[ Victorian Gypsies. ] Four Victorian photographs, including three of John Sampson of the Gypsy Lore Society and children (Gypsies?) in bohemian dress.

John Sampson [ 'The Rai' ] (1862-1931), Irish linguist, Blake scholar, and authority on Gypsies [ Romani culture; Romany ]
Publication details: 
Undated Victorian photographs.
SKU: 20020

The Gypsy Lore Society was founded in 1888, and one of its prime movers was John Sampson, friend of Augustus John (for many years President of the Gypsy Lore Society) and the subject of the book 'The Scholar Gypsy' (1997), written by his grandson Anthony Sampson. According to a review in The Times, 17 May 1997, Sampson was 'a Victorian autodidact and philologist, who spent most of his life running the Liverpool University Library. To his friends, he was better known as the Rai, a Gypsy scholar who taught himself Romany, wrote a Romany dictionary, studied Gypsy folklore, and eventually conducted something of a Gypsy life, migrating between his legal wife - Anthony Sampson's grandmother - his mistress, Dora Yates, and another mistress, Gladys Imlach, whose illegitimate child later figured in the Sampson household as the mysterious "Aunt Mary"'. Three at least of the four photographs present here are from the papers of John Sampson. All are albumen prints. Three of the photographs (all 15 x 10.5 cm) are taken at the same studio sitting. One shows Sampson with four children (Gypsies?) in bohemian dress. Sampson's left arm is on the shoulder of a boy with a cigar in his hand, the two of them on chairs, and the other three children – two girls and one boy – seated on the floor in front of them. Attempts at identification are made in pencil on the reverse, with 'Dr. John Sampson' and 'Bernard with cigar' accompanied by 'Dora | Rosie Griffiths | another Gypsy Girl [last three words deleted] | Lizzie Mary Griffiths'. Another of the photographs shows Thompson (this time with the cigar in his mouth) with the four children ranged in front of him, and the third is of 'Bernard' and two of the girls. The fourth photograph is 14.5 x 11 cm, on a plain card backing, and is a head and shoulders shot of an attractive Victorian woman (Thompson's wife or one of his mistresses?) with braided hair in a dress embroidered with stars. From the papers of Mrs Helen Murray, who was secretary to Bernard Gilliat-Smith, President of the Gypsy Lore Society, and at whose house he died.