‘Didactic’ transcript

‘In the Catacombs’, an 1862 illustration by Arthur Stone’s brother, Marcus, for the ‘Rome’ chapter of Dickens’s Pictures from Italy. Image courtesy of Philip V. Allingham at the Victorian Web.

Our #SolveItDickens challenge for February 2023 came from the notebooks of Dickens’s shorthand pupil, Arthur Stone, at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Thanks to the brilliant Dickens Decoders, we now have a near-complete transcript of this exercise, transcribing 41 new words for the first time in the process. These discoveries are credited on our Roll of Honour.

A shorthand exercise titled ‘Didactic’. Image © The Free Library of Philadelphia.

Given the title, ‘Didactic’, our hunch was that this may have been a specially-designed teaching exercise to test Arthur’s knowledge of arbitrary characters. But instead the Decoders uncovered a piece criticising Rome and Catholicism. The prejudice expressed here is not dissimilar to the attitudes expressed in Dickens’s Pictures from Italy, published in 1846 and so far we haven’t found a direct source text.

Further research is needed to understand the context of this piece, but in the meantime many congratulations to everyone involved in this discovery!

Download a transcript of ‘Didactic’

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