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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

200 In speaking of the more original kind of Gipsy


an excellent school of training,

for acquiring a host of expedients for escaping every danger and difficulty to which their habits exposed them. But so thoroughly had they preserved their secrets, and especially the grand one--their language--that they came to their wits' end how to understand, and how to act in, the new sphere of danger into which they were now thrown, or even to comprehend its nature. Such was the advantage which education and enlightenment had given their civilized neighbour over them. How could _they_ imagine that the commencement of my knowledge of their language had been drawn from _books_? What did some of them know of _books_, beyond, perhaps, a youth sent to school, where, owing to his restless and unsettled good-for-nothingness, he would advance little beyond his alphabet?[200] For we know that some Gipsies are so intensely vain as to send a child to school, merely to brag before their civilized neighbours that their children have been educated. How could _they_ comprehend that _their_ language had found, or could find, its way into _books_? The thing to them was impossible; the idea of it could not, by any exertion of their own, even enter into their imagination. The danger to arise from such a quarter was altogether beyond their capacity of comprehension. Knowing, however, that there was danger of some singular nature surrounding them, yet being unable to comprehend it, they flickered about it, like moths about a candle; till at last they did come to comprehend, if not its origin,
or extent, at least its tendency, and the consequences to which it would lead.

[200] In speaking of the more original kind of Gipsy, Grellmann says: "No Gipsy has ever signalized himself in literature, notwithstanding many of them have partaken of the instruction to be obtained at public schools. Their volatile disposition and unsteadiness will not allow them to complete anything which requires perseverance or application. In the midst of his career of learning, the recollection of his origin seizes him; he desires to return to what he thinks a more happy manner of life; this solicitude encreases; he gives up all at once, turns back again, and consigns over his knowledge to oblivion."

There are too many circumstances surrounding such a Gipsy to remind him of his origin, and arrest him in his career of learning: for his race never having been tolerated--that is, no position ever having been assigned it, he feels as if he were a vagabond, if known or openly avowed to the public as a member of the tribe. And this, in itself, is sufficient to discourage such a Gipsy in every effort towards improvement.--ED.

According to promise, the eldest of the Gipsy boys called at my house, in about six months, accompanied by his sister. He was selling white-iron ware, for he was a tin-smith by occupation. Without entering into any preliminary conversation, for the purpose of smoothing the way for more direct questions, I took him into my parlour, and at once enquired if he _could_ speak the Tinkler language? He applied to my question the construction that I doubted if he could, and the consequences which that would imply, and answered firmly, "Yes, sir; I have been bred in that line all my life." "Will you allow me," said I, "to write down your words?" "O yes, sir; you are welcome to as many as you please." "Have you names for everything, and can you converse on any subject, in that language?" "Yes, sir; we can converse, and have a name for everything, in our own speech." I now commenced to "make hay while the sun shone," as the phrase runs; for I knew that I could have only about an hour with the Gipsy, at the most. The following, then, are the words and sentences which I took down, on this occasion:


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