Jennifer was able to capture not only the essence of the period, with characters who sprang to life on the page, but she also managed to reproduce the Cockney accent in dialog. The first book has an appendix explaining the way she worked to portray it in the written word. I learned about the "glottal stop" which typifies the accent. In one story, which has shopkeepers testifying in court, a translator is required to allow the judge to understand what is being said. My friend Peggy told me that she used the subtitle feature on her TV when she watched the series, so she could understand the heavy brogue. It's funny, I have no problem at all understanding the Cockney accent, but sometimes the words themselves are puzzling.
Although I enjoyed the books tremendously, as Worth is an outstanding author, I must admit that I also had a few sleepless nights over some of the more traumatic events that occurred in the books. The hard lives that East Enders endured, and especially the awful circumstances of many of the girls and women, hit me hard. I had nightmares about some of the workhouse stories and the exploitation of young girls. I guess the fact that this was not fiction, but her recollection of actual events, was part of the reason I found it difficult. Not to mention that she is a brilliant writer.
It has also made me think of how the written word gives us a chance to leave behind us a legacy that is unique to each of us. I know how much I love to read certain blogs that are written about the daily lives of my virtual friends. Sometimes nothing much happens in them, but I am given a chance to peek into the hearts and minds of those different from me, people who look at life from a different perspective, and I am enriched. But blogs are not permanent records, as books are. Or are they? And what difference does it make? Anything "permanent" is only a difference in degree, as all written words will eventually fade into obscurity.
Years ago, when I came down with infectious hepatitis, I spent months flat on my back in bed. I was so weak and feeble that I could only manage to walk a few steps every day. The doctor told me to honor that weakness and not try to push my way through it, or I would be in danger of becoming chronically sick. So I read a lot and discovered my favorite poet, Emily Dickinson. My caretaker, Robert, introduced me to her and filled me with biographies of this very singular person. She has been gone for more than a century now, but her poems live on. There are scholars who still ponder her poetry and make entire careers out of its study. She lived in New England in the mid-nineteenth century, and her poetry was not understood back then. The few poems that were published during her lifetime were altered to fit the conventional poetic rules of the time, and she refused to submit any more. It was only after her sister discovered a chest filled with them when Emily died at 55 (in 1886) that the breadth of her work was known. It wasn't until 1955 that her works were published without any alterations.
I have always been fascinated by the way the passage of time changes things. To gain a little perspective on my life today, I will sometimes think back to those days when I was a toddler, when my parents doted on me, and I wonder, was that truly me? The person who sits here in the early morning dawn, tapping away at my laptop, thinking these transitory thoughts, is this any more me that the toddler I envision in my mind's eye? Perhaps the process of trying to define my own essence is the error in my thinking. Although I know that Jennifer Worth and Emily Dickinson are no longer on this planet, are they really gone? In Emily's own words:
Long Years apart — can make no
Breach a second cannot fill —
The absence of the Witch does not
Invalidate the spell —
The embers of a Thousand Years
Uncovered by the Hand
That fondled them when they were Fire
Will stir and understand —