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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Taking greatly after the Gipsy


The Scottish Gipsies, when their appearance has been modified by a mixture of the white blood, have possessed, in common with the Highlanders, the faculty of "getting out" of the original ways of their race, and becoming superior in character, notwithstanding the excessive prejudice that exists against the nation of which they hold themselves members. Except his strong partiality for his blood and tribe, language, and signs, such a Gipsy becomes, in his general disposition and ways, like any ordinary native. It is impossible that it should be otherwise. Whenever a Gipsy, then, forsakes his original habits, and conforms with the ways of the other inhabitants, he becomes, for all practical purposes, an ordinary citizen of the Gipsy clan. If he is a man of good natural abilities, the original wild ambition of his race acquires a new turn; and his capacity fits him for any occupation. Priding himself on being an Egyptian, a member of this world-wide community, he acquires, as he gains information, a spirit of liberality of sentiment; he reads history, and perceives that every family of mankind has not only been barbarous, but very barbarous, at one time; and, from such reflections, he comes to consider his own origin, and very readily becomes confirmed in his early, but indistinct, ideas of his people, that they really are somebody. Indeed, he considers himself not only as good, but better than other people. His being forced to assume an incognito, and "keep as quiet as pussy," chafes his proud spirit, but it does not render him gloomy, for his natural disposition is too buoyant for that. How, then, does such a Scottish Gipsy feel in regard to his ancestors? He feels exactly as Highlanders do, in regard to theirs, or, as the Scottish Borderers do, with reference to the "Border Ruffians," as I have heard a Gipsy term them. Indeed, the gallows of Perth and Stirling, Carlisle and Jedburgh, could tell some fine tales of many respectable Scottish people, in times that are past.

The children of such a Gipsy differ very much from those of the same race in their natural state, although they may have the same amount of blood, and the same eye. The eye of the former is subdued, for his passions, in regard to his race, have never been called forth; while the eye of the latter rolls about, as if he were conscious that every one he meets with is remarking of him, "There goes a vagabond of a Gipsy." Two fine specimens of the former kind of Gipsies attended the High School of Edinburgh, when I was at that institution. Hearing the family frequently spoken of at home, my attention was often taken up with the boys, without understanding what a Gipsy of _that_ kind could mean; although I had a pretty good idea of the common Gipsy, or Tinkler, as he is generally called in Scotland. These two young Gipsies were what might be called sweet youths; modest and shy, among the other boys, as young tamed wild turkeys; very dark in colour, with an eye that could be caught in whatever way I might look at them. They now occupy very honourable positions in life. There were other Gipsies at the High School, at this time, but they were of the "brown sort." I have met, in the United States, with a Scottish Gipsy, taking greatly after the Gipsy, in his appearance; a man very gentlemanly in his manner and bearing, and as neat and trim as if he had "come out of a box." It is natural, indeed, to suppose that there must be a great difference, in many respects, between a wild, original Gipsy, and one of the tame and educated kind, whose descent is several, perhaps many, generations from the tent. In the houses of the former, things are generally found lying about, here-away, there-away, as if they were just going to be taken out and placed in the waggon, or on the ass's back.


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