Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/111

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103
SOLUTION OF A LITERARY PROBLEM.

knowing what book or author was in hand, more especially on account of the exceptional excess of four-letter words.

PSM V60 D111 Plot of writing characteristics of all shakespeare works.png

Fig. 4. Shakespeare—two groups, about 200,000 Words each.

The characteristic curve of Bacon was developed along with that of Shakespeare and was based on his 'Henry VII.’ the 'Advancement of Learning' and a large number of his shorter essays, the total number of words being nearly 200,000.

Besides these, extensive counting was done from the writings of Ben Jonson, Addison, Milton, Beaumont and Fletcher, Christopher Marlowe, Goldsmith and Lord Lytton and small groups from a few more modern authors. It is possible, here, to give only general conclusions and to exhibit the diagrams of the more important and interesting results.

One of the first questions likely to be raised is, when an author writes both prose and poetry, will the two styles of composition follow the same general law and show the same characteristic curves? Unfortunately it is not possible to answer this as completely as could be desired, as no one has written enough in two or more different styles, as prose, poetry, history, essay, drama, etc., to produce normal characteristic diagrams. Several of the authors above named were examined with this point in view, and while some of them exhibited somewhat different curves in play writing and in essay or serious prose composition

PSM V60 D111 Plot of writing characteristics of shakespeare poetry vs prose.png

Fig. 5. Shakespeare——Poetry. . . . Prose.

in every case any marked peculiarity found in one style was also found in the other. A good example of this is shown in the two Shakespeare curves of Fig. 5. The continuous line is based on his 'Rape of Lucrece' and ’Venus and Adonis,' while the broken line is his normal curve in play writing.

It will be noted that the Shakespearean peculiarity of an excessive use of four letter words is shown in the same degree in both and that while there are apparent differences of considerable magnitude the curves are really strikingly alike, every bend in on having a correspond-