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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Taking greatly after the Gipsy


Gipsy, well up in the scale

of Scottish society, experiences, in one respect, nearly the same feelings in coming in contact with a wild Gipsy, that are peculiar to any other person. These are of a very singular nature. At first, we feel as if we were going into the lair of a wild animal, or putting our finger into a snake's mouth; such is the result of the prejudice in which we have been reared from infancy; but these feelings become greatly modified as we get accustomed to the people. The world has never had the opportunity of fairly contemplating any other kind of Gipsy; hence the extreme prejudice against the name. But when we get accustomed to meet with other kinds of Gipsies, and have associations with them, the feeling of prejudice changes to that of decided interest and attachment. I have met with various Scottish Gipsies of the female sex, in America, and, among others, one who could sit any day for an ideal likeness of the mother of Burns. She takes little of the Gipsy in her appearance. There is another, taking greatly after the Gipsy, born in Scotland, and reared in America; a very fine motherly person, indeed. I cannot, at the present stage of matters, mention the word Gipsy to her, but I know very well that she is a Gipsy. It takes some time for the feeling of prejudice for the word Gipsy to wear off, when contemplating even a passable kind of Gipsy. That object would be much more easily attained, were the people to own "the blood," unreservedly and cheerfully; for the very reserve, to a great
extent, creates, at least keeps alive, the prejudice. But that cannot well take place till the word "Gipsy" bears the signification of gentleman, in some of the race, as it does of vagabond, in others.

Some of my readers may still ask: "What is a Gipsy, after all that has been said upon the subject? Since it is not necessarily a question of colour of face, or hair, or eyes, or of creed, or character, or of any outward thing by which a human being can be distinguished; what is it that constitutes a Gipsy?" And I reply: "Let them read this work through, and thoroughly digest all its principles, and they can _feel_ what a Gipsy is, should they stumble upon one, it may be, in their own sphere of life, and hear him, or her, admit the fact, and speak unreservedly of it. They will then feel their minds rubbing against the Gipsy mind, their spirits communing with the Gipsy spirit, and experience a peculiar mental galvanic shock, which they never felt before."[325] It is impossible to say where the Gipsy soul may not exist at the present day, for there is this peculiarity about the tribe, as I have said before, that it always remains Gipsy, cross it out to the last drop of the original blood; for where that drop goes, the Gipsy soul accompanies it.[326]

[325] Let us suppose that a person, who has read all the works that have hitherto appeared on the Gipsies, and noticed the utter absence, in them, of everything of the nature of a philosophy of the subject, thoroughly masters all that is set forth in the present work. The knowledge which he _then_ possesses puts him in such a position, that he approximates to being one of the tribe, himself; that is, if all that is contained therein be known to him and the tribe, only, it would enable him to pass current, in certain circles of Gipsydom, as one of themselves.

[326] There is a point which I have not explained so fully as I might have done, and it is this: "Is any of the blood _ever lost_? that is, does it _ever cease to be Gipsy_, in knowledge and feeling?" That is a question not easily answered in the affirmative, were it only for this reason: how can it ever be ascertained that the knowledge and feeling of being Gipsies become lost? Let us suppose that a couple of Gipsies leave England, and settle in America, and that they never come in contact with any of their race, and that their children never learn anything of the matter from any quarter. (Page 413.) In such an extreme, I may say, such an unnatural, case, the children would not be Gipsies, but, if born in America, ordinary Americans. The only way in which the Gipsy blood--that is, the Gipsy feeling--can possibly be lost, is by a Gipsy, (a man especially,) marrying an ordinary native, (page 381,) and the children never learning of the circumstance. But, as I have said before, how is that ever to be ascertained? The question might be settled in this way: Let the relatives of the Gipsy interrogate the issue, and if it answers, _truly_, that it knows nothing of the Gipsy connexion, and never has its curiosity in the matter excited, it holds, beyond dispute, that "the blood" has been lost to the tribe. For any loss the tribe may sustain, in that way, it gains, in an ample degree, by drawing upon the blood of the native race, and transmuting it into that of its own fraternity.


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