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Estimating the Evidence
Episode 1: On Ages and Pages

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[Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of 23 essays summarizing and evaluating Book of Mormon-related evidence from a Bayesian statistical perspective. See the FAQ at the end of the introductory episode for details on methodology.]

 

The TLDR

It seems unlikely that a young man of Joseph Smith’s limited education could produce a book the length of the Book of Mormon as a first-time author.

Joseph Smith is a definite outlier among the nineteenth-century’s great authors, even without considering the extraordinary content of the book itself. The estimated probability that someone of Joseph Smith’s age and education would publish a book the size of the Book of Mormon as their first work is p = .0006.

Evidence Score = 3 (beliefs adjusted 3 orders of magnitude toward authenticity)

 

The Narrative

Imagine yourself on a dark, cold night in New England, 1835. Your hearth dances with faint light from a dying fire, and you huddle next to it with a thick wool blanket, trying to keep warm. As you stare at the coals you find your eyes wandering to a Bible, open on the table to where you’d last been reading. Dust skirts the wrinkles of the paper, catching the light from the fire. You turn away quickly, the edge of your cheek twitching with the hint of a grimace.

As you sit, a muffled knock works its way through the heavy wood of the cabin door. A moment’s silence hangs in the air, and you hope that silence will keep, but the knock repeats—a more desperate knock this time.

"What is it?" you yell out grumpily toward the door. "You picked a cold night for visiting."

The voice of a young man responds with deference. "My apologies. I was told in the village that you had an interest in rare and unusual books. I have one that I think you might like to see."

Your eye edges again to the Bible on the table, and your exhaling breath turns to an audible sigh. "You’re mistaken, young sir. I’m not in the habit of entertaining booksellers on my doorstep, let alone at this late hour."

"Please", the voice says, quieter this time. "The night is cold, and I have no friends in this place. If you would allow me to warm myself by the fire a moment, it would help speed me on the road back to town."

You take another moment before pulling yourself off your hard wooden chair. You pull the door open and do your best to put on a more welcoming face. "Thank you", the young man says, though a creeping baldness at the edges of his dark hair tells you he’s not as young as he sounds. You move another chair by the fire and motion him to sit. He does, his eyes grateful. "The Lord bless you for your kindness."

You keep your eyes on him as he watches the coals, rubbing the chill from his hands. He doesn’t seem as keen to talk as a bookseller might be. "Well then," you say, "as long as you’re here you might as well pull out that book."

He looks back at you almost in surprise, but dutifully moves his stiff hands to his satchel. Those hands pull out a book, small but thick, its cover red in the light of the fire. You can’t quite read the title in the dim light. "And what is that?" You ask.

"This," he says, "is the Book of Mormon."

The words hold no meaning for you, but you listen as he tells you about the book. He says that it’s a volume of scripture, one that tells of the ancient inhabitants of the American continent and their visit by Christ following his resurrection. He says that the book is evidence that God has called a new prophet—a modern Moses—to restore the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth.

You can’t help but let out a chuckle at that last part. This Joe Smith wouldn’t be the first rabble-rousing prophet you’d heard of, and he wouldn’t be the last. Still, none of them had a book like this. You take the book in your hands, running your fingers the length of the spine. You open it and flip through the pages—hundreds of them filled with a tightly packed script. You know that writing such a thing would be no mean feat.

You close the book and face the young man, who you know can see your skepticism. “This Smith fellow, how old was he when this book was published?”

He eyes turn upward in thought. “That was five years ago now, which would have made him 24.”

“And where was he educated? Harvard? Princeton?”

The young man’s head gives a shake, and a laugh comes with it. “If you had ever seen him write you wouldn’t have asked. He saw enough school to learn his letters, but he didn’t learn them very well.”

“Hmm,” you say, continuing to run your fingers along the book’s spine. “I suppose it does seem unlikely that a young man with so little schooling could have written something like this.”

 

The Introduction

That last statement is the sort of thing I could imagine anyone saying to themselves the first time they encounter the Book of Mormon. Those that early missionaries approached on the American frontier certainly thought similar things. Judging by the arguments they make, many critics of the Book of Mormon think it rather strongly. Its why so many have searched for so long (and so unsuccessfully) for someone else on whom they can pin the book’s authorship. And phrased as it is above, I think it’s something everyone on all sides should be able to agree on—it does seem unlikely. The question is, is it actually unlikely, and how unlikely is it?

That’s a big question. I’m only going to tackle a part of that question here, and it’s the most basic part. Given Joseph’s age and education, how unexpected would it be for him to write a book the length of the Book of Mormon, with no prior history of publication (or of, you know, coherent and well-worded letters). As hopefully you know by now, given the introductory episode, we’re going to use Bayesian analysis to help answer that question.

Now, to clarify, when I talk about “length,” I mean it literally—we’re going to base our analysis on the word count within the Book of Mormon and within other nineteenth-century works—but I also mean something more than that. The Book of Mormon is much more than just a large collection of words. It’s a complex web of history, narrative, and sermon that gives it a deserved place in literature’s great epics. That narrative complexity is much more difficult to quantify than word count, but it’s a point on which few seriously contend, and it’s worth noting as we leave that complexity behind to focus on its raw size.

 

The Analysis

I know this is the first episode where I actually get into some Bayesian analysis, but I really recommend taking a glance at my FAQ in the introductory episode before you go much further. It should help you get your bearings on the type of analysis I’m trying to do here and what all these terms and formulas mean. I also know that no one ever clicks on links, so I’m going to try to take things slow here, but you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

First, we have to think clearly about the evidence we have at hand—in this case, the sheer size of the Book of Mormon along with Joseph’s age and education at the time it was published.

The Evidence

The Book of Mormon is about 268,163 words long, taking up 531 (very dense) pages in its current edition. You’re not likely to get through it in a breezy afternoon reading session. It was also the first written work he ever produced, which is relevant given that most authors have early projects that prepare them for their eventual masterpieces. Joseph Smith’s magnum opus came out of nowhere and, aside from scattered revelations (including the Joseph Smith Translation), sermons, and the relatively brief Book of Abraham, his writing career ended almost as quickly. We could potentially account for these additional works in his word count, but what we’re most interested in here is the debut production of an author. Similar analyses could be done for other aspects of an authors’ writings, such as lifetime composition, but that would be unlikely to help the critics’ case, given how unique Joseph’s writing career is in that regard. We’ll keep it simple and stick with the Book of Mormon itself.

The publication of the Book of Mormon was completed when Joseph Smith was 24, though its dictation took place when he was 23. We’ll go with 24 just for the sake of argument, though. It’s commonly claimed that Joseph Smith had three years of formal education, and if we’re trying to align it with an equivalent public school education today, that’s probably not far off. If we’re trying to be technical about it, though, there were seven distinct years in which he received some sort of schooling, including a season in high school when he was 20. We’ll stick with seven years of education for this particular analysis.

If you’re interested in a more in-depth discussion of additional literary characteristics (e.g., reading level; lifetime composition) of the works attributed to Joseph Smith, this one by Brian Hales is a fantastic place to start.

So that’s the evidence as we seem to have it, and on which reasonable people can likely agree. Now, what explanations do we have for that evidence?

The Hypotheses

Joseph Smith as author of the text—According to this theory, Joseph Smith was the sole author of the text and, having produced it, should be considered among the great literary talents of the nineteenth century.

The Book of Mormon as an authentic ancient text—If this theory is correct, Joseph Smith was not the author of the Book of Mormon. The book was instead written by two-dozen authors over a period of a thousand years, and was edited and abridged by an ancient scribe who made doing so his life’s work. There would be no reason to expect the length of the Book of Mormon to align with nineteenth-century literary works.

In addition to these two theories, many have made arguments over the years that some other individual, such as Sidney Rigdon, was the author of the text. Though the available primary evidence doesn’t align well with that theory (and arguments for Sidney’s authorship seem particularly weak), it would be possible to adjust my analysis for any given author by replacing Joseph’s age and education with theirs. As we’ll see, though, age and education don’t end up making much of a difference. Theories that suggest multiple nineteenth-century individuals collaborating to create the book have similar evidentiary problems, and would probably require a different analysis (comparing the Book of Mormon to other collaborative works of fiction, which might be a bit tougher to track down). I’ll be focusing this analysis on Joseph, and let others take up alternative torches if they so desire.

So, given those two competing theories and our background knowledge, how probable would we consider those hypotheses at first blush, before considering any of the evidence?

Prior Probabilities

*Note: If we were doing a complete Bayesian analysis, we would spend more time trying to produce reasonable estimates for these values. But given that no one will ever agree on the likelihood of stuff like angels or seer stones, I’ve opted to use prior probabilities to demonstrate a type of faith journey. As we consider more evidence, both for and against the Book of Mormon, we can track how those beliefs change. Starting with a position of extreme skepticism and having the evidence alter that probability allows us to see that change in action.

PH—Prior Probability of Ancient Authorship—We start with the assumption that the probability of ancient authorship is low to the point of vanishing (1 in 1040, or p = 1.0 x 10-41).

PA—Prior Probability of the Alternative (Joseph Smith Authorship)—If we assume the probability of ancient authorship is low, then that means we’re assuming that the probability of Joseph Smith authoring the document is high (i.e., extremely close to 1, or, if you want to be a bit more precise, p = 1 – 1.0 x 10-41).

Consequent Probabilities

CH—Consequent Probability of Ancient Authorship—How likely would it be for the Book of Mormon to be its size if it was authored anciently? Well, if Joseph Smith didn’t write the Book of Mormon, then his own age and education aren’t relevant, so we can just leave those factors out. We would instead expect the length of the book to look much more like a collection of scriptural texts than a nineteenth-century work of fiction.

So how does the Book of Mormon compare to that type of collection? The Bible seems like a pretty useful reference in this case, and it makes sense to take a look at it at the level of individual books within the Bible and Book of Mormon (see Table 1 in the Appendix). The average book in the Book of Mormon has 17,989 words, which is obviously more than the Bible’s 11,943 words. However, the word count in the books of the Bible has quite a range, and the standard deviation is 12,352. That would put the Book of Mormon’s count well within a single standard deviation of the Bible’s average, which suggests that the Book of Mormon fits comfortably with what we’d expect for books of scripture.

We can go a step further, though, and estimate a more exact probability that the books of the Book of Mormon fall on the same distribution as the books of the Bible. Since the word counts of the books of the Bible and the Book of Mormon clearly don’t follow a normal distribution, that limits us a bit. But we can use a statistical test like the Independent Samples Mann-Whitney U Test to get what we need. When we conduct that particular test, the probability that the word count distribution differs between those sets of books is p = .535.

Now, that probability is likely too far on the low side—you could argue that the Book of Mormon is structured more like the Old Testament than the New (i.e., as weighted more heavily toward lengthy scribal abridgements than toward brief personal letters). If you only include the books of the Old Testament, the Book of Mormon would look even more similar to the Bible. But we’ll give the critics the benefit of the doubt and stick with our .535 value.

And that fits what would likely be our gut expectation here—if we had a volume of ancient scripture like the Book of Mormon, it wouldn’t be guaranteed to be the size the Book of Mormon actually is, but that sort of length wouldn’t be unexpected by any stretch.

CA—Consequent Probability of Modern Authorship—Now how likely would it be for the Book of Mormon to be its size if it was the product of a single nineteenth-century author of Joseph Smith’s age and education? To figure that out we have to take a close look at some other nineteenth-century authors. I’m not the first to do so, but there may be a few things I can add to what’s come before.

To do that, I relied on this handy Wikipedia list of prominent literary works produced in each decade going back to 1500. It provides a useful sample of highly respected authors within Joseph Smith’s timeframe and, sure enough, Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon are right there on the list. I took the 116 authors with works published between 1800 and 1860 and used their individual Wikipedia entries (supplemented by Encyclopedia Britannica, when necessary) to keep track of three things: how old they were when they published their first fictional work (of greater than 50 pages), how long that work was (in pages), and how many years of formal education they received (see Table 2 in the appendix).

Now, there are some limitations there to keep in mind. Because I was working with page counts rather than word counts, it was important to get a comparable page count for the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon’s pages are quite a bit denser than the average book. If it did have the average number of words per page (which readinglength.com calculates at about 306) it would have 876 pages instead of 531. I also didn’t have precise publication dates for the books, which meant I calculated age at publication by subtracting the birth year from the publication year for each author. Education was tricky as well—some entries didn’t include exact information on formal schooling (particularly for the female authors). I picked the lowest number of years I could justify based on the information available.

All told, it was a horrifically interesting Wiki-binge. A couple things stood out pretty clearly by the end. First, 24 is young for a first-time author, but not horrendously young, and even turned out to be the modal age. The average age at publication was 30, but there were some as young as 16. (In all of the following charts, the red bars indicate where Joseph and the Book of Mormon fall in the distribution of data.)

Second, many of the authors were university educated, and those who weren’t had the benefit of extensive private tutoring. None of them could be plausibly labeled as a country bumpkin. Even those with more spotty education were described as voracious readers as children and were recognized early for their precocious talents (very much in contrast to Joseph Smith). For those with private tutoring, I assumed (conservatively) they had the equivalent of a sixth-grade education.

It’s important to keep in mind, too, that the primary argument about Joseph Smith’s education isn’t that he was too uneducated to write a book. It’s that he didn’t have the very specific education required to produce some of the book’s more impressive (and ancient) literary features. Demonstrating that some other prominent authors had even less education than he did does nothing to counter that argument.

And if we just look at page counts, Joseph Smith is clearly exceptional as a first-time author. Only one comes close to matching his output, and that’s the incomparable Charles Dickens, who seemed to do little else other than write his brain to pieces. I should note, though, that Dickens was about the same age as Joseph at the time his first novel was published, and himself had an atrocious education.

Now, before any critics get too excited, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. Dickens was one of those precociously talented, voracious readers mentioned above. He also wrote his first novel in monthly installments as a serial, being paid for each installment, over a span of 20 months. That may sound quick, but it’s got nothing on Joseph’s 65 working days. Dickens was exceptional in his own right, in part due to a medium that incentivized producing a ton of material. I wouldn’t use him as proof that Joseph could’ve written the Book of Mormon.

Once I had that lovely little dataset, though, I used a form of outlier analysis using a measure called the Mahalanobis Distance to estimate how likely it is that Joseph Smith belonged in the group of nineteenth-century literary masters. When I conduct this sort of analysis in my research, I’m generally looking to see if there are any odd ducks in my data—anything that doesn’t seem to “fit” with the rest of what I’m looking at. The analysis shows me the probability that a particular case belongs to the same distribution of data as the rest of the cases in the dataset. Usually, if that probability is less than 1 in 1000, I’ll toss it aside so it doesn’t mess up the rest of my analyses.

All told, Joseph is a clear outlier. He was younger than average, had substantially less education than average, and, taking all that into account, produced a work far larger than anyone would have guessed. He had a Mahalanobis Distance of 17.5, which, when plugged into a chi-square test with three degrees of freedom (for the number of variables in the analysis), reveals a probability of p = .00055. In other words, we would expect about 55 in 100,000 first-time authors of his age and education to publish a work with the length of the Book of Mormon.

For those who are curious, there was only one other actual outlier in the analysis, but he was an outlier for a different reason. Johann David Wyss wrote his first novel, The Swiss Family Robinson, at the ripe age of 69. If you take out Joseph Smith, then Dickens himself becomes an outlier with a probability of p = .0002, but he makes somewhat less of a splash (p = .001) in a world where the Book of Mormon exists. None of our other candidates even comes close to being an outlier.

(And if it seems like it would be possible to fiddle with the analysis and change the results depending on which books we included, you’re right—it would. Which is why it’s important that I’m not hand-picking—or, if you prefer, cherry picking—which books make it in and which don’t. Basing my sample on Wikipedia entries helps avoid that kind of tom-foolery.)

We can do some further analyses to get a sense of which of those three characteristics—education, age, and length—are contributing most to Joseph’s outlier status. We can remove each of those variables from the analysis, one at a time, and see what happens to the probability when we do. As we might expect from the figures above, removing education and age doesn’t change much—in fact, the probability gets lower (p = .00016 and .00031 respectively). That means the Book of Mormon’s length is what’s setting it apart as an outlier. When we remove length from the analysis, it doesn’t seem like much of an outlier at all (p = .65). It turns out that considering his age and education actually worked a little in favor of the critics, which is a bit surprising given how often the faithful tend to play those things up.

Overall, however, it still seems quite unlikely that any nineteenth-century author would have produced a book with the length of the Book of Mormon as a first-time work. And my estimate, again, is a conservative one—the real probability is probably even lower than that. The power to detect outliers increases as the sample size increases, so odds are good the probability would decrease further if I considered more authors.

Posterior Probability

So what does all this mean for our beliefs about the Book of Mormon? Now we get to plug all those values into Bayes’ formula and see what happens:

PH = Prior Probability of the Hypothesis (1 in 1040 chance of ancient authenticity, or p = 1.0 x 10-41)
CH = Consequent Probability of the Hypothesis (the probability of an ancient collection of records being as long as the Book of Mormon, or p = .535)
PA = Prior Probability of the Alternate Hypothesis (1 – 1.0 x 10-41 chance of Joseph Smith as author, a very very high initial estimate)
CA = Consequent Probability of the Alternate Hypothesis (our estimate of the probability of a first-time nineteenth-century author publishing a book as long as the Book of Mormon, given his education and age, or p = .00055)
PostProb = Posterior Probability (the new probability of Book of Mormon authenticity)

PH = 1.0 x 10-41
PostProb = PH * CH
(PH * CH) + (PA * CA)
PostProb = 1.0 x 10-41 * .535
(1.0 x 10-41 * .535) + ((1-1.0 x 10-41) * .00055))
PostProb = 9.99 x 10-39

We can also calculate the “likelihood magnitude,” or an estimate of how many orders of magnitude the probability changes when we consider this evidence.

Lmag = Likelihood Magnitude (an estimate of the number of orders of magnitude that the probability will shift, due to the evidence)

Lmag = log10(CH/CA)

Lmag = log10(.535/.00055)

Lmag = log10(972)

Lmag = 3

 

Conclusion

It may not look like much happened there. At first glance, you might think that we started with an incredibly small probability of an authentic Book of Mormon and ended up with an incredibly small probability of an authentic Book of Mormon. But after reviewing the evidence, our extreme skeptic would have increased his estimate of an authentic Book of Mormon almost a thousand-fold—a change of about three orders of magnitude. If we were dealing with someone less skeptical—say, someone who gave the Book of Mormon only a 1 in 100 chance of being ancient, just the length of the Book of Mormon alone could be enough to move them to over 90 in 100 odds that it was ancient. That’s not nothing. And that’s all before we even consider what’s actually in the book, or even how the book was translated.

Did I just use Wikipedia to prove that the Book of Mormon is ancient? No. It would be very easy for the actual content of the Book of Mormon to betray itself as a fraud. This is just one piece of a very large corpus of evidence, both scholarly and less so. But it shows how it would be reasonable for someone to pick up the Book of Mormon and get the sense that they should take it seriously. It sets the first block in a foundation of reasoned skepticism—not skepticism of the church’s truth claims (there’s plenty of that to go around), but a skepticism that questions the claim that the Book of Mormon is a modern artifact of nineteenth-century origin.

 

Skeptic’s Corner

Just so I don’t give you the impression that my analyses are law, with each essay I’ll be taking a minute to more explicitly play the role of skeptic, discussing aspects that I think could be improved or that deserve a bit more investigation. In this case, if I was a critic, I’d wonder how the Book of Mormon stacked up against twentieth- and twenty-first-century authors, to know whether Joseph is still an outlier in that context. It’d also be useful to get a sample of amateur rather than professional authors—perhaps the book’s length could be attributable to his lack of taste or his unrefined literary sensibilities (though whether that supposition would line up with the book’s other qualities is a separate question). And of course, using actual word counts instead of estimated page counts would be helpful as well.

It’s worth noting, too, that considering things like reading level or lifetime composition has a real shot at making this type of evidence much, much stronger. It seems very unusual for someone to have produced so much by the age of 24 and then to write little else to compare to it. It wouldn’t take much to statistically compare authors’ lifetime trajectory of work, similar to how Brian Hales plotted them in his Interpreter article, but we’ll leave such questions for another time (or for others to tackle at their convenience).

 

Next Time, in Episode 2:

Next week, our skeptic will encounter Joseph’s multiple accounts of the First Vision, and we’ll estimate the probability of producing highly disparate and even contradictory accounts when telling a story years apart in different settings.

Questions, ideas, and sharp objects can be flung in the direction of BayesianBoM@gmail.com or submitted as comments below.

 

Appendix

Table 1. Scriptural Word Counts

Number Book Word Count
1 Genesis 38262
2 Exodus 32685
3 Leviticus 24541
4 Numbers 32896
5 Deuteronomy 28352
6 Joshua 18854
7 Judges 18966
8 Ruth 2574
9 1 Sam 25048
10 2 Sam 20600
11 1 Kings 24513
12 2 Kings 23517
13 1 Chron 20365
14 2 Chron 26069
15 Ezra 7440
16 Nehemiah 10480
17 Esther 5633
18 Job 18098
19 Psalms 42704
20 Proverbs 15038
21 Ecclesiastes 5579
22 Song of Solomon 2658
23 Isaiah 37036
24 Jeremiah 42654
25 Lamentations 3411
26 Ezekiel 39401
27 Daniel 11602
28 Hosea 5174
29 Joel 2033
30 Amos 4216
31 Obadiah 669
32 Jonah 1320
33 Micah 3152
34 Nahum 1284
35 Habukk 1475
36 Zephen 1616
37 Haggai 1130
38 Zechariah 6443
39 Malachi 1781
40 Matthew 23343
41 Mark 14949
42 Luke 25640
43 John 18658
44 Acts 24229
45 Romans 9422
46 1 Cor 9462
47 2 Cor 6046
48 Galatians 3084
49 Ephesians 3022
50 Phillip 2183
51 Collos 1979
52 1 Thess 1837
53 2 Thess 1022
54 1 Tim 2244
55 2 Tim 1666
56 Titus 896
57 Philem 430
58 Hebrews 6897
59 James 2304
60 1 Peter 2476
61 2 Peter 1553
62 1 John 2517
63 2 John 298
64 3 John 294
65 Jude 608
66 Revelation 11952
B01 1 Nephi 26498
B02 2 Nephi 30789
B03 Jacob 9476
B04 Enos 1209
B05 Jarom 773
B06 Omni 1468
B07 Words of Mormon 889
B08 Mosiah 32408
B09 Alma 88358
B10 Helaman 12288
B11 3 Nephi 30060
B12 4 Nephi 2036
B13 Mormon 9865
B14 Ether 17271
B15 Moroni 6454



Table 2. Early 19th Century Authors

Author Book Years of Formal Schooling Age at Publication Pages Comments
Joseph Smith Book of Mormon 7 24 876
Maria Edgeworth Castle Rackrent 7 32 176
Friedrich Schiller Die Rauber 13 22 168
Walter Scott Waverly 14 43 528
Francois Rene de Cautaubriand Atala 10 33 160
Germaine de Stael Could not locate.
Jane Porter Thaddeus of Warsaw 26 267 No mention of formal education, but would have been tutored extensively.
Jean Paul Gronlandische Prozesse 6 20 212
Charles Brockden Brown Alcuin 6 27 106
Elizabeth Helme Louisa; or the Cottage on the Moor 34 286 No mention of formal education, but would have been tutored extensively.
William Blake Did not produce novel-length works
Jean-Baptiste Cousin de Grainville Le Dernier Homme 10 59 400
Elizabeth Meeke Count St. Blancard 34 100 No mention of formal education, but would have been tutored extensively.
Heinrick von Kleist Die Familie Schroffenstein 9 26 114
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Gotz von Berlichingen 13 24 130
Percy Bysshe Shelley Zastrozzi 13 18 138
Regina Maria Roche The Maid of the Hamlet: A Tale 29 256 No mention of formal education, but would have been tutored extensively.
Lord Byron Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage 15 23 128
Jane Austen Sense and Sensibility 3 36 368
Johann David Wyss Swiss Family Robinson 10 69 496
Carles Robert Maturin The Fatal Revenge 10 27 448
René-Charles Guilbert de Pixérécourt Could not locate.
William Wordsworth The Borderers 15 27 140
E.T.A. Hoffmann Fantasiestücke in Callots Manier 11 38 220
Benjamin Constant Adolphe 6 49 128
Mary Shelley Frankenstein 21 288 No mention of formal education, but would have been tutored extensively.
Washington Irving Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle 12 19 67
Alexander Pushkin Ruslan and Ludmila 10 21 134
Thomas De Quincey Confessions of an English Opium Eater 7 37 352
Clement Clarke Moore Did not produce novel-length works
Alexander Griboyedov Woe From Wit 12 28 204
James Fenimore Cooper Precaution 11 31 317
Mary Russell Mitford Watlington Hill 5 25 54
Alessandro Manzoni Il Conte di Carmagnola 12 34 142
Alfred de Vigny Éloa, ou La Sœur des Anges 11 27 62
Jane C. Loudon The Mummy! 20 340
Heinrich Heine Gedichte 11 24 64
John James Audubon Did not publish fiction.
Thomas Love Peacock 6 30 112
Stendhal Armance 7 44 170
Victor Hugo Han d’Islande 8 21 332
John Richardson Tecumseh 32 144
Carl von Clausewitz Vom Kriege 3 50 142
Nikolai Gogol Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka 8 22 190
Honoré de Balzac Les Chouans 10 30 204
Edgar Allen Poe The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket 11 29 288
Alexis de Tocqueville De la démocratie en Amérique (Vol. 1) 12 30 270
Karel Hynek Mácha Maj 15 25 100
Mikhail Lermontov A Hero of Our Time 9 25 208
Charles Dickens The Pickwick Papers 8 24 848
Charles Darwin The Voyage of the Beagle 10 30 448
Taras Shevchenko Kobzar 13 26 452
Richard Henry Dana Jr. Two Years Before the Mast 13 25 190
John Ruskin The King of the Golden River 7 22 52
Thomas Babington Macaulay Lays of Ancient Rome 12 42 148
Hans Christian Andersen Did not produce novel-length works.
Søren Kierkegaard Did not produce novel length works.
William Harrison Ainsworth Rookwood 12 29 430
Alexandre Dumas Captain Paul 36 108 "Did not have much of an education."
Domingo Faustino Sarmiento Facundo 5 34 288
Benjamin Disraeli Vivian Grey 11 22 348
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Hyperion 14 32 158
Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre 7 31 492
Emily Brontë Wuthering Heights 3 29 416
Frederick Marryat The Naval Officer 37 288 "Son of a merchant prince and member of parliament", so it’s likely he was well educated.
Anne Brontë Agnes Grey 4 26 192
Charles Kingsley Yeast 17 29 184
William Makepeace Thackeray The Memoirs of Mr. C. J. Yellow-Plush 14 26 474
Francis Parkman The Oregon Trail 16 24 178
Robert Browning Paracelsus 4 23 104
Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter 15 46 148
George Borrow The Zincali 12 38 296
Elizabeth Gaskell Mary Barton 6 38 464
Herman Melville Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life 7 27 368
Ivan Turgenev Rudin 18 39 88
Harriet Beecher Stowe Uncle Tom’s Cabin 15 41 266
Matthew Arnold The Strayed Reveller, and Other Poems 10 27 68
Charlotte Mary Yonge Abbeychurch 21 268 Educated at home by her father studying latin, greek, french, Euclid, and algebra. Educated until she was 20.
Henry David Thoreau A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers 14 32 368
Walt Whitman Franklin Evans 5 23 208
Bozena Nemcova Origin (including birthdate and identity) under dispute.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning The Seraphim, and Other Poems 32 384 Educated at home and tutored.
Fitz Hugh Ludlow The Hasheesh Eater 14 21 228
Thomas Hughes Tom Brown’s Schooldays 15 35 466
Charles Baudelaire Fanfarlo 12 26 80
Gustave Flaubert Rêve d’enfer 13 16 311
George MacDonald Phantastes: A Fairie Romance for Men and Women 15 34 158
Aleksey Pisemsky Nina; The Comic Actor; An Old Man’s Sin 6 30 184 Was also tutored at home for several years. Couldn’t find his first novel, but I could find his second published a year later.
Alexander Ostrovsky Did not produce novel-length works
Ivan Goncharov A Common Story 14 35 264
George Meredith The Shaving of Shagpat 8 28 252
Wilkie Collins Iolani, or Tahiti as It Was; a Romance 5 20 250
Mary Anne Evans Adam Bede 11 30 608
Eduard Douwes Dekker Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company 3 40 352
Antanas Baranauskas Did not produce novel-length works.
Ellen Wood Danesbury House 46 298 No mention of education or tutoring.
Anthony Trollope The Macdermots of Ballycloran 5 32 364
Charles Reade Peg Woffington 16 29 106
Sheridan Le Fanu The Cock and Anchor 4 31 384 Studied law at Trinity College. Was tutored previously (though ineffectively).
Charles Warren Adams The Notting Hill Mystery 32 176 No mention of education. Couldn’t find a good page estimate for Velvet lawn, his first novel.
Nikolay Chernyshevsky What Is to Be Done? 12 35 464
Mary Elizabeth Braddon The Trail of the Serpent 25 496 "Was privately educated."
Jules Verne Un prêtre en 1839 12 19 249
Théophile Gautier Mademoiselle de Maupin 12 24 400
Jorge Isaacs Maria 9 30 336
Fyodor Dostoevsky Poor Folk 10 24 112
Lewis Carroll Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland 5 33 192
Algernon Charles Swinburne The Queen Mother and Rosamund 11 23 234
Karl Marx The Holy Family 12 27 116
Henrik Ibsen Catiline 9 22 125
Bret Harte Condensed Novels and Other Papers 7 29 332 "Formal schooling ended when he was 13"
Louisa May Alcott Moods 33 178 Tutored by her father and Henry David Thoreau
Edward Everett Hale The Brick Moon 14 47 232
R. D. Blackmore Clara Vaughan 10 39 336
Comte de Lautréamont Les Chants de Maldoror 8 18 342
Leo Tolstoy Childhood 10 24 336

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