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The English Gipsies and Their Language   By: (1824-1903)

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Transcribed from the 1874 Trubner & Co. edition by David Price, email


Author of "Hans Breitmann's Ballads," "The Music Lesson of Confucius," Etc. Etc.

Second Edition


[ All rights reserved ]


As Author of this book, I beg leave to observe that all which is stated in it relative to the customs or peculiarities of Gipsies was gathered directly from Gipsies themselves ; and that every word of their language here given, whether in conversations, stories, or sayings, was taken from Gipsy mouths. While entertaining the highest respect for the labours of Mr George Borrow in this field, I have carefully avoided repeating him in the least detail; neither have I taken anything from Simson, Hoyland, or any other writer on the Rommany race in England. Whatever the demerits of the work may be, it can at least claim to be an original collection of material fresh from nature, and not a reproduction from books. There are, it is true, two German Gipsy letters from other works, but these may be excused as illustrative of an English one.

I may here in all sincerity speak kindly and gratefully of every true Gipsy I have ever met, and of the cheerfulness with which they have invariably assisted me in my labour to the extent of their humble abilities. Other writers have had much to say of their incredible distrust of Gorgios and unwillingness to impart their language, but I have always found them obliging and communicative. I have never had occasion to complain of rapacity or greediness among them; on the contrary, I have often wondered to see how the great want of such very poor people was generally kept in check by their natural politeness, which always manifests itself when they are treated properly. In fact, the first effort which I ever made to acquire a knowledge of English Rommany originated in a voluntary offer from an intelligent old dame to teach me "the old Egyptian language." And as she also suggested that I should set forth the knowledge which I might acquire from her and her relatives in a book (referring to Mr Borrow's having done so), I may hold myself fully acquitted from the charge of having acquired and published anything which my Gipsy friends would not have had made known to the public.

Mr Borrow has very well and truly said that it is not by passing a few hours among Gipsies that one can acquire a knowledge of their characteristics; and I think that this book presents abundant evidence that its contents were not gathered by slight and superficial intercourse with the Rommany. It is only by entering gradually and sympathetically, without any parade of patronage, into a familiar knowledge of the circumstances of the common life of humble people, be they Gipsies, Indians, or whites, that one can surprise unawares those little inner traits which constitute the characteristic . However this may be, the reader will readily enough understand, on perusing these pages possibly much better than I do myself how it was I was able to collect whatever they contain that is new.

The book contains some remarks on that great curious centre and secret of all the nomadic and vagabond life in England, THE ROMMANY, with comments on the fact, that of the many novel or story writers who have described the "Travellers" of the Roads, very few have penetrated the real nature of their life. It gives several incidents illustrating the character of the Gipsy, and some information of a very curious nature in reference to the respect of the English Gipsies for their dead, and the strange manner in which they testify it. I believe that this will be found to be fully and distinctly illustrated by anecdotes and a narrative in the original Gipsy language, with a translation. There is also a chapter containing in Rommany and English a very characteristic letter from a full blood Gipsy to a relative, which was dictated to me, and which gives a sketch of the leading incidents of Gipsy life trading in horses, fortune telling, and cock shying... Continue reading book >>

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