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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Should credit Barnum with the production


Let

the reader now pause, and reflect upon the prejudice of caste that exists against the name of Gipsy, and he will fully realize how it is that we should know so little about the Gipsies, and why it is that the Gipsies, as they leave the tent, should hide their nationality from the rest of the world, and "stick to each other."

In bringing this Disquisition on the Gipsies to a close, I may be allowed to say a word or two to some of the critics. In the first place, I may venture to assert, that the _subject_ is worthy of a criticism the most disinterested and profound. I am well aware that the publication of the work places me in a position antagonistic alike to authors and critics who have written on the subject, as well as to the prejudices of mankind generally. If critics call in question any of the facts contained in the production, they must give their authorities; if they controvert any of the principles, they must give their reasons. It will not do to play the ostrich instead of the critic. For as the ostrich is said to hide its head in the sand, or in a bush, or, it may be, under its wing, and imagine that because it sees no one, so no one sees it; so there are people, sometimes to be met with, who will not only imagine, but assert, that because they know nothing of a thing, or because they do not understand it, therefore, the thing itself does not exist. This was the way in which Bruce's travels in Africa were received. But we are not living

in those times. Procedure such as that described, is playing the ostrich, not the critic. I refer more particularly, however, to what is contained in this Disquisition. Taking the work all through, I think there are sufficient materials contained in it, to enable the critics to settle the various questions among themselves.

To place myself in a position a little independent of publishers, (for I have had great difficulty in finding a publisher,) I had the Introduction, (pages 55-67), printed, and circulated among some acquaintances in Canada, for subscribers.[330] A copy of it fell into the hands of an intelligent Scottish newspaper editor, in a small community, where every one knows every other's business nearly as well as his own, and where all about the Prospectus was explained to those to whom it was given. It seems to have frightened and enraged the editor to such an extent, that I entertain little doubt he did not sleep comfortably, for nights in succession, on finding that subject brought to light at his own door, which has been considered, by some, as well-nigh dead and buried long ago. He imagines the circulation of the Prospectus to be confined pretty much to his own neighbourhood; and so he must crush the horrible thing out. But what can he say about it? How put it down? A capital idea occurs to him; he will father it upon Barnum! Let the reader glance again at the Introduction, and imagine how a Scotchman, well posted up on Scotch affairs, past and present, should credit Barnum with the production. He heads his criticism, "The science of humbug," and, in some long and bitter paragraphs, pitches into what he calls American literary quackery; the substance of which is, that the work represented by the Prospectus, is a rare tit-bit of genuine, Barnumized, American humbug!

[330] The MS. of this work has undergone many vicissitudes. Among others, it may be mentioned that, in the state in which it was left by the author, it was twice lost, and once stolen; on which last occasion it was recovered, at an expense of one shilling! Then the original copy, in its present form, was stolen, and never recovered. In both instances did that happen under circumstances that such a fate was most unlikely to befall it. Then a copy of it was sent to Scotland, and never acknowledged, although I am in hopes it is now on its return, after a lapse of nearly three years; in which case, I will be more fortunate than the author, who gave the MS. to an individual and never got, and never could get, it back.


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