Pygmalion eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 99 pages of information about Pygmalion.

Those who knew him will recognize in my third act the allusion to the patent Shorthand in which he used to write postcards, and which may be acquired from a four and six-penny manual published by the Clarendon Press.  The postcards which Mrs. Higgins describes are such as I have received from Sweet.  I would decipher a sound which a cockney would represent by zerr, and a Frenchman by seu, and then write demanding with some heat what on earth it meant.  Sweet, with boundless contempt for my stupidity, would reply that it not only meant but obviously was the word Result, as no other Word containing that sound, and capable of making sense with the context, existed in any language spoken on earth.  That less expert mortals should require fuller indications was beyond Sweet’s patience.  Therefore, though the whole point of his “Current Shorthand” is that it can express every sound in the language perfectly, vowels as well as consonants, and that your hand has to make no stroke except the easy and current ones with which you write m, n, and u, l, p, and q, scribbling them at whatever angle comes easiest to you, his unfortunate determination to make this remarkable and quite legible script serve also as a Shorthand reduced it in his own practice to the most inscrutable of cryptograms.  His true objective was the provision of a full, accurate, legible script for our noble but ill-dressed language; but he was led past that by his contempt for the popular Pitman system of Shorthand, which he called the Pitfall system.  The triumph of Pitman was a triumph of business organization:  there was a weekly paper to persuade you to learn Pitman:  there were cheap textbooks and exercise books and transcripts of speeches for you to copy, and schools where experienced teachers coached you up to the necessary proficiency.  Sweet could not organize his market in that fashion.  He might as well have been the Sybil who tore up the leaves of prophecy that nobody would attend to.  The four and six-penny manual, mostly in his lithographed handwriting, that was never vulgarly advertized, may perhaps some day be taken up by a syndicate and pushed upon the public as The Times pushed the Encyclopaedia Britannica; but until then it will certainly not prevail against Pitman.  I have bought three copies of it during my lifetime; and I am informed by the publishers that its cloistered existence is still a steady and healthy one.  I actually learned the system two several times; and yet the shorthand in which I am writing these lines is Pitman’s.  And the reason is, that my secretary cannot transcribe Sweet, having been perforce taught in the schools of Pitman.  Therefore, Sweet railed at Pitman as vainly as Thersites railed at Ajax:  his raillery, however it may have eased his soul, gave no popular vogue to Current Shorthand.  Pygmalion Higgins is not a portrait of Sweet, to whom the adventure of Eliza Doolittle would have been impossible; still, as will be seen, there are touches of Sweet in the play.  With

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Pygmalion from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.