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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Of the Irish tinkering Gipsies now in Scotland


He

finds, however, that he has gone much too far in his description of the Prospectus; so he comes tumbling down a long way from the high position which he took at the start, and continues: "Now, we do not, at present, venture the assertion that the forthcoming 'Scottish Gipsies' is a Yankee get-up, a mere American humbug; but we say the Prospectus savours strongly of the Barnum school; and our reasons for so saying are the following: _Firstly_: It would be nothing less than a literary miracle, that a Scottish work of sufficient merit to command the highest commendations of Sir Walter Scott, and Blackwood's Magazine, should be published, first of all in America, thirty years afterwards--published, by subscription, at one dollar, in a book of 400 pages. We assert, positively, that of such a work William Blackwood, alone, could have disposed of five thousand copies, at double the proposed price. [He is well acquainted with the prices of books in the two countries.] _Secondly_: There is no evidence to connect Sir Walter Scott's note to Quentin Durward with Walter Simson, or any other particular individual; and the same may be said of the _jingle_ of Professor Wilson, and the other allusions in Blackwood's Magazine. _Thirdly_: There is neither danger nor difficulty in writing anything you please, and telling the public it is an extract of a private letter you had from some particular man of eminence, thirty years ago, provided your eminent friend has been many years in his grave. Such
a fraud is not easily detected. And _Fourthly_: The reason assigned for publishing the 'Scottish Gipsies' . . . . . is totally upset by the simple fact, that _there are no such people in existence, in so far as Scotland is concerned_. [What an audacity he displays here! What a liberty he takes with the Scotch settlers in his neighbourhood! He is evidently afraid that he has gone too far; so he qualifies what he has said, by adding:] There are, it is true, a few families of itinerant tinkers, or _Tinklers_, according to our peculiar vernacular, who stroll the country, and subsist by making horn-spoons and sauce-pans, which they barter with the rural peasantry, for potatoes and other eatables. They are generally wild, reckless, and dishonest, and are a terror to children and old women. In nineteen cases out of twenty, they are natives of Ireland; and were any person idle enough to trace their genealogy, he would discover that their ancestors, not more than three generations back, were honest brogue-makers, pig-drovers, or, it may be, members of some more elevated occupation. [He has been 'idle enough' to give us a very odd account of the descent, in two senses of the word, of the Irish tinkering Gipsies now in Scotland.] The writer of these remarks is well acquainted with almost the whole Lowlands, and a portion of the West Highlands. He has been familiar with the shires of Fife and Linlithgow, with Annandale, the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire, and the other fabulously reputed haunts of the Gipsies [he seems to have done a little _tramping_ in his time]; and he never saw twenty Scottish _Tinklers_ in his whole life, nor _one single individual_ corresponding to the description we have received of the Gipsies. [He has told us who the _Irish Tinklers_ in Scotland were originally, but does not venture to say anything of the _Scottish_ ones. He will not admit that there is a _Gipsy_ in Scotland, or ever has been; and virtually denies that there are Gipsies in England; for he continues:] The nearest approach to the character is the hawkers from the Staffordshire potteries, who are found living in tents by the way-side, throughout the North Riding of Yorkshire, and the five northern counties of England. These are a kind of savages, who live in families, strolling the country, in large caravans, consisting frequently of half a dozen canvas-covered wagons and twice that number of horses. . . . . . These characters often cross the Border, at Langholm and Gretna Green, and infest Annandale, Roxburghshire, Dumfries-shire, and the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. [He will not allude to the _tented Gipsies_ in England.]


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