Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 63.djvu/14

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
xiv
The Dictionary of National Biography

make some allowance for the inevitable propensity to exaggerate the importance of contemporary achievement, and, more especially, for the multiplication of printed records; yet the rise may not be wholly inexplicable on philosophic grounds. By the multiplication of intellectual callings take engineering and its offshoots, for example and by the specialisation of science and art, the opportunities of distinction, of the lesser magnitudes at any rate, have been of late conspicuously augmented. Improvements in educational machinery may, too, have enlarged the volume of the nation's intellectual capacity, which is the ultimate spring of distinctive achievement. The largeness of the number of names belonging to the nineteenth century need not consequently be held to impair the historical perspective which ought to govern the design of the Dictionary.

The conclusions to be drawn from the distribution of the names over the alphabet are less subtle or arguable. The most favoured initial letter of British and Irish surnames is B with 3,078 names. C approaches it nearest with 2,542 names, and is very closely followed by the two letters S and H, each of which yields the same total of 2,420. M yields 2,310 names. In the descending scale P and W enjoy almost equal popularity, P providing 1,807 and W 1,797. G lags somewhat behind with 1,490, and is followed by K and L, the former with 1,462, the latter with 1,437. There succeed D with 1,316, F with 1,165, T with 1,054. A musters 870, N 716, J 656, and K, E, and O almost tie with 635 in the first case, 619 in the second, and 616 in the third. The remaining letters present very modest totals. V affords 296, I 160, Y 111, U 75, and Q 31. Z with 21 appropriately occupies the last place. X is not represented at all.

The surname which claims the largest number of memoirs is Smith (Smith, Smyth, or Smythe); biographies of 195 persons bearing this surname are published in the Dictionary. Jones follows with 132. Stewart (Steuart, Steward, Stewart, or Stuart) is the title of 112 memoirs; Hamilton of 106 memoirs; Brown (Broun, Brown, or Browne) of 102; Clark (Clarke, Clerk, or Clerke) of 99; Moore (Moor, Moore, or More) of 88; Taylor (or Tayler) of 86; Douglas (or Douglass) of 85; Scott (or Scot) of 83; Grey (or Gray) of 81; Williams of 81; Gordon of 80; Wilson (or Willson) of 80; Thompson (or Thomson, Tomson, and Tompson) of 78; Campbell of 72; Murray of 71; Davies (or Davis) of 68; Howard of 66; and Robinson of 63. There are 389 names with the beginning prefix Mac-; 220 names beginning with the prefix O'; and 133 beginning with the prefix Fitz-.

The full number of pages in the Dictionary is 29,108. The number of articles is 29,120. It therefore follows that the average length of an article is slightly less than one page. Volume by volume the average