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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/142

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138
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

cause for surprise that Shaler's 'Armada Days,' composed 'in the spirit and style of the Elizabethan Age,' should yield a word-curve resembling that of Shakespeare's plays.

Seeing that the assumption that word-curves vary according to the composition employed accounts for nearly everything which had been attributed to personal characteristics of the authors, and that it also explains so much which is inexplicable on the opposite assumption, I

PSM V65 D142 Word curves of composition by theme.png
Fig. 4. Two 5,000 Word-curves (after Mendenhall) from John Stuart Mill. (A) 'Political Economy,' (B) 'Essay on Liberty.' Fig. 5. Three 10,000 Word-curves of Fiction (after Mendenhall). (A) Dickens's 'Oliver Twist,' (B) Thackeray's 'Vanity Fair,' (C) Dickens's 'Christmas Carol.'

sought for a way to test it. But how? According to Dr. Mendenhall, 'no one has written enough in two or three different styles, as prose, poetry, history, essay, drama, etc., to produce normal characteristic diagrams.' This, if true, would exclude any positive test of our hypothesis, but a moment's reflection convinced me that the assumption is entirely unwarranted. Goethe has among his prose works alone, volumes each of drama, biography, fiction, travel, science, criticism and correspondence. Schiller, too, has written far to exceed 100,000 words each of prose, drama and history. And what about Voltaire with his seven volumes of drama, eleven of history, seven of essays, ten of philosophy and eighteen of correspondence, besides several others of poetry, romance, science and commentaries; or George Sand or Lamartine with their libraries of books written in various forms of composition? Our own Dryden, also, has written of essays and prose dramas each more than sufficient to furnish a normal word-curve from each.

Here then was sufficient material to demonstrate the truth or falsity of our hypothesis, if only means could be found to carry out the work. Dr. Mendenhall convinced himself that no less than 100,000 words are necessary to yield an invariable curve, and it would evidently require several such curves to furnish any safe ground for induction. But the examination of several hundred thousand words, allowing but two hours for the tabulation and classification per thousand, would require a greater sacrifice of time than other duties would