The English Gipsies and Their Language

Charles Godfrey Leland
The English Gipsies and Their
Language, by

Charles G. Leland
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Title: The English Gipsies and Their Language
Author: Charles G. Leland

Release Date: July 25, 2005 [eBook #16358]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)

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

Author of "Hans Breitmann's Ballads," "The Music Lesson of
Confucius," Etc. Etc.
Second Edition
[All rights reserved]

As Author of this book, I beg leave to observe that all which is stated in
it relative to the customs or peculiarities of Gipsies was gathered
directly from Gipsies themselves; and that every word of their language
here given, whether in conversations, stories, or sayings, was taken
from Gipsy mouths. While entertaining the highest respect for the
labours of Mr George Borrow in this field, I have carefully avoided
repeating him in the least detail; neither have I taken anything from
Simson, Hoyland, or any other writer on the Rommany race in England.
Whatever the demerits of the work may be, it can at least claim to be an
original collection of material fresh from nature, and not a reproduction
from books. There are, it is true, two German Gipsy letters from other
works, but these may be excused as illustrative of an English one.
I may here in all sincerity speak kindly and gratefully of every true
Gipsy I have ever met, and of the cheerfulness with which they have
invariably assisted me in my labour to the extent of their humble
abilities. Other writers have had much to say of their incredible distrust
of Gorgios and unwillingness to impart their language, but I have
always found them obliging and communicative. I have never had
occasion to complain of rapacity or greediness among them; on the
contrary, I have often wondered to see how the great want of such very
poor people was generally kept in check by their natural politeness,
which always manifests itself when they are treated properly. In fact,

the first effort which I ever made to acquire a knowledge of English
Rommany originated in a voluntary offer from an intelligent old dame
to teach me "the old Egyptian language." And as she also suggested
that I should set forth the knowledge which I might acquire from her
and her relatives in a book (referring to Mr Borrow's having done so), I
may hold myself fully acquitted from the charge of having acquired and
published anything which my Gipsy friends would not have had made
known to the public.
Mr Borrow has very well and truly said that it is not by passing a few
hours among Gipsies that one can acquire a knowledge of their
characteristics; and I think that this book presents abundant evidence
that its contents were not gathered by slight and superficial intercourse
with the Rommany. It is only by entering gradually and
sympathetically, without any parade of patronage, into a familiar
knowledge of the circumstances of the common life of humble people,
be they Gipsies, Indians, or whites, that one can surprise unawares
those little inner traits which constitute the characteristic. However this
may be, the reader will readily enough understand, on perusing these
pages--possibly much better than I do myself--how it was I was able to
collect whatever they contain that is new.
The book contains some remarks on that great curious centre and secret
of all the nomadic and vagabond life in England, THE ROMMANY,
with comments on the fact, that of the many novel or story-writers who
have described the "Travellers" of the Roads, very few have penetrated
the real nature of their life. It gives several incidents illustrating the
character of the Gipsy, and some information of a very curious nature
in reference to the respect of the English Gipsies for their dead, and the
strange manner in which they testify it. I believe that this will be found
to be fully and distinctly illustrated by anecdotes and a narrative in the
original Gipsy language, with a translation. There is also a chapter
containing in Rommany and English a very characteristic letter from a
full-blood Gipsy to a relative, which was dictated to me, and which
gives a sketch of the leading incidents of Gipsy life--trading in horses,
fortune-telling, and cock-shying. I have also given accounts of
conversations with Gipsies, introducing
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