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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30

Government Help Required to Encourage Short-Hand

Government Help Required to Encourage Short-Hand.

Mr. Anderson deplores, in very strong terms, the fact that the British Government does not, like the German Government, encourage short-hand by liberal endowments. "Short-hand has no small claim to State support. We deplore the fact that in our country short-hand is not sanctioned and supported by that influence and aid which it receives abroad. We deplore that it is left entirely to the option of pupils whether they shall learn short-hand, page 83 and that they are without any guide except the active puffers of their own particular, plans as to what system they ought to learn. There ought to be, in this country, no less than in Germany, a competent staff of men paid by the State to look after the interests of an art of so great importance and possibilities. These remarks apply to America, and to our own country, and to both probably in an equal degree. Why should Germany spend thousands yearly in the protection and fostering of this art, and why should England and America spend nothing? Why, further, should German State funds be devoted, apparently with no niggard hand, to propagating their Gabelsberger system in foreign countries, and why should England and America be so careless of the interests of short-hand even at home. These questions, we venture to hope, will receive the attention they deserve in the right quarters. Our immediate province, however, is to point out in what direction the advancement of the art, both with ourselves and with our American cousins, really tends. Well now, without insisting at further length on the points already referred to in the chapter on the essentials of superiority in short-hand systems, we again revert to that principle first started, but neglected in England, commended in France, but adopted in Germany, and by the exertions of German scholars and professors fast spreading throughout all European nations. That principle is—having your short-hand alphabet, as is the case with ordinary writing, composed of characters all on one slope" (Anderson, page 225.)

From the statements of Anderson, and of many other writers on short-hand, the following facts may be accepted as completely proved:—
1.That England is worthy of very severe censure for not giving as liberal State aid to short-hand as Germany does.
2.That Gabelsberger's German system is equal, and probably even superior, to Taylor's system, its superiority consisting in its alphabet being of the same slope as longhand writing.
3.That in Germany there are many hundreds of professors of short-hand, and many thousands of students.
4.That on the continent of Europe a very great deal more attention is given to the study of short-hand than is the case in England.page 84
5That all existing systems of short-hand are wonderfully defective.
6.That existing systems are utterly and even ludicrously incapable of enabling a short-hand writer really to write as fast as a rapid speaker speaks.
7.That the aim of short-hand inventors ought to be the shortening the time required to write long-hand, until it becomes short-hand, which may be capable of being used as the only medium of human penmanship.
8.Another point which ought not to be overlooked is the fact that short-hand writers have extraordinary difficulty in reading what they have written. Not only is it quite impossible for the expertest short-hand writer to keep pace with a rapid speaker, but it is often exceedingly difficult for him to read his own notes. Mr. J. B. Dimbleby has recently published a Dictionary of Short-hand. The following is an extract from its preface, which speaks for itself. "The design of this book is to assist inexperienced writers to read what they have written, and to make the introduction of vowels less necessary by proficient reporters. To every one, however, who writes short-hand—no matter what system—it will be found useful. In plain words, it is a Dictionary; and as its compilation has taken more than six years of close application, and the writer throughout has had a great desire to make it complete, and worthy of universal approval, he feels sure that, no matter how thoroughly practical and experienced a writer may be, it will not be undeserving of a place on his desk.

"I well remember my own troubles when I began to report for the press, and many weary hours of the night I have spent in transcribing notes for the want of a book like this, which to me would have been worth its weight of gold. In fact it requires time and practice to familiarise the mind with words divested of such important sounding letters as vowels; for instance, I well remember the anxiety of mind I experienced because I could not make out what word an eminent M.P. had used in an after-dinner speech, which in my note-book was represented by the short-hand letters for pigs. I had to leave it to a later contemporary to inform the honourable member's constituents that he did not think it necessary to apologise in reference to a certain vote in the House. I did not lose my situation, but I dare not say what the consequence was. How many tales of this kind can an elderly member of the 'Fourth Estate' recall!"

page 85

Now the above quotation shows how urgent is the necessity for improvement in short-hand.