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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

What knowledge had the public of the nature of Gipsydom


Gipsy, mentioned in chapter

V., follow, at the present day, the medical, the legal, and the mercantile professions. Such occurrences have been frequent in Scotland. There are the cases mentioned by our author; such as one of the Faas rising to such eminence in the mercantile world, at Dunbar; and another who rose to the rank of lieutenant in the East India Company's service; and the Baillie family, which furnished a captain and a quarter-master to the army, and a country surgeon. These are but instances of many others, if they were but known. Some may object, that these were not full-blood Gipsies. That, I readily admit. But the objection is more nominal than real. 'If a white were to proceed to the interior of the American continent, and cast his lot with a tribe of Indians, his children would, of course, be expected to be superior, in some respects, to the children of the native blood exclusively, owing to what the father might be supposed to teach them. But it is different in the case of a white marrying a Scottish Gipsy woman, born and reared in the same community with himself; for the white, in general cases, brings only his blood, which enables the children, if they take after himself, in appearance, to enter such places as the black Gipsies would not enter, or might not be allowed to enter. The white father, in such a case, might not even be so intelligent as the Gipsy mother. Be that as it may, the individuals to whom I have alluded were nothing but Gipsies; possibly they did not know when, or through
whom, the white blood was introduced among them; they knew, at least, that they were Gipsies, and that the links which connected them with the past were substantially Gipsy links. Besides the Scottish Gipsies rising to respectable positions in life, by their own exertions, I can well believe that Gipsydom has been well brought up through the female line; especially at a time when females, and particularly country females, were rude and all but uneducated. Who more capable of doing that than the lady Baillies, of Tweed-dale, and the lady Wilsons, of Stirlingshire? Such Gipsy girls could "turn natives round their little fingers" and act, in a way, the lady at once; "turn over a new leaf," and "pin it down;" and conduct themselves with great propriety.

Upon a superior Scottish Gipsy settling in a town, and especially a small town, and wishing to appear respectable, he would naturally take a pew in the church, and attend public worship, were it only, as our author asserts, to hide the fact of his being a Gipsy. Because, among the Scotch, there is that prying inquisitiveness into their neighbours' affairs, that compels a person to be very circumspect, in all his actions, movements, and expressions, if he wishes to be thought anything of, at all. The habit of attending church would then become as regular, in the Gipsy's family, as in the families of the ordinary natives, and, in a great measure, proceed from as legitimate a motive. The family would be very polite, indeed, extra polite, to their neighbours. After they had lulled to sleep every suspicion of what they were, or, by their really good conduct, had, according to the popular idea, "ceased to be Gipsies," they would naturally encourage a formal acquaintance with respectable (and nothing but respectable,) people in the place. The Gipsy himself, a really good fellow at heart, honourable in his dealings, but fond of a bargain, when he could drive a bargain, and, moreover, a jovial fellow, would naturally make plenty of business and out-door friends, at least. Rising in circumstances and the public esteem, he makes up his mind that his children ought to be something better than himself, at all events; in short, that they ought not to be behind those of his respectable neighbours. Some of them he, therefore, educates for a liberal profession. The Gipsy himself becomes more and more ambitious: besides attending church, he must become an elder of the church; or it may be that the grace of God takes hold of him, and brings him into the fold. He and his wife conduct themselves with much propriety; but some of the boys are rather wild; the girls, however, behave well. Altogether, the whole family is very much thought of. Such is a Scottish Gipsy family, (the parents of which are now dead,) that I have in my mind at the present moment. No suspicion existed in regard to the father, but there was a breath of suspicion in regard to the mother. But what difference did that make? What knowledge had the public of the nature of Gipsydom?


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