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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Knew from childhood more or less of the Gipsies


style="text-align: justify;"> INTRODUCTION.

The new era which the series of splendid works, called the Waverly Novels, created in literature, produced, among other effects, that of directing attention to that singular anomaly in civilization--the existence of a race of men scattered over the world, and known, wherever the English language is spoken, as Gipsies; a class as distinct, in some respects, from the people among whom they live, as the Jews at the present day. The first of the series in which their singular characters, habits, and modes of life were illustrated, was that of Guy Mannering; proving one of the few happy instances in which a work of fiction has been found to serve the end of specially stirring up the feelings of the human mind, in its various phases, toward a subject with which it has a common sympathy. The peasant and the farmer at once felt attracted by it, from the dread of personal danger which they had always entertained for the race, and the uncertainty under which they had lived, for the safety of their property from fire and robbery, and the desire which they had invariably shown to propitiate them by the payment of a species of blackmail, under the form of kind treatment, and a manner of hospitality when occasion called for it. The work at the same time struck a chord in the religious and humane sentiments of others, and the result, but a very tardily manifested one, was the springing up of associations for their

reformation; with comparatively little success, however, for it was found, as a general thing, that while some of the race allowed their children, very indifferently, even precariously, to attend school, yet to cure them of their naturally wandering and other peculiar dispositions, was nearly as hopeless as the converting of the American Indians to some of the ways of civilized life. That general class was also interested, which consist of the more or less educated, moral, or refined, to whom anything exciting comes with relish. To the historical student, the subject was fraught with matter for curious investigation, owing to the race having been ignored, for a length of time, as being in no respect different from a class to be found in all countries; and, whatever their origin, as having had their nationality extinguished in that general process which has been found to level every distinction of race in our country. The antiquary and philologist, in their respective pursuits, found also a sphere which they were unlikely to leave unexplored, considering that they are often so untiring in their researches in such matters as sometimes to draw upon themselves a smile from the rest of mankind: and while the latter was thinking that he had exhausted the languages of his native land, and was contemplating others elsewhere, he struck accidentally upon a mine under his feet, and at once turned up a specimen of virgin ore; coming all the more acceptably to him, from those in possession of it keeping it as secret as if their existence depended on its being concealed from others around them. All, indeed, but especially those brought up in rural places, knew from childhood more or less of the Gipsies, and dreaded them by day or night, in frequented or in lonely places, knowing well that, if insulted, they would threaten vengeance, if they could not execute it then; which they in no way doubted, with the terror of doomed men.

Among others, I felt interested in the subject, from having been brought up in the pastoral district of Tweed-dale, the resort of many Gipsies, who were treated with great favour by the inhabitants, for many reasons, the most important of which were the desire of securing their good-will, for their own benefit, and the use which they were to them in selling them articles in request, and the various mechanical turns which they possessed; and often from the natural generosity of people so circumstanced. My curiosity was excited, and having various sources of information at command, I proceeded to write a few short articles for Blackwood's Magazine, which were well received, as the following letters from Mr. William Blackwood will show:


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