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Dickens and the Stenographic Mind$
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Hugo Bowles

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198829072

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198829072.001.0001

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The devil’s handwriting

The devil’s handwriting

(p.21) 2 The devil’s handwriting
Dickens and the Stenographic Mind

Hugo Bowles

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides a technical analysis of Brachygraphy, with a focus on the writing of shorthand. It begins with a description of Gurney’s symbols and arbitrary characters (section 2.1), drawing on Dickens’s teaching notebooks to highlight the complex memorization process involved (section 2.2). Section 2.3 explores Gurney’s bizarre rules for abbreviation and vowel reduction during the writing process, while section 2.4 describes the mental processes involved in taking down verbatim speech in Gurney shorthand and shows how, by comparison with the more economical Pitman system, the mental processing involved in writing Gurney shorthand was much more demanding on its users. Section 2.5 examines Dickens’s distinctive shorthand writing style by comparing it with that of his novice pupil Arthur Stone, while section 2.6 shows how Dickens used creative shortcuts and graphic alterations to change the Gurney system to one that was easier both to write and to teach.

Keywords:   Arthur Stone, Pitman, arbitrary characters, writing, memorization, abbreviation, vowels

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