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Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (May 25, 1803 - January 18, 1873) was an English novelist and playwright.

A prolific novelist in his day, he is now almost forgotten, his name living on in the annual Bulwer-Lytton contest, in which contestants have to supply the openings of terrible (imaginary) novels. This was inspired by his novel Paul Clifford, which opens with the famous words,

"It was a dark and stormy night"

or to give the sentence in its full glory:

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

The opening phrase was popularized by the Peanuts comic strip: Snoopy would often begin with it at the typewriter. Winners in the contest capture the rapid changes in point of view, the florid language, and the atmosphere of the full sentence.

Novels:

  • Paul Clifford (1830)
  • Zanoni (1842)
  • A Strange Story (1862)
  • The Last Days of Pompeii
  • The Coming Race - In this novel, Bulwer-Lytton invented the word `Vril[?]', which was later adopted by groups such as the Theosophists, and even inspired the name of the beef extract Bovril

Plays:

  • Richelieu

Quotations

  • "You speak as one who fed on poetry." Richelieu. Act i. Sc. vi.
  • "Beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword." Richelieu Act ii. Sc. ii.

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