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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

There's no a drap o' Gipsy blood in me


birth, he is a child of that dependent class that gets a due share of the broken victuals and cast-off clothes of other people. His parents are decent and honest enough people, but very conceited and self-sufficient. Any person in the shape of a mechanic, a labourer, or a peasant, appears as nobody to them; although, in independence, and even circumstances, they are not to be compared to many a peasant. The "oldest bairn" takes his departure for the New World, "with the firm determination to show to the world that he is a man," and "teach the Yankees something." The first thing he does to "show the world that he is a man," is to sneer, behave rudely, and attempt to pick quarrels with a better class of his own countrymen, when he comes in contact with them. Providence has not been over-indulgent with him in the matters of perceptors or reflectors; for, what little he knows, he has acquired in the manner that chickens pick up their food, when it is placed before them. But he has been gifted with a wonderful amount of self-conceit, which nothing can break down in him, however much it may be abashed for the moment. No one boasts more of his "family," to those who do not know who his family are, although his family were brought up in a cage, and so small a cage, that some of them must have roosted on the spars overhead at night. No one is more independent, none more patriotic; no one boasts more of Wallace and Bruce, Burns and Scott, and all the worthies; to him there is no place in
the world like "auld Scotland yet;" no one glories more in "the noble qualities of the Scot;" and none's face burns with more importance in upholding, unchallenged, what he claims to be his character; yet the individual is a compound of conceit and selfishness, meanness and sordidness, and is estimated, wherever he goes, as a "perfect sweep." Although no one is more given to toasting, "Brithers a' the world o'er," and, "A man's a man for a' that," yet speak of the Gipsies to him, and he exclaims: "Thank God! there's no a drap o' Gipsy blood in me; no one drap o't!" Not only is he unable to comprehend the subject, but he is unwilling to hear the word Gipsy mentioned. In short, he turns up his nose at the subject, and howls like a dog.[324]

[324] It is interesting to compare this feeling with that of the lowest order of Spaniards, as described by Mr. Borrow. "The outcast of the prison and the _presidio_, who calls himself Spaniard, would feel insulted by being termed Gitano, and would thank God that he is not." _Page 386._

It is the better kind of Scottish people, in whatever sphere of life they are to be found, on whom the greatest reliance is to be placed in raising up and dignifying the word Gipsy. This peculiar family of mankind has been fully three centuries and a half in the country, and it is high time that it should be acknowledged, in some form or other; high time, certainly, that we should know something about it. To an intelligent people it must appear utterly ridiculous that a prejudice is to be entertained against any Scotchman, without knowing who that Scotchman is, merely on account of his blood. Nor will any intelligent Scotchman, after the appearance of this work, be apt to say that he does not understand the subject of the Gipsies; or that they cease to be Gipsies by leaving the tent, or by a change of character or habits, or by their blood getting mixed. It will not do for any one to snap at the heels of this question: he must look at it steadily, and approach it with a clear head, a firm hand, and a Christian heart, and remove this stigma that has been allowed to attach to his country. No one in particular can be blamed for the position which the Gipsies occupy in the country: let by-gones be by-gones; let us look to the future for that expression of opinion which the subject calls for. This much I feel satisfied of, that if the Gipsy subject is properly handled, it would result in the name becoming as much an object of respect and attachment in many of the race, as it is now considered a reproach in others. There is much that is interesting in the name, and nothing necessarily low or vulgar associated with it; although there is much that is wild and barbarous connected with the descent, which is peculiar to the descent of all original tribes. It is unnecessary to say, that in a part of the race, we still find much that is wild, and barbarous, and roguish.

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