Chap. XIII.

Of Gypsies.

GREAT wonder it is not we are to seek in the original of Æthiopians and natural Negroes, being also at a loss concerning the Original of Gypsies and counterfeit Moors, observable in many parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa.[1]

Common opinion deriveth them from Egypt, and from thence they derive themselves, according to their own account hereof, as Munster discovered in the letters and pass which they obtained from Sigismund the Emperour; that they first came out of lesser Egypt, that having defected from the Christian rule, and relapsed unto Pagan rites, some of every family were enjoyned this penance to wander about the world; or as Aventinus delivereth, they pretend for this vagabond course, a judgement of God upon their forefathers, who refused to entertain the Virgin Mary and Iesus, when she fled into their Countrey.

Which account notwithstanding is of little probability: for the generall stream of writers, who enquire into their originall, insist not upon this; and are so little satisfied in their descent from Egypt, that they deduce them from severall other nations:2 Polydore Virgil accounting them originally Syrians, Philippus Bergomas fetcheth them from Chaldæa, Æneas Sylvius from some part of Tartary, Bellonius no further then Wallachia and Bulgaria, nor Aventinus then the confines of Hungaria.

That they are no Egyptians Bellonius3 maketh evident: who met great droves of Gypsies in Egypt, about Gran Cairo, Matærea, and the villages on the banks of Nilus: who notwithstanding were accounted strangers unto that Nation, and wanderers from foreign parts, even as they are esteemed with us.

That they came not out of Egypt is also probable, because their first appearance was in Germany, since the year 1400. nor were they observed before in other parts of Europe, as is deducible from Munster, Genebrard, Crantsius and Ortelius.

But that they first set out not far from Germany, is also probable from their language, which was the Sclavonian tongue;[4] and when they wandered afterward into France, they were commonly called Bohemians, which name is still retained for Gypsies. And therefore when Crantsius delivereth, they first appeared about the Baltick Sea, when Bellonius deriveth them from Bulgaria and Wallachia, and others from about Hungaria, they speak not repugnantly hereto: for the language of those Nations was Sclavonian, at least some dialect thereof.[5]

But of what nation soever they were at first, they are now almost of all; associating unto them some of every country where they wander: when they will be lost, or whether at all again, is not without some doubt: for unsetled nations have out-lasted others of fixed habitations: and though Gypsies have been banished by most Christian Princes, yet have they found some countenance from the great Turk, who suffereth them to live and maintain publick Stews near the Imperial city in Pera,6 of whom he often maketh a politick advantage, imploying them as spies into other nations, under which title they were banished by Charles the fift.


* [My or others' notes are in square brackets]; Browne's marginalia is unmarked; {passages or notes from unpublished material by Browne is in curly braces}.

1 [Wilkin begins a long note with a discussion of the unlikelihood of a resolution of this question and some remarks on (largely exploded) ideas about the Gypsy language and its affiliations. He continues:

"Brand (in his Observations on Popular Antiquities, vol. ii, 432) speaks of the Gypsies as of Hindoo origin, probably of the lowest caste, called Pariars, or Suders; and says, they probably emigrated about 1408, in consequence of the conquests of Timur Beg. Park mentions a wandering tribe named Libey, whom he had seen in his travels in Africa.... A different solution has been proposed by an anonymous writer in the Gentleman's Magazine (vol. lxxii, 291) who thinks it very probable that they are the fulfilment of the prophecy in Gen. xvi, respecting the descendants of Ishmael. He observes that they inhabited in the first place the wilderness of Paran; that they increased prodigiously, and under the appellation of Al Arab al mostá-reba, or insitious Arabs, hived off from Arabia Deserta and Petræa, then too narrow to contain them, into the neighbouring country of Egypt.... He concludes by noticing a subsequent migration led from Egypt ... by Zinganeus — when that country was invaded Solyman the Great.

"The appellations Egyptians and Zinganees is readily accounted for on the supposition of this writer...."]

2 Fernand. de Cordua didascal. multipl.

3 Observat. l. 2.

4 [The Romany language is generally classed as Indic, like Hindi and Gujarati. It is not Slavic. They may of course have been speaking the language of whatever was their most recent home.]

5 [Except for Hungary, whose native language is one of the Finno-Ugric tongues, and not even Indo-European, let alone Sclavonian.]

6 Bellon. observat. l. 2.

This page is dedicated to the memory of Boo the Cat.

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional