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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Members of the Gipsy community


imagine how a man can be a

Gipsy and have fair hair. They think that, from his having fair hair, he cannot have the same feelings of what they imagine to be a true Gipsy, that is, a black-haired one. One naturally asks, what effect can the matter of colour of _hair_ have upon the _mind_ of a member of any community or clan, whether the hair be black, brown, red, fair, or white, or the person have no hair at all? Let us imagine a Gipsy with fair hair. How long is it since the white blood was introduced among his ancestors? Perhaps three hundred and fifty years. The race of which he comes has been, more or less, mixing and crossing ever since, but always retaining the issue within its own community. Is he fair-haired? Then he may be half a Gipsy; he may be three-fourths Gipsy, and perhaps even more. At the present day, the "points" of such a Gipsy are altogether arbitrary; some profess to know their points, but it is a thing altogether uncertain. All that they know and adhere to is, that they are Gipsies, and nothing else. In this manner are the British Gipsies, (with the exception of some English families, about whom there is no certainty,) members of the Gipsy community, or nation, as such--each having some of the blood; and not Gipsies of an ideal purity of race. What they know is, that their parents and relatives are Gipsies; that Gipsies separate them from the eternity that is past; and, consequently, that they are Gipsies. They, indeed, accept their descent, blood, and nationality as instinctively as
they accept the very sex which God has given them. Which of the two knows most of Gipsydom--the fair-haired or black? Almost invariably the fair.[265]

[265] Among the English Gipsies, fair-haired ones are looked upon by the purer sort, or even by those taking after the Gipsy, as "small potatoes." The consequence is they have to make up for their want of blood, by smartness, knowledge of the language, or something that will go to balance the deficiency of blood. They generally lay claim to the _intellect_, while they yield the _blood_ to the others. A full or nearly full-blood young English Gipsy looks upon herself with all the pride of a little duchess, while in the company of young male mixed Gipsies. A mixed Gipsy may reasonably be assumed to be more intelligent than one of the old stock, were it only for this reason, that the mixture softens down the natural conceit and bigotry of the Gipsy; while, as regards his personal appearance, it puts him in a more improvable position. Still, a full-blood Gipsy looks up to a mixed Gipsy, if he is anything of a superior man, and freely acknowledges the blood. Indeed, the two kinds will readily marry, if circumstances bring them together. To a couple of such Gipsies I said: "What difference does it make, if the person _has the blood, and has his heart in the right place_?" "That's the idea; that's exactly the idea," they both replied.

We naturally ask, what effect has this difference in appearance upon two such members of one family--the one with European, the other with Gipsy, features and colour? and the answer is this: The first will hide the fact of his being a Gipsy from strangers; indeed, he is ashamed to let it be known that he is a Gipsy; and he is afraid that people, not knowing how it came about, would laugh at him. "What!" they would ask, "_you_ a Gipsy? The idea is absurd." Besides, it facilitates his getting on in the world, to prevent it being known that he is a Gipsy. The other member cannot deny that he is a Gipsy, because any one can see it. Such are the Gipsies who are more apt to cling to the tent, or the more original ways of the old stock. They are very proud of their appearance; but it is a pride accompanied with disadvantages, and even pain. For, after all, the beauty and pleasure in being a Gipsy is to have the other cast of features and colour; he has as much of the blood and language as the other, while he can go into any kind of company--a sort of Jack-the-Giant-Killer in his invisible coat. The nearer the Gipsy comes to the original colour of his race, the less chance is there of improving him. He knows what he is like; and well does he know the feeling that people entertain for him. In fact, he feels that there is no use in being anything but what people call a Gipsy. But it is different with those of European countenance and colour, or when these have been modified or diluted by a mixture of white blood. They can, then, enter upon any sphere of employment to which they have a mind, and their personal advantages and outward circumstances will admit of.[266]


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