Words Using The Letters Angular

Words Using The Letters Angular – ‘The devil’s handwriting’ … part of the Tavistock letter, written in a shorthand dating back to the 1700s that Dickens adapted. Photo: Alamy

The writer’s ancient shorthand has baffled experts for over a century. So they launched an explanation contest for fans – with surprising results that shed new light on his love life and financial risk

Words Using The Letters Angular

Words Using The Letters Angular

Despite all the precision he brought to his intricate plots, Charles Dickens was an extremely deceptive writer. His manuscripts are full of dark splodges, with illegible changes interspersed between jagged, jagged lines. Even worse was his love of a form of shorthand dating back to the 1700s. To this, he added his own chaotic changes to create what he called “the devil’s handwriting”.

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As a lover of puzzles and codes, the great Victorian writer used the time-saving hieroglyphics to make notes and copies of his letters and documents, and burned the stars of them. Academics are still working to find 10 surviving short manuscripts. Don’t forget Wordle. This is the Dickens Code. And for a long time, it seemed impossible.

Last year, the experts behind a project called the Dickens Code made a cry for help. They put out a call for amateur sleuths to enter a competition, tasked with transcribing one of those baffling documents: a secret letter kept for more than a century in library in New York. It is scrawled in blue ink on paper with the letterhead of Tavistock House, the London home where Dickens wrote Bleak House.

When the competition opened last October with a prize of £300, the note was downloaded 1,000 times in three days. Participants were invited to use brachygraphy instructions, Dickens’s now obsolete system of shorthand. In the semi-autobiographical David Copperfield, brachygraphy is described as a “vicious stenographic secret”.

Contestants also had access to a notebook in which Dickens vaguely explained some of his own symbols. He used “@” for “about” and an angular form of “t” to mean “amazing”. In the end, only 16 people, from all over the world, were able to submit solutions. None of them managed the whole thing.

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When Dickens sat down to write the Tavistock letter, it would have been tempting to imagine that, almost 165 years later, it would be torn to pieces, endlessly scrutinized and explained by, among others, a 20-year-old student from Ohio called Ken Cox. “I thought it was in his mind that there was something he had written that no one had read yet,” says Cox, a lover of puzzles, Dickens and even shorthand, who studies cognitive science at University of Virginia.

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So what does the Tavistock letter say? Unfortunately, they are not notes for – or even part of – a long-lost short story, although there is hope that the other documents may contain fiction. What it unfolds is a suitably complex story about a canny businessman who has reached a difficult stage in his love life and literary career, and is now leaning on his connections and the courts for help. .

“The decoders have really helped to shed light on this troubled period in Dickens’s life,” says Dr Claire Wood, lecturer in Victorian literature at the University of Leicester. Wood will lead the decoding project with Hugo Bowles, a professor of English at the University of Foggia in Italy. After a long process of compiling the entries and reviewing them with other sources, the couple has a transcript that is 70% complete.

Words Using The Letters Angular

“I feel obliged,” the letter begins, “though very reluctant, to appeal to you personally.” Three newly translated phrases were essential to understanding what was to come. One person concluded that “HW” referred to Household Words, a magazine edited by Dickens and jointly owned by the publisher Bradbury and Evans. Another linked the symbol for “round” to All the Years, Dickens’s new journal founded in 1859 and standing alone after a falling out with Bradbury and Evans.

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In another breakthrough, one solver translated two scribbles as “Ascension Day”, a Christian celebration that falls 40 days after Easter. This interested Wood and Bowles because Ascension Day in 1859 coincided with a time when we knew that Dickens was trying to introduce Family Words into All Year. Did the letter have anything to do with this move?

These clues shed light on another letter, fortunately written in a long hand, which is held at the same library in New York. It is an apology to Dickens from the manager of the Times about a disturbance that had arisen when Dickens asked the newspaper to print an advertisement warning its readers – and which could be new – about All Year. He refers to another letter, one that Dickens had written to John Thadeus Delane, the editor of the Times. Until now, this letter was thought to be lost. But we now know it was a Tavistock scratch. So what did he say?

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It is first important to understand where Dickens was in 1859. It was a difficult year for the writer, then 47, despite the fame he gained with Bleak House and David Copperfield. A year earlier, his marriage had collapsed amid wild rumors of an affair with an actress. Dickens published an angry commentary in Household Words, describing the rumors as “most false, most fantastic, and most cruel”. When he asked Bradbury and Evans to print the statement in Punch, which he also published, the company refused. Their relationship fell apart and the publisher turned down an offer from Dickens to buy his share of Household Words.

The result prompted Dickens to design his own magazine. But it was a risky move because, although successful, he was in financial trouble. He had a divorce, a rumored mistress, and 10 children to pay. “He was,” Bowles says, “a famous man on the ropes.” Household Words, which Dickens launched in 1850, was a vital source of income and a shop window for his work. It began in 1854 when his novel Hard Times was submitted.

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Dickens was keen to hold onto his readers but Bradbury and Evans had other ideas. They wanted to keep Words of the House alive without him – and sued to prevent him from giving the impression that the magazine was closing. However, a judge ruled in Dickens’ favor: yes, he could announce the conversion, as long as he said Household Words was “stopping him” and not the publisher.

Dickens famously used this phrase in an advertisement for The Times, but a clerk rejected it. Unaware of the legal ruling, the clerk felt the ad gave the false impression that Household Words was indeed closed down. “An ad canceled in The Times was a shock to Dickens,” Bowles says, “and needed to be corrected.”

After getting Cs in literature, I never dreamed that anything I did would be of interest to Dickens scholars

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Words Using The Letters Angular

Tavistock’s letter, we now know, is the writer’s desperate attempt to save the situation by appealing to the editor, an acquaintance. Dickens refers to the advertisement “announcing, after Ascension Day, that Family Words will cease with me… [was] rejected and sent back with a message that this detail was untrue and false -fair.” He refers approvingly to the judge’s ruling, saying he sees “no sense or reason” for the denial.

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The Times quickly apologized and retracted the ad. Dickens had won. It was a sensation throughout the year, which he launched with the first installment of A Tale of Two Cities. A year later, he sent a series of Great Expectations. Meanwhile, Bradbury and Evans did not save the Words of the House. When they auctioned his title, Dickens put it up at a fraction of the price it had originally been offered for, adding the line “With Which Is Incorporated Household Words” to cover the entire year.

Academics are shocked to learn of Dickens’ ruthless dealings – and fascinated by his legal double standards. “I mean, it’s usually fake about judges,” Bowles says. “And here he names the judge, names him in the letter, and says he’s a good man to support. ” But Wood is also aware of vulnerability. “Dickens is riding high,” she says, “but also feeling these personal and professional pressures and trying to keep all the plates spinning.”

‘Savage stenographic mystery’ … Dev Patel in the recent David Copperfield film; the novel refers to Dickens’s system of shorthand. Photo: Landmark Media / Alamy

The £300 prize was won by California IT worker and code enthusiast Shane Baggs, who solved the most images. “Having got mostly C grades in literature,” he says, “I never dreamed I’d ever do anything that would interest Dickens scholars.”

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Cox, who as a child wrote code letters to friends after being inspired by a book about British code breaker Alan Turing, sent solutions including the words “unfair and unfair”. He says: “When I turned it in, I thought I was on the right track. But then I thought maybe they’d get a ton of letters and be like, ‘Well, most of these are fine – but this one is just

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