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Jonathan Edwards and Thomas Foxcroft

Pursuing Stylometric Traces of the Editor

Michał Choiński, Jan Rybicki

Pages 141 - 158


Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) is a major figure in early American culture. Yet in spite of a plethora of studies on Edwards’s numerous religious and philosophical publications, the relationship between him and Thomas Foxcroft (1697-1769), his editor and literary agent, has yet to be extensively studied. The aim of our article is to discuss and quantitatively measure the extent of Foxcroft’s impact on Edwards’s writings. To this end, we have adopted the stylometric methodology. In our research, we conducted our analysis with two quantitative methods: word frequencies are compared between various texts using the Delta procedure; then, the “rolling classify” method is employed to look for particular traces of the editor’s signal in consecutive segments of several of Edwards’s treatises. Our main experiment, preceded by a trail that tests how divergent Edwards’s and Foxcroft’s stylometric signals are, revealed that Edwards’s late, most influential works exhibited numerous traces of his editor’s textual fingerprint. We managed to identify these fragments and in this article we study them in the context of the historical evidence on Foxcroft and Edwards’s cooperation, including their opulent correspondence. These results of our research have two consequences. The first is that we have now produced a quantitative confirmation of the extent of the collaboration between two major colonial authors. The fact that the quantitative agrees well with the historical evidence shows, secondly, that editorial traces can indeed be found with stylometry, perhaps to a greater degree than we might have anticipated.


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