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They endeavour to persuade the Ignorant, that they derive their Origin from the Egyptians, a People heretofore very famous for Astronomy, Natural Magick, the art of Divination, &c. and therefore are great Pretenders to Fortune-telling. To colour their Impostures, they artificially discolour their Faces, and rove up and down the Country in a Tatterdemalion Habit, deluding the ignorant Vulgar, and often stealing from them what is not too hot for their Fingers, or too heavy to carry off.

It is the Custom of these Wretches to swear all that are admitted into their Fraternity, by a Form and Articles annexed into it, administred by the Principal Maunder or Roguish Strowler, and which they generally observe inviolably. The Manner of admitting a new Member, together with the said Oath and Articles, are as follows.

The Name of the Person is first demanded, and a Nick-name is then given him in its stead, by which he is ever after called, and in Time, his other Name is quite forgotten. Then standing up in the middle of the Fraternity, and directing his Face to the Dimber-Damber, or Prince of the Gang, he swears in this Manner, as is dictated to him by one of the most experienced,

I Crank-Cuffin do swear to be a True Brother, and will in all Things, obey the Commands of the great Tawny Prince, and keep his Councel, and not divulge the Secrets of my Brethren.

I will never leave nor forsake this Company, but observe and keep all the Times of Appointments, either by Day or by Night, in any Place whatsoever.

I will not teach any one to cant; nor will I disclose ought of our Mysteries to them, although they flog me to death.

I will take my Prince's Part against all that shall oppose him, or any of us, according to the utmost of my Ability; nor will I suffer him, or any belonging to us, to be abused by any strange, Abrams, Rufflers, Hookers, Palliards, Swadlers, Irish-Toyls, Swig-men, Whip-Jacks, Jark-men, Bawdy-Baskets, Dommerars, Clapperdogeons, Patricoes or Curtals, but will defend him or them as much as I can against all other Outlyers whatever.

I will not conceal ought I win out of Libkins, or from the Ruffmans; but will preserve it for the Use of the Company.

Lastly, I will cleave to my Doxy Wap stiffly, and will bring her Duds, Margery, Praters, Goblet, Grunting-cheats, or Tibs of the Buttery, or anything else I can come at, as Winnings for her Wappings.

The Canters have, it seems a Tradition, that from the Three first articles of this Oath, the first Founders of a certain boastful, worshipful Fraternity, who pretend to derive there Origin from the earliest Times, borrowed of them, both the Hint and form of their Establishment. And that their pretended Derivation from the first Adam, is a Forgery, it being only from the first Adam Tiler. See ADAM TILER.

At the Admission of a new Brother, a general Stock is raised for Booze, or Drink, to make themselves merry on the Occasion. As for Peckage, or Eatables, they can procure it without Money; for while some are sent to break the Ruffmans, or Woods and Bushes, for Firing, others are detached to filch Geese, Chickens, Hens, Ducks or Mallards, and Pigs. Their Morts are their Butchers, who presently make bloody Work with what living Things are brought them, and having made Holes in the Ground, under some remote Hedge in an obscure Place, they make a fire, and broil or boil their Food, and when 'tis enough, fall to work, Tooth and Nail, and having eaten more like Beasts than Men, they drink more like Swine than human Creatures, entertaining one another all the Time with Songs in the Canting Dialect.

As they live, so they lie together promiscuously, and know not how to claim a Property either in their Goods or Children, and this general Interest ties them more firmly together, than if all their Rags were twisted into Ropes to bind them indissolubly from a Separation; which detestable Union is farther consolidated by the above Oath.

They strowl up and down all Summertime in Droves, and dextrously pick Pockets, while they are telling of Fortunes; and the Money, Rings, Silver-Thimbles, &c. which they get, are instantly conveyed from one Hand, to another, till the remotest Person of the Gang, who is not suspected, because they come not near the Person robbed, gets Possession of it, so that in the strictest Search, it is almost impossible to recover it, while the Wretches with Imprecations, Oaths and Protestations, disclaim the Thievery. That by which they are said to get the most Money, is, when young Gentlewomen of good Families and Reputations have happenned to be with Child before Marriage, a round Sum is often bestowed among the Gypsies, for some one Mort to take the Child; and as that is never heard of more by the true Mother and Family, so the Disgrace is kept concealed from the World, and if the Child lives, it never known its Parents.

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Entry taken from 1736 Canting Dictionary, by Nathan Bailey.

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GUTTING an Oyster


Gypsies in the 1811 Vulgar Tongue

Also see examples in Canting Songs and Slang Rhymes collected by John S. Farmer (1896).