Friday, May 25, 2007

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night ...


"He never wrote an invitation to dinner without an eye on posterity." -- Benjamin Disraeli.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a prolific novelist with a reputation for ornate wretchedness (Pelham, 1828; The Last Days of Pompeii, 1834; Eugene Aram, 1832), and a Liberal-turned-Tory member of Parliament, was born on this day in 1803 in London.

Although the gods of literature might have been content to leave Bulwer-Lytton to obscurity, Charles Schulz brought him into the 20th century pop culture fold, appropriating the first lines of Bulwer-Lytton's ponderous novel Paul Clifford (1830) ("It was a dark and stormy night . . .") for the beagle Snoopy's various attempts at novel-writing. The English Department of San Jose State University sponsors an annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for bad opening lines, and Tim Burton chose Bulwer-Lytton's estate at Knebworth as the setting for "stately Wayne manor" in Batman. Whatever you may aspire to in your own writing, just hope they don't remember you better for your house than for your written works.


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