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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30

My System of Short-Hand Described

My System of Short-Hand Described.

The problem connected with short-hand is simply this—a method is wanted by which a speech can be taken down as rapidly and as exactly as it is spoken. No system of short-hand at present used is able to do anything like this. As Anderson shows, verbatim reports of speeches are now very rare. The sense of speeches is given pretty correctly, but not the exact words of the speaker. My plan for taking down, with great ease, the exact words of the speaker is as follows:—

Let fifteen persons sit in a row, with writing materials before them. Behind them, let another row of fifteen persons sit, with no writing materials before them. Let the first man of the second row touch the first man of the first row on the left shoulder, as soon as the speaker whose speech is to be taken down speaks the first word. Let the second person in the second row touch the second man of the first row on the left shoulder as soon as the second word of the speech is spoken. Let the third person in the second row touch the third man in the first row on the left shoulder as soon as the third word is spoken, and so on until the fifteenth person of the second row has touched the fifteenth person of the first row, when the first man will begin again. Let each man in the first row write down the word that was being uttered when he was touched, and let him afterwards write down also the word before and after it, underlining the word that was being uttered when he was being touched. When the speech is finished, let the second row come and sit in front of the first row, facing the first row, and let them write down in order the words which have been taken down by the first row. The first man of the second row can write a page. Then the second man of the second row can write the second page, and so on. This will give the others a rest. The pages being put together will constitute the speech.

Few speakers have had so many of their words taken down by short-hand writers as Spurgeon. Therefore I shall select from his works the following passage to illustrate my system. It has a double advantage, because it contains that piece of wisdom, which, if put in practice by mankind, would, more than any other means, render it quite un- page 86 necessary for inventors, and other classes of the poor and helpless, to cry out of their wrongs.

"Ye looked for much, and lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house" (Haggai i. 9.)

"Churlish souls stint their contributions to the ministry and missionary operations, and call such saving good economy; little do they dream that they are thus impoverishing themselves. Their excuse is that they must care for their own families, and they forget that to neglect the house of God is the sure way to bring ruin upon their own houses. Our God has a method in Providence, by which He can succeed our endeavours beyond our expectation, or can defeat our plans to our confusion and dismay; by a turn of His hand He can steer our vessel in a profitable channel, or run it aground in poverty and bankruptcy. It is the teaching of Scripture that the Lord enriches the liberal, and leaves the miserly to find out that withholding tendeth to poverty. In a very wide sphere of observation, I have noticed that the most generous Christians of my acquaintance have been always the most happy, and almost invariably the most prosperous. I have seen the liberal giver rise to wealth of which he never dreamed; and I have as often seen the mean, ungenerous churl descend to poverty by the very parsimony by which he thought to rise. Men trust good stewards with larger and larger snms, and so it frequently is with the Lord; He gives by cartloads to those who give by bushels. Where wealth is not bestowed, the Lord makes the little much, by the contentment which the sanctified heart feels in a portion of which the tithe has been dedicated to the Lord. Selfishness looks first at home, but godliness seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; yet in the long run, selfishness is loss, and godliness is great gain. It needs faith to act towards our God with an open hand, but surely He deserves it of us; and all that we can do is a very poor acknowledgment of our amazing indebtedness to His goodness." ("Morning by Morning," October 26.) And again, "He that watereth shall be watered also himself" (Proverbs xi. 25). "We are here taught the great lesson, that to get, we must give; that to accumulate, we must scatter; that to make ourselves happy, we must make others happy; that to become spiritually vigorous, we must seek the spiritual page 87 good of others. In watering others, we are ourselves watered." (Ibid., August 21st.)

Now to take this down by the short-hand method the following operations would be performed. The first person in the second row would, with his right hand, touch the first person in the front row on the left shoulder, when the person touched would immediately write


on his paper. He would next write immediately after it


so that on the paper of the first person in the front row there would be written the words

Ye looked.

But immediately after the first person in the front row had been touched, the second person in the front row would be touched by the person behind him. And he would immediately write on his paper the word


and then he would put before it the word ye, and the word for after it, so that on his paper there would be the words

Ye looked for.

Immediately after the second person in the front row had been touched, the third person in the front row would be touched by the person behind him, and he would immediately write on his paper the word


He would then write before it the word looked, and after it the word much, so that on the paper of the third person in the front row there would be written the words

looked for much.

When the second row came in front, and began to write the words read out by the row which had written, the following would be the words which would be found on the papers. The first person's paper would have the words—
Ye looked
The 2nd Ye looked for
The 3rd looked for much
The 4th for much andpage 88
The 5th much and lo
The 6th and lo it
The 7th lo it came
The 8th it came to
The 9th came to little
The 10th to little and
The 11th little and when
The 12th and when ye
The 13th when ye brought
The 14th ye brought it
The 15th brought it home
The 1st it home I
The 2nd home I did
The 3rd I did blow
The 4th did blow upon
The 5th blow upon it
The 6th upon it Why
The 7th it Why saith
The 8th Why saith the

And so on.

The marks (o o o) would mean that the orator was not speaking when the writer was touched.

The marks (house, o Churlish) would mean that the orator had come to the end of a sentence after the word house.

It of course will be evident that no harm will be done if the front row are touched faster by the second row than the rate at which the words are spoken by the orator. This would only lead to some long words being repeated twice or even thrice in the writing of the front row. Such a thing is not a serious evil. But care must be taken that the front row are not touched at a slower rate by the second row than the rate at which the words are spoken by the orator. This would be a serious evil, because it would cause some words to be omitted.

The above method will enable each writer to write with ease and comfort, and even to write slowly. And it will not be necessary for the writers to write short-hand at all. They can easily write long-hand. For, however rapidly an orator speaks, it is the easiest thing possible for a person to take down, in good, round, legible long-hand every fifteenth word that he speaks.

Some will say, "This is all very fine, but what a dreadful expense it will necessitate!" My reply is—it will be expensive, page 89 but not so expensive as the present system by a long, long way. The Times employs a corps of sixteen short-hand writers for the gallery of the House of Commons. Suppose that every other leading London paper employs only three, there must be near a hundred short-hand reporters for the House of Commons alone. Compare one hundred with thirty! When Mr. Shaw, of Madagascar celebrity, appeared at Exeter Hall, there were forty short-hand reporters in the reporters' gallery. Compare forty with thirty. And my system is capable of being written efficiently by a much smaller number than thirty. For instance, the second row might consist of only five persons. Because one man could touch three men in the front row in succession, without moving out of his place. This arrangement would reduce the number required from twenty to thirty. And machinery might easily be used for doing the work of the second row—i.e., for touching the front row. An axle with radial arms might, by revolving, touch the persons in the front row, one after another.

Probably, nine men in the front row, and three behind them, might, without machinery, be found sufficient. And if machinery were used, nine men in the front row, and one to turn the wheel, would probably be found enough. And if the writers wrote short-hand of any kind, then four in the front row and two behind might probably (without any machinery) be found sufficient.

The railway system is a much more perfect method of locomotion than the stage-coach system. But while the stage-coach system cost only from £100 to £800 a mile, railways cost from £10,000 to £39,000 a mile. And some entire railways have cost the almost fabulous sum of one million pounds sterling per mile. The stage-coach system was apparently cheaper than the railway system, yet it was, in reality, immensely dearer than that system. For, besides the fact that each passenger by the stage-coach system had to pay much more than each railway passenger, he was carried to his destination much more slowly, and much less comfortably than the railway passenger is carried. The stage-coach system required little capital, but it was intolerably inefficient. The railway system requires immense capital, but it is very efficient. Now the system of shorthand which I have been proposing requires a larger capital (i.e., a larger number of men to work it) than the old systems. But I hold that it is perfectly efficient, as it reveals a method by which the speech of the most rapid speaker page 90 may, with the very greatest ease, be taken down, exactly as it is spoken. No existing system can do this, or anything like this, as can be proved by referring to the pages of Anderson.

Yet confessedly inefficient as the old systems of shorthand have been, professorial chairs have been established to teach them, not only in such advanced places as Germany, but even in such backward countries as Spain. By royal ordinance in 1802, a chair for short-hand was established at Madrid, and the first professor named was Marti, the translator of Taylor's short-hand. Xaramillo was a pupil of Marti's (Anderson, 290).

Every sessions court throughout the country ought to have a short-hand organisation. Court business would then be transacted five or six times quicker than it is at present, with more exactness, and with far greater comfort to all concerned.

It seems that a colonial professor in a college, either in the East or in the West Indies, has recently published a new system of short-hand of an entirely novel character. The English alphabet is printed many times on a page of paper. And short-hand is written by the writer drawing his pen or his pencil through the required letter in each set of alphabets successively. The alphabet is printed about two hundred and thirty times on a page. Supposing the shorthand writer wanted by this method to write the word liberality, he would draw his pen or his pencil through l in the first set of alphabets, then through i in the second set, through b in the third set, a set would next be passed over to represent the letter e, the pen or the pencil would thereafter be drawn through r in the fifth set, through a in the sixth set, through l in the seventh set, through i in the eighth, through t in the ninth, and through y in the tenth set. There are affixes such as ty and ity, so that when the pencil is drawn through them there is a very considerable saving in time. Specimens of four short-hand sheets of this colonial professor's system are at present in my possession. These four, as the system has been published, I am at liberty to criticise. Sheet No. 1 is frightfully complex. It consists of a sheet, folio size, with the following printed sixteen times upon it.

0. 1 2 3 4 b 6 c 8 d 10 h i 13 14 15 16 17 18 1 m 21 0 23 p r 26 t 28 w a b c d f g h I j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z& ago all are as at been but by call can come could did do done each e-very first for from give-n go God good great had have he how if in is it lord me Mr. more much my no nor not of on one or page 91 other our out read shall short should so spirit that the their there them thing think to too truth two under up upon us was were where what when which who will with word would year your ab ac ad al circum con-tra cum des (lis extra for im in-r-o op pre pro recom sub super trans un with able ary ate dom eous ful hood ing-s ion ious ity kind less ly ment ness self ship sion tion tude an n.

The marks at the top, viz., 0 1 2 3 4 b, &c., refer to the following, which is printed at the top of each page:—

I a few years 2 according 3 advantage 4 as a whole 5 because 6 beyond our control 7 cannot 8 coming and going 9 difficulty 10 from day to day 11 however 12 immediate 13 important 14 ce 15 improve 16 ed 17 ment 18 in consequence of 19 language 20 member 21 not only 22 opinion 23 opportunity 24 particular 25 remember 26 ed 27 tear and wear 28 to and fro 29 without.

Short-hand sheet No. 2 contains the following, printed sixty-four times on a page:—

a b c d f g h i j k 1 m n o p q r s t u v w x y z & are the that which ing tion.

The following is a set of the alphabet belonging to shorthand sheet No. 3. It is printed two hundred and thirty times on a page.

a b c d f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z & are the that which ing tion ly ty.

The following is a set of the alphabet belonging to shorthand sheet No. 4. It is printed one hundred and sixteen times on a page:—

a b e d f g h i j k l m n op q r s t u v w x y z & ch nd ng sh th 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ing ion ive ness ty always an are as have his like more than that those which who

The numbers 1 2 3 4 5, &c., refer to the following (printed at the top of each page):—

1. The present. 2. The past. 3. The former. 4. The latter. 5. A week. 6. A year. 7. Nothing. 8. Bona fide. 8. Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. 10. There is that scattereth, and yet increased; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.

No. 4 is the best, and extremely suitable for being used as the universal mode of penmanship.

The letter e, which is the letter which occurs most frequently in the English language, is not found in the set, the sign for it being a set passed over.

Now the question is, Will this system work? Will it be possible for an expert to write by means of it as fast as a person speaks. I trow not. An expert will be able to write page 92 as fast by it as by Taylor's system, but not faster. It is certainly easier to learn than Taylor's system. And it is applicable to every language, while the other system is applicable to not more than one language. It may be useful as the universal mode of penmanship. It would then destroy the possibility of illegible penmanship at a stroke. But that it can ever enable a man to keep pace with a rapid speaker seems impossible.

In reference to all existing systems of short-hand, it ought never to be forgotten that practice makes experts as nearly perfect in them as their defects will allow. When one begins to play the piano, he plays at first very slowly; but, by practice, he learns to play with the greatest rapidity. But the chief aim of good short-hand is not the perfecting of a few experts. The chief aim of short-hand is, in the first place, to invent a system which will enable men of moderate education to keep pace easily with the swiftest speaker, and, in the second place, to supersede common long-hand writing in ordinary correspondence, and in the ordinary business of life. The second aim, at least, is the view approved by Anderson, who says (page 161), "M. Chauvin, we ought to state, recommends the application of stenography to the ordinary writing. That, indeed, is the true aim of all short-hand."

Short-hand bids fair to become a sine quâ non of a good education. "The governments of the different parts of Germany have been convinced of the general utility of short-hand; they have encouraged its progress and organised its public teaching, under their patronage, and at their cost, with the result that to-day, stenography is everywhere in Germany, one of the branches, sometimes obligatory, more frequently facultative, of the public instruction. Besides, numerous stenographic associations have been formed for the purpose of propagating stenography, of maintaining a unity of system, of studying all questions of stenographic interest, and of affording, often, a support not only moral, but of a material and pecuniary character, with the view of bringing about a practical solution. These associations are busy at their work, and the most important of them are represented by a special journal each. It is, therefore, not astonishing that under this powerful impulse, with such favourable conditions of application, and with that well-known disposition of perseverance characteristically German, the results have proved happy in the extreme, and that, today, stenography in Germany counts not by hundreds, but page 93 by thousands, and that not only amongst the professions styled liberal, but also in all avocations, in the army, in business, in which it is variously used; and, in fine, by all those who appreciate the value of time." (Anderson, page 183.)

"To-day, Gabelsberger's system is taught with ardour in all the principal German States and Duchies. For the year 1874-75 the number of pupils in this stenography amounted to 16,449, belonging to 608 establishments, and receiving lessons from 779 professors. Besides the public pupils, there were 4,660 persons under private tutors of this same system. Altogether, there are 249 societies for the propagation of the Gabelsbergian short-hand, and at the head of these is the Society of Leipsic. Stolze's system, which first saw the light in 1841, is disseminated by no less than sixty associations in Germany, and five monthly journals" (page 187;. "At the Colleges of Caracas and Vargas in Venezuela, short-hand is a regular branch of education. Blanco, the rector of the latter seminary, is the author of a system based on the English ones (256), In the staff of the short-hand writers to the Senate of Roumania there are eight of the first rank, who take each five-minute turns. In that of the Chamber of Deputies there are sixteen who relieve each other, in eight divisions, every ten minutes (288). Gabelsberger's short-hand system is taught in more than a hundred Hungarian colleges" (page 284).

Now, in the face of all these facts, the regular introduction of short-hand into Britain and into British possessions cannot be long delayed. Anderson tells us that short-hand has been introduced even into China and Japan. It will be invaluable if it obviates the necessity of writing the cumbrous alphabets of Asia. And if it is introduced into Asia instead of common writing, it can hardly fail to give a mighty impetus to literature. For during the last two thousand years the condition of short-hand has been the truest test and index of the state of literature. In the palmy days of Roman literature, it flourished to such an extent that emperors delighted to learn and to practise it. In the Middle Ages, when learning was at a very low ebb, short-hand was unknown; and since 1588, when Bright published his system, about 3,422 different works on short-hand have been published in Europe.