Historical Reprints History History of the Gipsies

History of the Gipsies

History of the Gipsies
Catalog # SKU3916
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Walter Simson, James Simson
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


A History
of the Gipsies

Walter Simson
James Simson

Ever since entering Great Britain, about the year 1506, the Gipsies have been drawing into their body the blood of the ordinary inhabitants and conforming to their ways; and so prolific has the race been, that there cannot be less than 250,000 Gipsies of all castes, colours, characters, occupations, degrees of education, culture, and position in life, in the British Isles alone, and possibly double that number.



There are many of the same race in the United States of America. Indeed, there have been Gipsies in America from nearly the first day of its settlement; for many of the race were banished to the plantations, often for very trifling offences, and sometimes merely for being by "habit and repute Egyptians." But as the Gipsy race leaves the tent, and rises to civilization, it hides its nationality from the rest of the world, so great is the prejudice against the name of Gipsy. In Europe and America together, there cannot be less than 4,000,000 Gipsies in existence. John Bunyan, the author of the celebrated Pilgrim's Progress, was one of this singular people, as will be conclusively shown in the present work. The philosophy of the existence of the Jews, since the dispersion, will also be discussed and established in it.

When the "wonderful story" of the Gipsies is told, as it ought to be told, it constitutes a work of interest to many classes of readers, being a subject unique, distinct from, and unknown to, the rest of the human family. In the present work, the race has been treated of so fully and elaborately, in all its aspects, as in a great measure to fill and satisfy the mind, instead of being, as heretofore, little better than a myth to the understanding of the most intelligent person.

The history of the Gipsies, when thus comprehensively treated, forms a study for the most advanced and cultivated mind, as well as for the youth whose intellectual and literary character is still to be formed; and furnishes, among other things, a system of science not too abstract in its nature, and having for its subject-matter the strongest of human feelings and sympathies. The work also seeks to raise the name of Gipsy out of the dust, where it now lies; while it has a very important bearing on the conversion of the Jews, the advancement of Christianity generally, and the development of historical and moral science.


Before giving an account of the Gipsies in Scotland, I shall, by way of introduction, briefly notice the periods of time at which they were observed in the different states on the continent of Europe, and point out the different periods at which their governments found it necessary to expel them from their respective territories. I shall also add a few facts illustrative of the manners of the continental tribes, for the purpose of showing that those in Scotland, England, and Ireland, are all branches of the same stock. I shall, likewise, add a few facts illustrative of the tribe who found their way into England. I am indebted for my information on the early history of the continental Gipsies, chiefly to the works of Grellmann, Hoyland and Bright.

It appears that none of these wanderers had been seen in Christendom before the year 1400.25 But, in the beginning of the fifteenth century, this people first attracted notice, and, within a few years after their arrival, had spread themselves over the whole continent. The earliest mention which is made of them, was in the years 1414 and 1417, when they were observed in Germany. In 1418, they were found in Switzerland; in 1422, in Italy; in 1427, they are mentioned as being in the neighbourhood of Paris; and about the same time, in Spain.

They seem to have received various appellations. In France, they were called Bohemians; in Holland, Heydens-heathens; in some parts of Germany, and in Sweden and Denmark, they were thought to be Tartars; but over Germany, in general, they were called Zigeuners, a word which means wanderers up and down. In Portugal, they received the name of Siganos; in Spain, Gitanos; and in Italy, Cingari. They were also called in Italy, Hungary, and Germany, Tziganys; and in Transylvania, Cyganis. Among the Turks, and other eastern nations, they were denominated Tschingenes; but the Moors and Arabians applied to them, perhaps, the most just appellation of any-Charami, robbers.

"When they arrived at Paris, 17th August, 1427, nearly all of them had their ears bored, with one or two silver rings in each, which, they said, were esteemed ornaments in their country. The men were black, their hair curled; the women remarkably black, and all their faces scarred." Dr. Hurd, in his account of the different religions of the world, says, that the hair of these men was "frizzled," and that some of the women were witches, and "had hair like a horse's tail." It is, I think, to be inferred from this passage, that the men had designedly curled their hair, and that the hair of the females was long and coarse-not the short, woolly hair of the African. I have, myself, seen English female Gipsies with hair as long, coarse, and thick as a black horse's tail.

"At the time of the first appearance of the Gipsies, no certain information seems to have been obtained as to the country from which they came. It is, however, supposed that they entered Europe in the south-east, probably through Transylvania. At first, they represented themselves as Egyptian pilgrims, and, under that character, obtained considerable respect during half a century; being favoured by different potentates with passports, and letters of security. Gradually, however, they really became, or were fancied, troublesome, and Italy, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, successively attempted their expulsion, in the sixteenth century."

With the exception of Hungary and Transylvania, it is believed that every state in Europe attempted either their expulsion or extermination; but, notwithstanding the dreadful severity of the numerous laws and edicts promulgated against them, they remained in every part of Europe, in defiance of every effort made by their respective governments to get rid of their unwelcome guests.

"German writers say that King Ferdinand of Spain, who esteemed it a good work to expatriate useful and profitable subjects-Jews, and even Moorish families-could much less be guilty of an impropriety, in laying hands on the mischievous progeny of Gipsies. The edict for their extermination was published in the year 1492. But, instead of passing the boundaries, they only slunk into hiding places, and shortly after appeared in as great numbers as before. The Emperor, Charles V, persecuted them afresh; as did Philip II. Since that time, they nestled in again, and were threatened with another storm, but it blew over without taking effect.

"In France, Francis I passed an edict for their expulsion, and at the assembly of the states of Orleans, in 1561, all governors of cities received orders to drive them out with fire and sword. Nevertheless, in process of time, they collected again, and encreased to such a degree that, in 1612, a new order came out for their extermination. In the year 1572, they were compelled to retire from the territories of Milan and Parma; and, at a period somewhat earlier, they were chased beyond the Venetian jurisdiction.

"They were not allowed the privilege of remaining in Denmark, as the code of Danish law specifies: 'The Tartar Gipsies, who wander about everywhere, doing great damage to the people, by their lies, thefts and witchcraft, shall be taken into custody by every magistrate.' Sweden was not more favourable, having attacked them at three different times. A very sharp order for their expulsion came out in 1662. The diet of 1723 published a second; and that of 1727 repeated the foregoing, with additional severity.

"They were excluded from the Netherlands, under the pain of death, by Charles V, and afterwards, by the United States, in 1582. But the greatest number of sentences of exile have been pronounced against them in Germany. The beginning was made under Maximilian I, at the Augsburg Diet, in 1500; and the same business occupied the attention of the Diet in 1530, 1544, 1548, and 1551; and was also again enforced, in the improved police regulations of Frankfort, in 1577." The Germans entertained the notion that the Gipsies were spies for the Turks. They were not allowed to pass through, remain, or trade within the Empire. They were ordered to quit entirely the German dominions, by a certain day, and whoever injured them, after that period, was considered to have committed no crime. "But a general extermination never did happen, for the law banishing them passed in one state before it was thought of in the next, or when a like order had long become obsolete, and sunk into oblivion. These undesirable guests were, therefore, merely compelled to shift their quarters to an adjoining state, where they remained till the government began to clear them away, upon which the fugitives either retired whence they came, or went on progressively to a third place-thus making a continual circle."

That almost the whole of Christendom had been so provoked by the conduct of the Gipsies as to have attempted their expulsion, or rather their extermination, merely because they were jugglers, fortune-tellers, astrologers, warlocks, witches and impostors, is a thing not for a moment to be supposed. I am inclined to believe that the true cause of the promulgation of the excessively sanguinary laws and edicts, for the extermination of the whole Gipsy nation in Europe, must be looked for in much more serious crimes than those mentioned; and that these greater offences can be no other than theft and robbery, and living upon the inhabitants of the countries through which they travelled, at free quarters, or what we, in Scotland, call sorning. But, on the other hand, I am convinced that the Gipsies have committed few murders on individuals out of their own tribe. As far as our authorities go, the general character of these people seems to have been the same, wherever they have made their appearance on the face of the earth; and the chief and leading feature of that extraordinary character appears to me to have been, in general, an hereditary propensity to theft and robbery, in men, women and children.

In whatever country we find the Gipsies, their manners, habits, and cast of features are uniformly the same. Their occupations are in every respect the same. They were, on the continent, horse-dealers, innkeepers, workers in iron, musicians, astrologers, jugglers, and fortune-tellers by palmistry. They are also accused of cheating, lying, and witchcraft, and, in general, charged with being thieves and robbers. They roam up and down the country, without any fixed habitations, living in tents, and hawking small trifles of merchandise for the use of the people among whom they travel. The whole race were great frequenters of fairs. They seldom formed matrimonial alliances out of their own tribe.

It will be seen, in another part of this work, that the language of the continental Gipsies is the same as that of those in Scotland, England and Ireland. As to the religious opinions of the continental Gipsies, they appear to have had none at all. It is said they were "worse than heathens." "It is, in reality," says Twiss, "almost absurd to talk of the religion of this set of people, whose moral characters are so depraved as to make it evident they believe in nothing capable of being a check to their passions." "Indeed," adds Hoyland, "it is asserted that no Gipsy has any idea of submission to any fixed profession of faith." It appears to me that, to secure to themselves protection from the different governments, they only conformed outwardly to the customs and religion of the country in which they happened to reside at the time.

536 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover - Print size, 12 point font

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