Continuing Notebook D: Solutions

The Dickens Decoders have continued to make progress on Notebook D from Arthur Stone’s shorthand lessons with Dickens! Many congratulations to Shane Baggs, Ken Cox, Clarissa Parkinson, and Frances T, who successfully discovered the source text for the shorthand on these pages.

Page 5

Page 5 from Notebook D turned out to be another page from the works of philosopher Sydney Smith – this time from ‘Sermon IX – I would not live always. The source can be downloaded for free from Google Books here.

The shorthand starts at line 7 of the sermon and follows the text very closely. There are hardly any corrections so it seems to be a corrected version or one which was not dictated. The text is as follows:

Sermon IX
Job, vii.16.

I would not live always

I would not live always because I would not wish to live in a state of bodily decay; a weariness to myself and a burthen to others; broken in mind, and falling into the weakness of a second infancy. By life is meant a body capable of acting, and a mind capable of judging; senses unimpaired, understanding in its ancient vigour, the extension of knowledge and the exercise of kindness. When life is bereft of all these things, when mind and body are falling into decay, the time is then surely come; it cannot then be very terrible to die. Under such circumstances, we wish for death; we speak of death as a release, we pray to God for death. But, let never-failing health be added to increased existence, would that increased existence be well and wisely employed? If any man were to express before us a wish for greater wealth than he possessed, we should naturally begin to consider what use this wisher made of the property he already possessed

You can find out how this matches up with the shorthand by downloading the transcript below.

Page 6

The text of page 6 is once again taken from Sydney Smith’s On the Beautiful, which we’ve encountered previously. It is the text which immediately precedes our transcription of page 4. So it looks like every two pages of Notebook D is going backwards through On the Beautiful and we would expect to find the text that comes before this one on page 8.

The shorthand is rather fragmentary. There are lots of gaps in it, marked in bold below, which suggest that the text was dictated and Arthur could not keep up.

Please be advised that Smith’s essay includes discriminatory language.

On The Beautiful

… limits of her range, is practical, rational, and useful; to aim at greater precision, and to speak as if you knew the very prototype at which Nature was always aiming, and from which she was always deviating on one side or the other, is to cheat yourself with your own metaphors, and to substitute illusion for plain fact. Within certain limits, every tendency to the circle or the angle, are equally removed from deformity, because they are equally common, and they are (all other things being equal) equally beautiful. Of course I mean this only to apply where the expression is equal, and where mere historical association does not interfere to disturb the justice of the conclusions. The Grecian face is not common: I hardly know what a Grecian face is, but I am told by those who have studied these matters, that there are some parts of it,—the length, I fancy, between the nose and the lip,—which are extremely uncommon, and very rarely to be met with in Europe. This is very probable; but it is mere association: If the elegant arts had been transmitted to us from the Chinese instead of the Greeks, that singular piece of deformity, a Chinese nose, would very probably have been held in high estimation: Now what I have…

Again, you can look at how the shorthand matches up by downloading the line-by-line transcript below.

Download the line-by-line transcript