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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Hide the fact of his being a Gipsy


While

the language and common origin of the Gipsies hold them together as a body, their mode of life has taken such a hold on the innate nature of the representative part of them, as to render it difficult to wean them from it. Like the North American Indians, they have been incapable of being reduced to a state of servitude;[12] and, in their own peculiar way, have been as much attached to a life of unrestricted freedom of movement. Being an Oriental people, they have displayed the uniformity of attachment to habit, that has characterized the people of that part of the world. Like the maidens of Syria, wearing to-day the identical kind of veil with which Rebecca covered herself when she met Isaac, they have, with few exceptions, adhered to all that originally distinguished them from those among whom they are found. In entering Europe, they would meet with few customs which they would willingly adopt in preference to their own. Their chiefs, being men of ambition, and fond of a distinguished position in the tribe, would influence the body to remain aloof from the people at large; and society being divided between the nobles and their various grades of dependents, and the restrained inhabitants of towns, with what part of the population could the Gipsies have been incorporated? With the lowest classes only, and become little better than serfs--a state to which it was almost impossible for a Gipsy to submit. His habits rendered him unfit to till the soil; the close and arbitrary laws
of municipalities would debar him from exercising almost any mechanical trade, in a way suitable to his disposition; and, no matter what might have been his natural propensities, he had almost no alternative left him but to wander, peddle, tinker, tell fortunes, and "find things that nobody ever lost." His natural disposition was to rove, and partake of whatever he took a liking to; nothing coming so acceptably and so sweetly to him, as when it required an exercise of ingenuity, and sometimes a degree of danger, in its acquisition, and caused a corresponding chagrin to him from whom it was taken, without affording him any trace of the purloiner. He must also enjoy the sports of the river and lake, the field, hill and forest, and the pleasure of his meal, cooked after his own fashion, in some quiet spot, where he would pitch his tent, and quench his thirst at his favourite springs. Then followed the persecution of his race; both by law and society it was declared outcast, although, by a large part of the latter, it was, from selfish motives, tolerated, and, in a measure, courted. The Gipsy's mode of life; his predatory habits; his vindictive disposition toward his enemies; his presumptuous bearing toward the lower classes, who had purchased his friendship and protection; his astuteness in doubling upon and escaping his pursuers; his audacity, under various disguises and pretences, in bearding justice, and the triumphant manner in which he would generally escape its toils; his utter destitution of religious opinions, or sentiments; his being a foreigner of such strongly marked appearance, under the legal and social ban of proscription; and the hereditary name which has, in consequence, attached to his race, have created those broad and deep-drawn lines of isolation, fear and antipathy, which, in the popular mind, have separated him from other men. To escape from the dreadful prejudice that is, in consequence, entertained toward his race, the Gipsy will, if it be possible, hide the fact of his being a Gipsy; and more especially when he enters upon settled life, and mixes with his fellow-men in the world.


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