Charles Dickens at 200

By the author of "It was a dark and stormy night"

Paul Clifford title page Paul Clifford chapter 1

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Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton was a popular novelist, playwright, journalist, politician, and friend of Charles Dickens, who named his youngest child for him. Lytton's A Strange Story was serialized during a six-month period in All the Year Round, commencing on August 10, 1861. It begins:

In the year 18__ I settled as physician at one of the wealthiest of our great English towns, which I will designate by the initial L____.

Bulwer-Lytton is much better known, even notorious, for the beginning of his novel Paul Clifford, first published in 1830:

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 house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

Thus, Bulwer-Lytton is now known as a practitioner of "purple prose." Since 1982 the English Department at San Jose State University has sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.

Paul Clifford. By Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Boston: Joseph Knight Company [1893]


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