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Printed in tlte Reporting Style of Phonography.









DC How I Learned Shorthand ... ... ... ... 5

Early Recollections ... ... ... ... 26

How I Taught Simon Phonography ... ... ... 51

In Search of a Reporter ... ... ... ... 72

Is Reporting a Desirable Profession ? ... ... ... 86

My Reporting Pen ... ... ... ... 126

Government Shorthand Writing .. ... .. 136

II Transcribing and Transcribers ... ... ... 156

Scrawling and Scrawl ers ... ... ... ... 166





; \

It is more than a quarter of a century ago. I was not quite in my teens.

I was, of course, at school, and had received about the usual amount of a

schoolboy's education. I was a little ambitious in the acquisition of

knowledge, and one of the objects of my ambition, I distinctly remember,

was to learn shorthand. I had occasionally read the speeches of public

men in the newspapers, and heard that they were taken down in strange

abalistic characters by a race of men called " reporters," whose ability to

atch the torrent of eloquence as it flowed inspired me with the wannest

dmiration. My schoolmaster, too, was rather fond of talking of " steno-

grophy;'" he never called it^shorthand; the Greek designation was more

cholarly. From the familiar way in which he alluded to the art I, of

ourse, believed him to be an adept in its rjractice : he had probably

Leaves from the Note-Book of T. A. Reed.

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learned some shorthand alphabet and forgotten it ; I am sure he could
not have written half-a-dozen words. No opportunity for acquiring a
knowledge of shorthand presented itself to me till one day the walls of the
town in which I was residing were placarded with the announcement that

Professor had arrived, and was ready to devote himself to the general

enlightenment of the public, and especially to their improvement in the
arts of writing, arithmetic, and shorthand.

I lost no time in making ray way to the address given in the public an-
nouncements. It was a stationer s shop, with a side entrance leading to
the floor above, where the public educator had established hi:,
examined very attentively a large case hanging outside, displaying a num-
ber of slips of paper showing the wonderful transformation that had been
effected in the handwriting of John Wilson, "\Viiliam Brown, Emma
Thomson, cum multis aliis, "after taking six lessons." In almost every
case the first specimen appeared to have been written in an omnibus rat-
tling over an ill -paved road ; while the second was a specimen of caligra-
phy that could only have been written under the most favorable circum-
stances, and if the upstrokes had not required a magnifying glass to be

How I Learned Shorthand. 7

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soon, tho execution would have been faultless. I was struck with the
remarkable resemblance of style in the different specimens, but I was too
unsophisticated to entertain any ungenerous suspicion as to their genuine-
ness, and could only feel an unbounded admiration for a man who could
convert such clumsy scribes into penmen so accomplished. There was a
long rulc-of-three sum, too, exhibited in another case, from the top to the
bottom of a sheet of foolscap ; which was most unfavorably contrasted
with the same sum worked by the " new method" in about a dozen figures.
My sentiments with regard to arithmetical rules (which I had conceived to
bo as unchangeable as the ten commandments) received a severe shuck,
and I began to think that I had been the victim of a cruel personal injury
in having been made to cover my slate with unending rows of figures to
bring about a result which might be accomplished in three lines. I longed
for a knowledge of the "new method." At length my eye rested on a
third case which absolutely transfixed me. It was filled \\ithnumberless
ITS, dashes, dots, loops and circles, rushing wildly about in every
direction. Surely it must be shorthand. Every letter seemed in a hurry,

Leaves from the Note-Book of T. A. Reed.

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and on a closer inspection I could distinctly see all these weird-looking
characters scampering off after a rapid speaker, who was vainly trying
to escape them. Some ran in company; others pursued the chase alone,
but seemed in serious danger of running over one another. A motley
group ; I longed to have it under my control. I feared that my capacity
was inadequate to the task of enlisting those eccentric creatures in my
service ; but I was reassured by the gratifying announcement that met my
eye : " The art of shorthand taught in six lessons. Terms, 10/6." Straight-
way I forgot all about the new rule-of-three ; it was a thing of the past,
and the prevailing, absorbing sentiment that animated me was a determin-
ation to take the " six lessons." AVhen I reached home I was breathless ;
I must have rnu all the way, but I did not know it. I immediately sought
the maternal presence, and gasped out the information I had obtained,
and the desire that had taken possession of me. Permission was no sooner
asked than granted, and it was arranged that I was to commence my new
study after school hours on the following day.

How I Learned Shorthand.

I believe I clrearned all night of these strange s}*mbols, and imagined I
was mysrlf c.ireorinff about among them, but totally unable to regulate
their movements. The next day I got into terrible disgrace at school.
The strokes of my copy exhibited a preternatural tendency to slope the
wrong way ; my arithmetic became confused ; I think I made Aulus
Plautius invade liritain in the reign of Henry VIII. ; and I had " twenty
lines, you dunce," for calling " virtue " an indefinite article. My school-
master, a kind-hearted man, must have thought I was ill, for at the close
of the d:iv he excused my "lines," and recommended me to go home at
once, and retire to bed early.

In the course of the evening I made my way to the Professor's, and
having made known my errand, I was ushered, all trembling, into his pres-
ence. 1 was a little disappointed with his appearance. 1 had .
to see an imposing looking personage, surrounded with dozens of diligent
students, eagerly drinking in instruction from his lips. There was nothing
of the kind visible. He was a man of very ordinary type, and 1 was rather

Leaves from the Note-Book of T. A. Reed.

shocked with the eagerness with which he took my fee. There wore tnvo
pupils seated at a table laboriously writing copies very much alter the
approved school-boy fashion. I was desired to join them, which I did,
and in a few minutes a shorthand alphabet was set before me, with a sheet
of ruled paper on which I was to copy it. It was Lewis's system (as I
afterwards discovered) with some slight modifications introduced by my in-
structor, who on this account called it his own. I copied the alphabet
several times, and very soon had the letters firmly fixed on my memory.
Having practised them for about half-an-hour, during which two or three
other persons dropped in to take writing lessons (I was the only short-
hand pupil), I was dismissed, and desired to call again another evening.
My second lesson was devoted to the practice of joinings on a large sheet
of paper, on which the letters of the alphabet were displayed along the
top, and also down the left-hand side, the joinings being arranged ;ifter
the fashion of a multiplication table. This presented little or no difficulty,
and I was surprised how easy everything appeared. The third e\
think, consisted chiefly in committing to memory the arbitrary characters,

How I Learned Shorthand.

ignifications when I met the characters in a sentence. The letter t

of course, felt great respect for the " context," which was to do such won-
ders, but heartily wished that I had not been consigned to its tender mercies,
which I strongly suspected, and aftenvards found, would often fail me in
the hour of need. However, I persevered, and when the "six lessons"

Leaves from the Note-Book of T. A. Reed.

with a little practice I should be able to achieve the object of my ambition.
I practised a little every day, and if it had not been for that terrible " con-
text " I think I should have been encouraged to continue till I had attained
a moderate speed. But what could be expected of a boy of twelve floun-
dering 1 about in a sea of stenographic consonants, told to " omit all vowels,"
and referred only to "context" to help him out of every difficulty? I
remember once meeting with the letters f, /, and puzzling my brains for
half-an-hour to discover whether they meant fall, foal, fill, feel, fell, fool.
full, file, fowl, or foil. I appealed to the "context," but the worst of it
was that this was equally in need of elucidation, and I gave up the passage
in blank despair. I did not, however, relinquish my practice, and in a few
weeks I resolved on making a grand attempt to take down the Sunday ser-
mon. I rose earl}- in the morning with the sense of a weight v responsibility
resting upon me. I sharpened my pencil with the gravity of a senator, and
folded several sheets of paper together in the profound conviction that I
was undertaking a serious, if not a formidable duty. I did my best to

How I Learned Shorthand.

\> X

conceal my emotions, but my heart was beating all the way to the church.
As to the preliminary service, I understood as little of it as if it had been
read in Cherokee. I stood when I ought to have knelt, and knelt when I
should have sat or stood, and demeaned myself like a youth whose religious
education had been sadly neglected. At length the clergyman entered
the pulpit, and I took my sheets of paper from the Bible in which I had
concealed them, and my pencil from my pocket. If I did not feel like
Bonaparte's soldiers, tkat the eyes of posterity were upon me, I devoutly
believed that every eye in the church was directed to my note-book. The
color mounted to my cheeks (as it very often did at that period of my life)
and my whole frame trembled. I had a strong impulse 'to abandon my
project, but I summoned all my energy to the task, and awaited the com-
mencement of the sermon. "The i2th chapter of Isaiah, and the 3rd
verse," said the minister in solemn tones. This presented no great diffi-
culty. I am sorry to say that, stenographically speaking, I burked Isaiah,
and contented myself with the longhand abbreviation, Is., and as to the text
itself, I thought the first three words would suffice. And now for the ser-

14 Leaves from the Note-Book of T. A. Reed.

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nidti. "The remarkable words, my brethren, of this important prophecy."
Laboriously I foll\\vd the deliberate utterances of the speaker, but when
' d the "prophecy " I floundered about in a mazeot dire contusion.
I thought it with fh, and I accordingly started, as I had been in-
i. with the stenographic ecjuivalent, f, but finding that this would
I crossed it nut : then I tried/, r, and getting .. <>nfused,

plunged madly inN.> the alphabet, the result being a combination of char-
acters altogether beyond description. .But where was the preacher?
Away in the distance., almost out of sight or hearing. I was fairly
but not quite disheartened. AVhen another sentence was begun I made a
fresh start : this time I was pulled up by the word "synonymous." I knew
there were some ;/'s and m s in it, but not how many. I must have written
lour ot each, and while I was jerking out these segments of circles
(their forms were the same as in Phonography,) the clergyman was re-
morselessly pursuing the intricacies of a long sentence which I was com-
pelled wholly to abandon. I made several other efforts with the like result.
At length I secured an entire sentence of about twenty words, and felt

How I Learned Shorthand.


ven-proud of the achievement. Some half-dozen such sentences rewarded
my labor during the sermon. How I racked my brain in the afternoon in
poring over these fragments ! My memory (not then a bad one) was ut-
terly useless. I had not the slightest conception of the dritt of the sermon,
but I was determined to make some kind of a transcript, and it was made.
I presented it to my mother as my first attempt, and I believe she kept it
carefully locked up in a drawer among her treasures. It was fortunate for
my reputation that it never afterwards saw the light.

My first experiment in sermon reporting was not very encouraging, but

I repeated the effort on several successive Sunday mornings, and in the

afternoons was laboriously occupied in transcribing some half-a-dozen

i my spasmodic-looking shorthand. Whether the preacher would

il his words as I rendered them I cannot say: sure I am

that he would have been astonished at the selection I had made, and would

il to see the principle which guided me in my omissions. I strongly

*n -prct that if his orthodoxy was in any way dependent upon my reports he

16 Leaves from the Note-Book of T. A. Reed.

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would have been speedily summoned to the Court of Arches to reconcile (a
difficult task) his reported utterances with the 39 Articles. I once knew a
clergyman who was particularly irate with a reporter who, in transcribing
his sermon, substituted the word " sanctification " for "regeneration,"
thereby, as he complained, spoiling his theology, and attributing opinions
to him from which he shrank with horror. What this preacher would have
thought of my juvenile productions I shudder to think. My reports, how-
ever, were confined to a very limited circle of readers, who were not dis-
posed to be hypercritical. My experience is that people in general are
ily satisfied in the way of reports. Not having sufficiently good
memorie* to remember what has been omitted, if that which they read is
tolerably correct, they have a notion that everything has been satisfactorily
reported, even in cases in which the shorthand writer is conscious of man-
ifold deficiencies in his transcript. I have often heard reports pronounced
by readers to be verbatim which, to my own knowledge, have not contained
a third of the speakers' utterances.
It must have been to this circumstance that I was indebted for the leni-

How I Learned Shorthand.


ency with which my omissions were regarded, and the compliments that
were undeservedly passed on some of my productions by those of my
friends and relations who took the trouble to examine them.

About this time, I remember, a gentleman was engaged, at the school
that I was attending, to deliver a course of lectures on astronomy. Before
the commencement of the first lecture we were all requested to make notes
of what we heard, and to present fair copies of them to the lecturer for
inspection at his next visit. From that moment I was the object of inex-
pressible envy to all my schoolfellows, who knew that I could write short-
hand, and who enormously exaggerated my powers. I am sorry to say
that I sharpened my pencil, not in fear and trembling', as I had done on
the occasion of my first essay at church, but with a sense of self-satisfac-
tion, and almost of conscious superiority. Though convinced of my
inability to take anything like a -verbatim report, 1 knew that I could far
outstrip all my schoolfellows in following the lecturer. I strove hard to
take down as much as possible, and succeeded in getting the " substance "
a conveniently elastic word of the lecture. My spare hours during two

i S

Leaves from tkt Note-Book of T. A. Reed.







daj-s were devoted to the transcript of my notes ; and when the lecturer
came to give his second address, and asked for our notes of the first, it was
not without a spark of pride or vanity, or both, that I presented a report
at least twice as long as any of those tendered by the other boys, some of

iaa no practice : ana me aimcuuy 01 aecipnenng tne notes, owing to tne
;ystemutic omission of vowels, often operated as a discouragement. Had
I been a few years older I might have, to some extent, overcome this diffi-
culty ; but as it was I never acquired any considerable speed in writing, or
facility in reading.

About a year after I had commenced my practice, my schoolmaster one
morning put a paper into my hand, and asked if it would be of any service

How I Learned Shorthand.


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to me. It was a printed circular enclosing a sheet full of shorthand char-
acters, a complete system. The schoolmaster was politely requested by
the sender to examine the system, and, if he approved it, to adopt and
teach it in his school ; or, if unable to give attention to the subject, to hand
the paper to any person of his acquaintance who might be likely to take an
interest in it. The paper was no other than what old phonographers will
remember as the original " Penny Sheet," which must have tried the eyes
and puzzled the understandings of early phonographic students more than
any half-a-dozen other publications. How I pored over those beautifully
engraved but totally incomprehensible characters ! There was the Iliad
in a nut-shell, the entire system of Phonography comprised in a sheet
barely six inches square, with illustrations in English and I think in one
or two foreign languages. The reader will hardly be surprised to hear
that after sundry futile attempts to understand Phonography on this my
first introduction to its mysteries, I gave up the task in despair. Thi-
author, I had no doubt, was a lunatic, and it was absurd to strain one's
intellectual faculties in deciphering characters that would have staggered
a Grotefendand bewildered a Rawlinson. A specimen of cuniform symbols

20 . Leaves from the Note-Book of T. A. Reed.

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would have been nothing 1 to this phonographic arcanum. I have met
with many phonographers who have seen this early compendium, but with
never a one who learned the system by its means alone.

Some twelve months after this occurrence I left school, and entered a
mercantile office, where my shorthand remained practically in abeyance,
partly owing, I think, to my taking up with one or two other bobbies. It so
happened, however, that some phonographic publications of a more intel-
ligible character than the " Sheet " fell into my hands, and I made the
acquaintance of an accomplished phonographer, my late partner. Mr F.
E. Woodward, who offered to instruct me in the new art if I felt disposed
to abandon my old system in its favor. I had read in the phonographic
pamphlets a number of letters from enthusiastic ardent disciples of the
" cause," who with the enthusiasm usually generated by a nascent move-
ment, praised the svstem to the skies, and prophesied its speedy universal
adoption. Some of the- writers had, like myself, experienced the difficulty
of deciphering other systems, and bore testimony to the ease with which

How I Learned Shorthand.

Phonogfraphy could be both written and read. JNIy friend also convinced
me of the legibility of the system by reading from his notes with apparent
ease a portion of a sermon which he had taken down some months pre-
viously. I caught the infection, and resolved to join the ranks of the new
brotherhood, for such it appeared to be. As expounded by my friend and
illustrated by intelligible books, the system proved to be easy enough, and
I had little difficulty in acquiring its elements. The chief obstacle to my
progress was an occasional conflict between the old and the new systems,
and it was some weeks before I could overcome the habit of writing the
letter / this was the bete notr of the alphabet with a horizontal instead
of a perpendicular stroke. The short vowels and those of the w and y
scries were a little troublesome perhaps ; the half-sized consonants, which
did not then, as now, take the uniform addition of i or d, seemed now and
then a trifle perverse ; and hooks and circles, in spite of cautious treat-
ment, would occasionally insist on getting misplaced. But if there had
been no obstacles in the way, half the satisfaction of acquiring the art
would have been lost. The difficulties, however, as I have said, were

22 Leaves from tlie Note-Book of T. A. Reed.


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trifling, and the practice of a couple of months brought me in point of
speed on a level with my former attainments, and in point of legibility in
writing, carried me considerably beyond them. Having with my old sys
tern so often gone hopelessly adrift for the want of a definite vowel expres-
sion, I reveled in the clearness of the phonographic notation, and even
made use of the new characters when pursuing my studies in French and
German. I believe I religiously wrote a few pages of Phonography every
day, and I was in the habit of setting myself some definite task to accom-
plish, spreading the work over so many days or weeks. To this habit,
ferseveringly followed, I attribute some portion, at any rate, of the success
was able subsequently to achieve in facility of writing. One of my
first labors in this direction was the writing of the Psalms from dictation.
For the purpose I secured the services of the office-boy who read well,
and was willing (for a consideration) to exercise his vocal powers for my
behoof. It was dreary work at first, and two or throe Psalms a day was
all that we could accomplish. To a listener our exercises would have been
anything but edifying. My reader knew my pace, and regulated his

How I Learned Shorthand.

accordingly, without the slightest referenceto commas or semicolons ; and
f fear that the poetry and the spirituality of the Psalms were altogether
lost by our fragmentary mode of procedure. But we soon progressed,
and by the time we reached the last psalm ray juvenile dictator was able
to read in a deliberate, impressive manner, without being stopped more
than once or twice in a page. This task ended, I was a little puzzled to
know what next to undertake. I thought of writing out the New Testa-
ment, but, to tell the truth, my reader was getting a little tired of theology
and was evidently anxious for a change. Wishing to interest him in the
work, so that he would not be likely to shirk it, I determined to procure as
exciting a tale as I could find, and write it out from his dictation. I was
fortunate in my selection ; it was a three-volume novel, the main incidents
of which were located in the backwoods of America, and were highly sea
soned with terrible conflicts, narrow escapes, murder, love, treachery
suicide, and the like. I never had the slightest occasion to seek the ser
vices of Henry that was his name who, whenever a leisure hour presentee
itself, invariably came to my side with the book opened at the place when

24 Leaves from the Note-Book of T. A. Reed.


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we left off. We must have killed two or three Indian chiefs every day.
We were constantly getting into the most horrid complications, from which
there seemed no hope of escape, and had often to leave off at those tan-
talising places where in our popular periodicals we are now accustomed
to read, "To be continued in our next." Nothing could have been more
fortunate for myself. In a month or two we had actually got through the
three volumes. It was difficult to get Henry to read sufficiently slowly,
especially when we got among tomahawks and scalps, and not wishing to
be perpetually checking him, I had many a hard chase after the words as
they fell from his lips.

I wrote every word of the book in Phonography, and now and then
devoted an hour or two to the reading of my notes, and correcting whatever
errors I could discover. Of so much value did I find this mode of practice

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