The Gipsies' Advocate - or, Observations on the Origin, Character, Manners, and Habits of - The English Gipsies
by James Crabb
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Transcribed from the 1831 edition by David Price, email





"The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost." "Let that mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus."







The Author of the following pages has been urged by numerous friends, and more particularly by his own conscience, to present to the Christian Public a brief account of the people called Gipsies, now wandering in Britain. This, to many readers, may appear inexpedient; as Grellman and Hoyland have written largely on this neglected part of the human family. But it should be recollected, that there are thousands of respectable and intelligent christians, who never have read, and never may read either of the above authors. The writer of the present work is partly indebted for the sympathies he feels, and which he wishes to awaken in others toward these miserable wanderers, to various authors who have written on them, but more particularly to Grellman and Hoyland, who, in addition to the facts which came under their own immediate notice, have published the observations of travellers and others interested in the history of this people. A list of these authors may be seen in the Appendix.

But his knowledge of this people does not entirely depend on the testimony of others, having had the opportunity of closely examining for himself their habits and character in familiar visits to their tents, and by allowing his door to be free of access to all those encamped near Southampton, when they have needed his help and advice. Thus has he gained a general knowledge of their vicious habits, their comparative virtues, and their unhappy modes of life, which he hopes the following pages will fully prove, and be the means of placing their character in the light of truth, and of correcting various mistakes respecting them, which have given rise to many unjust and injurious prejudices against them.

The Author could have enlarged the present work very considerably, had he detailed all the facts with which he is well acquainted.

His object, however, was to furnish a work which should be concise and cheap, that he might be the means of exciting among his countrymen an energetic benevolence toward this despised people; for it cannot be denied that many thousands of them have never given the condition of the Gipsies a single thought.

Such a work is now presented to the public. Whether the author has succeeded, will be best known to those persons who have the most correct and extensive information relative to the unhappy race in question. Should he be the honoured instrument of exciting in any breasts the same feelings of pity, mercy, love and zeal for these poor English heathens, as is felt and carried into useful plans for the heathens abroad, by christians of all denominations; he will then be certain that, by the blessing of the Redeemer, the confidence of the Gipsies will be gained, and, that they will be led to that Saviour, who has said, Whosoever cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast him out.

CHAP. I. On the Origin of the Gipsies.

Of the Origin of these wanderers of the human race, the learned are not agreed; for we have no authentic records of their first emigrations. Some suppose them to be the descendants of Israel, and many others, that they are of Egyptian origin. But the evidence adduced in confirmation of these opinions appears very inconclusive. We cannot discover more than fifty Hebrew words in the language they speak, and they have not a ceremony peculiar to the Hebrew nation. They have not a word of Coptic, and but few of Persian derivation. And they are deemed as strangers in Egypt at the present time. They are now found in many countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa, in all of which they speak a language peculiar to themselves. On the continent of America alone are there none of them found. Grellman informs us that there were great numbers in Lorraine, and that they dwelt in its forests, before the French Revolution of 1790. He supposes that there are no less than 700,000 in the world, and that the greatest numbers are found in Europe. Throughout the countries they inhabit, they have kept themselves a distinct race of people in every possible way.

They never visit the Norman Isles; and it is said by the natives of Ireland, that their numbers are small in that country. Hoyland informs us, that many counties in Scotland are free of them, while they wander about in other districts of that country, as in England. He has also informed us, sec. 6, of a colony which resides during the winter months at Kirk Yetholm in the county of Roxburgh. {10}

Sir Thomas Brown, in his work entitled "VULGAR ERRORS," says, that they were seen first in Germany, in the year 1409. In 1418, they were found in Switzerland; and in 1422, in Italy. They appeared in France, on the 17th August, 1427. It is remarkable that, when they first came into Europe, they were black, and that the women were still blacker than the men. From Grellman we learn, that "in Hungary, there are 50,000; in Spain, 60,000; and that they are innumerable in Constantinople."

It appears from the statute of the 22nd of Henry VIII, made against this people, that they must at that time have been in England some years, and must have increased much in number, and in crime. In the 27th of that reign, a law was made against the importation of such persons, subjecting the importer to 40l penalty. In that reign also they were considered so dangerous to the morals and comfort of the country, that many of them were sent back to Calais. Yet in the reign of Elizabeth, they were estimated at 10,000. {11a}

Dr Walsh says, that the Gipsies in Turkey, like the Jews, are distinguishable by indelible personal marks, dark eyes, brown complexion, and black hair; and by unalterable moral qualities, an aversion to labour, and a propensity to petty thefts. {11b}

The celebrated traveller, Dr Daniel Clarke, speaks of great numbers of Gipsies in Persia, who are much encouraged by the Tartars. Formerly, and particularly on the Continent, they had their counts, lords, and dukes; but these were titles without either power or riches.

The English Gipsies were formerly accustomed to denominate an aged man and woman among them, as their king and queen; but this is a political distinction which has not been recognized by them for many years.

If we suppose the Gipsies to have been heathens before they came into this country, their separation from pagan degradation and cruelty, has been attended with many advantages to themselves. They have seen neither the superstitions of idolatry, nor the unnatural cruelties of heathenism. They are not destitute of those sympathies and attachments which would adorn the most polished circles. In demonstration of this, we have only to make ourselves acquainted with the fervour and tenderness of their conjugal, parental, and filial sensibilities,—and the great care they take of all who are aged, infirm, and blind, among them. Were these highly interesting qualities sanctified by pure religion, they would exhibit much of the beauty and loveliness of the christian character. I am aware that an opinion is general, that they are cruel to their children; but it may be questioned if ebullitions of passion are more frequent among them, in reference to their children, than among other classes of society; and when these ebullitions, which are not lasting, are over—their conduct toward their children is most affectionate. The attachment of Gipsy children to their parents is equally vivid and admirable; it grows with their years, and strengthens even as their connections increase. {12} And indeed the affection that sisters and brothers have one for the other is very great. A short time since, the little sister of a Gipsy youth seventeen years of age, was taken ill with a fever, when his mind became exceedingly distressed, and he gave way to excessive grief and weeping.

Those who suppose these wanderers of mankind to be of Hindostanee or Suder origin, have much the best proof on their side. A real Gipsy has a countenance, eye, mouth, hands, ancle, and quickness of manners, strongly indicative of Hindoo origin. This is more particularly the case with the females. Nor is the above mere assertion. The testimony of the most intelligent travellers, many of whom have long resided in India, fully supports this opinion. And, indeed, persons who have not travelled on the Asiatic Continent, but who have seen natives of Hindostan, have been surprised at the similarity of manners and features existing between them and the Gipsies. The Author of this work once met with a Hindoo woman, and was astonished at the great resemblance she bore in countenance and manners to the female Gipsy of his own country.

The Hindoo Suder delights in horses, tinkering, music, and fortune telling; so does the Gipsy. The Suder tribes of the same part of the Asiatic Continent, are wanderers, dwelling chiefly in wretched mud-huts. When they remove from one place to another, they carry with them their scanty property. The English Gipsies imitate these erratic tribes in this particular. They wander from place to place, and carry their small tents with them, which consist of a few bent sticks, and a blanket. {14} The Suders in the East eat the flesh of nearly every unclean creature; nor are they careful that the flesh of such creatures should not be putrid. How exactly do the Gipsies imitate them in this abhorrent choice of food! They have been in the habit of eating many kinds of brutes, not even excepting dogs and cats; and when pressed by hunger, have sought after the most putrid carrion. It has been a common saying among them—that which God kills, is better than that killed by man. But of late years, with a few exceptions, they have much improved in this respect; for they now eat neither dogs nor cats, and but seldom seek after carrion. But in winter they will dress and eat snails, hedge-hogs, and other creatures not generally dressed for food.

But the strongest evidence of their Hindoo origin is the great resemblance their own language bears to the Hindostanee. The following Vocabulary is taken from Grellman, Hoyland, and Captain Richardson. The first of these respectable authors declares, that twelve out of thirty words of the Gipsies' language, are either purely Hindostanee, or nearly related to it.

The following list of words are among those which bear the greatest resemblance to that language.

Gipsy. Hindostanee. English. Ick, Ek, Ek, One. Duj, Doj, Du, Two. Trin, Tri, Tin, Three. Schtar, Star, Tschar, Four. Pantsch, Pansch, Pansch, Five. Tschowe, Sshow, Tscho, Six. Efta, Hefta, Sat, Seven. Ochto, Aute, Eight. Desch, Des, Des, Ten. Bisch, Bis, Bis Twenty. Diwes, Diw, Day. Ratti, Ratch, Night. Cham, Cam, Tschanct The sun. Panj, Panj, Water. Sonnikey, Suna, Gold. Rup, Ruppa, Silver. Bal, Bal, The hair. Aok, Awk, The eye. Kan, Kawn, The ear. Mui, Mu, The mouth. Dant, Dant, A tooth. Sunjo, Sunnj, The hearing. Sunj, Sunkh, The smell. Sik, Tschik, The taste. Tschater, Tschater, A tent. Rajah, Raja, The prince. Baro, Bura, Great. Kalo, Kala, Black. Grea, Gorra, Horse. Ker, Gurr, House. Pawnee, Paniee, Brook, drink, water. Bebee, Beebe, Aunt. Bouropanee, Bura-panee, Ocean, wave. Rattie, Rat, Dark night, Dad, Dada, Father. Mutchee, Muchee, Fish.

This language, called by themselves Slang, or Gibberish, invented, as they think, by their forefathers for secret purposes, is not merely the language of one, or a few of these wandering tribes, which are found in the European Nations; but is adopted by the vast numbers who inhabit the earth.

One of our reformed Gipsies, while in the army, was with his regiment at Portsmouth, and being on garrison duty with an invalid soldier, he was surprised to hear some words of the Gipsy language unintentionally uttered by him, who was a German. On enquiring how he understood this language, the German replied, that he was of Gipsy origin, and that it was spoken by this race in every part of his native land, for purposes of secrecy. {16}

A well known nobleman, who had resided many years in India, taking shelter under a tree during a storm in this country, near a camp of Gipsies, was astonished to hear them use several words he well knew were Hindostanee; and going up to them, he found them able to converse with him in that language.

Not long ago, a Missionary from India, who was well acquainted with the language of Hindostan, was at the Author's house when a Gipsy was present; and, after a conversation which he had with her, he declared, that, her people must once have known the Hindostanee language well. Indeed Gipsies have often expressed surprise when words have been read to them out of the Hindostanee vocabulary.

Lord Teignmouth once said to a young Gipsy woman in Hindostanee, Tue burra tschur, that is, Thou a great thief. She immediately replied; No—I am not a thiefI live by fortune telling.

It can be no matter of surprise that this language, as spoken among this people, is generally corrupted, when we consider, that, for many centuries, they have known nothing of elementary science, and have been strangers to books and letters. Perhaps the secrecy necessary to effect many of their designs, has been the greatest means of preserving its scanty remains among them. But an attempt to prove that they are not of Hindoo origin, because they do not speak the Hindostanee with perfect correctness, would be as absurd as to declare, that, our Gipsies are not natives of England, because they speak very incorrect English. The few words that follow, and which occurred in some conversations the Author had with the most intelligent of the Gipsies he has met, prove how incorrectly they speak our language; and yet it would be worse than folly to attempt to prove that they are not natives of England.

Expencival for expensive.

Cide for decide.

Device for advice.

Dixen for dictionary. {18}

Ealfully for equally.

Indistructed for instructed.

Gemmem for gentleman.

Dauntment for daunted.

Spiteliness for spitefulness.

Hawcus Paccus for Habeas Corpus.

Increach for increase.

Commist for submit.

Brand, in his observations on POPULAR ANTIQUITIES, is of opinion that the first Gipsies fled from Asia, when the cruel Timur Beg ravaged India, with a view to proselyte the heathen to the Mohammedan religion; at which time about 500,000 human beings were butchered by him. Some suppose, that, soon after this time, many who escaped the sword of this human fury, came into Europe through Egypt; and on this account were called, in English, GIPSIES.

Although there is not the least reason whatever to suppose the Gipsies to have had an Egyptian origin, and although, as we have asserted in a former page, they are strangers in that land of wonders to the present day; yet it appears possible to me, that Egypt may have had something to do with their present appellation. And allowing that the supposition is well founded, which ascribes to them a passage through Egypt into European nations, it is very likely they found their way to that place under the following circumstances.

In the years 1408 and 1409, Timur Beg ravaged India, to make, as has already been observed, proselytes to the Mohammedan delusion, when he put hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants to the sword. It is very rational to suppose, that numbers of those who had the happiness not to be overtaken by an army so dreadful, on account of the cruelties it perpetrated, should save their lives by flying from their native land, to become wandering strangers in another. Now if we assert that the Gipsies were of the Suder cast of Asiatic Indians, and that they found their way from Hindostan into other and remote countries when Timur Beg spread around him terrors so dreadful, it is natural to ask, why did not some of the other casts of India accompany them? This objection has no weight at all when we consider the hatred and contempt poured upon the Suder by all the other casts of India. The Bramins, Tschechteries, and Beis, were as safe, though menaced with destruction by Timur Beg, as they would have been along with the Suder tribes, seeking a retreat from their enemy in lands where he would not be likely to follow them. Besides, the other casts, from time immemorial, have looked on their country as especially given them of God; and they would as soon have suffered death, as leave it. The Suders had not these prepossessions for their native soil. They were a degraded people—a people looked on as the lowest of the human race; and, with an army seeking their destruction, they had every motive to leave, and none to stay in Hindostan.

It cannot be determined by what track the forefathers of the Gipsies found their way from Hindostan to the countries of Europe. But it may be presumed that they passed over the southern Persian deserts of Sigiston, Makran and Kirman, along the Persian Gulph to the mouth of the Euphrates, thence to Bassora into the deserts of Arabia, and thence into Egypt by the Isthmus of Suez.

It is a fact not unworthy a place in these remarks on the origin of this people, that they do not like to be called Gipsies, unless by those persons whom they have reason to consider their real friends. This probably arises from two causes of great distress to them—Gipsies are suspected and hated as the perpetrators of all crimeand they are almost universally prosecuted as vagrants. Is it to be wondered at, that to strangers, they do not like to acknowledge themselves as Gipsies? I think not.

We will conclude our remarks on the origin of these erratic sons of Adam, by adding the testimony of Col. Herriot, read before the Royal Asiatic Society, Sir George Staunton in the chair. That gentleman, giving an account of the Zingaree of India, says, that this class of people are frequently met with in that part of Hindostan which is watered by the Ganges, as well as the Malwa, Guzerat, and the Decan: they are called Nath, or Benia; the first term signifying a rogue—and the second a dancer, or tumbler. And the same gentleman cites various authorities in demonstration of the resemblance between these Gipsies and their neglected brethren in Europe. Nor does he think that the English Gipsies are so degraded as is generally supposed; in support of which he mentions some instances of good feeling displayed by them under his own observation, while in Hampshire.

CHAP. II. Observations on the Character, Manners, and Habits of the English Gipsies.

The origin of this people is by no means of so much importance as the knowledge of their present character, manners and habits, with the view to the devising of proper plans for the improvement of their condition, and their conversion to christianity: for to any one who desires to love his neigbour as himself, their origin will be but a secondary consideration.

Fifty years ago the Gipsies had their regular journeys, and often remained one or two months in a place, when they worked at their trades. And as access to different towns was more difficult than at the present day, partly from the badness of the roads and partly from the paucity of carriers, they were considered by the peasantry, and by small farmers, of whom there were great numbers in those days, as very useful branches of the human family; I mean the industrious and better part of them. At that period they usually encamped in the farmers' fields, or slept in their barns; and not being subject to the driving system, as they now are, they seldom robbed hedges; for their fires were replenished with dead-wood procured, without any risk of fines or imprisonments, from decayed trees and wooded banks. And it is proper to suppose, that, at such a time, their outrages and depredations were very few.

It has already been stated that the Gipsies are very numerous, amounting to about 700,000. It is supposed that there are about 18,000 in this kingdom. But be they less or more, we ought never to forget—that they are branches of the same family with ourselves—that they are capable of being fitted for all the duties and enjoyments of life—and, what is better than all, that they are redeemed by the same Saviour, may partake of the same salvation, and be prepared for the same state of immortal bliss, from whence flows to the universal church of Christ, that peace which the world cannot take from her. Their condition, therefore, at once commands our sympathies, energies, prayers, and benevolence.

Gipsies in general are of a tawny or brown colour; but this is not wholly hereditary. The chief cause is probably the lowness of their habits; for they very seldom wash their persons, or the clothes they wear, their linen excepted. Their alternate exposures to cold and heat, and the smoke surrounding their small camps, perpetually tend to increase those characteristics of complexion and feature by which they are at present distinguishable.

It is not often that a Gipsy is seen well-dressed, even when they possess costly apparel; but their women are fond of finery. They are much delighted with broad lace, large ear-drops, a variety of rings, and glaring colours; and, when they possess the means, shew how great a share they have of that foolish vanity, which is said to be inherent in females, and which leads many, destitute of the faith, and hope, and love, and humility of the gospel, into utter ruin.

A remarkable instance of the love of costly attire in a female Gipsy, is well known to the writer. The woman alluded to, obtained a very large sum of money from three maiden ladies, pledging that it should be doubled by her art in conjuration. She then decamped to another district, where she bought a blood-horse, a black beaver hat, a new side-saddle and bridle, a silver-mounted whip, and figured away in her ill-obtained finery at the fairs. It is not easy to imagine the disappointment and resentment of the covetous and credulous ladies, whom she had so easily duped.

Nor indeed are the males of this people less addicted to the love of gay clothing, if it suited their interests to exhibit it. An orphan, only ten years of age, taken from actual starvation last winter, and who was fed and clothed, and had every care taken of him, would not remain with those who wished him well, and who had been his friends; but returned to the camp from which he had been taken, saying, that he would be a Gipsy, and would wear silver buttons on his coat, and have topped boots; and when asked how he would get them, he replied—by catching rats.

Some Gipsies try to excel others in the possession of silver buttons. They will sometimes give as much as fifteen pounds for a set. The females too spend many pounds on weighty gold rings for their fingers. The Author has by him, belonging to a Gipsy, three massy rings soldered together, and with a half sovereign on the top, which serves instead of a brilliant stone. We pity a vain Gipsy whose eyes are taken, and whose heart delights in such vulgar pomp. Are not those equally pitiable, who estimate themselves only by the gaiety, singularity, or costliness of their apparel? The Saviour has given us a rule by which we may judge persons in reference to their dress, as well as in other ostensibilities of character—by their fruits ye shall know them.

The Gipsies are not strangers to pawn-brokers shops; but they do not visit these places for the same purposes as the vitiated poor of our trading towns. A pawnshop is their bank. When they acquire property illegally, as by stealing, swindling, or fortune-telling, they purchase valuable plate, and sometimes in the same hour pledge it for safety. Such property they have in store against days of adversity and trouble, which on account of their dishonest habits, often overtake them. Should one of their families stand before a Judge of his country, charged with a crime which is likely to cost him his life, or to transport him, every article of value is sacrificed to save him from death, or apprehended banishment. In such cases they generally retain a Counsellor to plead for the brother in adversity.

At other times they carry their plate about with them, and when visited by friends, they bring out from dirty bags, a silver tea-pot, and a cream-jug and spoons of the same metal. Their plate is by no means paltry. Of course considerable property in plate is not very generally possessed by them.

The Gipsies of this country are very punctual in paying their debts. All the Shop-keepers, with whom they deal in these parts, have declared, that they are some of their best and most honest customers. For the payment of a debt which is owing to one of their own people, the time and place are appointed by them, and should the debtor disappoint the creditor, he is liable by their law of honour to pay double the amount he owes; and he must pay it by personal servitude, if he cannot with money, if he wish to be considered by his friends honest and respectable. They call this law pizharris.

There are few of these unhappy people that can either read or write. Yet a regular and frequent correspondence is kept up between the members of families who have had the least advantage of the sort; and those who have had no advantages whatever, correspond through the kindness of friends who write for them. Numerous are the letters which they receive from their relatives in New South Wales, to which Colony so many hundreds of this unsettled race have been transported. Their letters are usually left at one particular post-office, in the districts where they travel; and should such letters not be called for during a long period, they are usually kept by the post-master, who is sure they will be claimed, sooner or later. A long journey will be no impediment, when a letter is expected; for a Gipsy will travel any distance to obtain an expected favour of the kind. They are never heard to complain of the heavy expense of postage.

We have already observed that there are many genuine features of humanity in the character of this degraded and despised people. Their constantly retaining an affectionate remembrance of their deceased relatives, affords a striking proof of this statement. And their attachment to the horse, donkey, rings, snuffbox, silver-spoons, and all things, except the clothes, of the deceased relatives, is very strong. With such articles they will never part, except in the greatest distress; and then they only pledge some of them, which are redeemed as soon as they possess the means.

Most families visit the graves of their near relatives, once in the year; generally about the time of Christmas. Then the depository of the dead becomes a rallying spot for the living; for there they renew their attachments and sympathies, and give and receive assurances of continued good will. At such periods however they are too often addicted to feasting and intemperance.

The graves of the deceased of this people, are usually kept in very good order in the various Church yards where they lie interred. This is done by the Sextons, for which they are annually remunerated. Sometimes large sums of money are expended on the erection of head-stones; and in one instance a monument was erected in the County of Wilts at considerable cost. It is not very long since, that the parents of a deceased Gipsy child, whom they loved very much, paid a great sum to have it buried in the Church.

The Gipsies have a singular custom of burning all the clothes belonging to any one among them deceased, with the straw, litter, &c, of his tent. Whether this be from fear of infection, or from superstition, the Author has not been able to learn. Perhaps both unite in the continuation of a custom which must be attended with some loss to them. {28}

Seldom do these mysterious sons and daughters of Adam unite themselves in the holy obligations of marriage, after the form of the Established Church of our land. Nor, indeed, for so sacred a union, have they any ceremony at all. The parents on each side are consulted on such occasions, and if their consent be obtained, the parties become, after their custom, husband and wife. Should the parents object, like the thoughtless and imprudent persons in higher life, who flee to Gretna Green, the Gipsy lovers also escape from their parents to another district. When the couple are again met by the friends of the female, they take her from her protector; but if it appear that he has treated her kindly, and is likely to continue to do so, they restore her to him, and all objections and animosities are forgotten.

As it seldom happens that they now stay more than a few days in one place, the Gipsy, his wife, and each of their children, may severally belong to different parishes. This is an objection to their ultimate settlement in any one place. It will be some time before this objection can be removed: not till the present generation of Gipsies has passed away, and their posterity cease to make the wilderness their homes, choosing a parish for a permanent place of settlement.

It may naturally be expected that these inhabitants of the field and forest, the lane and the moor, are not without a knowledge of the medicinal qualities of certain herbs. In all slight disorders they have recourse to these remedies, and frequently use the inner bark of the elm, star-in-the-earth, parsley, pellitory-in-the-wall, and wormwood. They are not subject to the numerous disorders and fevers common in large towns; but in some instances they are visited with that dreadful scourge of the British nation, the Typhus fever, which spreads through their little camp, and becomes fatal to some of its families. The small-pox and measles are disorders they very much dread; but they are not more disposed to rheumatic affections than those who live in houses. It is a fact, however, that ought not to be passed over here, that when they leave their tents to settle in towns, they are generally ill for a time. The children of one family that wintered with us in 1831, were nearly all attacked with fever that threatened their lives. This may be occasioned by their taking all at once to regular habits, and the renunciation of that exercise to which they have been so long accustomed, with some disposing qualities in their change of diet and the atmosphere of a thickly populated town.

This people often live to a considerable age, many instances of which are well known. In his tent at Launton, Oxfordshire, died in the year 1830, more than a hundred years of age, James Smith, called by some, the King of the Gipsies. By his tribe he was looked up to with the greatest respect and veneration. His remains were followed to the grave by his widow, who is herself more than a hundred years old, and by many of his children, grand-children, great grand-children, and other relatives; and by several individuals of other tribes. At the funeral his widow tore her hair, uttered the most frantic exclamations, and begged to be allowed to throw herself on the coffin, that she might be buried with her husband. The religion of the Redeemer would have taught her to say, The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

A woman of the name of B—- lived to the reputed age of a hundred and twenty years, and up to that age was accustomed to sing her song very gaily. Many events in the life of this woman were very remarkable. In her youth she was a noted swindler. At one time she got a large sum of money, and other valuable effects, from a lady; for which and other offences, she was condemned to die. A petition was presented to George the Third, to use the Gipsy's own expression, who told the author, _just after he had set _up business_, that is, begun to reign, and he attended to its prayer. The sentence was reversed, and her life was consequently spared. But, poor woman, she repented not of her sins; for she taught her daughter to commit the same crimes for which she had been condemned; so that her delivery from condemnation led to no salutary reformation.

The mutual attachment which subsists between the nominal husband and wife, is so truly sincere, that instances of infidelity, on either side, occur but seldom. They are known strictly to avoid all conversation of an unchaste kind in their camps, except among the most degraded of them; and instances of young females having children, before they pledge themselves to those they love, are rare. This purity of morals, among a people living as they do, speaks much in their favour.

The anxiety of a Gipsy parent to preserve the purity of the morals of a daughter, is strongly portrayed in the following fact. The author wished to engage as a servant the daughter of a Gipsy who was desirous of quitting her vagrant life; but her mother strongly objected for some time; and when pressed for the reason of such objection, she named the danger she would be in a town, far from a mother's eye. It would be well if all others felt for their children as did this unlettered Gipsy. After having promised that the morals of the child should be watched over, she was confided to his care. And the author has known a Gipsy parent correct with stripes a grown daughter, for mentioning what a profligate person had talked about.

The following is an instance of conjugal attachment. A poor woman, whose eldest child is now under the care of the Society for the improvement of the Gipsies, being near her confinement, came into the neighbourhood of Southampton, to be with her friends, who are reformed, during the time. This not taking place so soon as she expected, and having promised to meet her husband at a distance on a certain day, he not daring to shew himself in Hampshire, she determined on going to him; and having mounted her donkey, set off with her little family. She had a distance of nearly fifty miles to travel, and happily reached the desired spot, where she met her husband before her confinement took place. The good people at Warminster, near which place she was, afforded her kind and needful assistance; and one well-disposed lady became God-mother to the babe, who was a fine little girl; the grateful mother pledging that, at a proper age, she should be given up to Christians to be educated.

Before this woman left Southampton, referring to many kind attentions shewn her by the charitable of that place, she was heard to say, WellI did not think any one would take such trouble for me!

Professing to be church people whenever they speak of religion, the Gipsies generally have their children baptized at the church near which they are born, partly because they think it right, and partly, perhaps chiefly, to secure the knowledge of the parish to which the child belongs; for every illegitimate child is parishioner in the parish in which it happens to be born. They will sometimes apply to the parish officers for something toward the support of a child, which they call settling the baby.

The sponsors at baptism are generally branches of the same family, and they speak of their God-children with pleasure, who in return manifest a high feeling of respect for them, and superstitiously ask their blessing on old Christmas-days, when in company with them. It is worthy of remark that all the better sort of Gipsies teach their children the LORD'S PRAYER.

The anxiety evidenced by some parish officers to prevent these families from settling in their districts, has occasionally led the Gipsies to act unjustifiably by menacing them with the settlement of a number of their families; but this, from their perpetual wandering, need never be feared. Happy would it be for the Gipsies as a people, if these civil officers did encourage them to stay longer in their neighbourhood; for they then might be induced to commence and persevere in honest, industrious and regular habits. Not long ago thirty-five Gipsies came to a parish in Hampshire, to which they belonged, and demanded of the overseers ten pounds, declaring that, if that sum were not given them, they would remain there. Seven pounds were advanced, and they soon left the place.

CHAP. III. The Character, Manners and Habits of the English Gipsies, continued.

From the mode of living among the Gipsies, the parents are often necessitated to leave their tents in the morning, and seldom return to them before night. Their children are then left in or about their solitary camps, having many times no adult with them; the elder children then have the care of the younger. Those who are old enough gather wood for fuel; nor is stealing it thought a crime. By the culpable neglect of the parents in this respect, the children are often exposed to accidents by fire; and melancholy instances of children being burnt and scalded to death, are not unfrequent. The author knows one poor woman, two of whose children have thus lost their lives, during her absence from her tent, at different periods: and very lately a child was scalded to death in the parish where the author writes.

The Gipsies are not very regular in attending to the calls of appetite and hunger. Their principal meal is supper, and their food is supplied in proportion to the success they have had through the day; or, to use their own words, the luck they have met with.

Like the poor of the land through which they wander, they are fond of tea, drinking it at every meal. When times are hard with them, they use English herbs, of which they generally carry a stock, such as agrimony, ground-ivy, wild mint, and the root of a herb called spice-herb.

The trades they follow are generally chair-mending, knife-grinding, tinkering, and basket-making, the wood for which they mostly steal. Some of them sell hardware, brushes, corks, &c.; but in general, neither old nor young among them, do much that can be called labour. And it is lamentable that the greatest part of the little they do earn, is laid by to spend at their festivals; for like many tribes of uncivilized Indians, they mostly make their women support their families, who generally do it by swindling and fortune-telling. Their baskets introduce them to the servants of families, of whom they beg victuals, to whom they sell trifling wares, and tell their fortunes, which indeed is their principal aim, as it is their greatest source of gain. They have been awkwardly fixed, both servants and the Gipsy fortune-teller, when the lady of the house has unexpectedly gone into the kitchen and surprised them while thus employed; and sometimes, to avoid detection, the obnoxious party has been hurried into a closet, or butler's pantry, where there has been much plate. Few are aware of the losses that have attended the conduct of unprincipled servants in this, as in other respects. It may be hoped that few families would knowingly look over conduct so improper, so dangerous.

Many of these idle soothsayers endeavour to persuade the people whom they delude, that the power to foretell future events, is granted to them from heaven, to enable them to get bread for their families. It would be well were the prognostications of these women encouraged only among servants; but this is not the case. They are often invited into gay and fashionable circles, whom they amuse, if, by the information possessed by the parties, they are not cunning enough to deceive. They are well paid, and are thus encouraged in their iniquity by those who ought to know, and teach them better. But it is astonishing how many respectable people are led away with the artful flattery of such visitors. They forget that the Gipsy fortune-teller has often made herself acquainted with their connexions, business, and future prospects, and consider not that God commits not his secrets to the wicked and profane. They use not the reason heaven has given them, and are therefore more easily led astray by these crafty deceivers.

They generally prophesy good. Knowing the readiest way to deceive, to a young lady they describe a handsome gentleman, as one she may be assured will be her "husband." To a youth they promise a pretty lady, with a large fortune. And thus suiting their deluding speeches to the age, circumstances, anticipations and prospects of those who employ them, they seldom fail to please their vanity, and often gain a rich reward for their fraud.

They suit their incantations, or their pretended means of gaining knowledge, to their employers. Two female servants went into the camp of some Gipsies near Southampton, to have their fortunes told by one well known to the author, and a great professor of the art. On observing them to appear like persons in service, she said to a companion, I shall not get my books or cards for them; they are but tenants. And calling for a frying-pan, she ordered them to fill it with water, and hold their faces over it. This being done, she proceeded to flatter and to promise them great things, for which she was paid 1s 6d each. This is called the frying-pan fortune. But it ought to be remembered that all fortune-telling is quite as contemptible.

These artful pretenders to a knowledge of future events, generally discover who are in possession of property; and if they be superstitious and covetous, they contrive to persuade them there is a lucky stone in their house, and that, if they will entrust to them, all, or a part of their money, they will double and treble it. Sorry is the author to say that they often gain their point. Tradesmen have been known to sell their goods at a considerable loss, hoping to have the money doubled to them by the supposed power of these wicked females, who daringly promise to multiply the blessings of Providence.

If the fortune-teller cannot succeed in obtaining a large sum at first, from such credulous dupes, she commences with a small one; and then pretending it to be too insignificant for the planets to work upon, she soon gets it doubled, and when she has succeeded in getting all she can, she decamps with her booty, leaving her mortified victims to the just punishment of disappointment and shame, who are afraid of making their losses known, lest they should be exposed to the ridicule they deserve. Parties in Gloucestershire, Dorsetshire, and Hampshire, have been robbed in this manner of considerable sums, even as much as three and four hundred pounds, the greatest part of which has been spent in Hampshire.

A young lady in Gloucestershire allowed herself to be deluded by a Gipsy woman of artful and insinuating address, to a very great extent. This lady admired a young gentleman, and the Gipsy promised that he would return her love. The lady gave her all the plate in the house, and a gold chain and locket, with no other security than a vain promise that they should be restored at a given period. As might be expected, the wicked woman was soon off with her booty, and the lady was obliged to expose her folly. The property being too much to lose, the woman was pursued, and overtaken. She was found washing her clothes in a Gipsy camp, with the gold chain about her neck. She was taken up; but on restoring the articles, was allowed to escape.

The same woman afterwards persuaded a gentleman's groom, that she could put him in possession of a great sum of money, if he would first deposit with her, all he then had. He gave her five pounds and his watch, and borrowed for her ten more of two of his friends. She engaged to meet him at midnight in a certain place a mile from the town where he lived, and that he there should dig up out of the ground a silver pot full of gold, covered with a clean napkin. He went with his pick-axe and shovel at the appointed time to the supposed lucky spot, having his confidence strengthened by a dream he happened to have about money, which he considered a favourable omen of the wealth he was soon to receive. Of course he met no Gipsy; she had fled another way with the property she had so wickedly obtained. While waiting her arrival, a hare started suddenly from its resting place, and so alarmed him, that he as suddenly took to his heels and made no stop till he reached his master's house, where he awoke his fellow servants and told to them his disaster.

This woman, who made so many dupes, rode a good horse, and dressed both gaily and expensively. One of her saddles cost 30 pounds. It was literally studded with silver; for she carried on it the emblems of her profession wrought in that metal; namely, a half-moon, seven stars, and the rising sun. Poor woman! her sun is now nearly set. Her sins have found her out. She has been in great distress on account of a son, who was transported for robbery; but has never thought of seeking, as a penitent, refuge in the God of mercy; for seeing one of her reformed companions reading the New Testament, she exclaimed, That book will make you crazy, at the same time calling her a fool for burning her fortune-telling book. Her condition is now truly wretched; for her ill-gotten gains are all fled, and she is dragging out a miserable existence, refusing still to seek the mercy of God, and despising those who have made him their refuge.

Another woman, whom the author would also call a bad Gipsy, who likewise practised similar deceptions, having persuaded a person to put his notes and money in a wrapper and lock it up in a box, she obtained the liberty of seeing it in his presence, that she might pronounce certain words over it; and although narrowly watched, she contrived to steal it, and to convey into the box a parcel similar in appearance, but which on examination, contained only a bundle of rubbish. This money amounted to several hundred pounds. She was immediately pursued and taken with the whole amount about her person. She was also allowed to escape justice, because the covetous old man neither wished to expose himself, nor waste his money in a prosecution.

The daughter of this woman has followed the same evil and infamous practices; and the crime has descended to her through several generations. Many circumstances like the above are hid to prevent the shame that would assuredly follow their exposure. But the day of Christ will exhibit both these deceivers and their dupes, who are equally heinous in the sight of God. It were well if such characters had paid more attention to the words of the apostle Paul—_And having food and raiment_, _let us therewith be content_. _They that will be rich_, _fall into temptation_, _and a snare_, _and into many foolish and hurtful lusts_, _which drown men in destruction_. _The love of money is the root of all _evil_; _which_, _while some have coveted after_, _they have erred from the faith_, _and pierced themselves through with many sorrows_.

Not to mention many other facts with which the author is acquainted, and which he would relate, were he not likely thereby too much to enlarge his work, he will conclude this chapter with observing, that, thankfulness to Almighty God, for the blessings we enjoy, less anxiety about future events, and more confidence in what God has revealed in his word and providence, would leave no room for the encouragement of Gipsy fortune-tellers, and their craft would soon be discontinued.

CHAP. IV. The Character, Manners, and Habits of the English Gipsies, continued.

Among this poor and destitute people, instances of great guilt, depravity and misery are too common; nor can it be otherwise expected, while they are destitute of the knowledge of salvation in a crucified and ascended Saviour. One poor Gipsy, who had wandered in a state of wretchedness, bordering on despair, for nearly forty years, had not in all that time, heard of the Name which is above every name; for there is salvation in no other; till in his last days some Christian directed him to the Bible, as a book that tells poor sinners the way to God. He gave a woman a guinea to read its pages to him; and he remunerated another woman, who read to him the book of Common Prayer. The last few years of his life were marked by strong conviction of sin. His children thought he must have been a murderer. They often saw him under the hedges at prayer. In his last moments he received comfort through a pious minister, who visited him in his tent, and made him acquainted with the promises of the gospel.

A similar instance has been related by a clergyman known to the author; nor should the interview of GEORGE THE THIRD with a poor Gipsy woman, be forgotten; for a brighter example of condescending kindness is not furnished in the history of kings. This gracious monarch became the minister of instruction and comfort to a dying Gipsy, to whom he was drawn by the cries of her children, and saw her expire cheered by the view of that redemption he had set before her.

But how few are there of the tens of thousands of Gipsies, who have died in Britain, that, whether living or dying, have been visited by the minister or his people! The father of three orphan children lately taken under the Care of the Southampton Committee for the improvement of the Gipsies, had lived an atheist, but such he could not die. He had often declared there was no God; but before his death, he called one of his sons to him and said—I have always said there was no God, but now I know there is; I see him now. He attempted to pray, but knew not how! And many other Gipsies have been so afraid of God, that they dreaded to be alone.

It is a fact not generally known, that the Gipsies of this country have not much knowledge of one another's tribes, or clans, and are very particular to keep to their own. Nor will those who style themselves respectable, allow their children to marry into the more depraved clans.

The following are a few of the family names of the Gipsies of this country:—Williams, Jones, Plunkett, Cooper, Glover, Carew (descendants of the famous Bamfield Moore Carew), Loversedge, Mansfield, Martin, Light, Lee, Barnett, Boswell, Carter, Buckland, Lovell, Corrie, Bosvill, Eyres, Smalls, Draper, Fletcher, Taylor, Broadway, Baker, Smith, Buckly, Blewett, Scamp, and Stanley. Of the last-named family there are more than two hundred, most of whom are known to the author, and are the most ancient clans in this part of England.

It is a well-authenticated fact, that many persons pass for Gipsies who are not. Such persons having done something to exclude them from society, join themselves to this people, and marrying into their clans, become the means of leading them to crimes they would not have thought of, but for their connection with such wicked people. Coining money and forging notes are, however, crimes which cannot be justly attributed to them. Indeed it has been too much the custom to impute to them a great number of crimes of which they either never were guilty, or which could only be committed by an inconsiderable portion of their race; and they have often suffered the penalty of the law, when they have not in the least deserved it. They have been talked of by the public, and prosecuted by the authorities, as the perpetrators of every vice and wickedness alike shocking to civil and savage life. Nor is this to be wondered at, living as they do, so remote from observation and the walks of common life.

Whoever has read Grellman's Dissertation on the Continental Gipsies, and supposes that those of England are equally immoral and vicious, will be found greatly mistaken. The former are a banditti of robbers, without natural affection, living with each other almost like brutes, and scarcely knowing, and assuredly never caring about the existence of God; some of them are even counted cannibals. The Gipsies of this country are altogether different; for monstrous crimes are seldom heard of among them.

The author is not aware of any of them being convicted of house-breaking, or high-way robbery. Seldom are they guilty of sheep-stealing, or robbing henroosts. {45} Nor can they be justly charged with stealing children; this is the work of worthless beggars who often commit far greater crimes than the Gipsies.

They avoid poaching, knowing that the sporting gentlemen would be severe against them, and that they would not be permitted to remain in the lanes and commons near villages. They sometimes take osiers from the banks and coppices of the farmer, of which they make their baskets; and occasionally have been known to steal a sheep, but never when they have had any thing to eat, or money to buy it with; for according to a proverb they have among themselves, they despise those who risk their necks for their bellies.

The author however recollects a transgression of the sort in the county of Hants. Eight Gipsy men united in stealing four sheep: four were chosen by lot for the purpose. They sharpened their knives, rode to the field, perpetrated the act, and before day-break brought to their camp the sheep they had engaged to steal; and, before the evening of the same day, they were thirty miles distant. But when pressed by hunger, they have been known to take a worse method than this. For as the farmers seldom deny them a sheep that has died in the field, if they apply for it, so many were found dead in this way, that a certain farmer suspected the Gipsies of occasioning their deaths. He therefore caused one of these animals to be opened, and discovered a piece of wool in its throat, with which it had been suffocated. The Gipsies, who had no objection to creatures that die in their blood, had killed all these sheep in the above manner.

Horse-stealing is one of their principal crimes, and at this they are very dextrous. When disposed to steal a horse, they select one a few miles from their tent, and make arrangements for disposing of it at a considerable distance, to which place they will convey it in a night. An old and infirm man has been known to ride a stolen horse nearly fifty miles in that time. They pass through bye-lanes, well known to them, and thus avoid turnpikes and escape detection.

Unless they are taught better principles than at present they possess, and unless those on whom they impose, use their understandings, it is to be feared that swindling also will long continue among them; for they are so ingenious in avoiding detection. When likely to be discovered, a change of dress enables them to remove with safety to any distance. Instances of this kind have been innumerable. But as it is the aim of this book to solicit a better feeling towards them, rather than expose them to the continuation of censure, the writer will not enter into further detail in reference to their crimes, than barely to shew the great evils into which they have been led by many of those in high life, who have long encouraged them in the savage practice of prize-fighting. Pugilism has been the disgrace of our land, and our nobility and gentry have not been ashamed to patronize it.

Not long ago a fight took place in this county which will be a lasting disgrace to the neighbourhood. One of the pugilists, a Gipsy, in the pride of his heart, said during the fight, that he never would be beaten so long as he had life. The poor wretch fought till not a feature of his countenance could be seen, his head and face being swollen to a frightful size, and his eyes quite closed. He attempted to tear them open that he might see his antagonist; and was at last taken off the stage. Not satisfied with this brutal scene, the spectators offered a purse of ten guineas for another battle. This golden bait caught the eye of another Gipsy, who, but a few months before, had ruptured a blood-vessel in fighting. Throwing up his hat on the stage, the sign of challenge, he was soon met with a fellow as degraded as himself, but with much more strength and activity. He was three times laid prostrate at the feet of his antagonist, and was taken away almost lifeless. His conqueror put a half-crown into his hand as he was carried off, saying, it was a little something for him to drink. About three months after this, the author saw this poor Gipsy in his tent, in the last stage of a consumption; but he was without any marks of true penitence. Surely the way of wickedness is full of misery!

What a disgrace is this demoralizing mode of amusement to our country! Degrading to the greatest degree, it is nevertheless pursued with avidity by all classes of people; and large bets are often depending on these brutal exercises. Gentlemen, noblemen, and even ladies, are, on such occasions, mixed with the most degraded part of the community. In the instance referred to it is said, that fifty pounds were taken by admitting carriages into the field in which the fight took place. Where were the peace-officers at this time? Perhaps some of them spectators of the horrid scene!

Verily our men of rank and fortune are guilty in encouraging these shocking practices; and they are little better than murderers, who goad their fellow-men on to fight by the offer of money. Such persons are frequently instruments of sending sinners, the most unprepared, into the presence of a righteous God. What an account will they have to give when they meet the victims of their amusement at the bar of Christ!

The Gipsies often fight with each other at fairs, and other places where they meet in great numbers. This is their way of settling old grudges; but so soon as one yields, the quarrel is made up, and they repair to a public house to renew their friendship. This forgiving spirit is a pleasing trait in their character.

CHAP. V. Further Account of the English Gipsies.

It has been the lot of Gipsies in all countries to be despised, persecuted, hated, and have the vilest things said about them. In many cases they have too much merited the odium which they have experienced in continental Europe; but certainly they are not deserving of universal and unqualified contempt and hatred in this nation. The dislike they have to rule and order has led many of them to maim themselves by cutting off a finger, that they might not serve in either the army or the navy: and I believe there is one instance known, of some Gipsies murdering a witness who was to appear against some of their people for horse-stealing: the persons who were guilty of the deed have been summoned to the bar of Christ, and in their last moments exclaimed with horror and despair, "Murder, murder." But these circumstances do not stamp their race without exception as infamous monsters in wickedness. Not many years since several of their men were hung in different places for stealing fourteen horses near Bristol, who experienced the truth of that scripture, be sure your sins will find you out. Indeed there is not a family among them that has not to mourn over the loss of some relative for the commission of this crime. But even in this respect their guilt has been much over-rated; for in many cases it is to be feared they have suffered innocently. There was formerly a reward of 40l to those who gave information of offenders, on their being capitally convicted. Those of the lower orders, therefore, who were destitute of principle, had a great temptation before them to swear falsely in reference to Gipsies; and of which it is known they sometimes availed themselves, knowing that few would befriend them. For the sake of the above sum, vulgarly, but too justly called blood-money, they perjured themselves, and were much more wicked than the people they accused. But the Gipsies were thought to be universally depraved, and no one thought it worth his while to investigate their innocence. Let us be thankful that many at the present day look upon them with better feelings.

Very lately one of these vile informers swore to having seen a Gipsy man on a horse that had been stolen; and although it came out on the trial, that it was night when he observed him, and that he had never seen him before, which ought to have rendered his evidence invalid, the prisoner was convicted and condemned to die. His life was afterwards spared by other facts having been discovered and made known to the judge, after he had left the city.

The Gipsies in this country have for centuries been accused of child-stealing; and therefore it is not to be wondered at, that, when children have been missing, the Gipsies should be taxed with having stolen them. About thirty years since, some parents who had lost a child, applied to a man at Portsmouth, well known in those days, by the name of Payne, or Pine, as an astrologer, wishing to know from him what was become of it. He told them to search the Gipsy tents for twenty miles round. The distressed parents employed constables, who made diligent search in every direction to that distance, but to no purpose; the child was not to be found in their camps. It was however soon afterwards discovered, drowned in one of its father's pits, who was a tanner. Thus was this pretended astrologer exposed to the ridicule of those who but a short time before foolishly looked on him as an oracle.

On another occasion the same accusation was brought against the Gipsies, and proved to be false. The child of a widow at Portsmouth was lost, and after every search was made on board the ships in the harbour, and at Spithead, and the ponds dragged in the neighbourhood, to no effect, it was concluded that the Gipsies had stolen him. The boy was found a few years afterwards, at Kingston-upon-Thames, apprenticed to a chimney sweeper. He had been enticed away by a person who had given him sweet-meats; but not by a Gipsy.

I may be allowed here to say a word about this boy's mother. She was a good and pious woman, and had known great trials. Her husband was drowned in her presence but a short time before she lost her son in the mysterious way mentioned; and before he was heard of, she was removed to the enjoyment of a better world. Her death was a very happy one, for it took place while she was engaged in public worship. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth them out of them all.

Instances have been known of house-breakers leaving some of their stolen goods near the tents of the Gipsies; and these being picked up by the children, and found upon them, have been the cause of much unjust suffering among them. The grandfather of three little orphans now under the care of the Southampton Committee, was charged with stealing a horse, and was condemned and executed; although the farmer of whom he bought it, came forward and swore to the horse being the same which he had sold him. His evidence was rejected on account of some slight mistake in the description he gave of it. When under the gallows, the frantic Gipsy exclaimed—Oh God, if thou dost not deliver me, I will not believe there is a God!

The following anecdote will prove the frequent oppression of this people. Not many years since, a collector of taxes in a country town, said he had been robbed of fifty pounds by a Gipsy; and being soon after at Blandford in Dorsetshire, he fixed on a female Gipsy, as the person who robbed him in company with two others, and said she was in man's clothes at the time. They were taken up and kept in custody for some days; and had not a farmer voluntarily come forward, and proved that they were many miles distant when the robbery was said to be perpetrated, they would have been tried for their lives, and probably hanged. The woman was the wife of Wm. Stanley, (who was in custody with her,) who now reads the Scriptures in the Gipsy tents near Southampton. Their wicked accuser was afterwards convicted of a crime for which he was condemned to die, when he confessed that he had not been robbed at the time referred to, but had himself spent the whole of the sum in question.

Another Gipsy of the name of Stanley was lately indicted at Winchester, for house-breaking, and had not his friends at great expense proved an alibi, it is likely he might have been executed. And in this way have they been suspected and persecuted ever since the days of Henry the Eighth. They have been hunted like wild beasts; their property has been taken from them; themselves have been frequently imprisoned, and in many cases their lives taken, or what to many of them would be much worse, they have been transported to another part of the world, for ever divided from their families and friends.

In the days of Judge Hale, thirteen of these unhappy beings were hanged at Bury St Edmonds, for no other cause than that they were Gipsies; and at that time it was death without benefit of clergy, for any one to live among them for a month. Even in later days two of the most industrious of this people have had a small pony and two donkeys taken away merely on suspicion that they were stolen. They were apprehended and carried before a magistrate, to whom they proved that the animals were their own, and that they had legally obtained them. The cattle were then pounded for trespassing on the common, and if their oppressed owners had not had money to defray the expenses, one of the animals must have been sold for that purpose.

Not long ago, one of the Gipsies was suspected of having stolen lead from a gentleman's house. His cart was searched, but no lead being found in his possession, he was imprisoned for three months, for living under the hedges as a vagrant; and his horse, which was worth thirteen pounds, was sold to meet the demands of the constables. And another Gipsy, who had two horses in his possession, was suspected of having stolen them, but he proved that they were legally his property. He was committed for three months as a vagrant, and one of his horses was sold to defray the expenses of his apprehension, examination, &c.

While writing this part of the GIPSIES' ADVOCATE, the author knows that a poor, aged, industrious woman, with whom he has been long acquainted, had her donkey taken from her, and that a man with four witnesses swore that it was his property. The poor woman told a simple, artless tale to the magistrates, and was not fully committed. She was allowed two days to bring forward the person of whom she bought it. Conscious of her innocence, she was willing to risk a prison if she could recover her donkey, and establish her character. After a great deal of trouble and expense in dispatching messengers to bring forward her witnesses, she succeeded in obtaining them. They had no sooner made their appearance than the accuser and his witnesses fled, and left the donkey to the right owner, the poor, accused and injured woman.

It cannot be expected that oppression will ever reform this people, or cure them of their wandering habits. Far more likely is it to confirm them in their vagrant propensities. And as their numbers do not decrease, oppression will only render them the dread of one part of their fellow-creatures, while it will make them the objects of scorn and obloquy to others.

It is the earnest wish of the author that milder measures may be pursued in reference to the Gipsies. To endeavour to improve their morals, and instruct them in the principles of religion, will, under the divine blessing, turn to better account than the hateful and oppressive policy so long adopted.

CHAP. VI. Further Account of the English Gipsies.

Many persons are of opinion in reference to the Gipsies, that, if all the parishes were alike severe in forcing them from their retreats, they would soon find their way into towns. But if this were the case, what advantage would they derive from it? In large towns, in their present ignorant and depraved state, would they not be still more wicked? They would change their condition only from bad to worse, unless they were treated better than they now are, and could be properly employed; but from the prejudice that exists among all classes of men against them, this is not likely to be the case: they would not be employed by any, while other persons could be got. At a hop plantation, so lately as 1830, Gipsies were not allowed to pick hops in some grounds, while persons as unsettled and undeserving, were engaged for that purpose. Had this been a parochial arrangement to benefit the poor of their own neighbourhood, who were out of employ, it were not blameable.

If they were driven to settle in towns, and could not, generally speaking, obtain employment, it might soon become necessary to remove all their children to their own parishes; a measure not only very unhappy in itself, but one to which the Gipsies would never submit. Sooner would they die than suffer their children to go to the parish workhouses.

The severe and unchristian-like treatment they meet with from many, only obliges them to travel further, and often drives them to commit greater depredations. When driven by the constables from their station, they retire to a more solitary place in another parish, and there remain till they are again detected, and again mercilessly driven away. But this severity does not accomplish the end it has in view; their numbers remain the same, and they retain the same dislike to the crowded haunts of man. For they only visit towns in small parties, offering trifling wares for sale, or telling fortunes; and this is done to gain a present support.

In this neighbourhood there was lately a sweeping of the commons and lanes of the Gipsy families. Their horses and donkeys were driven off, and the sum of 3 pounds 5s levied on them as a fine to pay the constables for thus afflicting them. In one tent during this distressing affair, there was found an unburied child, that had been scalded to death, its parents not having money to defray the expenses of its interment. The constables declared that it would make any heart ache to see the anguish the poor people were in, when thus inhumanly driven from their resting places; but, said they, We were obliged to do our duty. To the credit of these men, thirteen in number, it should be mentioned, that, with only one exception, they returned the fines to the people; and one of them, who is a carpenter, offered a coffin for the unburied child, should the parish be unwilling to bury it.

In this instance of their affliction and grief, the propensity to accuse these poor creatures was strongly marked by a report charging them with having dug a grave on the common in which to bury it; a circumstance very far from their feelings and general habits. The fact was, some person had been digging holes in search of gravel, and these poor creatures pitched their tent just by one of them.

It was supposed by many in this neighbourhood, that the poor wretches thus driven away, were gone out of the country; but this was not the case. They had only retired to more lonely places in smaller parties, and were all seen again a few days after at a neighbouring fair. This circumstance is sufficient to prove that they are not to be reclaimed by prosecutions and fines. It is therefore high time the people of England should adopt more merciful measures towards them in endeavouring to bring them into a more civilized state. The money spent in sustaining prosecutions against them, if properly applied, would accomplish this great and benevolent work. And without flattering any of its members, the author thinks the Committee at Southampton have discovered plans, wholly different to those usually adopted, which may prove much more effectual in accomplishing their reformation; for by these plans being put in prudent operation, many have already ceased to make the lanes and commons their home; and their minds are becoming enlightened and their characters religious.

In concluding this chapter it may not be improper to remark, that, bad as may be the character of any of our fellow-creatures, it is very lamentable that they should suffer for crimes of which individually they are not guilty. Let us hope that, in reference to this people, unjust executions have ceased; that people will be careful in giving evidence which involves the rights, liberties, and lives of their fellow-creatures, though belonging to the unhappy tribes of Gipsies; and above all, let us hope, that such measures will be pursued by the good and benevolent of this highly favoured land, as will place them in situations where they will learn to fear God, and support themselves honestly in the sight of all men.

CHAP. VII. Of the formation of the Southampton Committee, and the success that has attended its endeavours.

Although the Gipsies, on account of their unsettled habits, their disposition to evil practices, and that ignorance of true religion, which is inseparably connected with a life remote from all the forms of external worship, and from the influence of religious society, may be said to be in a most lamentably wretched state; yet is their condition not desperate. They are rational beings, and have many feelings honourable to human nature. They are not as the heathens of other countries, addicted to any system of idolatry; and what is of infinite encouragement, they inhabit a land of Bibles and of Christian ministers; and, although at present, they derive so little benefit from these advantages, there are many of them willing to receive instruction. The following details, to which I gladly turn, will shew that, when patient and persevering means are used, Gipsies may be brought to know God; and no body of people were ever yet converted to Christianity without means. The following circumstances gave rise to the idea of forming a society for the improvement of this people.

In March, 1827, during the Lent Assizes, the author was in Winchester, and wishing to speak with the sheriff's chaplain, he went to the court for that purpose. He happened to enter just as the judge was passing sentence of death on two unhappy men. To one he held out the hope of mercy; but to the other, a poor Gipsy, who was convicted of horse-stealing, he said, no hope could be given. The young man, for he was but a youth, immediately fell on his knees, and with uplifted hands and eyes, apparently unconscious of any persons being present but the judge and himself, addressed him as follows: "Oh! my Lord, save my life!" The judge replied, "No; you can have no mercy in this world: I and my brother judges have come to the determination to execute horse-stealers, especially Gipsies, because of the increase of the crime." The suppliant, still on his knees, entreated—"Do, my Lord Judge, save my life! do, for God's sake, for my wife's sake, for my baby's sake!" "No," replied the judge, "I cannot: you should have thought of your wife and children before." He then ordered him to be taken away, and the poor fellow was rudely dragged from his earthly judge. It is hoped, as a penitent sinner, he obtained the more needful mercy of God, through the abounding grace of Christ. After this scene, the author could not remain in court. As he returned, he found the mournful intelligence had been communicated to some Gipsies who had been waiting without, anxious to learn the fate of their companion. They seemed distracted.

On the outside of the court, seated on the ground, appeared an old woman, and a very young one, and with them two children, the eldest three years, and the other an infant but fourteen days old. The former sat by its mother's side, alike unconscious of her bitter agonies, and of her father's despair. The old woman held the infant tenderly in her arms, and endeavoured to comfort its weeping mother, soon to be a widow under circumstances the most melancholy. My dear, don't cry, said she, remember you have this dear little baby. Impelled by the sympathies of pity and a sense of duty, the author spoke to them on the evil of sin, and expressed his hope that the melancholy event would prove a warning to them, and to all their people. The poor man was executed about a fortnight after his condemnation.

This sad scene, together with Hoyland's Survey of the Gipsies, which the author read about this time, combined to make a deep impression on his mind, and awaken an earnest desire which has never since decreased, to assist and improve this greatly neglected people. The more he contemplated their condition and necessities, the difficulties in the way of their reformation continued to lessen, and his hope of success, in case any thing could be done for them, became more and more confirmed. He could not forget the poor young widow whom he had seen in such deep distress at Winchester, and was led to resolve, if he should meet her again, to offer to provide for her children.

Some weeks elapsed before he could hear any thing of her, till one day he saw the old woman sitting on the ground at the entrance of Southampton, with the widow's infant on her knee. "Where is your daughter?" he inquired. "Sir," she replied, "She is my niece; she is gone into the town." "Will you desire her to call at my house?" "I will, sir," said the poor old woman, to whom the author gave his address.

In about an hour after this conversation, the widow and her aunt appeared. After inviting them to sit down, he addressed the young woman thus:—"My good woman, you are now a poor widow, and I wished to see you, to tell you that I would be your friend. I will take your children, if you will let me have them, and be a father to them, and educate them; and, when old enough to work, will have them taught some honest trade." "Thank you, sir," said she; "but I don't like to part with my children. The chaplain at the prison offered to take my oldest, and to send her to London to be taken care of; but I could not often see her there." I replied, "I commend you for not parting with her, unless you could occasionally see her; for I suppose you love your children dearly." "Oh! yes, sir," said the widow. The old aunt also added, "Our people set great store by their children." "Well," I replied, "I do not wish you to determine on this business hastily; it is a weighty one. You had better take a fortnight for consideration, and then give me a second call."

How improbable did it then appear that this interview would ultimately lead to so much good to many of her people! When the fortnight expired, the widow and her aunt again appeared, when the following conversation took place. "I am glad you are come again," said their friend. "Yes," replied the widow, "and I will now let you have my Betsy;" and the aunt immediately added, pointing to one of her grand-children, "I will let you have my little deary, if you will take care of her. Her father," continued she, "was condemned to die, but is transported for life, and her mother now lives with another man." The proposal was readily accepted; and three days after, these two children were brought washed very clean, and dressed in their best clothes. It was promised the women, that they should see their children whenever they chose, and all parties were pleased. The eldest of these children was six years of age; the widow's little daughter, only three. The first day they amused themselves with running up and down stairs, and through the rooms of the house. But when put to bed at night, they cried for two hours, saying that the house would fall upon them. They had never spent a day in a house before, and were at night like birds that had been decoyed, and then robbed of their liberty. A few kisses and some promises at length quieted them, and they went to sleep.

After remaining with the author three days, they were removed to one of the Infants' Schools, where they were often visited by the widow and her aunt. Soon after this the eldest girl was taken ill. A medical gentleman attended her at the tent, a little way from the town, whither her grandmother had begged to remove her for change of air. But the sickness of this child was unto death. She was a lovely and affectionate girl, notwithstanding the disadvantages under which she had necessarily laboured. When on her bed, in the tent, suffering much pain, she was asked by a gentleman, "Although you love Mr Crabb so much, would you rather live with him, or die, and go to Jesus?" She answered, "I would rather die and go to Jesus." Her death very much affected her grandmother. She would not leave the corpse, which she often affectionately embraced, till persuaded she would endanger her own life. This appeared a melancholy event to all who wished well to the Gipsies in the neighbourhood of Southampton. For the widow, fearing her child would become ill and die too, immediately removed her from the school. And many of the Gipsy people treated the women with great contempt, for giving up their children; and the prospects of doing them lasting good, became very much beclouded. It was however represented to them, that God was doing all things for the best, and their spirits were soothed; and in consequence, the little fatherless girl was again brought to the school.

After this event, the women remained a considerable time in the neighbourhood, waiting to see if the little one, again given up to the author, would be kindly treated. By this detention they were often brought into the company of good people, whose kindness gained their confidence. They began to listen to invitations to settle in the town, and finally determined on doing so. Even the old woman, who had lived under hedges for fifty years, and who had declared but a short time before, that she would not leave her tent for a palace, now gladly occupied a house; this greatly encouraged their friends, who well knew that it was not a small sacrifice, for a Gipsy to give up what is thought by them to be their liberty.

A short time before these women removed from under the hedges, the sister of the unhappy man who had been executed, came out of Dorsetshire with her three children, on her way to Surry, where she had been accustomed to go to hop-picking. Encamping under the same hedge with the widow and her aunt, she was seen by the author in one of his visits to them. He found them one evening about six o'clock at dinner, and took his seat near them; and while they were regaling themselves with broiled meat, potatoes, and tea, the following interesting conversation took place.

"Sir," said the widow, "this is my sister and her children." No one could have introduced this woman and her little ones with more easy simplicity than she did, while, by the smile on her swarthy countenance, she exhibited real heartfelt pleasure. "I am glad to see you, my good woman;" said the author, "are these your children?" "Yes, sir," replied she, very cheerfully. "And where are you going?" "I am going into Surry, sir." "Have you not many difficulties to trouble you in your way of life?" "Yes, sir," answered she. The author continued, "I wish you would let me have your children to provide for and educate." "Not I, indeed," she replied sharply; "others may part with their children, if they like, but I will never part with mine." "Well, my good woman, the offer to educate them has done no harm: let me hope it will do good. I would have you recollect that you have now a proposal made you of bettering their present and future condition. You and I must soon meet at the judgment-seat of Christ, to give an account of this meeting; and you know that I can do better for your little ones than you can." She was silent. The author then addressed these people and left the tents.

The next day he visited the camp again, when the widow woman said, "Sir, my sister was so cut up (putting her hand to her heart), with what you said last night, that she could not eat any more, and declared she felt as she never had done before; and she has determined to come and live with us at Michaelmas." What was still better, in consequence of what was said to this poor stranger, she did not go to the races, although she had stopped near Southampton for that purpose.

From this time endeavours were made to confirm the woman's intentions to stay at Southampton, and to place her children with the other. She was asked, why she would not stay at Southampton then? "Why, to tell you the truth," said she, "for it's no use to tell a lie about that, I don't want to bring my children to you, like vagabonds; and as we shall earn a good bit of money at hopping, I shall buy them some clothes; and then, if you will take me a room at Michaelmas, I will surely return and live in Southampton, and my children shall go to school; but I will never give them up entirely." She continued with her sister till the house which had been taken for the latter was ready; during which time a gentleman from Ireland, then living near the encampment, had her children every day to his house, and taught them to read. The remembrance of him will be precious to them for ever. She came on the day appointed, and her children were put to the Infants' School, where they have continued ever since, clean and respectable, and very diligent in their learning. They often explain the Scriptures to their mother. One of them has long been a monitor in the school. May she continue a credit to the institution in which she has been so far educated.

Although the mother of these children is not yet decidedly pious, she is very much improved. She is now able to read her Testament with tolerable ease, takes great pleasure in receiving instruction, and we hope is deeply impressed with the importance of personal religion. She attends public worship diligently, and loves Christians, whom she once hated. She weeps with abhorrence over past crimes, and says she would rather have her hands cut off, than do as she has done. For more than twelve months after living at Southampton, she continued occasionally to tell fortunes for the gain it brought her. But a remarkable dream led her to see the wickedness of this practice; for it so terrified her that she rose from her bed, lighted a fire, and burnt the book in which she had pretended to see the fortune of others. Large sums of money had been offered her for this volume; but, though in extreme poverty, she determined to make any sacrifice, rather than enrich herself by its sale. She dreamed that she was at the adult school, where she regularly attended, and, that while she was reading her Testament, it changed into a book of divination, and she began to tell the fortune of the lady who was teaching her; and while thus employed, she thought she heard awful thunderings, and the sound of trumpets; after which a tremendous tempest ensued, during which she fancied herself in an extensive plain, exposed to all the fury of the storm. She then thought the day of judgment was come, and that she was summoned to render up her account. She awoke in great terror, and as soon as she had a little recovered herself, arose and followed the example of those we read of in the Acts of the Apostles:—And many of them which also used curious arts, brought their books together, and burned them before all men; and they counted the price of them, and found fifty thousand pieces silver. Acts xix. 19.

When relating this dream to a lady, she was asked whether she had formerly been in the habit of seeking by any means, the aid of the devil, in order to know future events; it having been asserted that many of the Gipsies had done so. She informed the lady that she never had done so, and that she thought none of her people had any thing to do with him, otherwise than by giving themselves up to do wickedly. The devil tempted them to do still worse; as those who neglect to seek to God for help, must of course be under the power of the wicked one.

CHAP. VIII. Of the plans pursued by the Southampton Committee, and the success which has attended them, continued.

Sixteen reformed Gipsies are now living at Southampton, one of whom is the aged Gipsy whose history has been published by a lady. {72} There are also her brother and four of his children, her sister, who has been a wanderer for more than fifty years, and her daughter, three orphans, and a boy who has been given up to the Committee by his mother, a woman and her three children, and the young woman before mentioned, who has, since her reformation, lost her two children by the measles.

In addition to those who have retired from a wandering life, and are pursuing habits of honest industry, three other families, whose united number is sixteen, begged the privilege of wintering with us in the beginning of 1831. These Gipsies regularly attended divine service twice on a Sunday, and on the work-day evenings the adults went to school to learn to read. The children were placed at one of the Infants' Schools. The prospects of doing one of the families lasting good, are rather dark, as they are grown old and hardened in crime; but the condition of the others is more encouraging. The children, who would gladly have stayed longer with us, were sickly; and it is apprehended, had not this been the case, the parents would have continued longer, that they might have gone to school. Two women, mother and daughter, in one family, are much interested in the worship of God, and already begin to feel the value of their souls; and both regret that they are under the necessity of submitting to the arbitrary will of the father. One of them declared that she could never more act as a Gipsy, and with weeping eyes she said, that, she feared she never should be pardoned, or saved. When directed to go to Jesus, she replied, she knew not how to go to him. In three days they will leave us, and it will be a painful separation. It was very gratifying to the author to see so many Gipsies attend the house of God, and he frequently recollected with pleasure, that promise of holy Scripture, _For as the rain cometh down_, _and the snow from heaven_, _and returneth not thither_, _but watereth the earth_, _and maketh it bring forth and bud_, _that it may give seed to the sower_, _and bread to the eater_: _so shall my word be that goeth forth of my mouth_: _it shall not return unto me void_, _but it shall accomplish that which I please_, _and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I send it_. _For ye shall go out with joy_, _and be led forth with peace_; _the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing_, _and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands_. _Instead of the thorn shall come up the _fur tree_, _and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree_: _and it stall be to the Lord for a name_, _for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off_.

Six of the children are at an Infants' School at Southampton, and three others attend a charity school; and another is learning to be a coach wheelwright. This youth has behaved so well in his situation, that he has been advanced by his master to a higher branch in the business. His fellow-workmen, who at first disliked him for being a Gipsy, have subscribed money to assist him in the purchase of additional tools, to which the foreman added five shillings, and the master one pound. This is a most encouraging circumstance.

The aged man who has been so many years reformed, is a basket maker. He often visits his brethren in their tents, under the direction of the Committee, to give advice and instruction. His sister, lately reclaimed, takes care of the six Gipsy children, and is become very serious and industrious; and though in the decline of life, she receives but one shilling per week from the Committee. Two instances of the gratitude of this woman ought not to be omitted.

The author's horse having strayed from the field, a sovereign was offered to any one who would bring it back to him. Several persons sought for it in vain. This old Gipsy woman was sent in quest of it, and in two days returned with the horse. Of course she was offered the sovereign that had been named as a reward; but she refused to take it, saying, she owed the author more than that; yea, all that she had, for the comfort she was then enjoying. This was the language of an honest and grateful heart. On being compelled to take it, she bought herself some garments for the winter.

On another occasion, when she was coming from some place which she had visited, and was detained on the road longer than she had expected, she became penniless; yet would she not beg, lest it might be looked on as one step towards turning back to habits she had entirely abandoned. She assured the author that she would rather have starved than return to her old trade of begging; and besides, added she, "the people know that I am one of your reformed Gipsies, and I will never bring a reproach upon my best friends."

The young widow was taught to make shoes; but becoming depressed in spirits after the death of her children, she has been placed in service. And another young Gipsy woman has also obtained a situation as a servant.

But while the Committee has had to rejoice over the success that has attended its efforts, it has also experienced great and manifold disappointments. But its members are not discouraged, and it is hoped they never will be.

One young woman stayed with the Committee a month, and then ran away. She was lamentably ignorant, and could never be brought to work. {75} Another very promising in temper and habits, stayed in a family three months, and then left them to live again with her parents, who encouraged her to believe that she would be married to one of her clan. It may be hoped the knowledge she gained while in service may be useful to her at some future time. She is not, cannot be happy, and is sorry that she left her service and her friends. The father and mother have promised to stay in Southampton through the next winter, which they will be encouraged to do, with the hope of gaining instruction in the truths of religion.

A woman, her four sons, and their grandmother, {76} joined the family of reformed Gipsies for a short time, and we had considerable hopes of them all, the two eldest boys excepted, who refused to work, and who grew much more vicious than when under the hedges. Their father had formerly been sentenced to death, but by the interest of a friend, the sentence was changed to fourteen years' hard labour on board the hulks at Portsmouth, nearly nine of which had expired at the time his family came under the direction of the Committee. His wife intimating that if they were to apply for his release, it might be granted, and that then he might govern the boys, and make them work, his liberty was obtained. But within three days afterwards, he declared he would not constrain any of his children to labour; they might do it or not, as they pleased. And, in the course of the week, he took them all away and went to Brighton.

A lady then staying at that place, and who had known this family at Southampton, sent to the place where the Gipsies usually encamp, hoping to recall some of them to a sense of their duty, but was informed that the whole of the party had set off a few days before. Early on the following morning, a Gipsy called at the house of this lady, and offered to tell the fortunes of the servants. She was asked if she knew the woman who was enquired for the preceding day? She replied, that she was the very person. On hearing by whose servant she was addressed, she became almost speechless with shame, and said, I would rather have met the king. On recovering, she expressed great delight and gratitude that she was not forgotten by the lady, and declared she had been very unhappy since she had left Southampton, and that the sin of fortune-telling greatly distressed her mind; but that she knew not how to support her family without it. They had undergone many hardships. The little boys, she said, had frequently amused themselves with trying to spell the different things about their tent, and were often wishing for their Southampton fire. The next morning she brought them to see their kind benefactress. The youngest of them, a fine promising boy, both as to talent and disposition, was overjoyed at the meeting; his little eyes were filled with tears, and he could scarcely speak. He and his brother were immediately provided with clothing, and sent to the School of Industry; where, in addition to the religious instruction given them, they were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, digging, &c. Their master has been much pleased with their progress. The mother was afterwards induced to stay at Brighton, being allowed a small sum weekly. She has been taught to read by some kind friends, and many hopes are entertained of her conversion to God. A letter has lately been received, which gives a very interesting account of her increase in knowledge and improvement in morals.

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