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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

A mission among the itinerant Scottish Gipsies


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latter part of the Gipsy nation, whether settled or itinerant, must be reached indirectly, for reasons which have already been given; for it does not serve much purpose to interfere too directly with them, as Gipsies. We should bring a reflective influence to bear upon them, by holding up to their observation, some of their own race in respectable positions in life, and respected by the world, as men, though not known to be Gipsies. I could propose no better plan to be adopted, with some of these people, than to give them a copy of the present work, along with the Pilgrim's Progress, containing a short account of the Gipsies, and a Gipsy's encampment for a frontispiece. The world may well believe that the Gipsies would read both of them, and be greatly benefited by the Pilgrim's Progress; for, as a race, they are exceedingly vain about anything connected with themselves. Said I to some English Gipsies: "You are the vainest people in the world; you think a vast deal of yourselves." "There is good reason for that," they replied; "if we do not think something of ourselves, there are no others to do it for us." Now since John Bunyan has become so famous throughout the world, and so honoured by all sects and parties, what an inimitable instrument Providence has placed in our hands wherewith to raise up the name of Gipsy! Through him we can touch the heart of Christendom! I am well aware that the Church of Scotland has, or at least had, a mission among the itinerant Scottish Gipsies.
In addition to the means adopted by this mission, to improve these Gipsies, it would be well to take such steps as I have suggested, so as to raise up the name of Gipsy. For, in this way, the Gipsies, of all classes, would see that they are not outcasts; but that the prejudices which people entertain for them are applicable to their ways of life, only, and not to their blood or descent, tribe or language. Their hearts would then become more easily touched, their affections more readily secured; and the attempt made to improve them would have a much better chance of being successful. A little judgment is necessary in conducting an intercourse with the wild Gipsy, or, indeed, any kind of Gipsy; it is very advisable to speak well of "the blood," and never to confound the race with the conduct of part of it. There is hardly anything that can give a poor Gipsy greater pleasure than to tell him something about his people, and particularly should they be in a respectable position in life, and be attached to their nation. It serves no great purpose to appear too serious with such a person, for that soon tires him. It is much better to keep him a little buoyant and cheerful, with anecdotes and stories, for that is his natural character; and to take advantage of occasional opportunities, to slip in advices that are to be of use to him. What is called long-facedness is entirely thrown away upon a Gipsy of this kind.

I am very much inclined to believe that a


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