Deciphered shorthand

‘Easter Nonsense’ aka ‘All privileges…’ transcript

Our #SolveItDickens challenge for March-April 2023 came from the notebooks of Dickens’s shorthand pupil, Arthur Stone, at the Free Library of Philadelphia. This time there was no longhand title to provide a clue about the context and we weren’t sure whether this was a continuous exercise or a series of unconnected practice sentences – hence our title, ‘Easter Nonsense’.

However, thanks to the brilliant Dickens Decoders, we now have a complete working solution, transcribing 40 new words for the first time in the process. These new discoveries are credited on our Roll of Honour.

The exercise turns out to be a critique of hereditary privilege, which may benefit ‘some individual’ but causes suffering to ‘the world in general’. You can read the text below and download a line-by-line commentary at the bottom of the page, which presents the longhand transcript beneath the shorthand symbols.

Do you recognise the source on which this might be based? If so, please get in touch!

Working transcription

Figure 1: A page from Arthur Stone’s Notebook A. Image © The Free Library of Philadelphia. The top half of this exercise is the last part of ‘Sydney Smith’, which has previously been deciphered.

Page 1, line by line

  1. All privileges, but particularly hereditary privileges, have been established for
  2. the benefit of some individual and it may be safely taken for
  3. granted as a proposition, not without good grounds, that
  4. whenever an individual is so advantaged, the world in general
  5. suffers, The object of all such institutions is to confer
  6. something on somebody at the public cost and whether that
  7. something be an estate or an easement or a pittance writ
  8. or 10,000 pounds or above that high mark or below
  9. it or between all these extremes or within any of them,
Figure 2: A page from Arthur Stone’s Notebook A. Image © The Free Library of Philadelphia.

Page 2, line by line

  1. the statement is altogether objectionable. Whosoever may be plaintiff
  2. in a case or whosoever defendant in any particular instance
  3. or example, the principle is still the same and a nation
  4. professing liberty and making a boast of transmitting it to the next
  5. generation and to heaven knows how many generations afterwards
  6. to the end of time depends/is dependent for its good name on
  7. mere words if it thus conducts itself. It must be remembered
  8. that there is a wide and broad distinction between nations
  9. claiming to be free and nations avowedly slavish and devoid
  10. of liberty. In the latter case the public charged with such
  11. errors is an object of pity. In the former case one’s
  12. equanimity is disturbed by the resentment with which the mind
  13. naturally receives all false pretenses and contempt is largely
  14. blinded/blended with animus/animosity and indignation/intention.

Download ‘All privileges…’ to see the transcription underneath each line of shorthand

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