Nicholas Lezard looks at a new scientific “formula” that can, it is claimed, identify a given author’s stylistic “fingerprint”: the key, it appears, is “the frequency with which authors use new words.” Lezard is not impressed:
For any reasonably well-read person should be able to tell whether a text is by Hardy, Melville or Lawrence almost at a glance even if they haven't read it before. . . . Do you remember when, years ago, some dismal piece of doggerel (which began, as I recall, with the lines "Shall I die?/Shall I fly?") was, on the basis of word-frequency, claimed to be a hitherto undiscovered work by Shakespeare? A few people were impolite enough to point out that it was far too shit for Shakespeare to have written, but on the whole news agencies and those with a tin ear for poetry went along with the assertion. It even made it into an edition of his collected works, but I think now has been quietly dropped.