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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Clarke says of the Wallachian Gipsies


Cantemir,

according to Grellmann, says that the Gipsies are dispersed all over Moldavia, where every baron has several families subject to him. In Wallachia and the Sclavonian countries they are quite as numerous. In Wallachia and Moldavia they are divided into two classes--the princely and boyardish. The former, according to Sulzer, amount to many thousands; but that is trifling in comparison with the latter, as there is not a single Boyard in Wallachia who has not at least three or four of them for slaves; the rich have often some hundreds under their command,[34] Grellmann divides those in Transylvania into four classes: 1st. city Gipsies, who are the most civilized of all, and maintain themselves by music, smith-work, selling old clothes, horse-dealing, &c.; 2d. gold-washers; 3d. tent Gipsies; and 4th. Egyptian Gipsies. These last are more filthy, and more addicted to stealing than any of the others. Those who are gold-washers, in Transylvania and the Banat, have no intercourse with others of their nation; nor do they like to be called Gipsies. They sift gold sand in summer, and in winter make trays and troughs, which they sell in an honest way. They seldom beg, and more rarely steal. Dr. Clarke says of the Wallachian Gipsies, that they are not an idle race; they ought rather to be described as a laborious race; and the majority honestly endeavour to earn a livelihood.

[34] In the narrative of the Scottish Church Mission of Enquiry to the Jews,

in 1839, are to be found the following remarks relative to the Gipsies of Wallachia:

"They are almost all slaves, bought and sold at pleasure. One was lately sold for 200 piastres, but the general price is 500. Perhaps L3 is the average price, and the female Gipsies are sold much cheaper. The sale is generally carried on by private bargain. The men are the best mechanics in the country; so that smiths and masons are taken from this class. The women are considered the best cooks, and therefore almost every wealthy family has a Gipsy cook. Their appearance is similar to that of the Gipsies in other countries; being all dark, with fine black eyes, and long black hair. They have a language peculiar to themselves, and though they seem to have no system of religion, yet are very superstitious in observing lucky and unlucky days. They are all fond of music, both vocal and instrumental, and excel in it. There is a class of them called the Turkish Gipsies, who have purchased their freedom from government; but these are few in number, and all from Turkey. Of these latter, there are twelve families in Galatz. The men are employed as horse-dealers, and the women in making bags, sacks, and such articles. In winter, they live in town, almost under ground; but in summer, they pitch their tents in the open air, for, though still within the bounds of the town, they would not live in their winter houses during summer."

That these Gipsies should be in a state of slavery is, perhaps, a more marked exception to their race than the Indians in Spanish America were to those found in the territories colonised by the Anglo-Saxons. The Empress Maria Theresa could make nothing of the Gipsies in Hungary, where they are said to be almost as little looked after as the wolves of the forest; so that the slavery of the Gipsies in Wallachia must be of a very nominal or mild nature, or the subjects of it must be far in excess of the demand, if L3 is the average price of a good smith or mason, and less for a good female cook. These Wallachian Gipsies evidently prefer a master whose property they will consider as their own, and whose protection will relieve them from the interference and oppression of others. A slavery that is not absolute or oppressive must gratify the vanity of the owner, and be easily borne by a race that is semi-civilized and despised by others around it.


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