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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The tinman termed Slingsby a mumping villain


all that has been said, the reader can have no difficulty in believing, with me, as a question beyond doubt, that the immortal John Bunyan was a Gipsy of mixed blood. He was a tinker. And who were the tinkers? Were there any itinerant tinkers in England, before the Gipsies settled there? It is doubtful. In all likelihood, articles requiring to be tinkered were carried to the nearest smithy. The Gipsies are all tinkers, either literally, figuratively, or representatively. Ask any English Gipsy, of a certain class, what he can do, and, after enumerating several occupations, he will add: "I can tinker, of course," although he may know little or nothing about it. Tinkering, or travelling-smith work, is the Gipsy's representative business, which he brought with him into Europe. Even the intelligent and respectable Scottish Gipsies speak of themselves as belonging to the "tinker tribe." The Gipsies in England, as in Scotland, divided the country among themselves, under representative chiefs, and did not allow any other Gipsies to enter upon their walks or beats. Considering that the Gipsies in England were estimated at above ten thousand during the early part of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, we can readily believe that they were much more numerous during the time of Bunyan. Was there, therefore, a pot or a kettle, in the rural parts of England, to be mended, for which there was not a Gipsy ready to attend to it? If a Gipsy would not tolerate any of his own race entering upon his district,
was he likely to allow any native? If there were native tinkers in England before the Gipsies settled there, how soon would the latter, with their organization, drive every one from the trade by sheer force! What thing more like a Gipsy? Among the Scotch, we find, at a comparatively recent time, that the Gipsies actually murdered a native, for infringing upon what they considered one of their prerogatives--that of gathering rags through the country.

Lord Macaulay says, with reference to Bunyan: "The tinkers then formed a hereditary caste, which was held in no high estimation. They were generally vagrants and pilferers, and were often confounded with the Gipsies, whom, in truth, they nearly resembled." I would like to know on what authority his lordship makes such an assertion; what he knows about the origin of this "_hereditary_ tinker caste," and if it still exists; and whether he holds to the purity-of-Gipsy-blood idea, advanced by the Edinburgh Review and Blackwood's Magazine, but especially the former. How would he account for the existence of a hereditary caste of any kind, in England, and that just one--the "tinker caste"? There was no calling at that time hereditary in England, that I know of; and yet Bunyan was born a tinker. In Scotland, the collier and salter castes were hereditary, for they were in a state of slavery to the owners of these works.[314] But who ever heard of any native occupation, so free as tinkering, being hereditary in England, in the seventeenth century? Was not this "tinker caste," at that time, exactly the same that it is now? If it was then hereditary, is it not so still? If not, by what means has it ceased to be hereditary? The tinkers existed in England, at that time, exactly as they do now. And who are they now but mixed Gipsies? It is questionable, very questionable indeed, if we will find, in all England, a tinker who is not a Gipsy. The class will deny it; the purer and more original kind of Gipsies will also deny it; still, they are Gipsies. They are all _chabos_, _calos_, or _chals_; but they will play upon the word Gipsy in its ideal, purity-of-blood sense, and deny that they are Gipsies. We will find in Lavengro two such Gipsies--the Flaming Tinman, and Jack Slingsby; the first, a half-blood, (which did not necessarily imply that either parent was white;) and the other, apparently, a very much mixed Gipsy. The tinman termed Slingsby a "mumping villain." Now, "mumper," among the English Gipsies, is an expression for a Gipsy whose blood is very much mixed. When Mr. Borrow used the word _Petulengro_,[315] Slingsby started, and exclaimed: "Young man, you know a thing or two." I have used the same word with English Gipsies, causing the same surprise; on one occasion, I was told: "You must be a Scotch Gipsy yourself." "Well," I replied, "I may be as good a Gipsy as any of you, for anything you may know." "That may be so," was the answer I got. Then Slingsby was very careful to mention to Lavengro that his _wife_ was a white, or Christian, woman; a thing not necessarily true because he asserted it, but it implied that _he_ was different. These are but instances of, I might say, all the English tinkers. Almost every old countrywoman about the Scottish Border knows that the Scottish tinkers are Gipsies.[316]

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