IT is with some diffidence that the author ventures to offer the present work to the public.
The greater part of it has been written under very peculiar circumstances, such as are not in general deemed at all favourable for literary composition: at considerable intervals, during a period of nearly five years passed in Spain - in moments snatched from more important pursuits - chiefly in ventas and posadas, whilst wandering through the country in the arduous and unthankful task of distributing the Gospel among its children.
Owing to the causes above stated, he is aware that his work must not unfrequently appear somewhat disjointed and unconnected, and the style rude and unpolished: he has, nevertheless, permitted the tree to remain where he felled it, having, indeed, subsequently enjoyed too little leisure to make much effectual alteration.
At the same time he flatters himself that the work is not destitute of certain qualifications to entitle it to approbation. The author's acquaintance with the Gypsy race in general dates from a very early period of his life, which considerably facilitated his intercourse with the Peninsular portion, to the elucidation of whose history and character the present volumes are more particularly devoted. Whatever he has asserted, is less the result of reading than of close observation, he having long since come to the conclusion that the Gypsies are not a people to be studied in books, or at least in such books as he believes have hitherto been written concerning them.
Throughout he has dealt more in facts than in theories, of which he is in general no friend. True it is, that no race in the world affords, in many points, a more extensive field for theory and conjecture than the Gypsies, who are certainly a very mysterious people come from some distant land, no mortal knows why, and who made their first appearance in Europe at a dark period, when events were not so accurately recorded as at the present time.
But if he has avoided as much as possible touching upon subjects which must always, to a certain extent, remain shrouded in obscurity; for example, the, original state and condition of the Gypsies, and the causes which first brought them into Europe; he has stated what they are at the present day, what he knows them to be from a close scrutiny of their ways and habits, for which, perhaps, no one ever enjoyed better opportunities; and he has, moreover, given - not a few words culled expressly for the purpose of supporting a theory, but one entire dialect of their language, collected with much trouble and difficulty; and to this he humbly calls the attention of the learned, who, by comparing it with certain languages, may decide as to the countries in which the Gypsies have lived or travelled.
With respect to the Gypsy rhymes in the second volume, he wishes to make one observation which cannot be too frequently repeated, and which he entreats the reader to bear in mind: they are GYPSY COMPOSITIONS, and have little merit save so far as they throw light on the manner of thinking and speaking of the Gypsy people, or rather a portion of them, and as to what they are capable of effecting in the way of poetry. It will, doubtless, be said that the rhymes are TRASH; - even were it so, they are original, and on that account, in a philosophic point of view, are more valuable than the most brilliant compositions pretending to describe Gypsy life, but written by persons who are not of the Gypsy sect. Such compositions, however replete with fiery sentiments, and allusions to freedom and independence, are certain to be tainted with affectation. Now in the Gypsy rhymes there is no affectation, and on that very account they are different in every respect from the poetry of those interesting personages who figure, under the names of Gypsies, Gitanos, Bohemians, etc., in novels and on the boards of the theatre.
It will, perhaps, be objected to the present work, that it contains little that is edifying in a moral or Christian point of view: to such an objection the author would reply, that the Gypsies are not a Christian people, and that their morality is of a peculiar kind, not calculated to afford much edification to what is generally termed the respectable portion of society. Should it be urged that certain individuals have found them very different from what they are represented in these volumes, he would frankly say that he yields no credit to the presumed fact, and at the same time he would refer to the vocabulary contained in the second volume, whence it will appear that the words HOAX and HOCUS have been immediately derived from the language of the Gypsies, who, there is good reason to believe, first introduced the system into Europe, to which those words belong.
The author entertains no ill-will towards the Gypsies; why should he, were he a mere carnal reasoner? He has known them for upwards of twenty years, in various countries, and they never injured a hair of his head, or deprived him of a shred of his raiment; but he is not deceived as to the motive of their forbearance: they thought him a ROM, and on this supposition they hurt him not, their love of 'the blood' being their most distinguishing characteristic. He derived considerable assistance from them in Spain, as in various instances they officiated as colporteurs in the distribution of the Gospel: but on that account he is not prepared to say that they entertained any love for the Gospel or that they circulated it for the honour of Tebleque the Saviour. Whatever they did for the Gospel in Spain, was done in the hope that he whom they conceived to be their brother had some purpose in view which was to contribute to the profit of the Cales, or Gypsies, and to terminate in the confusion and plunder of the Busne, or Gentiles. Convinced of this, he is too little of an enthusiast to rear, on such a foundation, any fantastic edifice of hope which would soon tumble to the ground.
The cause of truth can scarcely be forwarded by enthusiasm, which is almost invariably the child of ignorance and error. The author is anxious to direct the attention of the public towards the Gypsies; but he hopes to be able to do so without any romantic appeals in their behalf, by concealing the truth, or by warping the truth until it becomes falsehood. In the following pages he has depicted the Gypsies as he has found them, neither aggravating their crimes nor gilding them with imaginary virtues. He has not expatiated on 'their gratitude towards good people, who treat them kindly and take an interest in their welfare'; for he believes that of all beings in the world they are the least susceptible of such a feeling. Nor has he ever done them injustice by attributing to them licentious habits, from which they are, perhaps, more free than any race in the creation.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
I CANNOT permit the second edition of this work to go to press without premising it with a few words.
When some two years ago I first gave THE ZINCALI to the world, it was, as I stated at the time, with considerable hesitation and diffidence: the composition of it and the collecting of Gypsy words had served as a kind of relaxation to me whilst engaged in the circulation of the Gospel in Spain. After the completion of the work, I had not the slightest idea that it possessed any peculiar merit, or was calculated to make the slightest impression upon the reading world. Nevertheless, as every one who writes feels a kind of affection, greater or less, for the productions of his pen, I was averse, since the book was written, to suffer it to perish of damp in a lumber closet, or by friction in my travelling wallet. I committed it therefore to the press, with a friendly 'Farewell, little book; I have done for you all I can, and much more than you deserve.'
My expectations at this time were widely different from those of my namesake George in the VICAR OF WAKEFIELD when he published his paradoxes. I took it as a matter of course that the world, whether learned or unlearned, would say to my book what they said to his paradoxes, as the event showed, - nothing at all. To my utter astonishment, however, I had no sooner returned to my humble retreat, where I hoped to find the repose of which I was very much in need, than I was followed by the voice not only of England but of the greater part of Europe, informing me that I had achieved a feat - a work in the nineteenth century with some pretensions to originality. The book was speedily reprinted in America, portions of it were translated into French and Russian, and a fresh edition demanded.
In the midst of all this there sounded upon my ears a voice which I recognised as that of the Maecenas of British literature: 'Borromeo, don't believe all you hear, nor think that you have accomplished anything so very extraordinary: a great portion of your book is very sorry trash indeed - Gypsy poetry, dry laws, and compilations from dull Spanish authors: it has good points, however, which show that you are capable of something much better: try your hand again - avoid your besetting sins; and when you have accomplished something which will really do credit to - Street, it will be time enough to think of another delivery of these GYPSIES.'
Mistos amande: 'I am content,' I replied; and sitting down I commenced the BIBLE IN SPAIN. At first I proceeded slowly - sickness was in the land, and the face of nature was overcast - heavy rain-clouds swam in the heavens, - the blast howled amid the pines which nearly surround my lonely dwelling, and the waters of the lake which lies before it, so quiet in general and tranquil, were fearfully agitated. 'Bring lights hither, O Hayim Ben Attar, son of the miracle! ' And the Jew of Fez brought in the lights, for though it was midday I could scarcely see in the little room where I was writing. . . .
A dreary summer and autumn passed by, and were succeeded by as gloomy a winter. I still proceeded with the BIBLE IN SPAIN. The winter passed, and spring came with cold dry winds and occasional sunshine, whereupon I arose, shouted, and mounting my horse, even Sidi Habismilk, I scoured all the surrounding district, and thought but little of the BIBLE IN SPAIN.
So I rode about the country, over the heaths, and through the green lanes of my native land, occasionally visiting friends at a distance, and sometimes, for variety's sake, I stayed at home and amused myself by catching huge pike, which lie perdue in certain deep ponds skirted with lofty reeds, upon my land, and to which there is a communication from the lagoon by a deep and narrow watercourse. - I had almost forgotten the BIBLE IN SPAIN.
Then came the summer with much heat and sunshine, and then I would lie for hours in the sun and recall the sunny days I had spent in Andalusia, and my thoughts were continually reverting to Spain, and at last I remembered that the BIBLE IN SPAIN was still unfinished; whereupon I arose and said: 'This loitering profiteth nothing' - and I hastened to my summer-house by the side of the lake, and there I thought and wrote, and every day I repaired to the same place, and thought and wrote until I had finished the BIBLE IN SPAIN.
And at the proper season the BIBLE IN SPAIN was given to the world; and the world, both learned and unlearned, was delighted with the BIBLE IN SPAIN, and the highest authority (1) said, 'This is a much better book than the GYPSIES'; and the next great authority (2) said, 'something betwixt Le Sage and Bunyan.' 'A far more entertaining work than DON QUIXOTE,' exclaimed a literary lady. 'Another GIL BLAS,' said the cleverest writer in Europe. (3) 'Yes,' exclaimed the cool sensible SPECTATOR, (4) 'a GIL BLAS in water-colours.'
And when I heard the last sentence, I laughed, and shouted, 'KOSKO PENNESE PAL!' (5) It pleased me better than all the rest. Is there not a text in a certain old book which says: Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you! Those are awful words, brothers; woe is me!
'Revenons a nos Bohemiens!' Now the BIBLE IN SPAIN is off my hands, I return to 'these GYPSIES'; and here you have, most kind, lenient, and courteous public, a fresh delivery of them. In the present edition, I have attended as much as possible to the suggestions of certain individuals, for whose opinion I cannot but entertain the highest respect. I have omitted various passages from Spanish authors, which the world has objected to as being quite out of place, and serving for no other purpose than to swell out the work. In lieu thereof, I have introduced some original matter relative to the Gypsies, which is, perhaps, more calculated to fling light over their peculiar habits than anything which has yet appeared. To remodel the work, however, I have neither time nor inclination, and must therefore again commend it, with all the imperfections which still cling to it, to the generosity of the public.
A few words in conclusion. Since the publication of the first edition, I have received more than one letter, in which the writers complain that I, who seem to know so much of what has been written concerning the Gypsies, (6) should have taken no notice of a theory entertained by many, namely, that they are of Jewish origin, and that they are neither more nor less than the descendants of the two lost tribes of Israel. Now I am not going to enter into a discussion upon this point, for I know by experience, that the public cares nothing for discussions, however learned and edifying, but will take the present opportunity to relate a little adventure of mine, which bears not a little upon this matter.
So it came to pass, that one day I was scampering over a heath, at some distance from my present home: I was mounted upon the good horse Sidi Habismilk, and the Jew of Fez, swifter than the wind, ran by the side of the good horse Habismilk, when what should I see at a corner of the heath but the encampment of certain friends of mine; and the chief of that camp, even Mr. Petulengro, stood before the encampment, and his adopted daughter, Miss Pinfold, stood beside him.
MYSELF. - 'Kosko divvus (7), Mr. Petulengro! I am glad to see you: how are you getting on?'
MR. PETULENGRO. - 'How am I getting on? as well as I can. What will you have for that nokengro (8)?'
Thereupon I dismounted, and delivering the reins of the good horse to Miss Pinfold, I took the Jew of Fez, even Hayim Ben Attar, by the hand, and went up to Mr. Petulengro, exclaiming, 'Sure ye are two brothers.' Anon the Gypsy passed his hand over the Jew's face, and stared him in the eyes: then turning to me he said, 'We are not dui palor (9); this man is no Roman; I believe him to be a Jew; he has the face of one; besides, if he were a Rom, even from Jericho, he could rokra a few words in Rommany.'
Now the Gypsy had been in the habit of seeing German and English Jews, who must have been separated from their African brethren for a term of at least 1700 years; yet he recognised the Jew of Fez for what he was - a Jew, and without hesitation declared that he was 'no Roman.' The Jews, therefore, and the Gypsies have each their peculiar and distinctive countenance, which, to say nothing of the difference of language, precludes the possibility of their having ever been the same people.
MARCH 1, 1843.
NOTICE TO THE FOURTH EDITION
THIS edition has been carefully revised by the author, and some few insertions have been made. In order, however, to give to the work a more popular character, the elaborate vocabulary of the Gypsy tongue, and other parts relating to the Gypsy language and literature, have been omitted. Those who take an interest in these subjects are referred to the larger edition in two vols. (10)
Jump to Zincali Introduction
Return to Zincali Outline
This HTML version of The Zincali is Copyright ©1999 by Dr. Frank Oliver Clark. This documents may be freely used for private purposes, and included in your own genealogy. However, this document is copyrighted and may not be sold, nor given to anyone who may attempt to derive profit from same.