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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The Gipsies have always been disappearing


may be termed the philosophy of the Gipsies, is very simple in itself, when we have before us its main points, its principles, its bearings, its genius; and fully appreciated the circumstances with which the people are surrounded. The most remarkable thing about the subject is, that people never should have dreamt of its nature, but, on the contrary, believed that "the Gipsies are gradually disappearing, and will soon become extinct." The Gipsies have always been disappearing, but where do they go to? Look at any tent of Gipsies, when the family are all together, and see how prolific they are. What, then, becomes of this encrease? The present work answers the question. It is a subject, however, which I have found some difficulty in getting people to understand. One cannot see how a person can be a Gipsy, "because his father was a respectable man;" another, "because his father was an old soldier;" and another cannot see "how it necessarily follows that a person is a Gipsy, for the reason that his parents were Gipsies." The idea, as disconnected from the use of a tent, or following a certain kind of life, may be said to be strange to the world; and, on that account, is not very easily impressed on the human mind. It would be singular, however, if a Scotchman, after all that has been said, should not be able to understand what is meant by the Scottish Gipsy tribe, or that it should ever cease to be that tribe as it progresses in life. In considering the subject, he need not cast
about for much to look at, for he should exercise his mind, rather than his eyes, when he approaches it. It is, principally, a mental phenomenon, and should, therefore, be judged of by the faculties of the mind: for a Gipsy may not differ a whit from an ordinary native, in external appearance or character, while, in his mind, he may be as thorough a Gipsy as one could well imagine.

In contemplating the subject of the Gipsies, we should have a regard for the facts of the question, and not be led by what we might, or might not, imagine of it; for the latter course would be characteristic of people having the moral and intellectual traits of children. The race might, to a certain extent, be judged analogously, by what we know of other races; but that which is pre-eminently necessary, is to judge of it by facts: for facts, in a matter like this, take precedence of everything. Even in regard to the Gipsy language, broken as it is, people are very apt to say that it _cannot_ exist at the present day; yet the least reflection will convince us, that the language which the Gipsies use is the remains of that which they brought with them into Europe, and not a make-up, to serve their purposes. The very genius peculiar to them, as an Oriental people, is a sufficient guarantee of this fact; and the more so from their having been so thoroughly separated, by the prejudice of caste, from others around them; which would so naturally lead them to use, and retain, their peculiar speech. But the use of the Gipsy language is not the only, not even the principal, means of maintaining a knowledge of being Gipsies; perhaps it is altogether unnecessary; for the mere consciousness of the fact of being Gipsies, transmitted from generation to generation, and made the basis of marriages, and the intimate associations of life, is, in itself, perfectly sufficient. The subject of two distinct races, existing upon the same soil, is not very familiar to the mind of a British subject. To acquire a knowledge of such a phenomenon, he should visit certain parts of Europe, or Asia, or Africa, or the New World. Since all (I may say all) Gipsies hide the knowledge of their being Gipsies from the other inhabitants, as they leave the tent, it cannot be said that any of them really deny themselves, even should they hide themselves from those of their own race. The ultimate test of a person being a Gipsy would be for another to catch the internal response of his mind to the question put to him as to the fact; or observe the workings of his heart in his contemplations of himself. It can hardly be said that any Gipsy denies, at heart, the fact of his being a Gipsy, (which, indeed, is a contradiction in terms,) let him disguise it from others as much as he may. If I could find such a man, he would be the only one of his race whom I would feel inclined to despise as such.

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