Found on Wikipedia: Edward Bulwer-Lytton

>> Friday, November 5, 2010

Continuing my promised "Found on Wikipedia" series, today's find is the article about The Right Honorable Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton PC (25 May 1803 – 18 January 1873), Queen Victoria's Secretary of State for the Colonies and, more famously, the author namesake of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, San Jose State University's annual competition which "challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels." Bulwer-Lytton is responsible for the famous opener, "It was a dark and stormy night" in his novel Paul Clifford:

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.

"It was a dark and stormy night" was of course Snoopy's favorite opening line while sitting at his typewriter, and was co-opted by Madeleine L'Engle for the first line of A Wrinkle in Time. But, according to Wikipedia, Bulwer-Lytton was responsible for even more venerable chestnuts...

He coined the phrases "the great unwashed", "pursuit of the almighty dollar", "the pen is mightier than the sword", and the famous opening line "It was a dark and stormy night".

But wait, there's more! Check out these other interesting facts about Bulwer-Lytton--again, all from the Wikipedia article:

Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton PC (25 May 1803 – 18 January 1873), was an English politician, poet, playwright, and prolific novelist. He was immensely popular with the reading public and wrote a stream of bestselling novels which earned him a considerable fortune.

Bulwer-Lytton reached the height of his popularity with the publication of Godolphin (1833). This was followed by The Pilgrims of the Rhine (1834), The Last Days of Pompeii (1834), Rienzi, Last of the Roman Tribunes (1835), and Harold, the Last of the Saxons (1848). The Last Days of Pompeii was inspired by Karl Briullov's painting, The Last Day of Pompeii, which Bulwer-Lytton saw in Milan.

He also wrote the horror story The Haunted and the Haunters or The House and the Brain (1859).

Bulwer-Lytton penned many other works, including The Coming Race or Vril: The Power of the Coming Race (1871), which drew heavily on his interest in the occult and contributed to the birth of the science fiction genre. Its story of a subterranean race waiting to reclaim the surface of the Earth is an early science fiction theme. The book popularised the Hollow Earth theory and may have inspired Nazi mysticism. His term "vril" lent its name to Bovril meat extract.

Absolutely awesome. Have fun with that one...


Michael Kline November 5, 2010 at 8:15 AM  

Great post! I feel a little smarter today. Now, if I can just remember his name in conversation...

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