MORE ABOUT GYPSIES.*
L1:LAND has returned to his old love, and. he will meet with a hearty welcome. There are those of us for whom the myetori- ma and picturesque figures who wander through these pages have a never-failing charm ; who love to watch them, to talk with them, and to endeavour to establish with them some feel- ing of camaraderie, with none of Wordsworth's indignation at the aimlessness of their lives of joyous animalism. Should these realities of intercourse be denied them, such persons are- very well content if, on a summer day, when the surroundings are all that may be desired for an imaginative realisation of the subject, some book by a true gypsy-lover comes their way, and enables them to taste the savour of the wild, free life, which somehow seems to gain a keener fascination, as the fetters of civilisation and urban conventionalism close more tightly around us. And for ourselves, we confess that Mr. Leland's gypsy books are, as sources of simple enjoyment, more to us than most of the works of his distinguished rivals in Romany lore. No one who is, with regard to the Gypsy race, what the Spaniards call an, aficionado can ever forget or seek to minimise his obligations to grand old George Borrow, who probably first made him one of the aficion ; nor will he, to use a phrase of Californian slang, " go back upon" Mr. Simson and his other teachers ; but he probably feels that the quality of treatment celebrated by Hazlitt as gusto, and described by our latter-day critics as "intimacy," is found in Mr. Leland's books as it is not found in the same measure elsewhere, and accordingly they touch him and move him in a peculiar way. The fact that the writer is a poet has much to do with this special power of his. He per- ceives emotionally, therefore imaginatively, and so enables us to share not only his knowledge, but his passionate appre- hension of it. He adds to our stock of facts, but the mere facts seem to him and to his readers of less consequence than the atmosphere which surrounds them, just as the fact of the precise hour of the day is of less consequence to the rest- ing holiday-maker, than the possession of that delicious, all- subduing, afternoon feeling which seems to saturate all the hours of a soft, warm September. Mr. Leland, knowing as he does in what "fresh woods and pastures new" he has wandered in search of spoil, is justly scornful of the reviewer who, in, speaking of his book on The English Gypsies and their Lan- guage, declared superciliously that "the volume had added nothing to our [that is, his] knowledge of the subject ;" but as a matter of fact, we are really apt, in reading Mr. Leland's hooks, to lose the perception of the additions to our knowledge, in the keener consciousness of a quickened delight. In the pre- sent volume, for instance, there are many things which cannot fail to be useful to the mere student, to whom a new fact is the one thing needful : there is the story of the writer's unique experiences among the musical gypsies of Austria, "who played for their friend as they declared they had never played before for any man ;" there is a good deal of quite new information concerning the gypsies in America, of whom, even from Mr. Simson, we have heard comparatively * The Gypsiee. By Charles G. Lelaud. Leaden: 'Lifter and Co. little ; there is a singularly characteristic letter in the gypsy language, with a translation by the writer, Miss Britannia Lee; there are new legendary gypsy stories and poems, and there are chapters containing facts and hypotheses of great interest to both the philologist and the ethnologist; but the peculiar quality of the book is not given to it by these things, but by something which cannot be so readily set down,—by its large, healthy vitality, its abounding sympathy with free nature and with the simpler and more picturesque elements of life, and by the fine abandon or style, which imparts to its delightful prose that peculiar note which in poetry has been called "the lyrical cry."
Mr. Leland is, like De Quincey, a rhapsodist ; but he is less self-conscious, less literary, than the great opium- sates. De Quincey's rhapsodies were peculiarly his own ; we admire them and wonder at them, as it were, from the outside ; we watgh the flow of the swift, fascinating current of emotional rhetoric, but are hardly carried away by it, save now and then, when the writer speaks, not for one strangely gifted man, but for men. Mr. Leland moves us more frequently and, though it seems a daring thing to say, more deeply, because he is more universal, more broadly human, because he appeals to sympathies and impulses in which none of us is altogether deficient, and which, though we may be half unconscious of them, we recognise as our own, the moment we come across the sayer who can express them for us. He writes in his introductory chapter :—
"I am at some pleasant watering-place, no matter where. Let it be Torquay, or Ilfracombe, or Aberystwith, or Bath, or Bournemouth, or Hastings. I find out what old churches, castles, towns, towers, :manors, lakes, forests, fairy wells, or other charms of England, lie within twenty miles. Then I take my staff and sketch-book, and set out on my day's pilgrimage. In the distance lie the lines of the shining sea, with ships sailing to unknown lands. Those who live in them are the Bohemians of tke sea, homing while roaming, sleeping as they go, even as gypsies dwell on wheels. If you look wistfully at these 'ships far off, and out at sea with the sun upon their sails, and wonder what quaint mysteries of life they hide, verily you are not far from being affected or elected into the Romany. And if, when you see the wild birds on the wing, wending their way to the South, and wish that you could fly with them—anywhere, anywhere, over the world and into adventure—then you are not far in spirit from the kingdom of Bohemia and its seven castles, in the deep windows of which lEolian wind-harps sing for ever. Now, as you wander along, it may be that in the wood, and by some grassy nook, you will hear voices, and see the gleam of a red garment, and then find a man of the roads, with dusky wife and child. You speak one word, Sarishan I' and you are introduced. These people are like birds and bees, they belong to out-of-doors and Nature. If you can chirp or buzz a little in their language, and know their ways, you will find out, as you sit
the forest, why he who loves green bushes and mossy rocks is glad to fly from cities, and likes to he free of the joyous citizenship of the roads, and everywhere at home in such boon company."
These sentences give a fair impression of what, if we might be pardoned for mixed metaphor in epithet, we should describe as the radiant buoyancy of Mr. Leland's style. Since literature became a profession, there has been an increasing rarity of those books which bear internal evidence of the fact that their writers enjoyed writing them, and that they were written for the sake of enjoyment; but Mr. Leland's books do provide such evidence, and they are accordingly very refreshing. Of course, gypsies arc an interesting subject, but that it is possible to write about them in an utterly uninteresting way is a fact which has been conclusively established by certain gypsy fanciers whom it would be unkind to name. It is easy to sym- pathise with Mr. Leland's enjoyment in the comradeship which he so pleasantly celebrates, but it is not quite so easy to analyse it. One element in it, perhaps the simplest, is the pleasure of being able to arouse bewilderment and sur- prise, just as the ordinary child is delighted at being able to say or do something which shall astonish his elders; and as the ordinary man or woman is not insensitive to the pleasure of telling some startling piece of news, so Mr. Leland evidently finds a good deal of pleasant amusement in astounding a newly- made gypsy acquaintance by a sudden revelation of familiarity with his words and ways. At least half the good stories in his book relate to the utter confusion of some astute Romany, who thinks he is fooling a simple Gorgio to the top of his bent, when a word or a phrase whispered in his ear suddenly brings him to his bearings, and compels him to recognise the presence of an initiated brother, upon whom all his tricks—or her tricks, for a woman is very frequently the victim of the surprise—are thrown away. Sometimes, however, Mr. Leland encounters a gypiy of such stolidity and presence of mind that he cannot be startled, I.z.nt has to be wheedled into confidence and comradeship. Here is the record of a meeting of this kind :— " We had not gone very far, before we found a tinker. He who • catches a tinker has got hold of half a gipsy and a whole cosmopo- lite, however bad the catch may be. He did not understand the greeting Sarishan !—he really could not remember to have beard it. Ile did not know any gypsies,—' he could not get along with them.' They were a bad lot. He had seen some gypsies three weeks before on the road, They were curious, dark people, who lived in tents. He could not talk Romany. This was really pitiable. It was too much. The Palmer [a companion of Mr. Leland, also initiated] in- formed him that lie was wasting his best opportunities, and that it was a groat pity that any man who lived on the roads should be so ignorant. The tinker never winked. In the goodness of our hearts, we even offered to give him lessens in the kalo jib, or black lan- guage. The grinder was as calm as a Belgravian image. And as we turned to depart, the professor said,—' Ma:1,4'd cid tato a shahori to pi moro kammaben, if tato jinned se mandi pulckers.' (` I'd give you a sixpence, to drink our health, if you knew what I am saying.') With undisturbed gravity, the tinker replied,— ' Now I come to think of it, I do remember to have heard somethin' in the parat like that. It's a conwivial expression, arskin' me if I
won't have a tanner for ale. Which I Now, since you take such an interest in gypsies,' I answered, it is a pity you should know so little about them. I have seen them since you have. I saw a nice young woman, one of the Bosvilles here, not half-an-hour ago.
Shall I introduce you That young woman,' remarked the tinker, with the same immovable countenance, 'is my wife. And I've come down here by appIntment, to meet sonic Romany pals.' And having politely accepted his sixpence, the griddler went his way, tinkling his bell, along the road. He did not disturb himself, that his first speeches did not agree with his last; he was not in the habit of being disturbed about anything; and he knew that no one ever learned Romany, without learning with it not to be astonished at any little inconsistencies."
The life of a. tinker probably tends to reticence and self-repres- sion, but the greater number of Mr. Leland's gypsy friends betray none of this tantalising stolidity, but an amusing, mai/interest in, and wonder at, the acquirements of the Romany chal (gypsy gentleman). At Moscow, some fascinating gypsy girls were so impressed by his acquirements in Romany lore, that they insisted upon his telling their fortunes, in spite of his protestations of incompetence. They confessed that they had lost the art, but they evidently believed that there were some who retained it, and that Mr. Leland was one of the heirs to the occult wisdom of the past. He writes :— "It was all very well to tell them that there was nothing in it ; they knew a trick worth two of that. I perceived at once that the faith which endures beyond its own knowledge was placed in all I said. In England, the gypsy woman, who at home ridicules her own fortune-telling and her dupes, still puts faith in a gusveri mush, or some wise man,' who with crystal or magical apparatus professes occult knowledge ; for she thinks that her own false art is an imita-
tion of the true one After all the kindness they had shown me, I could not find it in my heart to refuse to tell these gentle Zingari their little fortunes. It is not, I admit, exactly in the order of things that the chicken should dress the cook, or the Gorgio tell fortunes to gypsies ; but ho who wanders in strange lands meets with strange adventures. So, with a full knowledge of the legal penalties attached in England to palmistry and other conjurations, and with the then pending Slade case knocking heavily on my conscience, I proceeded to examine and predict."
"George Eliot" and Mr. G. H. Lewes were very much in- terested in gypsies, and when, some time after the date of his Moscow experiences, Mr. Leland met them in London, and told them this story, the latter delivered himself of the very collo- quially-expressed opinion that "to tell fortunes to gypsies struck him as the no plus ultra of cheek," a verdict with which most people will smilingly agree. The lingering belief of the gypsies in the real existence of an occult art, which, as practised by themselves, is a conscious and bare-faced imposture, is an odd proof of the vitality of superstition, a fact from which it would be easy to draw a number of curious inferences.
We have been able to do only scant justice to a book which is crammed with interesting matter. Unfortunately, the best things in the volume do not lend themselves readily to quota-
tion, so we must leave readers to find them for themselves. The present writer is not an Orientalist, and cannot, therefore, dis- cuss Mr. Leland's philological speculations ; but so far as an outsider can judge, his researches seem likely to be of value, as contributions to a settlement of the vexed question of the original home from which the Gypsies long ago set out on their world- wide wanderings. Setting philology aside, however, we have no hesitation in saying that this is the most delightful gypsy
book with which we are acquainted, and we may boast a fair familiarity with the existing literature of the subject.