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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Every Gipsy has part of the Gipsy blood


The

history of the Gipsies is the history of a people (mixed, in point of blood, as it is,) which exists; not the history of a people, like the Aborigines of North America, which has ceased to exist, or is daily ceasing to exist.[296] It is the history of a people within a people, with whom we come in contact daily, although we may not be aware of it. Any person of ordinary intelligence can have little difficulty in comprehending the subject, shrouded as it is from the eye of the world. But should he have any such difficulty, it will be dispelled by his coming in contact with a Gipsy who has the courage to own himself up to be a Gipsy. It is no argument to maintain that the Gipsy race is not a race, because its blood is mixed with other people. That can be said of all the races of Western Europe, the English more especially; and, in a much greater degree, of that of the United States of America. Every Gipsy has part of the Gipsy blood, and more or less of the words and signs; which, taken in connection with the rearing of Gipsies, act upon his mind in such a manner, that he is penetrated with the simple idea that he is a Gipsy; and create that distinct feeling of nationality which the matters of territory, and sometimes dialect, government, and laws, do with most of other races. Take a Gipsy from any country in the world you may, and the feeling of his being a Gipsy comes as naturally to him as does the nationality of a Jew to a Jew; although we will naturally give him a more definite
name, to distinguish him; such as an English, Welsh, Scotch, or Irish Gipsy, or by whatever country of which the Gipsy happens to be a native.

[296] The fact of these Indians, and the aboriginal races found in the countries colonised by Europeans, disappearing so rapidly, prevents our regarding them with any great degree of interest. This circumstance detracts from that idea of dignity which the perpetuity and civilization of their race would inspire in the minds of others.

But I am afraid that what has been said is not sufficiently explanatory to enable some people to understand this subject. These people know what a Gipsy, in the popular sense, means; they have either seen him, and observed his general mode of life, or had the same described to them in books. This idea of a Gipsy has been impressed upon their minds almost from infancy. But it puzzles most people to form any idea of a Gipsy of a higher order; such a Gipsy, for example, as preaches the gospel, or argues the law: that seems, hitherto, to have been almost incomprehensible to them. They know intuitively what is meant by any particular people who occupy a territory--any country, tract of land, or isle. They also know what is meant by the existence of the Jews. For the subject is familiar to them from infancy; it is wrapt up in their early reading; it is associated with the knowledge and practice of their religion, and the attendance, on the part of the Jews, at a place of worship. They have likewise seen and conversed with the Jews, or others who have done either or both; or they are acquainted with them by the current remarks of the world. But a people resembling, in so many respects, the Jews, without having any territory, or form of creed, peculiar to itself, or any history, or any peculiar outward associations or residences, or any material difference in appearance, character, or occupation, is something that the general mind of mankind would seem never to have dreamt of, or to be almost capable of realizing to itself. We have already seen how a writer in Blackwood's Magazine gravely asserts, that, although "Billy Marshall left descendants numberless, the race, of which he was one, was in danger of becoming extinct;" when, in fact, it had only passed from its first stage of existence--the tent, into its second--tramping, without the tent; and after that, into its ultimate stage--a settled life. We have likewise seen how Sir Walter Scott imagines that the Scottish Gipsies have decreased, since the time of Fletcher, of Saltoun, about the year 1680, from 100,000 to 500, by "the progress of time, and encrease of the means of life, and the power of the laws." Mr. Borrow has not gone one step ahead of these writers; and, although I naturally enough excuse them, I am not inclined to let him go scot-free, since he has set himself forward so prominently as an authority on the Gipsy question.[297]


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