The Gypsies

Charles Godfrey Leland
The Gypsies, by Charles G.

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Title: The Gypsies
Author: Charles G. Leland

Release Date: October 10, 2007 [eBook #22939]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)

Transcribed from the 1882 Houghton, Mifflin and Company edition by
David Price, [email protected]

COMPANY The Riverside Press, Cambridge
Copyright, 1882, BY CHARLES G. LELAND.
All rights reserved.

The reader will find in this book sketches of experiences among
gypsies of different nations by one who speaks their language and is
conversant with their ways. These embrace descriptions of the justly
famed musical gypsies of St. Petersburg and Moscow, by whom the
writer was received literally as a brother; of the Austrian gypsies,
especially those composing the first Romany orchestra of that country,
selected by Liszt, and who played for their friend as they declared they
had never played before for any man; and also of the English, Welsh,
Oriental, and American brethren of the dark blood and the tents. I
believe that the account of interviews with American gypsies will
possess at least the charm of novelty, but little having as yet been
written on this extensive and very interesting branch of our nomadic
population. To these I have added a characteristic letter in the gypsy
language, with translation by a lady, legendary stories, poems, and
finally the substance of two papers, one of which I read before the
British Philological Society, and the other before the Oriental Congress
at Florence, in 1878. Those who study ethnology will be interested to
learn from these papers, subsequently combined in an article in the
"Saturday Review," that I have definitely determined the existence in
India of a peculiar tribe of gypsies, who are par eminence the Romanys

of the East, and whose language is there what it is in England, the same
in vocabulary, and the chief slang of the roads. This I claim as a
discovery, having learned it from a Hindoo who had been himself a
gypsy in his native land. Many writers have suggested the Jats, Banjars,
and others as probable ancestors or type-givers of the race; but the
existence of the Rom himself in India, bearing the distinctive name of
Rom, has never before been set forth in any book or by any other writer.
I have also given what may in reason be regarded as settling the
immensely disputed origin of the word "Zingan," by the gypsies' own
account of its etymology, which was beyond all question brought by
them from India.
In addition to this I have given in a chapter certain conversations with
men of note, such as Thomas Carlyle, Lord Lytton, Mr. Roebuck, and
others, on gypsies; an account of the first and family names and
personal characteristics of English and American Romanys, prepared
for me by a very famous old gypsy; and finally a chapter on the "Shelta
Thari," or Tinkers' Language, a very curious jargon or language, never
mentioned before by any writer except Shakespeare. What this tongue
may be, beyond the fact that it is purely Celtic, and that it does not
seem to be identical with any other Celtic dialect, is unknown to me. I
class it with the gypsy, because all who speak it are also acquainted
with Romany.
For an attempt to set forth the tone or feeling in which the sketches are
conceived, I refer the reader to the Introduction.
When I published my "English Gypsies and their Language," a
reviewer declared that I "had added nothing to our" (that is, his)
"knowledge on the subject." As it is always pleasant to meet with a
man of superior information, I said nothing. And as I had carefully read
everything ever printed on the Romany, and had given a very
respectable collection of what was new to me as well as to all my
Romany rye colleagues in Europe, I could only grieve to think that
such treasures of learning should thus remain hidden in the brain of one
who had never at any time or in any other way manifested the
possession of any remarkable knowledge. Nobody can tell in this world

what others may know, but I modestly suggest that what I have set
forth in this work, on the origin of the gypsies, though it may
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