‘“The Devil’s Handwriting”: Solving the Mysteries of Dickens’s Shorthand’
Dr Claire Wood
University of Leicester
Wednesday, 19th October 5pm – 7pm
Arts Lecture Room 4
In the 150 years since his death, Charles Dickens’s works have never been out of print. Yet, incredibly, several texts in Dickens’s hand remain unknown because they are written in his personal shorthand. Dickens used a complex system called Gurney’s Brachygraphy – but adapted the rules and invented new symbols of his own.
This paper explores the work of the AHRC-funded Dickens Code project <https://dickenscode.org/>, led by Dr Claire Wood (University of Leicester) and Professor Hugo Bowles (University of Foggia), which seeks solutions to these mysterious shorthand texts. It will cover how and why Dickens learned shorthand, what makes Brachygraphy so difficult to decipher, how we’ve approached these challenges with the assistance of the Dickens Decoders, and what we’ve discovered so far.
Dr Claire Wood is a Lecturer in Victorian Literature at the University of Leicester and the author of Dickens and the Business of Death. Her research centres on Victorian fiction and death culture with a particular focus upon the contradictions and complexities inherent in the Victorian ‘celebration of death’. She has published on epitaphs, material culture, and Dickens’s ghost stories, and, together with Professor Hugo Bowles, currently leads the Dickens Code project, which seeks solutions to Dickens’s undeciphered shorthand writing.
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