Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/109

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101
SOLUTION OF A LITERARY PROBLEM.

of disputed authorship. If striking differences are found of known and suspected compositions of any writer, the evidence against identity of authorship would be quite conclusive. If the two compositions should produce curves which are practically identical, the proof of a common origin would be less convincing; for it is possible, although not probable, that two writers might show identical characteristic curves.

With this conclusion the matter remained for more than ten years. On innumerable occasions it was suggested that the process ought to be applied to an examination of the writings of Bacon and Shakespeare with a view of forever settling a controversy which will doubtless forever remain unsettled. This, of course, had been all along in view, but it involved an expenditure of time and labor in letter and word counting quite beyond what might be expected from individual enthusiasm.

PSM V60 D109 Plot of writing characteristics of ancient and modern writers.png

Fig. 3.

The operation is not one of thrilling interest, and volunteer assistance could not be depended upon when the number of things to be counted and classified grew into millions.

That the method has been applied at last to this most curious and yet most interesting question is entirely due to the liberality of Mr. Augustus Heminway, of Boston, who kindly offered to defray the expenses of the work, that is, to employ persons to count and classify nearly two millions of words. Besides expressing my indebtedness to Mr. Heminway, I wish to make grateful acknowledgment of the ex-