I may add, however, in due fairness, that there are in England some true Gipsies of unmixed blood, who—it may be without much reflection—have certainly adopted ideas consonant with a genial faith in immortality, and certain phases of religion. The reader will find in another chapter a curious and beautiful Gipsy custom recorded, that of burning an ash fire on Christmas-day, in honour of our Saviour, because He was born and lived like a Gipsy; and one day I was startled by bearing a Rom say “Miduvel hatch for mandy an’ kair me kushto.”—My God stand up for me and make me well. “That” he added, in an explanatory tone, “is what you say when you’re sick.” These instances, however, indicate no deep-seated conviction, though they are certainly curious, and, in their extreme simplicity, affecting. That truly good man, the Rev. James Crabb, in his touching little book, “The Gipsies’ Advocate,” gave numbers of instances of Gipsy conversions to religion and of real piety among them, which occurred after their minds and feelings had been changed by his labours; indeed, it would seem as if their lively imaginations and warm hearts render them extremely susceptible to the sufferings of Jesus. But this does not in the least affect the extraordinary truth that in their nomadic and natural condition, the Gipsies, all the world over, present the spectacle, almost without a parallel, of total indifference to, and ignorance of, religion, and that I have found true old-fashioned specimens of it in England.
I would say, in conclusion, that the Rev. James Crabb, whose unaffected and earnest little book tells its own story, did much good in his own time and way among the poor Gipsies; and the fact that he is mentioned to the present day, by them, with respect and love, proves that missionaries are not useless, nor Gipsies ungrateful—though it is almost the fashion with too many people to assume both positions as rules without exceptions.
CHAPTER V. GIPSY LETTERS.
A Gipsy’s Letter to his Sister.—Drabbing Horses.—Fortune Telling.—Cock Shys.—“Hatch ’em pauli, or he’ll lel sar the Covvas!”—Two German Gipsy Letters.
I shall give in this chapter a few curious illustrations of Gipsy life and character, as shown in a letter, which is illustrated by two specimens in the German Rommany dialect.
With regard to the first letter, I might prefix to it, as a motto, old John Willett’s remark: “What’s a man without an imagination?” Certainly it would not apply to the Gipsy, who has an imagination so lively as to be at times almost ungovernable; considering which I was much surprised that, so far as I know, the whole race has as yet produced only one writer who has distinguished himself in the department of fiction—albeit he who did so was a giant therein—I mean John Bunyan.