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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

People say that Gipsies are blackguards


but the fact is otherwise; for,

owing to the dreadful prejudice which has always attached to the name of Gipsy, these white and parti-coloured Gipsies, imagining themselves, as it were, banished from society, on account of their descent, cling to their Gipsy connection; as the other part of their blood, they imagine, will not own them. They are Gipsies, and, with the public, they think that is quite enough. They take a pride in being descended from a race so mysterious, so ancient, so universal, and cherish their language the more from its being the principal badge of membership that entitles them to belong to it. The nearer they approach the whites as regards blood, the more acutely do they feel the antipathy which is entertained for their race, and the more bitter does the propinquity become to them. The more enlightened they become, the stronger becomes their attachment to the sept in the abstract, although they will despise many of its members. The sense of such an ancient descent, and the possession of such an ancient and secret language, in the minds of men of comparatively limited education and indifferent rearing, brought up in humble life, and following various callings, from a tinker upward, and even of men of education and intelligence, occupying the position of lawyers, medical doctors, and clergymen, possess for them a charm that is at once fascinating and enchanting. If men of enlightened minds and high social standing will go to such lengths as they have done, in their endeavours to but look into
their language, how much more will they not cling to it, such as it is, in whose hearts it is? Gipsies compounded for the most part of white blood, but with Gipsy feelings, are, as a general thing, much superior to those who more nearly approach what may be called the original stock; and, singularly enough, speak the language better than the others, if their opportunities have been in any way favourable for its acquisition.

The primitive, original state of the Gipsies is the tent and tilted cart. But as any country can support only a limited number in that way, and as the increase of the body is very large, it follows that they must cast about to make a living in some other way, however bitter the pill may be which they have to swallow. The nomadic Gipsy portion resembles, in that respect, a water trough; for the water which runs into it, there must be a corresponding quantity running over it. The Gipsies who leave the tent resemble the youth of our small seaports and villages; for there, society is so limited as to compel such youth to take to the sea or cities, or go abroad, to gain that livelihood which the neighbourhood in which they have been reared denies to them. In the same manner do these Gipsies look back to the tent from which they, or their fathers, have sprung. They carry the language, the associations, and the sympathies of their race, and their peculiar feelings toward the community, with them; and, as residents of towns, have generally greater facilities, from others of their race residing near them, for perpetuating their language, than when strolling over the country.

The prejudice of their fellow creatures, which clings to the race to which they belong, almost overwhelms some of them at times; but it is only momentary; for such is the independence and elasticity of their nature, that they rise from under it, as self-complacent and proud as ever. They in such cases resort to the _tu quoque_--the _tit for tat_ argument as regards their enemies, and ask, "What is this white race, after all? What were their forefathers a few generations ago? the Highlands a nest of marauding thieves, and the Borders little better. Or society at the present day--what is it but a compound of deceit and hypocrisy? People say that the Gipsies steal. True; some of them steal chickens, vegetables, and such things; but what is that compared to the robbery of widows and orphans, the lying and cheating of traders, the swindling, the robberies, the murders, the ignorance, the squalor, and the debaucheries of so many of the white race? What are all these compared to the simple vices of the Gipsies? What is the ancestry they boast of, compared, in point of antiquity, to ours? People may despise the Gipsies, but they certainly despise all others not of their own race: the veriest beggar Gipsy, without shoes to his feet, considers himself better than the queen that sits upon the throne. People say that Gipsies are blackguards. Well, if some of them are blackguards, they are at least illustrious blackguards as regards descent, and so in fact; for they never rob each other, and far less do they rob or ruin those of their own family." And they conclude that the odium which clings to the race is but a prejudice. Still, they will deny that they are Gipsies, and will rather almost perish than let any one, not of their own race, know that they speak their language in their own households and among their own kindred. They will even deny or at least hide it from many of their own race.


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