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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

They are proud of being Gipsies


In England are to be found Gipsies of many occupations; horse-dealers, livery stable-keepers, public-house keepers, sometimes grocers and linen-drapers; indeed, almost every occupation from these downwards. I can readily enough believe an English Gipsy, when he tells me, that he knows of an English squire a Gipsy. To have an English squire a Gipsy, might have come about even in this way: Imagine a rollicking or eccentric English squire taking up with, and marrying, say, a pretty mixed Gipsy bar or lady's maid, and the children would be brought up Gipsies, for certainty.

There are two Gipsies, of the name of B----, farmers upon the estate of Lord Lister, near Massingham, in the county of Norfolk. They are described as good-sized, handsome men, and swarthy, with long black hair, combed over their shoulders. They dress in the old Gipsy stylish fashion, with a green cut-away, or Newmarket, coat, yellow leather breeches, buttoned to the knee, and top boots, with a Gipsy hat, ruffled breast, and turned-down collar. They occupy the position of any natives in society; attend church, take an interest in parish matters, dine with his lordship's other tenants, and compete for prizes at the agricultural shows. They are proud of being Gipsies. I have also been told that there are Gipsies in the county of Kent, who have hop farms and dairies.

The prejudice against the name of Gipsy

was apparently as great in Bunyan's time as in our own; and there was, evidently, as great a timidity, on the part of mixed, fair-haired Gipsies, to own the blood then, as now; and great danger, for then it was hangable to be a Gipsy, by the law of Queen Elizabeth, and "felony without benefit of clergy," for "any person, being fourteen years, whether natural born subject or stranger, who had been seen in the fellowship of such persons, or disguised like them, and remained with them one month, at once, or at several times." When the name of Gipsy, and every association connected with it, were so severely proscribed by law, what other name would the tribe go under but that of tinkers--their own proper occupation? Those only would be called Gipsies whose appearance indicated the pure, or nearly pure, Gipsy. Although there was no necessity, under any circumstances, for Bunyan to say that he was a Gipsy, and still less in the face of the law proscribing, so absolutely, the race, and every one countenancing it, he evidently wished the fact to be understood, or, I should rather say, took it for granted, that part of the public knew of it, when he said: "For my descent, it was, as is well known to many, of a low and inconsiderable generation; my father's house being of that rank that is meanest and most despised of all the families of the land." Of whom does Bunyan speak here, if not of the Gipsies? He says, of _all_ the families of the land. And he adds: "After I had been thus for some considerable time, another thought came into my mind, and that was, whether we, (his family and relatives,) were of the Israelites or no? For, finding in the Scriptures, that they were once the peculiar people of God, thought I, if I were one of this race, (how significant is the expression!) my soul must needs be happy. Now, again, I found within me a great longing to be resolved about this question, but could not tell how I should; at last, I asked my father of it, who told me, No, we, (his father included,) were not."[317] I have heard the same question put by Gipsy lads to their parent, (a very much mixed Gipsy,) and it was


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