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A Historical Survey of the Customs, Habits, & Pres

The wandering Gypsey in Hungary and Transylvania


Hungary, those who have discontinued their rambling way of life, and built houses for themselves, seldom let a spring pass without taking advantage of the first settled weather, to set up a tent for their summer residence. Under this, each enjoys himself with his family, nor thinks of his house till winter returns, and the frost and snow drive him back to it.

The wandering Gypsey in Hungary and Transylvania, endeavours to procure a horse; in Turkey, an ass serves to carry his wife and a couple of children, with his tent. When he arrives at a place he likes, near a village, or a city, he unpacks, pitches his tent, ties his animal to a stake to graze, and remains some weeks there: or if he do not find his station convenient, he breaks up in a day or two, loads his beast, and looks out for a more agreeable situation. His furniture seldom consists of more than an earthen pot, an iron pan, a spoon, a jug and a knife; with sometimes the addition of a dish. These serve for the whole family.

Working in iron is the most usual occupation of the Gypsies. In Hungary, this profession is so common, that there is a proverb: "So many Gypsies so many smiths."

The same may be said of those in Transylvania, Wallachia, Moldavia, and all Turkey in Europe; at least such workers in fire are very numerous in all those countries. But the Gypsies of our time, are not willing to work heavy works;

they seldom go beyond a pair of light horse shoes. In general, they confine themselves to small articles, such as rings and nails; they mend old pots and kettles; make knives, seals, and needles; and sometimes they work in tin and brass. Their materials, tools, and apparatus, are of a very inferior kind. The anvil is a stone; the other implements are a pair of hand bellows, a hammer, a pair of pincers, a vice, and a file. These ape the tools which a Nomadic Gypsey takes with him in his perambulations.

Whenever he is disposed to work, he is at no loss for fuel: on his arrival at a station where he proposes to remain a few days, he takes his beast, loads him with wood, builds a small kiln, and prepares his own coal. In favourable weather, his work is carried on in the open air; when it is stormy, he retires under his tent. He does not stand, but sits down on the ground cross-legged to his work; which position is rendered necessary, not only by custom, but by the quality of his tools. The wife sits by to work the bellows, in which operation she is assisted by the elder children. The Gypsies are generally praised for their dexterity and quickness, notwithstanding the bad tools they have to work with.

Another branch of commerce much followed by Gypsies, is horse-dealing, to which they have been attached from the earliest period of their history. In those parts of Hungary, where the climate is so mild, that horses may lie out all the year, the Gypsies avail themselves of this circumstance to breed, as well as to deal in horses; by which they sometimes not only procure a competency, but grew rich. Instances have been known on the Continent, of gypsies keeping from fifty to seventy horses each; and those the best bred horses of the country; some of which they let out for hire, others they exchange or sell. But this description of Gypsey horse-dealers is not numerous; the greater number of them deal in inferior kinds.

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