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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The Gipsy finds his race described as vagabonds


What shall we say further of the relative positions which the Jews and Gipsies occupy towards the rest of the world? In the first place, the Jews entered Europe a civilized, and the Gipsies a barbarous, people; so that, in instituting any comparison between them, we should select Gipsies occupying positions in life similar to those of the Jews. The settled Scottish Gipsy, we find, appears to the eye of the world as a Scotchman, and nothing more. It is the weak position which the Gipsy race occupies in the world, as it enters upon a settled life, and engages in steady pursuits, that compels it to assume an incognito; for it has nothing to appeal to, as regards the past; no history, except it be acts of legislation passed against the race. In looking into a Dictionary or a Cyclopaedia, the Gipsy finds his race described as vagabonds, always as vagabonds; and he may be said never to have heard a good word spoken of it, during the whole of his life. Hence he and his descendants "keep as quiet as pussy," and pass from the observation of the world. Besides this, there is no prominent feature connected with his race, to bring it before the world, such as there is with the Jewish, viz., history, church, or literature. A history, the Gipsy, as we see, doubtless has; but anything connected with him, pertaining to the church or literature, he holds as a member of ordinary society. Still, it would not be incorrect to speak of Gipsy literature, as the work of a Gipsy, acquired from the sources common to other men; as we would say of the Jews, relative to the literature which they produce under similar circumstances. As to the Gipsy to whom I have alluded, it may be said that it is none of our business whether he is a Gipsy or not; there is certainly no prejudice against him as an individual, and there can be none as a Gipsy, except such as people may of their own accord conceive for him. Many of the Scottish Gipsies whom I have met with are civil enough, sensible enough, decent enough, and liberal and honourable enough in their conduct; decidedly well bred for their positions in life, and rather foolish and reckless with their means, than misers; and, generally speaking, what are called "good fellows." It is no business of mine to ask them, how long it is since their ancestors left the tent, or, indeed, if they even know when that occurred; and still less, if they know when any of them ever did anything that was contrary to law. Still, one feels a little irksome in such a Gipsy's company, until the Gipsy question has been fairly brought before the world, and the point settled, that a Gipsy may be a gentleman, and that no disparagement is necessarily connected with the name, considered in itself. Such Scottish Gipsies as I have mentioned are decidedly smart, and, Yankee-like, more adaptable in turning their hands to various employments, than the common natives; and are a fair credit to the country they come from, and absolutely a greater than many of the native Scotch that are to be met with in the New World. Let the name of Gipsy be as much respected, in Scotland, as it is now despised, and the community would stare to see the civilized Gipsies make their appearance; they would come buzzing out, like bees, emerging even from places where a person, not in the secret, never would have dreamt of.

If we consider, in a fair and philosophical manner, the origin of these people, we will find many excuses for the position which their ancestors have occupied. They were a tribe of men wandering upon the face of the earth, over which they have spread, as one wave follows and urges on another. Those that appeared in Europe seem to have been impelled, in their migration, by the same irresistible impulse; to say nothing of the circumstances connected with their coming in contact with the people whose territories they had invaded. No one generation could be responsible for


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