A recent statistical study arguing for a Baconian contribution to Shakespeare's works has made me think about this again. The prudent and proper response is, "Is that so, any of the good bits?", for, after all, Shakespeare is uneven. Excellent in very many places, but quite ordinary in others.

But there are further questions arising. Why did the Baconian hypothesis generate such a head of steam in the 19th Century and fade in the 20th? One answer to this is that the Victorians read a lot of both Shakespeare and Bacon, and noticed some degree of similarity of thought and language. Whether that resemblance is significant of authorship or only the result of common sources is clearly arguable, and statistics may help here, though with relatively small samples one has doubts. But taken on its own, and without other empirical bracing, the nineteenth century readerly intuition of similarity is valuable evidence. It has been plausible to readers very familiar with both that Bacon was involved in the writing of some parts at least of the works of Shakespeare. That intuition faded in the 20th Century not, perhaps, because the hypothesis was discredited, but because even highly educated readers were not nearly as familiar with Bacon as they were in the previous century, and may not, though one hesitates to say this, be particularly careful readers of Shakespeare.