Easter challenge: a new Dickens shorthand mystery?

This month we are taking a break from Notebook D and digging into a new mystery. Claire has been exploring the papers of the Dickens-loving stenographer, William J. Carlton, at the Charles Dickens Museum in London. Carlton’s correspondence notes an interesting reproduction of a piece of shorthand in an article by Arthur T. Dolling, titled ‘The Story and Romance of Shorthand’, from The Strand Magazine in 1912. The image caption states that this is a ‘specimen of Charles Dickens’s shorthand taken from one of his notebooks (1833).’

These 6 lines do not appear in any of the surviving notebooks and William L. Stower Hewett, who was helping Carlton with the shorthand transcription, confessed himself ‘much puzzled’ by the reproduction, suggesting that ‘it gave me a shock, for every character is so perfectly formed, almost as if it had been printed, and […] not the slightest bit like the shorthand of the [Manchester] notebook’.

To help us decide whether Dickens may have written it, we first need to transcribe it. This challenge is quite similar to the ‘Tavistock’ letter because we have no idea of the context. So, every symbol that we can transcribe together will be important.

We will also be interested in any ideas you may have on why the shorthand is or isn’t Dickens’s so we have left a space at the end for your comments on the shorthand and transcription. Please complete as much of the transcription as you can and send us your thoughts by Friday 3 May 2024. Good luck!

Download a competition entry form

The same file is provided in .docx and .pdf formats for your convenience.

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