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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

And we can form an idea of what Gipsyism is


The

mother, in the case mentioned, is certainly not a full-blood Gipsy, nor anything like it; she does not know her real "points;" all that she knows is, that she is a "Gipsy:" so that, if the youth's father is an ordinary native, the youth holds himself to be a half-and-half, nominally, though he does not know what he really is, as regards blood. Imagine, then, that he takes such a half-and-half Gipsy for a wife, and that both tell their children that they are "Gipsies:" the children, perhaps, knowing nothing of the real origin of their parents, take up the "wonderful story," and hand it down to their children, initiating them, in their turn, in the "mysteries." These children never doubt that _they_ are "Gipsies," although _their_ Gipsyism may, as I have already said, have "drifted the breadth of a hemisphere from the stakes and tent of the original Gipsy." In this manner is Gipsydom kept alive, by its turning round and round in a perpetual circle. And in this manner does it happen, that a native finds his own children Gipsies, from having, in seeking for a wife, stumbled upon an Egyptian woman. Gipsydom is, therefore, the aggregate of Gipsies, wherever, or under whatever circumstances, they are to be found. It is, in two respects, an absolute question; absolute as to blood, and absolute as to those teachings, feelings, and associations, that, by a moral necessity, accompany the possession of the blood.

This brings me to an issue with Mr. Borrow.

Speaking of the destination of the Spanish Gipsies, he says: "If the Gitanos are abandoned to themselves, by which we mean, no arbitrary laws are again enacted for their extinction, the sect will eventually cease to be, and its members become confounded with the residue of the population." I can well understand that such procedure, on the part of the Spanish Government, was calculated to soften the ferocious disposition of the Gipsies; but did it bring them a point nearer to an amalgamation with the people than before? Mr. Borrow continues: "The position which they occupy is the lowest. . . . . The outcast of the prison and the _presidio_, who calls himself Spaniard, would feel insulted by being termed Gitano, and would thank God that he is not." He continues: "It is, of course, by intermarriage, alone, that the two races will ever commingle; and before that event is brought about, much modification must take place amongst the Gitanos, in their manners, in their habits, in their affections and their dislikes, and perhaps _even in their physical peculiarities_, (yet 'no washing,' as Mr. Borrow approvingly quotes, 'will turn the Gipsy white;') much must be forgotten on both sides, and everything is forgotten in course of time." So great, indeed, was the prejudice against the Gipsies, that the law of Charles III, in 1783, forbade the people calling them Gitanos, under the penalty of being punished for _slander!_ because, his majesty said: "I declare that those who go by the name of Gitanos are not so by origin or nature; nor do they proceed from any infected root(!)" What regard would the native Spaniards pay to the injunction, that they would be punished for "slander," for calling the Gipsies _Gitanos_, in place of _Spaniards_? We may well believe that such a law would be a dead letter in Spain; where, according to Mr. Borrow, "justice has invariably been a mockery; a thing to be bought and sold, terrible only to the feeble and innocent, and an instrument of cruelty and avarice."

Mr. Borrow leaves the question where he found it. Even remove the prejudice that exists against the Gipsies, as regards their colour, habits, and history; what then? Would they, as a people cease to be? Would they amalgamate with the natives, _so as to be lost_? Assuredly not. They may mix their blood, but they preserve their mental identity in the world; even although, in point of physical appearance, habits, manners, occupation, character, and creed, they might "become confounded with the residue of the population." In that respect, they are the most exclusive people of almost any to be found in the world. We have only to consider what Freemasonry is, and we can form an idea of what Gipsyism is, in one of its aspects. It rests upon the broadest of all bases--flesh and blood, a common and mysterious origin, a common language, a common history, a common persecution, and a common odium, in every part of the world. Remove the prejudice against the Gipsies, make it as respectable to be Gipsies, as the world, with its ignorance of many of the race, deem it desreputable; what then? Some of them might come out with their "tents and encampments," and banners and mottoes: the "cuddy and the creel, the hammer and tongs, the tent and the tin kettle" forever. People need not sneer at the "cuddy and the creel." The idea conveys a world of poetry to the mind of a Gipsy. Mrs. Fall, of Dunbar, thought it so poetical, that she had it, as we have seen, worked in tapestry; and it is doubtless carefully preserved, as an heir-loom, among her collateral descendants.[267]


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