The Gypsy on the Page in the Romantic Period
This chapter examines a selection of texts in order to establish a specifically literary context for Romantic-period representations of gypsies. The first part of the chapter looks back to the earlier eighteenth century, placing Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones alongside The Life and Adventures of Bampfylde-Moore Carew, the Noted Devonshire Stroler and Dog-Stealer. The second part turns to the 1780s and 1790s, comparing extracts from two very different types of prose, Heinrich Grellmann’s Dissertation on the Gypsies and the radical John Thelwall’s Peripatetic. The chapter suggests that, heavily indebted to Grellmann to the point of plagiarism, Thelwall’s passage better than Grellmann’s ostensibly scientific account reflects the progress of attitudes and the way in which the gypsy offers opportunities to writers to articulate anxieties beyond those associated purely with the categorization and comprehension of the gypsies themselves.
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