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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Borrow on the Gipsies in Spain


the receipt of the second of Sir Walter Scott's letters, already alluded to, I discontinued the few short articles I had written for Blackwood, on the Fifeshire Gipsies; but I have incorporated the most interesting part of them into the work, forming, however, only a small part of the whole. Since it was written, I have seen Mr. Borrow on the Gipsies in Spain, and the short report of the Rev. Mr. Baird, to the Scottish Church Society; the latter printed in 1840, and the former in 1841. The _Gitanos_ in Spain and the _Tinklers_ in Scotland are, in almost every particular, the same people, while the Yetholm Gipsy words in Mr. Baird's report and those collected by me, for the most part, between the years 1817 and 1831, are word for word the same.

In submitting this work to the public, I deem it necessary to say a word or two as to the authorities upon which the facts contained in it rest. My authorities for those under the heads of Fife and Linlithgowshire Gipsies, were aged and creditable persons, who had been eye-witnesses to the greater part of the transactions; in some cases, the particulars were quite current in their time. The details under the head of Gipsies who frequented Tweed-dale, Ettrick Forest, Annandale, and the upper ward of Lanarkshire, were chiefly derived from the memories of some of my relatives, and other individuals of credit, who had many opportunities of observing the manners of these wanderers, in the South of Scotland,

the greater number being confirmed by the Gipsies, on being interrogated. The particulars under the head of the ceremonies of marriage and divorce, and the sacrifice of horses, were related by Gipsies, and confirmed by other undoubted testimony, as will appear in detail. Almost every recent occurrence and matter relative to the present condition, employment, and number of the body, is the result of my own personal enquiries and observations, while the whole specimens of the language, and the facts immediately connected therewith, were written down, with my own hand, from the mouths of the Gipsies themselves, and confirmed, at intervals, by others. Indeed, my chief object has been to produce facts from an original source, in Scotland, as far as respects manners, customs, and language, for the purpose of ascertaining the origin of this mysterious race, and the country from which they have migrated; and the result, to my mind, is a complete confirmation of Grellmann, Hoyland, and Bright, that they are from Hindostan.

In writing the history of any barbarous race, if history it can be called, the field for our observation must necessarily be very limited. This may especially be said of a people like the Gipsies; for, having, as a people, neither literature, records, nor education,[22] all that can be drawn together of their history, from themselves, must be confined to that of the present, or of such time as the freshness of their tradition may suffice to illustrate; unless it be a few precarious notices of them, that may have been elicited from their having come, it may be, in violent contact with their civilized neighbours around them. In attempting such a work, in connection with so singular a people, the difficulties in the way of succeeding in it are extraordinarily great, as the reader may have perceived, from what has already been written, and as the "blowing up," alluded to in Mr. Laidlaw's letter, will illustrate, and which was as follows:

[22] There are, comparatively speaking, few Gipsies in Scotland that have not some education, in common with the ordinary natives of the soil; but the same cannot be said of England.--ED.

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