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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Merely because they were jugglers


[31] Grellmann.

That almost the whole of Christendom had been so provoked by the conduct of the Gipsies as to have attempted their expulsion, or rather their extermination, merely because they were jugglers, fortune-tellers, astrologers, warlocks, witches and impostors, is a thing not for a moment to be supposed. I am inclined to believe that the true cause of the promulgation of the excessively sanguinary laws and edicts, for the extermination of the whole Gipsy nation in Europe, must be looked for in much more serious crimes than those mentioned; and that these greater offences can be no other than theft and robbery, and living upon the inhabitants of the countries through which they travelled, at free quarters, or what we, in Scotland, call sorning.[32] But, on the other hand, I am convinced that the Gipsies have committed few murders on individuals _out_ of their own tribe. As far as our authorities go, the general character of these people seems to have been the same, wherever they have made their appearance on the face of the earth; and the chief and leading feature of that extraordinary character appears to me to have been, in general, an hereditary propensity to theft and robbery, in men, women and children.

[32] Dr. Hurd says, at page 785, "Our over credulous ancestors vainly imagined that those Gipsies or Bohemians were so many spies for the Turks; and that, in order to expiate the crimes which

they had committed in their own country, they were condemned to steal from and rob the Christians."

[Living at free quarters by force, or masterful begging, or "sorning," is surely a trifling, though troublesome, offence for the original condition of a wandering tribe, which has so progressed as, at the present day, to fill some of the first positions in Scotland.--ED.]

In whatever country we find the Gipsies, their manners, habits, and cast of features are uniformly the same. Their occupations are in every respect the same. They were, on the continent, horse-dealers, innkeepers, workers in iron, musicians, astrologers, jugglers, and fortune-tellers by palmistry. They are also accused of cheating, lying, and witchcraft, and, in general, charged with being thieves and robbers. They roam up and down the country, without any fixed habitations, living in tents, and hawking small trifles of merchandise for the use of the people among whom they travel. The whole race were great frequenters of fairs. They seldom formed matrimonial alliances out of their own tribe.[33] It will be seen, in another part of this work, that the language of the continental Gipsies is the same as that of those in Scotland, England and Ireland. As to the religious opinions of the continental Gipsies, they appear to have had none at all. It is said they were "worse than heathens." "It is, in reality," says Twiss, "almost absurd to talk of the religion of this set of people, whose moral characters are so depraved as to make it evident they believe in nothing capable of being a check to their passions." "Indeed," adds Hoyland, "it is asserted that no Gipsy has any idea of submission to any fixed profession of faith." It appears to me that, to secure to themselves protection from the different governments, they only conformed outwardly to the customs and religion of the country in which they happened to reside at the time.

[33] Hoyland.


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