Continuing Notebook D II: Solutions

The Dickens Decoders have made short work of a further four pages from ‘Notebook D’, which Arthur Stone kept from his shorthand lessons with Dickens. Thanks to the efforts of Elizabeth Agnew, Shane Baggs, Ken Cox, Clarissa Parkinson, and Frances T, the sources for these pages have been identified. All of the text comes from the work of Sydney Smith, from ‘Sermon IX – I would not live always’ and ‘Lecture XIV – On the Beautiful’.

Pages 7 and 9

Like page 5, the source text for these pages comes from Sydney Smith’s ‘Sermon IX – I would not live always’. The source can be downloaded for free from Google Books here. Words not marked in the shorthand are highlighted in bold.

Sermon IX – I would not live always

[shorthand page 7 starts here] whether he spent it judiciously, and in a manner which increased his happiness. If we found that all be had was well applied, it would establish a fair inference that he would be really more happy if his wishes were fulfilled; but if on the contrary he tossed away what he possessed with needless profusion, if he appeared utterly ignorant what to do with it, if it was a burthen and a misfortune to him, if it produced weariness and discontent instead of cheerfulness,  we should naturally feel astonishment, that any one who managed so badly what he possessed, and who frequently seemed so tired of it, should still wish to have it increased; and we should regard the completion of his desires as the augmentation of his miseries. I need not make the application of this to human life. Almost all, abuse it, and waste it; pass a great part of it in absolute indolence [shorthand page 9 starts here] and sloth. Many quit it voluntarily; many risk it for the slightest cause; many complain of the miseries and indignities it inflicts, many, ignorant what to do with it, are driven to the miserable expedients of vice or dissipation, and lead a life of folly or of guilt. There is no appearance, from the method in which life is employed, that our duration in it is for too short a period; and that the readiest method of increasing the happiness of man would be by increasing the period of his existence. Whatever be the protestations of men, at least they do not live, as if they wished to live always; there is not that practical sense of the value of life, which the importance given to it in words, would seem to imply. The same discontented being who complains of the shortness of life, abridges life, wastes life, disgraces life, throws away life in all its parts, though ….

Pages 10 and 8

These pages continue Stone’s transcription of Sydney Smith’s lecture, On the Beautiful. Here a number of words in the text are not marked in the shorthand (presented in bold), or are paraphrased (marked in italics).

Please note that Smith’s text contains discriminatory language.

Lecture XIV – On the Beautiful

[shorthand page 10 starts here] always a sense of deformity and disgust. I carefully avoid mentioning those parts of animals where a deviation from the customary figure would imply disease and weakness, and prevent the animal from acting as Nature intended it should. A crooked spine gives us the very opposite notions to the beautiful, not merely because it is contrary to the customary figure of the animal, but because experience has taught us to associate it with the notions of disease and imbecility of body. A crooked spine gives us the very opposite notions to the beautiful, not merely because it is contrary to the customary figure of the animal, but because experience has taught us to associate it with the notions of disease and imbecility of body. A chin ending in a very sharp angle would be perfect deformity. A man whose chin terminated in a point, would be under the immediate necessity of retiring to America; he would be a perfect horror: and for no other reason that I can possibly see, but that Nature has shown no intention of making such a chin, — we have never been accustomed to see such chins. Nature, we are quite certain, did not intend that the chin should be brought to a perfect angle, nor that it should be perfectly circular, and therefore either of these extremes is a deformity. [shorthand page 8 starts here] Now, something considerably removed from the perfect circle and the perfect angle, is the chin we have been most accustomed to see, and which, for that reason, we most approve of. Within certain limits, one chin is as common as another, and as handsome as another : there are degrees of tendency to the circle and the angle, which we can at once pronounce to be ugly ; but there is a middle region of some extent, where all approximations to these two figures are equally common and equally handsome. The only objection to this doctrine of the central form, is, that it has been pushed too far; it has been urged that there is an exact middle point between the two extremes, which is the perfection of beauty, and to which nature is perpetually tending. This attempt at such very precise and minute discovery in the subject of beauty, appears to me to give a fanciful air to the whole doctrine, and to do injustice to the real truth it contains. In the construction of every form, Nature takes a certain range : to ascertain the ordinary …..

You can look at how the shorthand matches up by downloading the line-by-line transcript below.

Download the line-by-line transcript