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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The persecutions to which the Gipsies were exposed


The

popular idea of a Gipsy, at the present day, is very erroneous as to its extent and meaning. The nomadic Gipsies constitute but a portion of the race, and a very small portion of it. A gradual change has come over their outward condition, all over Europe, from about the commencement of the first American war, but from what time previous to that, we have no certain data from which to form an opinion. In the whole of Great Britain they have been very much mixed with the native blood of the country, but nowhere, I believe, so much so as in Scotland. There is every reason to suppose that the same mixture has taken place in Europe generally, although its effects are not so observable in the southern countries--from the circumstance of the people there being, for the most part, of dark hair and complexion--as in those lying further toward the north. But this circumstance would, to a certain extent, prevent the mixture which has taken place in countries the inhabitants of which have fair hair and complexions. The causes leading to this mixture are various.

The persecutions to which the Gipsies were exposed, merely for being Gipsies, which their appearance would readily indicate, seem to have induced the body to intermarry with our race, so as to disguise theirs. That would be done by receiving and adopting males of our race, whom they would marry to females of theirs, who would bring up the children of such unions as members of their fraternity. They

also adopted the practice to give their race stamina, as well as numbers, to contend with the people among whom they lived. The desire of having servants, (for Gipsies, generally, have been too proud to do menial work for each other,) led to many children being kidnapped, and reared among them; many of whom, as is customary with Oriental people, rose to as high a position in the tribe as any of themselves.[5]

[5] Mr. Borrow labours under a very serious mistake when he asserts that "The unfounded idea, that Gipsies steal children, to bring them up as Gipsies, has been the besetting sin of authors, who have attempted to found works of fiction on the way of life of this most singular people." The only argument which he advances to refute this belief in regard to Gipsies, which is universal, is the following: "They have plenty of children of their own, whom they can scarcely support; and they would smile at the idea of encumbering themselves with the children of others." This is rather inconsistent with his own words, when he says, "I have dealt more in facts than in theories, of which I am, in general, no friend." As a matter of fact, children have been stolen and brought up as Gipsies, and incorporated with the tribe.

Then again, it was very necessary to have people of fair complexion among them, to enable them the more easily to carry on their operations upon the community, as well as to contribute to their support during times of persecution. Owing to these causes, and the occasional occurrence of white people being, by more legitimate means, received into their body, which would be more often the case in their palmy days, the half, at least, of the Scottish Gipsies are of fair hair and blue eyes. Some would naturally think that these would not be Gipsies,


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