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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Bunyan doubtless imagined that the world understood


more should be recovered from

oblivion." Remarks like these come with a singular grace from a man with so many prejudices as Southey. John Bunyan has told us as much of his history _as he dared to do_. It was a subject upon which, in some respects, he doubtless maintained a great reserve; for it cannot be supposed that a man occupying so prominent and popular a position, as a preacher and writer, and of so singular an origin, should have had no investigations made into his history, and that of his family; if not by his friends, at least, by his enemies, who seemed to have been capable of doing anything to injure and discredit him. But, very probably, his being a tinker was, with friends and enemies, a circumstance so altogether discreditable, as to render any investigation of the kind perfectly superfluous. In mentioning that much of himself which he did, Bunyan doubtless imagined that the world understood, or would have understood, what he meant, and would, sooner or later, acknowledge the race to which he belonged. And yet it has remained in this unacknowledged state for two centuries since his time. How unreasonable it is to imagine that Bunyan should have said, in as many words, that he was a Gipsy, when the world generally is so apt to become fired with indignation, should we _now_ say that he was one of the race. How applicable are the words of his wife, to Sir Matthew Hale, to the people of the present day: "Because he is a tinker, and a poor man, he is despised, and cannot have justice."

justify;"> [321] Although Bunyan probably never anticipated being held in high estimation by what are termed the "great ones" of the earth, yet what Southey has said cannot be predicated of him, if we consider the singularity of his origin and history, and the popularity which he enjoyed, as author of the Pilgrim's Progress; a work affecting the mind of man in every age of the world. Of this work Bunyan writes:

"My Pilgrim's book has travelled sea and land, Yet could I never come to understand That it was slighted, or turned out of door, By any kingdom, were they rich or poor. In France and Flanders, where men kill each other, My Pilgrim is esteemed a friend, a brother. In Holland, too, 'tis said, as I am told, My Pilgrim is, with some, worth more than gold. Highlanders and Wild Irish can agree My Pilgrim should familiar with them be. 'Tis in New England under such advance, Receives there so much loving countenance, As to be trimmed, new clothed, and decked with gems, That it may show its features, and its limbs. Yet more, so public doth my Pilgrim walk, That of him thousands daily sing and talk."

Had Southey exercised that common sense which is the inheritance of most of Englishmen, and divested himself of this prejudice of caste, which is likewise their inheritance, he never could have had any difficulty in forming a proper idea of Bunyan, and everything concerning him. And the same may be said of any person at the present day. John Bunyan was simply a Gipsy of mixed blood, who must have spoken the Gipsy language in great purity; for, considering the extent to which it is spoken in England, to-day, we can well believe that it was very pure two centuries ago, and that Bunyan might have written works even in that language. But such is the childish prejudice against the name of Gipsy, such the silly incredulity towards the subject, that, in Great Britain, and, I am sorry to say, with some people in America, one has nearly as much difficulty in persuading others to believe in it, as St. Paul had in inducing the Greeks to believe in the resurrection of the dead. Why seemeth it unto thee incredible that Bunyan was a Gipsy? or that Bunyan's race should now be found in every town, in every village, and, perhaps, in every hamlet, in Scotland, and in every sphere of life?[322]


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