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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

On the Gitanos or Spanish Gipsies


[2] It has been brought down, however, to the present time.

Since this work was written there has appeared one by Mr. Borrow, on the _Gitanos_ or Spanish Gipsies. In the year 1838, a society was formed in Scotland, under the patronage of the Scottish Church, for the reformation of the wandering portion of the body in that country, with some eminent men as a committee of management, among whom was a reverend gentleman of learning, piety, and worth, who said that he himself was a Gipsy, and whose fine swarthy features strongly marked the stock from which he was descended. There are others in that country of a like origin, ornaments to the same profession, and many in other respectable walks of life, of whom I will speak in my Disquisition on the Gipsies, at the end of the work.

Although a few years have elapsed since the principal details of this work were collected, the subject cannot be considered as old. The body in Scotland has become more numerous since the downfall of Napoleon; but the improved system of internal order that has obtained since that period, has so very much suppressed their acts of depredation and violence toward the community, and their savage outbursts of passion toward those of their own race who had offended them, that much which would have met with only a slight punishment before, or in some instances been passed over, as a mere Gipsy scuffle, would now be visited with the utmost penalty

the law could inflict. Hence the wild spirit, but not the number, of the body has been very much crushed. Many of them have betaken themselves to regular callings of industry, or otherwise withdrawn from public observation; but, in respect to race, are as much, at heart, Gipsies as before. Many of the Scottish wandering class have given way before an invasion of swarms of Gipsies from Ireland.

It is almost unnecessary to give a reason why this work has been introduced here, instead of the country in which it was written, and of which, for the most part, it treats. Suffice it to say, that, having come to this country, I have been led to bring it out here, where it may receive, sooner or later, more attention from those at a distance from the place and people it treats of, than from those accustomed to see and hear of them daily, to many of whom they appear as mere vagabonds; it being a common feature in the human mind, that that which comes frequently under our observation is but little thought of, while that at a distance, and unknown to us, forms the subject of our investigations and desires.[3] In taking this view of the subject, the language of Dr. Bright may be used, when he says: "The condition and circumstances of the Gipsy nation throughout the whole of Europe, may truly be considered amongst the most curious phenomena in the history of man." And although this work, for the most part, treats of Scottish Gipsies, it illustrates the history of the people all over Europe, and, it may be said, pretty much over the world; and affords materials for reflection on so singular a subject connected with the history of our common family, and so little known to mankind in general. To the American reader generally, the work will illustrate a phase of life and history with which it may be reasonably assumed he is not much conversant; for, although he must have some knowledge of the Gipsy race generally, there is no work, that I am aware of, that treats of the body like the present. To all kinds of readers the words of the celebrated Christopher North, as quoted in the author's Introduction, may be addressed:

"Few things more sweetly vary civil life Than a barbarian, savage Tinkler[4] tale."


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