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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

And bringing them up as Gipsies


[258] This Spanish Gipsy is reported by Mr. Borrow to have said: "She, however, remembered her blood, and hated my father, and taught me to hate him likewise. When a boy, I used to stroll about the plain, that I might not see my father; and my father would follow me, and beg me to look upon him, and would ask me what I wanted; and I would reply, 'Father, the only thing I want is to see you dead!'"

This is certainly an extreme instance of the result of the prejudice against the Gipsy race; and no opinion can be formed upon it, without knowing some of the circumstances connected with the feelings of the father, or his relations, toward the mother and the Gipsy race generally. This Gipsy woman seems to have been well brought up by her protector and husband; for she _taught her child Gipsy from a MS._, and procured a teacher to instruct him in Latin. There are many reflections to be drawn from the circumstances connected with this Spanish Gipsy family, but they do not seem to have occurred to Mr. Borrow.

Suppose that a great iron-master should fancy a Cinderella, living by scraping pieces of iron from the refuse of his furnaces, educate her, and marry her, as great iron-masters have done. Being both of the same race, a complete amalgamation would take place at once: perhaps the wife was the best person of the two. Silly people might sneer at such a marriage; but if no objection attached

to the personal character of the woman, she might be received into society at once, and admired by some, and envied by others, particularly if she had no "low relations" living near her. She might even boast of having been a Cinderella, if it happened to be well known; in which case she might be deemed free of pride, and consequently a very sensible, amiable woman, and worthy of every admiration.

But who ever heard of such a thing taking place with a Gipsy? Suppose a Gipsy elevated to such a position as that spoken of; she would not, she dare not, mention her descent to any one not of her own race, and far less would she give an _expose_ of Gipsydom; for she instinctively perceives, or at least believes, that, such is the prejudice against her race, people would avoid her as something horridly frightful, although she might be the finest woman in the world. Who ever heard of a civilized Gipsy, before Mr. Borrow mentioned those having attained to such an eminent position in society at Moscow? Are there none such elsewhere than in Moscow? There are many in Scotland. It is this unfortunate prejudice against the name that forces all our Gipsies, the moment they leave the tent, (which they almost invariably do with their blood diluted with the white,) to hide from the public their being Gipsies; for they are morbidly sensitive of the odium which attaches to the name and race being applied to them. It is quite time enough to discover the great secret of Nature, when it is unavoidable to enter

"The undiscovered country from whose bourne No traveller returns."

As little disposition is manifested by these Gipsies to "show their hands:" the uncertainty of such an experiment makes the very idea dreadful to them. Hence it is that the constant aim of settled Gipsies is to hide the fact of their being Gipsies from other people.

It is a very common idea that Gipsies do not mix their blood with that of other people. Now, what is the fact? I may, indeed, venture to assert, that there is not a full-blooded Gipsy in Scotland;[259] and, most positively, that in England, where the race is held to be so pure, all that can be said of _some_ families is, that they have not been crossed, _as far as is known_; but that, with these exceptions, the body is much mixed: "dreadfully mixed" is the Gipsies' description, as, in many instances, my own eyes have witnessed. This brings me to an issue with a writer in the Edinburgh Review, who, in October, 1841, when reviewing the "Gipsies in Spain," by Mr. Borrow, says, "Their descent is purity itself; no mixture of European blood has contaminated theirs. . . . . . They, (the stranger and Gipsy,) may live together; the European vagrant is often to be found in the tents of the Gipsies; they may join in the fellowship of sport, the pursuit of plunder, the management of their low trades, but they can never fraternize." A writer in Blackwood's Magazine, on the same occasion, says, "Their care to preserve the purity of their race might, in itself, have confuted the unfounded charge, so often brought against them, of stealing children, and bringing them up as Gipsies." More unfounded ideas than those put forth by these two writers are scarcely possible to be imagined.[260]


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