In 1901 T. C. Mendenhall, in one of the earliest studies of its kind, concluded that the frequency distribution of words of different length in the works of Shakespeare were so consistently different from those of Bacon, that it was very unlikely that works attributed to the former could have been written by the latter. It is here shown that in the writings of Sir Philip Sidney, a contemporary of the above, the differences in word-length distribution between his prose and his verse are very close indeed to those found between Bacon's prose and Shakespeare's verse. Thus the differences that Mendenhall found can be more simply explained by a difference of literary presentation. Mendenhall was misled in his conclusions by classifying Shakespeare's plays as ‘prose’.

Author notes

* Present address: 8, The Crofts, Kirkcudbright.