Charles Dickens mystery SOLVED as 150-year-old code cracked to reveal furious dispute

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Dubbed the “devils handwriting” by the man himself, Dickens’ scribbles were as hard to decipher as an ancient language. The Victorian writer taught himself Gurney’s shorthand when he trained up to become a freelance journalist. But Dickens altered the code that dates back to the 1700s to make his own, nearly impenetrable version.

The legendary author would jot it down in letters and documents at high speeds, leaving experts scratching their heads as they scrambled to decipher the “Dickens Code”.

But now, with the help of over 1,000 volunteers from around the world, researchers for the Dickens Code project have unveiled the mystery.

The Dickens Code Project launched a competition with a £300 prize to help crack the code.

Winner Shane Braggs, from California, claimed he was able to solve the mystery by training up on code groups on Reddit, a social media platform.

It was found that what is known as the Tavistock letter was Dickens’ appeal for intervention over an advertisement that got rejected.

The letter was addressed to JT Delane, who was the editor of The Times at the time.

Dr Claire Wood, from the University of Leicester, said: “The work of the Dickens decoders helps to cast light upon this fraught time in Dickens’s life.

“In the letter we glimpse Dickens the businessman, using personal contacts to promote his interests and strongly arguing his case.”

While the document is still not fully translated – around 60-70 percent has been deciphered – the researchers were able to translate some key phrases that helped to unlock the puzzle.

It was discovered that Dickens wanted to discontinue an old journal that he co-owned with Bradbury & Evans after a fall out.

When he set up a new journal, All the Year Round, he wanted to put an Advert in The Times to let people know.

But a clerk rejected the submission.

This is why the Great Expectations author sent the furious letter, and he kept a shorthand copy that has now been partly deciphered.

Hugo Bowles, a professor at the University of Foggia, said: “We collected the lightbulb flashes from different solvers and everything just fitted together.

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“One of our solvers found the words ‘Ascension Day’ and another found ‘next week’, which helped us pinpoint the date of the letter.

“Solvers who knew their Dickens identified the abbreviation ‘HW’ as his journal Household Words and connected the symbol for ‘round’ to his journal All the Year Round.”

And now that the decoders have made impressive ground, there are potentially nine more documents that could be laid bare.

They will be hoping to interpret Dickens system of lines, squiggles and circles in the adapted version of Gurney’s Brachygraphy which the writer himself even called a “savage stenographic mystery”.

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