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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

And especially British Gipsyism


For

all these reasons, the most appropriate word to apply to modern Gipsyism, and especially British Gipsyism, and more especially Scottish Gipsyism, is to call it a caste, and a kind of masonic society, rather than any particular mode of life. And it is necessary that this distinction should be kept in mind, otherwise the subject will appear contradictory.

The most of these Gipsies are unknown to the public as Gipsies. The feeling in question is, for the most part, on the side of the Gipsies themselves; they think that more of them is known than actually is. In that respect a kind of nightmare continually clings to them; while their peculiarly distant, clannish, and odd habits create a kind of separation between them and the other inhabitants, which the Gipsy is naturally apt to construe as proceeding from a different cause. Frequently, all that is said about them amounts only to a whisper among some of the families in the community in which they live, and which is confidentially passed around among themselves, from a dread of personal consequences. Sometimes the native families say among themselves, "Why should we make allusion to their kith and kin? They seem decent people, and attend church like ourselves; and it would be cruel to cast up their descent to them, and damage them in the estimation of the world. Their cousins, (or second cousins, as it may be,) travel the country in the old Tinkler fashion, no doubt; but what has that to do with

them?" The estimate of such people never, or hardly ever, goes beyond the simple idea of their being "descended from Tinklers;" few have the most distant idea that they are Gipsies, and speak the Gipsy language among themselves. It is certain that a Gipsy can be a good man, as the world goes, nay, a very good man, and glory in being a Gipsy, but not to the public. He will adhere to his ancient language, and talk it in his own family; and he has as much right to do so, as, for example, a Highlander has to speak Gaelic in the Lowlands, or when he goes abroad, and teach it to his children. And he takes a greater pride in doing it, for thus he reasons: "What is English, French, Gaelic, or any other living language, compared to mine? Mine will carry me through every part of the known world: wherever a man is to be found, there is my language spoken. I will find a brother in every part of the world on which I may set my foot; I will be welcomed and passed along wherever I may go. Freemasonry indeed! what is masonry compared to the brotherhood of the Gipsies? A language--a whole language--is its pass-word. I almost worship the idea of being a member of a society into which I am initiated by my blood and language. I would not be a man if I did not love my kindred, and cherish in my heart that peculiarity of my race (its language) which casts a halo of glory around it, and makes it the wonder of the world!"

The feeling alluded to induces some of these Gipsies to change their residences or go abroad. I heard of one family in Canada, of whom a Scotchman spoke somewhat in the following way: "I know them to be Gipsies. They remind me of a brood of wild turkeys, hatched under a tame bird; it will take the second or third descent to bring them to resemble, in some of their ways, the ordinary barn-door fowl. They are very restless and queer creatures, and move about as if they were afraid that every one was going to tramp on their corns." But it is in large towns they feel more at home. They then form little communities among themselves; and by closely associating, and sometimes huddling together, they can more easily perpetuate their language, as I have already said, than by straggling, twos or threes, through the country. But their quarrelsome disposition frequently throws an obstacle in the way of such associations. Secret as they have been in keeping their language from even being heard by the public while wanderers, they are much more so since they have settled in towns.


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