“It was a dark and stormy night" - Edward Bulwer-Lytton's 210th Birthday in 2013

25 March 1803, 210 years, novelist, playwright and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton was born in London

“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.” (Bulwer-Lytton, “Paul Clifford”, 1830)

Henry William Pickersgill: “Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton” (1831)

Probably best known today as an author of early Victorian fiction that fails to please today’s refined tastes and the man who wrote the book behind the various “Last Days of Pompeii” sandal movies, Bulwer-Lytton wrote a variety of fiction in his day, ranging from historical fiction, the occult and science fiction up to fictionalising the Hollow Earth theory that became a much cherished myth among subsequent authors of the fantastic genre as well as various secret societies. Some of them even claimed Bulwer-Lytton as one of their own to be always met with disdain during his lifetime.

Hablot Knight Browne "Phiz": "A Caricature of Edward Bulwer Lytton" (1840)

Bulwer-Lytton coined phrases like the  "the great unwashed","the pen is mightier than the sword" and "pursuit of the almighty dollar" (the term “almighty dollar” was invented by Washington Irving 20 years before though), probably responsible, too, for labelling the Germans "Das Volk der Dichter und Denker“ (people of poets and thinkers), and, being born in a well-off family but cut off from his allowance by his mother for marrying an Irish village beauty, made a living on his own, as author as well as a politician, the latter role gaining him a peerage in 1868. The marriage itself ended in estrangement and divorced Rosina did her best to make his life a living hell, from publishing a novel satirising her husband to live-long slandering. When her letters were found and published, her grandson commented it was like “opening a drawer full of dead wasps. Their venom is now powerless to hurt, but they still produce a shudder“. Following up from Charles Schulz’s idea to have Snoopy write novels inspired by Bulwer-Lytton’s entry “It was a dark and stormy night”, Professor Scott E. Rice, English Department of San Jose State University, came up with the idea to "to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels" – the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, held to this day.

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