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THE gipsies, as it should seem by some striking proofs derived from their language, came originally from Hindostan, where they are supposed to have been of the lowest class of Indians, namely Parias, or, as they are called in Hindostan, Suders. They are thought to have migrated about A.D. 1408 or 1409, when Timur Beg ravaged India for the purpose of spreading the Mahometan religion. On this occasion so many thousands were made slaves and put to death, that an universal panic took place, and a very great number of terrified inhabitants endeavoured to save themselves by flight. As every part towards the north and east was beset by the enemy, it is most probable that the country below Multan, to the mouth of the Indus, was the first asylum and rendezvous of the fugitive Suders. This is called the country of Zinganen. Here they were safe, and remained so till Timur returned from his victories on the Ganges. Then it was that they first entirely quitted the country, and probably with them a considerable number of the natives, which will explain the meaning of their original name. By what track they came to us cannot be ascertained. If they went straight through the southern Persian deserts of Sigistan, Makran, and Kirman, along the Persian Gulf to the mouth of the Euphrates, from thence they might get, by Bassora, into the great deserts of Arabia, afterwards into Arabia Petræa, and so arrive in Egypt by the Isthmus of Suez. They must certainly have been in Egypt before they reached us, otherwise it is incomprehensible how the report arose that they were Egyptians.2
See a Dissertation on the Gipsies, being an Historical Inquiry concerning the manner of Life, Economy, Customs, and Conditions of these People in Europe, and their Origin, written in German by Heinrich Moritz Gottlieb Grellman, translated into English by Matthew Raper, Esq., F.R.S. and A.S., 4to. Lond. 1787, dedicated to Sir Joseph Banks, Bart., P.R.S.
2 Yet Bellonius, who met great droves of gipsies in Egypt in villages on the banks of the Nile, where they were accounted strangers and wanderers from foreign parts, as with us, affirms that they are no Egyptians. Observat. lib. ii. It seems pretty clear that the first of the gipsies were Asiatic, brought hither by the Crusaders, on their return from the holy wars, but to these it is objected that there is no trace of them to be found in history at that time. Ralph Volaterranus affirms that they first pro
It seems to be well proved in this learned work that these gipsies came originally from Hindostan. A very copious catalogue is given of gipsy and Hindostan words collated, by which it appears that every third gipsy word is likewise an Hindostan one, or still more, that out of every thirty gipsy words eleven or twelve are constantly of Hindostan. This agreement will appear remarkably great, if we recollect that the above words have only been learned from the gipsies within these very few years, consequently after a separation of near four complete centuries from Hindostan, their supposed native country, among people who talked languages totally different, and in which the gipsies themselves conversed; for under the constant and so long continued influx of these languages, their own must necessarily have suffered great alteration.
In this learned work there is a comparison of the gipsies with the above caste of Suders: but I lay the greatest stress upon those proofs which are deduced from the similarity of the languages. In the supplement it is added that Mr. Marsden, whose judgment and knowledge in such matters are much to be relied upon, has collected, from the gipsies here, as many words as he could get, and that by correspondence from Constantinople he has procured a collection of words used by the Cingaris thereabouts; and these, together with the words given by Ludolph in his Historia Ethiopica, compared with the Hindostan vulgar language, show it to be the same that is spoken by the gipsies and in Hindostan. See in the seventh volume of the Archæologia, p. 388, Observations on the Language of the gipsies by Mr. Marsden; and ibid. p. 387, Collections on the Gipsy Language, by Jacob Bryant, Esq.
In the above work we read that, in 1418, the gipsies first arrived in Switzerland near Zurich and other places, to the number, men, women, and children, of fourteen thousand. The subsequent passage exhibits a proof of a different ten
ceeded, or strolled, from among the Uxi, a people of Persia. Sir Thomas Browne cites Polydore Vergil as accounting them originally Syrians: Philip Bergoinas as deriving them from Chaldea: Eneas Sylvius, as from some part of Tartary: Bellonius, as from Wallachia and Bulgaria: and Aventinus as fetching them from the confines of Hungary. He adds that "they have been banished by most Christian princes. The great Turk at least tolerates them near the imperial city: he is said to employ them as spies: they were banished as such by the Emperor Charles the Fifth.
dency. "In a late meeting of the Royal Society of Gottingen, Professor Blumenbach laid before the members a second decad of the crania of persons of different nations contrasted with each other, in the same manner as in the first, and ranged according to the order observed by him in his other works. In the first variety was the cranium of a real gipsy, who died in prison at Clausenburg, communicated by Dr. Patacki of that place. The resemblance between this and that of the Egyptian mummy in the first decad was very striking. Both differed essentially from the sixty-four crania of other persons belonging to foreign nations, in the possession of the author: a circumstance which, among others, tends to confirm the opinion of Professor Meiners, that the Hindoos, from whom Grellman derives the gipsies, came themselves originally from Egypt."-British Critic. Foreign Catalogue, ii. 226.1
Harrison, in his Description of England prefixed to Holinshed's Chronicle, 1587, p. 183, describing the various sorts of cheats practised by the voluntary poor, after enumerating those who maim or disfigure their bodies by sores, or counterfeit the guise of labourers or serving men, or mariners seeking for ships which they have not lost, to extort charity, adds: "It is not yet full three score years since this trade began; but how it hath prospered since that time it is easie to judge, for they are now supposed of one sex and another to amount unto above ten thousand persons, as I have heard reported. Moreover, in counterfeiting the Egyptian roges, they have devised a language among themselves which they name canting, but others pedlers French, a speach compact thirty years since of English and a great number of odd words of their own devising, without all order or reason: and yet such is it as none but themselves are able to understand. The first deviser thereof was hanged by the neck, a just reward no doubt for his deceits, and a common end to all of that profession."
1 See upon the subject of gipsies the following books: Pasquier, Recherches de la France, p. 392: Dictionnaire des Origines, v. Bohemiens; De Pauw, Recherches sur les Egyptiens, i. 169; Camerarii Horæ Subsecivæ; Gent. Mag. 1783, liii. 1009; ibid. 1787, lvii. 897. Anecdotes of the Fife gipsies will be found in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, ii. pp. 282, 523. On the gipsies of Hesse Darmstadt, ibid. ii. 409. Other notices concerning the Scottish gipsies in the same work, i. 43, 65, 66, 154, 167.
The beggars, it is observable, two or three centuries ago, used to proclaim their want by a wooden dish with a moveable cover, which they clacked, to show that their vessel was empty. This appears from a passage quoted on another occasion by Dr. Grey. Dr. Grey's assertion may be supported by the following passage in an old comedy called the Family of Love, 1608:
"Can you think I get my living by a bell and a clack-dish?
And by a stage direction in the second part of King Edward IV. 1619: "Enter Mrs. Blague, very poorly,-begging with her basket and a clack-dish."
Sir Thomas Browne, in his Vulgar Errors, p. 286, gives this general account of the gipsies: They are a kind of counterfeit Moors, to be found in many parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa. They are commonly supposed to have come from Egypt, from whence they derive themselves. Munster discovered, in the letters and pass which they obtained from Sigismund the Emperor, that they first came out of Lesser Egypt; that having turned apostates from Christianity and relapsed into Pagan rites, some of every family were enjoined this penance, to wander about the world. Aventinus tells us, that they pretend, for this vagabond course, a judgment of God upon their forefathers, who refused to entertain the Virgin Mary and Jesus, when she fled into their country."
Blackstone, in his Commentaries, has the following account of them: "They are a strange kind of commonwealth among themselves of wandering impostors and jugglers, who first made their appearance in Germany about the beginning of the sixteenth century. Munster, it is true, who is followed and relied upon by Spelman, fixes the time of their first appearance to the year 1417: but as he owns that the first he ever saw were in 1529, it was probably an error of the press for 1517, especially as other historians inform us, that when Sultan Selim conquered Egypt, in 1517, several of the natives refused to submit to the Turkish yoke, and revolted under
Sir Thomas Browne, ut supra, p. 287, says: "Their first appearance was in Germany since the year 1400. Nor were they observed before in other parts of Europe, as is deducible from Munster, Genebrard, Crantsius, and Ortelius."
one Zinganeus, whence the Turks call them Zinganees; but being at length surrounded and banished, they agreed to disperse in small parties all over the world, where their supposed skill in the black art gave them an universal reception in that age of superstition and credulity. In the compass of a very few years they gained such a number of idle proselytes (who imitated their language and complexion, and betook themselves to the same arts of chiromancy, begging and pilfering) that they became troublesome and even formidable to most of the states of Europe. Hence they were expelled from France in the year 1560 and from Spain 1591: and the government of England took the alarm much earlier, for in 1530 they are described, stat. 22 Hen. VIII. c. x., as an ' outlandish people calling themselves Egyptians, using no craft, nor feat of merchandize, who have come into this realm and gone from shire to shire, and place to place, in great company, and used great, subtle, and crafty means to deceive the people, and also have committed many heinous felonies and robberies.' Wherefore they are directed to avoid the realm, and not to return under pain of imprisonment and forfeiture of their goods and chattells; and upon their trials for any felony which they may have committed, they shall not be intitled to a jury de medietate linguæ. And afterwards it was enacted by statutes 1 and 2 Ph. and Mary, c. iv., and 5 Eliz. c. xx., that if any such persons shall be imported into the kingdom, the importers shall forfeit forty pounds. And if the Egyptians themselves remain one month in the kingdom, or if any person, being fourteen years old, whether natural-born subject or stranger, which hath been seen or found in the fellowship of such Egyptians, or which hath disguised him or herself like them,
'Spelman's portrait of the gipsy fraternity in his time, which seems to have been taken ad vivum, is as follows: "EGYPTIANI. Erronum impostorumque genus nequissimum: in Continente ortum, sed ad Britannias nostras et Europam reliquam pervolans :-nigredine deformes, excocti sole, immundi veste, et usu rerum omnium fœdi.-Fœminæ, cum stratis et parvulis, jumento invehuntur. Literas circumferunt principum, ut innoxius illis permittatur transitus.-Oriuntur quippe et in nostra et in omni regione, spurci hujusmodi nebulones, qui sui similes in gymnasium sceleris adsciscentes; vultum, cultum, moresque supradictos sibi inducunt. Linguam (ut exotici magis videantur) fictitiam blaterant, provinciasque vicatim pervagantes, auguriis et furtis, imposturis et technarum millibus plebeculam rodunt et illudunt, linguam hanc Germani Rotwelch, quasi rubrum Wallicum, id est Barbarismum; Angli Canting nuncupant."