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Quotation from A history of the cries of London ancient (p23).

old newspaper clipping

... famous theatre afterwards to be so widely known. The sunshiny time of our literature and life, making a red-letter period in happy old England's history. We were interrupted by a kindly-faced, round-shouldered man of the bargee type, who asked us ‘if it was Shakespeare, him as writ plays, we was a torkin’ on ; if so be it were, he could show us the werry ’ouse he used, least ways, all as is left on it.’ After a twisting tramp through Cardinal Cap Ally, we were brought out opposite the public-house known by the name of the ‘ Smith Arms,’ which had just then only escaped entire demolition from fire by a very near chance—(the damage done has since necessitated the rebuilding ; so the sketch stands as a bit of rescued old London.)

Especially,I don't know what is meant by “him as writ plays” and “the wery ’ouse”:

who asked us ‘if it was Shakespeare, him as writ plays, we was a torkin’ on ; if so be it were, he could show us the wery ’ouse he used, least ways, all as is left on it.’

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    This is not Old English, which is the language of Beowulf and which must today be learned as a foreign language by English spakers. It is not even Early Modern English, as Shakespeare wrote in. It is merely colloquial English from the streets of London.
    – tchrist
    Mar 11 '13 at 11:32
  • @tchrist: It's not colloquial English from the streets of London today. I don't think very many people have pronounced very like werry since the 19th century, and they certainly don't today. In fact, searching on Google shows this was originally written in 1875. Oct 27 '19 at 14:21
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An educated guess is that the quotation might be translated as:

[A man asked us] if it was Shakespeare - the one who wrote plays - that we were talking about, and if so, could he show us the very house he used, or at very least, all that was left of it.

In other words, the man speaking is offering to show off the place where presumably Shakespeare used to drink. Note that a "public house" is a bar, which would be called just a pub these days.

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    @user25049 Consider accepting an answer by clicking on the tick when you are satisfied with it! Mar 11 '13 at 9:11
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"The wery 'ouse" is a typical Cockney phrase. Dropped aitches were and are a feature of less educated English accents, and exchanging w's for v's was supposed to be the mark of the East Ender. (I've never spoken to anyone who's actually heard this, but Dickens, who was an acute observer, made Sam Weller pronounce his name Veller.)

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  • In fact, Googling shows this quotation comes from 1875, which is not so long after Dickens wrote about Sam Weller. Oct 27 '19 at 14:27
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I don't know what this book is, but it sounds [as an East Londoner] to be an author's attempt to reproduce a now archaic (From the Victorian era, up to the 1950's) uneducated [in grammar], East London or Cockney glottal-stop, dropped-'h' accent, I'll try to translate:

"who asked us: ‘if it was Shakespeare, him as writ plays, we was a torkin’ on ;"

"we was a torkin’ on" = are you talking about [this thing]?

"him as writ plays" = a man that writes plays, a Playwright [Shakespeare in this case] The speaker is trying to confirm they are speaking about the same person...

Becomes: who asked us: "Are you speaking about the playwright Shakespeare?"

Uneducated East Londoners tend to mix their tenses:

  • "he who wrote becomes" "Him as writ"
  • "we were" becomes "we was"

"The werry ’ouse he used, least ways, all as is left on it."

Is: "The Very (h)ouse he used [Public House - Pub, that Shakespeare used to drink in], at least, all that is left of it"

"After a twisting tramp through Cardinal Cap Ally,"

Is: After a [long] and winding walk [tramp, tramping the ground with your feet ('Plates of meat!)] through Cardinal Cap Ally - taking many turns down a labyrinth of back-allyways - we were brought out opposite the public-house [Pub] known by the name of the ‘ Smith Arms,’..."

This East London accent has softened if not disappeared following the widespread introduction of televisions in most homes and the influx of immigrants form around the world.

If not done well, this type of writing can seem a bit like Dick van Dyke's notorious english accent in the original 1960's Mary Poppins film, which tends to make most native Londoners ears bleed!

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  • You've got the dates of the Victorian era wrong; it was 1837–1901, not 1950. But this is indeed from the Victorian period ... Googling shows the quotation was written in 1875. Oct 27 '19 at 14:22
  • I did not suggest Victoria lasted that long, what I said was 'From the Victorian period, up to the 1950's, but happy to edit for clarity...
    – NeilB
    Oct 27 '19 at 19:03
  • I see ... I misunderstood the dash. Oct 27 '19 at 22:26

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