Sunday, May 18, 2008

Papa would have shot him if he knew what he'd done

I'm reading Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country and he mentions that "impersonating an Egyptian" was one of two hundred capital offenses in eighteenth-century Britain, for which one could be transported to Australia as an alternative to hanging.

Correlatedly, there are a handful of websites, including the National Museum of Australia, repeating that impersonating an Egyptian (i.e. gypsy) was a transportable offense. However they don't explain why this should have been the case.

In Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester in fact did impersonate a gypsy woman to tell fortunes. However he was not hanged or transported for it.


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