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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

See Disquisition on the Gipsies


[17] Grellmann. I am not aware that he ever compared the words I sent him with those in this publication, as he wrote he would do, in the previous letter quoted.

[18] Throughout the whole of his works there does not appear, I believe, a single word of the proper Scottish Gipsy; although slang and cant expressions are to be found in considerable numbers. [Some of these are of Gipsy extraction.--ED.]

From what has been said, it will be seen that the following investigation has had quite a different object than a description of the manners and habits of the common vagrants of the country; for no possible entertainment could have been derived from such an undignified undertaking. And yet many of our youth, although otherwise well informed, have never made this distinction; owing, no doubt, to the encreased attention which those in power have, in late years, bestowed on the internal affairs of the country, and the unseen, but no less surely felt, pressure of the advancement of the general mass, and especially of the lower classes of the community, forcing many of these people into positions beyond the observation of those unacquainted with their language and traits of character. When it is, therefore, considered, that the body treated of, is originally an exotic, comprising, I am satisfied, no less than five thousand souls in Scotland,[19] speaking an original and peculiar language, which is mysteriously

used among themselves with great secrecy, and differing so widely from the ordinary natives of the soil, it may well claim some little portion of public attention. A further importance attaches to the subject, when it is considered that a proportionate number is to be found in the other divisions of the British Isles, and large hordes in all parts of Europe, and more or less in every other part of the world; in all places speaking the same language, with only a slight difference in dialect, and manifesting the same peculiarities. In using the language of Dr. Bright, it may be said, that the circumstance is the most singular phenomenon in the history of man; much more striking, indeed, than that of the Jews. For the Jews have been favoured with the most splendid antecedents; a common parentage; a common history; a special and exclusive revelation; a deeply rooted religious prejudice, and antipathy; a common persecution; and whatever might appear necessary to preserve their identity in the world, excepting an isolated territorial and political existence.[20] The Gipsies, on the other hand, have had none of these advantages. But it is certain that the leaders of their bands, in addition to their piteous representations, must have had something striking about them, to recommend them to the favourable notice which they seem to have met with, at the hands of some of the sovereigns of Europe, when they made their appearance there, and spread over its surface. Still, their assumptions might, and in all probability did, rest merely upon an amount of general superiority of character, of a particular kind, without even the first elements of education, which in that age would amount to something; a leading feature of character which their chiefs have ever since maintained; and yet, although everything has been left by them to tradition, the Gipsies speak their language much better than the Jews.

[19] There cannot be less then 100,000 Gipsies in Scotland. See Disquisition on the Gipsies.--ED.

[20] The following is a description of the Jews, throughout the world, as given by them, in their letters to Voltaire: "A Jew in London bears as little resemblance to a Jew at Constantinople, as this last resembles a Chinese Mandarin! A Portuguese Jew, of Bordeaux, and a German Jew, of Metz, appear two beings of a different nature! It is, therefore, impossible to speak of the manners of the Jews in general, without entering into a very long detail, and into particular distinctions. The Jew is a chamelion, that assumes all the colours of the different climates he inhabits, of the different people he frequents, and of the different governments under which he lives."


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