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    Clickable dictation at various speeds is available at the bottom of this page. The transcript of the dictation appears here as well.

    I turn to an even older book than last month. This time, we go back to 1856!

    As I've said before, there was a time when there were thousands of shorthand systems, each proclaiming itself to be the best ever created. Practical Shorthand is no exception. The book is only 38 pages long: 10 pages of "plates" consisting of the shorthand alphabet, double consonants (like SH and PR and CH), double vowels/diphthongs/triphthongs (multiple vowels in a row as heard in the beginning of the word piano), prefixes, suffixes, and abbreviations. That leaves 28 pages of rules, ten of which are suggestions for things like punctuation, spelling, mistakes, and quotations. Several of the exercises are expressed in shorthand at the end of the text, hence another 8 "plates."

    The instructions are basically "memorize everything" and "repeat until mastered." The exercises, as you will see below, are difficult for an experienced writer, let alone someone just learning. But, then, I guess that's why no one learns Practical Shorthand these days; it wasn't practical enough!

The Practical Stenographer, Ebenezer Soper, 1856, p. 37-38
Reply of the Emperor of the French to the Address of the Lord Mayor of London at the Guildhall, April 19, 1855.

My Lord Mayor,
          After the cordial reception I have experienced from the Queen, nothing could affect me more deeply than the sentiments towards the Empress and myself, to which you, my Lord Mayor, have given expression on the part of the city of London; for the city of London represents the available resources which a world-wide commerce affords both for civilization and for war.  Flattering as are your praises, I accept them, because they are addressed much more to France than to myself; they are addressed to a nation whose interests are today everywhere identical with your own; they are addressed to an army and navy united to yours by an heroic companionship in danger and in glory; they are addressed to the policy of the two governments, which is based on truth, on moderation, and on justice.  For myself, I have retained on the throne the same sentiments of sympathy and esteem for the English people that I professed as an exile while I enjoyed here the hospitality of your Queen; and if I have acted in accordance with my convictions, it is that the interest of the nation which has chosen me, no less than that of universal civilization, has made it a duty.  Indeed, England and France are naturally united on all the great questions of politics and of human progress that agitate the world.  From the shores of the Atlantic to those of the Mediterranean—from the Baltic to the Black Sea—from the desire to abolish slavery to our hopes for the amelioration of all the countries of Europe—I see in the moral, as in the political world, for our two nations by one course and one end.  It is, then, only by unworthy considerations and pitiful rivalries, that our union could be dissevered.  If we follow the dictates of common sense alone, we shall be sure of the future.  You are right in interpreting my presence among you as a fresh and convincing proof of my energetic cooperation in the prosecution of the war, if we fail in obtaining an honorable peace. . . .

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Instructions for Self-Dictation Practice:
    Copy and paste the above article into a word-processing document, using double or triple spacing and 12- or 14-pitch type.
    As always, be sure to check your shorthand dictionary for correct outlines before "drilling"!

Dictation Practice:
    Note that the material was counted and recorded for dictation at 100; all other speeds were copied from the 100 take and electronically adjusted and may therefore sound unusual.
    PLEASE ALLOW SUFFICIENT TIME FOR THE DICTATION TO LOAD depending upon your internet connection and the size of the dictation file. Slower dictation files are bigger.

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Gregg Shorthand Pitman Shorthand Speedwriting Shorthand