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The Zincali: an account of the gypsies of Spain   By: (1803-1881)

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The Zincali An Account of the Gypsies of Spain by George Borrow Scanned and proofed by David Price

The Zincali An Account of the Gypsies of Spain


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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