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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

And that of a certain custom practised by the Mandingoes


The above table will give a general idea of the natural encrease of the Gipsies. The reader can make what allowances he pleases, for ages at time of marriage, intervals between births, twins, deaths, or numbers of children born. By this table, the Gipsy, by marrying at twenty years of age, would, when 54 years old, have a "following" of no less than 78 souls. "There is one of the divine laws," said I to a Gipsy, "which the Gipsies obey more than any other people." "What is that?" replied he, with great gravity. "The command to 'Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish (but not subdue) the earth.'" Even five generations can be obtained from the male, and six from the female Gipsy, in a century, counting from first-born to first-born. The reader will notice how large are the Gipsy families incidentally mentioned by our author.--ED.

The exact parallel to this custom is to be found in the Gentoo code of laws, translated by Halhed; wherein it is made criminal for "a man to marry while his elder brother remains unmarried; or when a man marries his daughter to such a person; or where a man gives the younger sister in marriage while the elder sister remains unmarried."[170] The learned translator of the code considers this custom of the Gentoos of the remotest antiquity, and compares it with that passage in the Book of Genesis, where Laban excuses himself to Jacob for having substituted Leah for Rachel, in these words, "It must

not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the first-born."

[170] Major Archer says that this law is still in force.

The nuptial ceremony of the Gipsies is undoubtedly of the highest antiquity, and would, probably, be one of the first marriage ceremonies observed by mankind, in the very first stages of human society. When we consider the extraordinary length of time the Gipsies have preserved their speech, as a secret among themselves, in the midst of civilized society, all over Europe, while their persons were proscribed and hunted down in every country, like beasts of the chase, we are not at all surprised at their retaining some of their ancient customs; for these, as distinguished from their language, are of easy preservation, under any circumstances in which they may have been placed. That may much more be said of this ceremony, as there would be an occasion for its almost daily observance. It was wrapped up with their very existence--the choice of their wives, and the love of their offspring--the most important and interesting transactions of their lives; and would, on that account, be one of the longest observed, the least easily forgotten, of their ancient usages.

The nuptial rites of the Scottish Gipsies are, perhaps, unequalled in the history of marriages. At least, I have neither seen nor heard of any marriage ceremony that has the slightest resemblance to it, except the extraordinary benediction which our countryman, Mungo Park, received from the bride at the Moorish wedding in Ali's camp, at Benown; and that of a certain custom practised by the Mandingoes, at Kamalia, in Africa, also mentioned by Park.[171] This custom with the Mandingoes and the Gipsies is nearly the same as that observed by the ancient Hebrews, in the days of Moses, mentioned in the Book of Deuteronomy. When we have the manners and customs of every savage tribe hitherto discovered, including even the Hottentots and Abyssinians, described, in grave publications, by adventurous travellers, I can see no reason why there should not be preserved, and exhibited for the inspection of the public, the manners and customs of a barbarous race that have lived so long at our own doors--one more interesting, in some respects, than any yet discovered; and more particularly as marriage is a very important, indeed the most important, institution among the inhabitants of any country, whether civilized or in a state of barbarism. How much would not our antiquarians now value authenticated specimens of the language, manners, and customs of the ancient Pictish nation that once inhabited Scotland!


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