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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Have some writing upon the Gipsies


a Gipsy goes, he carries his inherent peculiarities with him; and the objection to him he considers to be to something inseparable from himself--that which he cannot escape; but the confidence which he has in his incognito neutralizes, as I have already said, the feelings which such a circumstance would naturally produce. But, to disarm him altogether of this feeling, all that is necessary is to state his case, and have it admitted by the "honourable of the earth;" so that his mind may be set at perfect rest on that point. He would, doubtless, still hide the fact of his being a Gipsy, but he would enjoy, in his retreat, that inward self-respect, among his fellow-creatures, which such an admission would give him; and which is so much calculated to raise the people, generally, in every moral attribute. It is, indeed, a melancholy thing, to contemplate this cloud which hangs over such a man, as he mixes with other people, in his daily calling; but to dispel it altogether, the Gipsy himself must, in the manner described, give us some information about his race. Apart from the sense of justice which is implied in admitting these Gipsies, as Gipsies, to a social equality with others, a motive of policy should lead us to take such a step; for it can augur no good to society to have the Gipsy race residing in its midst, under the cloud that hangs over it. Let us, by a liberal and enlightened policy, at least blunt the edge of that antipathy which many of the Gipsy race have, and most
naturally have, to society at large.

In receiving a Gipsy, as a Gipsy, into society, there should be no kind of officious sympathy shown him, for he is too proud to submit to be made the object of it. Should he say that he is a Gipsy, the remark ought to be received as a mere matter of course, and little notice taken of it; just as if it made no difference to the other party whether he was a Gipsy or not. A little surprise would be allowable; but anything like condolence would be out of the question. And let the Gipsy himself, rather, talk upon the subject, than a desire be shown to ask him questions, unless his remarks should allow them, in a natural way, to be put to him. As to the course to be pursued by the Gipsy, should he feel disposed to own himself up, I would advise him to do it in an off-handed, hearty manner; to show not the least appearance that he had any misgivings about any one taking exceptions to him on that account. Should he act otherwise, that is, hesitate, and take to himself shamefacedness, in making the admission, it would, perhaps, have been better for him not to have committed himself at all: for, in such a matter, it may be said, that "he that doubteth is damned." The simple fact of a man, in Scotland, saying, after the appearance of this work there, that he is a Gipsy, if he is conscious of having the esteem of his neighbours, would probably add to his popularity among them; especially if they were men of good sense, and had before their eyes the expression of good-will of the organs of society towards the Gipsy race. Such an admission, on the part of a Gipsy, would presumptively prove, that he was a really candid and upright person; for few Scottish Gipsies, beyond those about Yetholm, would make such a confession. Having mentioned the subject, the Gipsy should allude to it, on every appropriate occasion, and boast of being in possession of those words and signs which the other is entirely ignorant of. He could well say: "What was Borrow to him, or he to Borrow; that, for his part, he could traverse the world over, and, in the centre of any continent, be received and feasted, by Gipsies, as a king." If but one respectable Scottish Gipsy could be prevailed upon to act in this way, what an effect might it not have upon raising up the name of this singular race! But there is a very serious difficulty to be encountered in the outset of such a proceeding, and it is this, that if a Gipsy owns himself up, he necessarily "lets out," perhaps, all his kith and kin; a regard for whom would, in all probability, keep him back. But there would be no such difficulty to be met with in the way of the Gipsy giving us information by writing. Let us, then, Gipsy, have some writing upon the Gipsies. It will serve no good purpose to keep such information back; the keeping of it back will not cast a doubt upon the facts and principles of the present work; for rest assured, Gipsy, that, upon its own merits, your secret is exploded. I would say this to you, young Scottish Gipsy; pay no regard to what that old Gipsy says, when he tells you, that "he is too old a bird to be caught with chaff in that way."

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