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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Perfectly sufficient to retain them members of Gipsydom


"There is nothing hid that shall not be revealed."

In giving an account of the Gipsies, the subject would be very incomplete, were not something said about the manner in which they have drawn into their body the blood of other people, and the way in which the race is perpetuated; and a description given of their present condition, and future prospects, particularly as our author has overlooked some important points connected with their history, which I will endeavour to furnish. One of these important points is, that he has confined his description of the present generation of settled Gipsies to the descendants of those who left the tent subsequently to the commencement of the French war, to the exclusion of those who settled long anterior to that time. It is also necessary to treat the subject abstractly--to throw it into principles, to give the philosophy of it--to ensure the better understanding, and perpetuate the knowledge of it, amid the shifting objects that present themselves to the eye of the world, and even of the people described.

Gipsydom may, in a word, be said to be literally a sealed book, a _terra incognita_, to mankind in general. The Gipsies arrived in Europe a strange race; strange in their origin, appearance, habits and disposition. Supposing that their habits had

never led them to interfere with the property of others, or obtain money by any objectionable way, but that they had confined their calling to tinkering, making and selling wares, trading, and such like, they would, in all probability, still have remained a caste in the community, with a strong feeling of sympathy for those living in other countries, in consequence of the singularity of their origin and development, as distinguished from those of the other inhabitants, their language and that degree of prejudice which most nations have for foreigners settling among them and particularly so in the case of a people so different in their appearance and mode of life as were the Gipsies from those among whom they settled. That may especially be said of tented Gipsies, and even of those who, from time to time, would be forced to leave the tent, and settle in towns, or live as _tramps_, as distinguished from tented Gipsies. The simple idea of their origin and descent, tribe and language, transmitted from generation to generation, being so different from those of the people among whom they lived, was, in itself, perfectly sufficient to retain them members of Gipsydom, although, in cases of intermarriages with the natives, the mixed breeds might have gone over to the white race, and been lost to the general body. But in most of such cases that would hardly have taken place; for between the two races, the difference of feeling, were it only a slight jealousy, would have led the smaller and more exclusive and bigoted to bring the issue of such intermarriages within its influence. In Great Britain, the Gipsies are entitled, in one respect at least, to be called Englishmen, Scotchmen, or Irishmen; for their general ideas as men, as distinguished from their being Gipsies, and their language, indicate them, at once, to be such, nearly as much as the common natives of these countries. A half or mixed breed might more especially be termed or pass for a native; so that, by clinging to the Gipsies, and hiding his Gipsy descent and affiliation from the native race, he would lose nothing of the outward character of an ordinary inhabitant; while any benefit arising from his being a Gipsy would, at the same time, be enjoyed by him.

But the subject assumes a totally different aspect when, instead of a slight jealousy existing between the two races, the difference in feeling is such as if a gulf had been placed between them. The effect of a marriage between a white and a Gipsy, especially if he or she is known to be a Gipsy, is such, that the white instinctively withdraws from any connexion with his own race, and casts his lot with the Gipsies. The children born of such unions become ultra Gipsies. A very fine illustration of this principle of half-breed ultra Gipsyism is given by Mr. Borrow, in his "Gipsies in Spain," in the case of an officer in the Spanish army adopting a young female Gipsy child, whose parents had been executed, and educating and marrying her. A son of this marriage, who rose to be a captain in the service of Donna Isabel, hated the white race so intensely, as, when a child, to tell his father that he wished he (his father) was dead. At whose door must the cause of such a feeling be laid? One would naturally suppose that the child would have left, perhaps despised, his mother's people, and clung to those whom the world deemed respectable. But the case was different. Suppose the mother had not been prompted by some of her own race, while growing up, and the son, in his turn, not prompted by the mother, all that was necessary to stir up his hatred toward the white race was simply to know who he was, as I will illustrate.[258]

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