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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

When the Gipsies were persecuted


besides showing that superior

aptitude for many of the things of every-day life, so inseparable from the success to which a special pursuit will lead. A Gipsy leader stood, then, somewhat in the position towards a gentleman that a swell does to-day; with this difference, that he was not apt to commit himself by the display of that ignorance which unmasks the swell; an ignorance which the gentleman, in spite of his little learning, no less shared in. If the latter happened to be well educated, the Gipsy could still pass muster, from being as well, or rather as ill, informed as many with whom the gentleman associated. The Gipsy being alert, capable of playing many characters, often a good musician, an excellent player at games of hazard, famous at tale and repartee, clever at sleight of hand tricks, ready with his weapon, at least in the boast of it, apt at field and athletic sports, suspicious of everything and everybody around him, the whole energies of his mind given to, and his life spent in, circumventing and plundering those around him, while, in appearance, "living in peaceable and catholic manner," and "doing a lawful business," and having that thorough knowledge of men acquired by mixing with all classes, in every part of the country--he became even more than a match for the other, whose life was spent in occasional forays, field sports and revellings, with so little to engage his intellectual nature, from his limited education, the non-existence of books, and the forms of government and social institutions,
with those beautifully complicated bearings and interests towards general society which the present age displays. At such a time, conversation must have been confined to the ordinary affairs of common life, the journal of much of which, beyond one's own immediate neighbourhood, would be found in the conversation of the accomplished Gipsy, who had the tact of ingratiating himself, in a manner peculiar to himself, with all kinds of society, even sometimes the very best. And it is remarkable that, when the Gipsies were persecuted, it was seldom, if ever, at the instance of private individuals, but almost always by those acting under authority. If they were persecuted by a private individual, they would naturally leave for another district, and place themselves, for a time, in the nominal position of a clansman to such barons as would be always ready to receive them. The people at large generally courted their friendship, for the amusement which they afforded them, and the various services which they rendered them, the most important of which was the safety of property which followed from such an acquaintance. That being the case even with people of influence, it may be judged what position the Gipsies occupied towards the various classes downwards; the lowest of which they have always despised, and delighted to tyrannize over. In coming among them, the Gipsies, from the first, exhibited ways of life and habits so dissimilar to those of the natives, and such tricks of legerdemain so peculiar to Eastern nations, and such claims of seeing into the future, as to cause many to believe them in league with the evil one; a conclusion very easily arrived at, in the darkness in which all were wrapped. Although the rabble of the Gipsies is said to have presented, in point of accoutrements, a most lamentable appearance, that could much more have been said of the same class of the natives, then, and long after, if we judge of a Highland "tail," of a little more than a century ago, as described by the author of Waverly; or even of the most unwashed of what has been termed the "unwashed multitude" of to-day. In point of adaptability to their respective modes of life, the poorest of the Gipsies far excelled the others. To carry out the character of pilgrims, the bulk of the Gipsies would go very poorly dressed; it would only be the chiefs who would be well accoutred.


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