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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

While the Gipsies are very prolific


[12] There is an exception, however, to this rule in the Danubian Principalities, to which I will again refer.

In the general history of Europe, we can find nothing to illustrate that of the Gipsies. But if we take a glance at the history of the New World, we will find, in a mild and harmless form, something that bears a slight resemblance to it. In various parts of the eastern division of North America are to be found remnants of tribes of Indians, living in the hearts of the settlements, on reserves of lands granted to them for their support; a race bearing somewhat the same resemblance to the European settlers that the Gipsies, with their dark complexion, and long, coarse, black hair, seem to have borne to the natives of Europe. Few of these Indians, although in a manner civilized, and professing the Christian religion, and possessing houses, schools and churches, have betaken, or, if they support their numbers, will ever betake, themselves to the ways of the other inhabitants. They will engage in many things to make a living, and a bare living; in that respect very much resembling some of the Gipsies. They will often leave their home, and build their wigwams whenever and wherever they have a mind, and indulge in the pleasures of hunting and laziness; and often make numerous small wares for sale, with the proceeds of which, and of the timber growing on their lots of land, they will manage to pass their lives in little better than sloth,

often accompanied by drunkenness. If it prove otherwise, it is generally from the Indian, or rather half or quarter breed, having been wholly or partly reared with whites, or otherwise brought up under their immediate influence; or from the ambition of their chiefs to raise themselves in the estimation of the white race, leading, from the influence which they possess, to some of the lower grades of the tribes following their example. It may be that the "poor Indian" has voluntarily exiled himself, in a fit of melancholy, from the wreck of his patrimony, to make a miserable shift for himself elsewhere, as he best may. In this respect the resemblance fails: that the Indian in America is aboriginal, the Gipsy in Europe foreign, to the soil; but both are characterized by a nature that renders them almost impervious to voluntary change. In this they resemble each other: that they are left to live by themselves, and transmit to their descendants their respective languages, and such of their habits as the change in their outward circumstances will permit. But in this they differ: that these Indians really do die out, while the Gipsies are very prolific, and become invigorated by a mixture of the white blood; under the cover of which they gradually leave the tent, and become scattered over and through society, enter into the various pursuits common to the ordinary natives, and become lost to the observation of the rest of the population.

The peculiar feeling that is entertained for what is popularly understood to be a Gipsy, differs from that which is displayed toward the Negro, in that it attaches to his traditional character and mode of life alone. The general prejudice against the Negro is, to a certain extent, natural, and what any one can realize. If the European has a difficulty in appreciating the feeling which is exhibited by Americans against the African, in their general intercourse of daily life, few Americans can realize the feeling which is entertained toward the tented Gipsy. Should such a Gipsy be permitted to enter the dwelling of a native, the most he will let him come in contact with will be the chair he will give him to sit on, and the dish and spoon out of which he will feed him, all of which can again be cleaned. His guest will never weary his patience, owing to the embodiment of restlessness which characterizes his race; nor will his feelings ever be tried by his asking him for a bed, for what the herb commonly called catnip is to the animal somewhat corresponding to that word, a bundle of straw in an out-house is to the tented Gipsy.


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