wilt commo sar mande.
One day as I was going to the village,
I met on the road my Rommany lass:
I ask'd her whether she would come with me,
And she said thou hast another wife.
I said, I will make thee my lawful wife,
Because thou hast but two children;
Methinks I will love thee until my death,
If thou but say thou wilt come with me.
Many other specimens of the English Gypsy muse might be here
adduced; it is probable, however, that the above will have fully
satisfied the curiosity of the reader. It has been inserted here
for the purpose of showing that the Gypsies have songs in their own
language, a fact which has been denied. In its metre it resembles
the ancient Sclavonian ballads, with which it has another feature
in common - the absence of rhyme.
(2) EDINBURGH REVIEW, Feb. 1843.
(3) EXAMINER, Dec. 17, 1842.
(4) SPECTATOR, Dec. 7, 1842.
(5) Thou speakest well, brother!
(6) This is quite a mistake: I know very little of what has been
written concerning these people: even the work of Grellmann had
not come beneath my perusal at the time of the publication of the
first edition OF THE ZINCALI, which I certainly do not regret: for
though I believe the learned German to be quite right in his theory
with respect to the origin of the Gypsies, his acquaintance with
their character, habits, and peculiarities, seems to have been
extremely limited.
(7) Good day.
(8) Glandered horse.
(9) Two brothers.
(10) The edition here referred to has long since been out of print.
(11) It may not be amiss to give the etymology of the word engro,
which so frequently occurs in compound words in the English Gypsy
tongue:- the EN properly belongs to the preceding noun, being one
of the forms of the genitive case; for example, Elik-EN boro
congry, the great Church or Cathedral of Ely; the GRO or GEIRO
(Spanish GUERO), is the Sanscrit KAR, a particle much used in that
language in the formation of compounds; I need scarcely add that
MONGER in the English words Costermonger, Ironmonger, etc., is
derived from the same root.
(12) For the knowledge of this fact I am indebted to the well-known
and enterprising traveller, Mr. Vigne, whose highly interesting
work on Cashmire and the Panjab requires no recommendation from me.
(13) Gorgio (Spanish GACHO), a man who is not a Gypsy: the Spanish
Gypsies term the Gentiles Busne, the meaning of which word will be
explained farther on.
(14) An Eastern image tantamount to the taking away of life.
(15) Gentes non multum morigeratae, sed quasi bruta animalia et
furentes. See vol. xxii. of the Supplement to the works of
Muratori, p. 890.
(16) As quoted by Hervas: CATALOGO DE LAS LENGUAS, vol. iii. p.
(17) We have found this beautiful metaphor both in Gypsy and
Spanish; it runs thus in the former language:-
'LAS MUCHIS. (The Sparks.)
'Bus de gres chabalas orchiris man dique a yes chiro purelar
sistilias sata rujias, y or sisli carjibal dinando trutas
(18) In the above little tale the writer confesses that there are
many things purely imaginary; the most material point, however, the
attempt to sack the town during the pestilence, which was defeated
by the courage and activity of an individual, rests on historical
evidence the most satisfactory. It is thus mentioned in the work
of Francisco de Cordova (he was surnamed Cordova from having been
for many years canon in that city):-
'Annis praeteritis Iuliobrigam urbem, vulgo Logrono, pestilenti
laborantem morbo, et hominibus vacuam invadere hi ac diripere
tentarunt, perfecissentque ni Dens O. M. cuiusdam BIBLIOPOLAE
opera, in corum, capita, quam urbi moliebantur perniciem
avertisset.' DIDASCALIA, Lugduni, 1615, I vol. 8VO. p. 405, cap.
(19) Yet notwithstanding that we refuse credit to these particular
narrations of Quinones and Fajardo, acts of cannibalism may
certainly have been perpetrated by the Gitanos of Spain in ancient
times, when they were for the most part semi-savages living amongst
mountains and deserts, where food was hard to be procured: famine
may have occasionally compelled them to prey on human flesh, as it
has in modern times compelled people far more civilised than
wandering Gypsies.
(20) England.
(21) Spain.
(22) MITHRIDATES: erster Theil, s. 241.
(23) Torreblanca: DE MAGIA, 1678.
(24) Exodus, chap. xiii. v. 9. 'And it shall be for a sign unto
thee upon thy hand.' Eng. Trans.
(25) No chapter in the book of Job contains any such verse.
(26) 'And the children of Israel went out with an high hand.'
Exodus, chap. xiv. v. 8. Eng. Trans.
(27) No such verse is to be found in the book mentioned.
(28) Prov., chap. vii. vers. 11, 12. 'She is loud and stubborn;
her feet abide not in her house. Now is she without, now in the
streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.' Eng. Trans.
Alonso, servant of many masters; an entertaining novel, written in
the seventeenth century, by Geronimo of Alcala, from which some
extracts were given in the first edition of the present work.
(30) O Ali! O Mahomet! - God is God! - A Turkish war-cry.
(31) Gen. xlix. 22.
(32) In the original there is a play on words. - It is not
necessary to enter into particulars farther than to observe that in
the Hebrew language 'ain' means a well, and likewise an eye.
(33) Gen. xlviii. 16. In the English version the exact sense of
the inspired original is not conveyed. The descendants of Joseph
are to increase like fish.
(34) Exodus, chap. xii. v. 37, 38.
(35) Quinones, p. 11.
(36) The writer will by no means answer for the truth of these
statements respecting Gypsy marriages.
(37) This statement is incorrect.
(38) The Torlaquis (idle vagabonds), Hadgies (saints), and
Dervishes (mendicant friars) of the East, are Gypsies neither by
origin nor habits, but are in general people who support themselves
in idleness by practising upon the credulity and superstition of
the Moslems.
(39) In the Moorish Arabic, [Arabic text which cannot be
reproduced] - or reus al haramin, the literal meaning being, 'heads
or captains of thieves.'
(40) A favourite saying amongst this class of people is the
following: 'Es preciso que cada uno coma de su oficio'; I.E. every
one must live by his trade.
(41) For the above well-drawn character of Charles the Third I am
indebted to the pen of Louis de Usoz y Rio, my coadjutor in the
editing of the New Testament in Spanish (Madrid, 1837). For a
further account of this gentleman, the reader is referred to THE
BIBLE IN SPAIN, preface, p. xxii.
(42) Steal a horse.
(43) The lame devil: Asmodeus.
(44) Rinconete and Cortadillo.
(45) The great river, or Guadalquiver.
(46) A fountain in Paradise.
(47) A Gypsy word signifying 'exceeding much.'
(48) 'Lengua muy cerrada.'
(49) 'No camelo ser eray, es Calo mi nacimiento;
No camelo ser eray, eon ser Cale me contento.'
(50) Armed partisans, or guerillas on horseback: they waged a war
of extermination against the French, but at the same time plundered
their countrymen without scruple.
(51) The Basques speak a Tartar dialect which strikingly resembles
the Mongolian and the Mandchou.
(52) A small nation or rather sect of contrabandistas, who inhabit
the valley of Pas amidst the mountains of Santander; they carry
long sticks, in the handling of which they are unequalled. Armed
with one of these sticks, a smuggler of Pas has been known to beat
off two mounted dragoons.
(53) The hostess, Maria Diaz, and her son Joan Jose Lopez, were
present when the outcast uttered these prophetic words.
(54) Eodem anno precipue fuit pestis seu mortalitas Forlivio.
(55) This work is styled HISTORIA DE LOS GITANOS, by J. M-,
published at Barcelona in the year 1832; it consists of ninetythree
very small and scantily furnished pages. Its chief, we might
say its only merit, is the style, which is fluent and easy. The
writer is a theorist, and sacrifices truth and probability to the
shrine of one idea, and that one of the most absurd that ever
entered the head of an individual. He endeavours to persuade his
readers that the Gitanos are the descendants of the Moors, and the
greatest part of his work is a history of those Africans, from the
time of their arrival in the Peninsula till their expatriation by
Philip the Third. The Gitanos he supposes to be various tribes of
wandering Moors, who baffled pursuit amidst the fastnesses of the
hills; he denies that they are of the same origin as the Gypsies,
Bohemians, etc., of other lands, though he does not back his denial
by any proofs, and is confessedly ignorant of the Gitano language,
the grand criterion.
(56) A Russian word signifying beans.
(57) The term for poisoning swine in English Gypsy is DRABBING
(58) Por medio de chalanerias.
(59) The English.
(60) These words are very ancient, and were, perhaps, used by the
earliest Spanish Gypsies; they differ much from the language of the
present day, and are quite unintelligible to the modern Gitanos.
(61) It was speedily prohibited, together with the Basque gospel;
by a royal ordonnance, however, which appeared in the Gazette of
Madrid, in August 1838, every public library in the kingdom was
empowered to purchase two copies in both languages, as the works in
question were allowed to possess some merit IN A LITERARY POINT OF
VIEW. For a particular account of the Basque translation, and also
some remarks on the Euscarra language, the reader is referred to
THE BIBLE IN SPAIN, vol. ii. p. 385-398.
(62) Steal me, Gypsy.
(63) A species of gendarme or armed policeman. The Miquelets have
existed in Spain for upwards of two hundred years. They are called
Miquelets, from the name of their original leader. They are
generally Aragonese by nation, and reclaimed robbers.
(64) Those who may be desirous of perusing the originals of the
following rhymes should consult former editions of this work.
(65) For the original, see other editions.
(66) For this information concerning Palmireno, and also for a
sight of the somewhat rare volume written by him, the author was
indebted to a kind friend, a native of Spain.
(67) A very unfair inference; that some of the Gypsies did not
understand the author when he spoke Romaic, was no proof that their
own private language was a feigned one, invented for thievish
(68) Of all these, the most terrible, and whose sway endured for
the longest period, were the Mongols, as they were called: few,
however, of his original Mongolian warriors followed Timour in the
invasion of India. His armies latterly appear to have consisted
chiefly of Turcomans and Persians. It was to obtain popularity
amongst these soldiery that he abandoned his old religion, a kind
of fetish, or sorcery, and became a Mahometan.
(69) As quoted by Adelung, MITHRIDATES, vol. i.
(70) Mithridates.
(70) For example, in the HISTORIA DE LOS GITANOS, of which we have
had occasion to speak in the first part of the present work:
amongst other things the author says, p. 95, 'If there exist any
similitude of customs between the Gitanos and the Gypsies, the
Zigeuners, the Zingari, and the Bohemians, they (the Gitanos)
cannot, however, be confounded with these nomad castes, nor the
same origin be attributed to them; . . . all that we shall find in
common between these people will be, that the one (the Gypsies,
etc.) arrived fugitives from the heart of Asia by the steppes of
Tartary, at the beginning of the fifteenth century, while the
Gitanos, descended from the Arab or Morisco tribes, came from the
coast of Africa as conquerors at the beginning of the eighth.'
He gets rid of any evidence with respect to the origin of the
Gitanos which their language might be capable of affording in the
following summary manner: 'As to the particular jargon which they
use, any investigation which people might pretend to make would be
quite useless; in the first place, on account of the reserve which
they exhibit on this point; and secondly, because, in the event of
some being found sufficiently communicative, the information which
they could impart would lead to no advantageous result, owing to
their extreme ignorance.'
It is scarcely worth while to offer a remark on reasoning which
could only emanate from an understanding of the very lowest order,
- so the Gitanos are so extremely ignorant, that however frank they
might wish to be, they would be unable to tell the curious inquirer
the names for bread and water, meat and salt, in their own peculiar
tongue - for, assuredly, had they sense enough to afford that
slight quantum of information, it would lead to two very
advantageous results, by proving, first, that they spoke the same
language as the Gypsies, etc., and were consequently the same
people - and secondly, that they came not from the coast of
Northern Africa, where only Arabic and Shillah are spoken, but from
the heart of Asia, three words of the four being pure Sanscrit.
(72) As given in the MITHRIDATES of Adelung.
(73) Possibly from the Russian BOLOSS, which has the same
(74) Basque, BURUA.
(75) Sanscrit, SCHIRRA.
(76) These two words, which Hervas supposes to be Italian used in
an improper sense, are probably of quite another origin. LEN, in
Gitano, signifies 'river,' whilst VADI in Russian is equivalent to
(77) It is not our intention to weary the reader with prolix
specimens; nevertheless, in corroboration of what we have asserted,
we shall take the liberty of offering a few. Piar, to drink, (p.
188,) is Sanscrit, PIAVA. Basilea, gallows, (p. 158,) is Russian,
BECILITZ. Caramo, wine, and gurapo, galley, (pp. 162, 176,)
Arabic, HARAM (which literally signifies that which is forbidden)
and GRAB. Iza, (p. 179,) harlot, Turkish, KIZE. Harton, bread,
(p. 177,) Greek, ARTOS. Guido, good, and hurgamandera, harlot,
(pp. 177, 178,) German, GUT and HURE. Tiple, wine, (p. 197,) is
the same as the English word tipple, Gypsy, TAPILLAR.
(78) This word is pure Wallachian ([Greek text which cannot be
reproduced]), and was brought by the Gypsies into England; it means
'booty,' or what is called in the present cant language, 'swag.'
The Gypsies call booty 'louripen.'
(79) Christmas, literally Wine-day.
(80) Irishman or beggar, literally a dirty squalid person.
(81) Guineas.
(82) Silver teapots.
(83) The Gypsy word for a certain town.
(84) In the Spanish Gypsy version, 'our bread of each day.'
(85) Span., 'forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.'
(86) Eng., 'all evil FROM'; Span., 'from all ugliness.'
(87) Span., 'for thine.'
(88) By Hungary is here meant not only Hungary proper, but
(89) How many days made come the gentleman hither.
(90) How many-year fellow are you.
(91) Of a grosh.
(92) My name shall be to you for Moses my brother.
(93) Comes.
(94) Empty place.
(95) V. CASINOBEN in Lexicon.
(96) By these two words, Pontius Pilate is represented, but whence
they are derived I know not.
(97) Reborn.
(98) Poverty is always avoided.
(99) A drunkard reduces himself to the condition of a hog.
(100) The most he can do.
(101) The puchero, or pan of glazed earth, in which bacon, beef,
and garbanzos are stewed.
(102) Truth contrasts strangely with falsehood; this is a genuine
Gypsy proverb, as are the two which follow; it is repeated
(103) In the original WEARS A MOUTH; the meaning is, ask nothing,
gain nothing.
(104) Female Gypsy,
(105) Women UNDERSTOOD.
(106) With that motive awoke the labourer. ORIG.
(107) Gave its pleasure to the finger, I.E. his finger was itching
to draw the trigger, and he humoured it.
(108) They feared the shot and slugs, which are compared, and not
badly, to flies and almonds.
(109) Christmas, literally Wine-day.
(110) Irishman or beggar, literally a dirty squalid person.
(111) Guineas.
(114) Silver tea-pots.
(115) The Gypsy word for a certain town.
(116) As given by Grellmann.
(117) The English Gypsies having, in their dialect, no other term
for ghost than mulo, which simply means a dead person, I have been
obliged to substitute a compound word. Bavalengro signifies
literally a wind thing, or FORM OF AIR.

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