Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton, PC (25 May 1803 – 18 January 1873) was an English writer and politician. He served as a Whig MP from 1831 to 1841 and a Conservative MP from 1851 to 1866. He was Secretary of State for the Colonies from June 1858 to June 1859, when he selected Richard Clement Moody to be founder of British Columbia. He was offered the Crown of Greece in 1862 after the abdication of King Otto, but declined it. He became Baron Lytton of Knebworth in 1866. His son was the statesman Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton, who served as Governor-General of India and British Ambassador to France, and wrote poetry under the pseudonym Owen Meredith. Bulwer-Lytton's literary works were highly popular; his novels earned him a fortune. He coined the phrases "the great unwashed", "pursuit of the almighty dollar", "the pen is mightier than the sword", and "dweller on the threshold". Then came a sharp decline in his reputation, so that he is known today for little more than the opening line "It was a dark and stormy night", the first seven words of his novel Paul Clifford (1830). The sardonic Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest attempts to find the "opening sentence of the worst of all possible novels".
The Lord Lytton
|Secretary of State for the Colonies|
5 June 1858 – 11 June 1859
|Prime Minister||The Earl of Derby|
|Preceded by||Lord Stanley|
|Succeeded by||The Duke of Newcastle|
Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer
25 May 1803
|Died||18 January 1873 (aged 69)|
|Political party||Whig (1831–1841)|
|Spouse(s)||Rosina Doyle Wheeler |
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Cambridge |
Trinity Hall, Cambridge
Bulwer-Lytton was born on 25 May 1803 to General William Earle Bulwer of Heydon Hall and Wood Dalling, Norfolk and Elizabeth Barbara Lytton, daughter of Richard Warburton Lytton of Knebworth House, Hertfordshire. He had two older brothers, William Earle Lytton Bulwer (1799–1877) and Henry (1801–1872), later Lord Dalling and Bulwer.
When Edward was four, his father died and his mother moved to London. He was a delicate, neurotic child and was discontented at a number of boarding schools. But he was precocious and Mr. Wallington at Baling encouraged him to publish, at the age of fifteen, an immature work, Ishmael and Other Poems.
In 1822 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, where he met John Auldjo, but shortly afterwards moved to Trinity Hall. In 1825 he won the Chancellor's Gold Medal for English verse. In the following year he took his BA degree and printed, for private circulation, a small volume of poems, Weeds and Wild Flowers.
He purchased a commission in the army in 1826, but sold it in 1829 without serving.
In August 1827, he married Rosina Doyle Wheeler (1802–1882), a famous Irish beauty, but against his mother's wishes, who withdrew his allowance, so that he was forced to work for a living. They had two children, Lady Emily Elizabeth Bulwer-Lytton (1828–1848), and (Edward) Robert Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton (1831–1891) who became Governor-General and Viceroy of British India (1876–1880).
Three years later, Rosina published Cheveley, or the Man of Honour (1839), a near-libellous fiction bitterly satirising her husband's alleged hypocrisy. In June 1858, when her husband was standing as parliamentary candidate for Hertfordshire, she indignantly denounced him at the hustings. He retaliated by threatening her publishers, withholding her allowance, and denying her access to the children. Finally he had her committed to a mental asylum, but after a public outcry, she was released a few weeks later. This incident was chronicled in her memoir, A Blighted Life (1880). She continued her attacks upon her husband's character for several years.
The death of Bulwer-Lytton's mother in 1843 greatly saddened him. His own "exhaustion of toil and study had been completed by great anxiety and grief," and by "about the January of 1844, I was thoroughly shattered". In his mother's room at Knebworth House, Bulwer-Lytton "had inscribed above the mantelpiece a request that future generations preserve the room as his beloved mother had used it." It remains essentially unchanged to this day.
On 20 February 1844, in accordance with his mother's will, he changed his surname from 'Bulwer' to 'Bulwer-Lytton' and assumed the arms of Lytton by royal licence. His widowed mother had done the same in 1811. His brothers remained plain "Bulwer".
By chance Bulwer-Lytton encountered a copy of "Captain Claridge's work on the "Water Cure", as practised by Priessnitz, at Graefenberg", and "making allowances for certain exaggerations therein", pondered the option of travelling to Graefenberg, but preferred to find something closer to home, with access to his own doctors in case of failure: "I who scarcely lived through a day without leech or potion!". After reading a pamphlet by Doctor James Wilson, who operated a hydropathic establishment with James Manby Gully at Malvern, he stayed there for "some nine or ten weeks", after which he "continued the system some seven weeks longer under Doctor Weiss, at Petersham", then again at "Doctor Schmidt's magnificent hydropathic establishment at Boppart" (at the former Marienberg Convent at Boppard), after developing a cold and fever upon his return home.
When King Otto of Greece abdicated in 1862, Bulwer-Lytton was offered the crown of Greece, which he declined. The English Rosicrucian society, founded in 1867 by Robert Wentworth Little, claimed Bulwer-Lytton as their 'Grand Patron', but he wrote to the society complaining that he was 'extremely surprised' by their use of the title, as he had 'never sanctioned such'. Nevertheless, a number of esoteric groups have continued to claim Bulwer-Lytton as their own, chiefly because some of his writings—such as the 1842 book Zanoni—have included Rosicrucian and other esoteric notions. According to the Fulham Football Club, he once resided in the original Craven Cottage, today the site of their stadium.
Bulwer-Lytton had long suffered with a disease of the ear and for the last two or three years of his life he lived in Torquay nursing his health. Following an operation to cure deafness, an abscess formed in his ear and burst; he endured intense pain for a week and died at 2am on 18 January 1873 just short of his 70th birthday. The cause of death was not clear but it was thought that the infection had affected his brain and caused a fit. Rosina outlived him by nine years. Against his wishes, Bulwer-Lytton was honoured with a burial in Westminster Abbey.
His unfinished history Athens: Its Rise and Fall was published posthumously.
Bulwer-Lytton began his career as a follower of Jeremy Bentham. In 1831 he was elected member for St Ives in Cornwall, after which he was returned for Lincoln in 1832, and sat in Parliament for that city for nine years. He spoke in favour of the Reform Bill, and took the leading part in securing the reduction, after vainly essaying the repeal, of the newspaper stamp duties. His influence was perhaps most keenly felt when, on the Whigs' dismissal from office in 1834, he issued a pamphlet entitled A Letter to a Late Cabinet Minister on the Crisis. Lord Melbourne, then Prime Minister, offered him a lordship of the admiralty, which he declined as likely to interfere with his activity as an author.
He was created a Baronet, of Knebworth House in the County of Hertford, in the Baronetage of the United Kingdom, in 1838. In 1841, he left Parliament and did not return to politics until 1852, when, having differed from the policy of Lord John Russell over the Corn Laws, he stood for Hertfordshire as a Conservative. Lord Lytton held that seat until 1866, when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Lytton of Knebworth in the County of Hertford. In 1858 he entered Lord Derby's government as Secretary of State for the Colonies, thus serving alongside his old friend Disraeli. In the House of Lords he was comparatively inactive.
When news of the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush reached London, Bulwer-Lytton, who was Secretary of State for the Colonies, requested that the War Office recommend a field officer, "a man of good judgement possessing a knowledge of mankind", to lead a Corps of 150 (later increased to 172) Royal Engineers, who had been selected for their "superior discipline and intelligence". The War Office chose Richard Clement Moody: and Lord Lytton, who described Moody as his "distinguished friend", accepted the nomination, in view of Moody's military record, his success as Governor of the Falkland Islands, and the distinguished record of his father, Colonel Thomas Moody, Knight, at the Colonial Office. Moody was charged to establish British order and to transform the newly established Colony of British Columbia (1858–66) into the British Empire's "bulwark in the farthest west" and "found a second England on the shores of the Pacific." Lytton desired to send to the colony "representatives of the best of British culture, not just a police force": he sought men who possessed "courtesy, high breeding and urbane knowledge of the world," and decided to send Moody, whom the Government considered to be the archetypal "English gentleman and British Officer." at the head of the Royal Engineers, Columbia Detachment, to whom he wrote an impassioned letter.
Bulwer-Lytton's literary career began in 1820, with the publication of a book of poems, and spanned much of the 19th century. He wrote in a variety of genres, including historical fiction, mystery, romance, the occult, and science fiction. He financed his extravagant life with a varied and prolific literary output, sometimes publishing anonymously.
In 1828 Pelham brought him public acclaim and established his reputation as a wit and dandy. Its intricate plot and humorous, intimate portrayal of pre-Victorian dandyism kept gossips busy trying to associate public figures with characters in the book. Pelham resembled Benjamin Disraeli's recent first novel Vivian Grey (1827). The character of the villainous Richard Crawford in The Disowned, also published in 1828, borrowed much from that of the banker and forger Henry Fauntleroy, who was hanged in London in 1824 before a crowd of some 100,000.
Bulwer-Lytton admired Disraeli's father, Isaac D'Israeli, himself a noted author. They began corresponding in the late 1820s and met for the first time in March 1830, when Isaac D'Israeli dined at Bulwer-Lytton's house. (Also present that evening were Charles Pelham Villiers and Alexander Cockburn. The young Villiers was to have a long parliamentary career, while Cockburn became Lord Chief Justice of England in 1859.)
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), Leila; or, The Siege of Granada (1838) 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). Another novel dealing with a supernatural theme was A Strange Story (1862), which was an influence on Bram Stoker's Dracula.
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 early growth 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. Adopted by theosophists and occultists since the 1870s, "vril" would develop into a major esoteric topic, and eventually become closely associated with the ideas of an esoteric neo-Nazism after 1945.
His play Money (1840) was first produced at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, on 8 December 1840. The first American production was at the Old Park Theater in New York on 1 February 1841. Subsequent productions include the Prince of Wales's Theatre's in 1872 and it was also the inaugural play at the new California Theatre in San Francisco in 1869.
Among Bulwer-Lytton's lesser-known contributions to literature was that he convinced Charles Dickens to revise the ending of Great Expectations to make it more palatable to the reading public, as in the original version of the novel, Pip and Estella do not get together.
Bulwer-Lytton's most famous quotation, "The pen is mightier than the sword", is from his play Richelieu where it appears in the line:
beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword
He is also credited with "the great unwashed". He used this rather disparaging term in his 1830 novel Paul Clifford:
The Last Days of Pompeii has been cited as the first source, but inspection of the original text shows this to be wrong. However, the term "the Unwashed" with the same meaning, appears in The Parisians: "He says that Paris has grown so dirty since 4 September, that it is only fit for the feet of the Unwashed." The Parisians, though, was not published until 1872, while William Makepeace Thackeray's novel Pendennis (1850) uses the phrase ironically, implying it was already established. The Oxford English Dictionary refers to "Messrs. the Great Unwashed" in Lytton's Paul Clifford (1830), as the earliest instance.
Bulwer-Lytton is also credited with an appellation for the Germans: "Das Volk der Dichter und Denker" (The people of poets and thinkers).
Also the writers of theosophy were influenced by his work. Annie Besant and especially Helena Blavatsky incorporated his thoughts and ideas from particularly The Last Days of Pompeii, Vril, the Power of the Coming Race and Zanoni in her own books.
Bulwer-Lytton's name lives on in the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, in which contestants think up terrible openings for imaginary novels, inspired by the first line of his 1830 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.
Entrants in the contest seek to capture the rapid changes in point of view, the florid language, and the atmosphere of the full sentence. The opening was popularized by the Peanuts comic strip, in which Snoopy's sessions on the typewriter usually began with It was a dark and stormy night. The same words also form the first sentence of Madeleine L'Engle's Newbery Medal-winning novel A Wrinkle in Time. Similar wording appears in Edgar Allan Poe's 1831 short story, The Bargain Lost, although not at the very beginning. It reads:
It was a dark and stormy night. The rain fell in cataracts.
Several of Bulwer-Lytton's novels were made into operas, one of which, Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen (1842) by Richard Wagner, eventually became more famous than the novel. Leonora (1846) by William Henry Fry, the first European-styled "grand" opera composed in the United States, is based on Bulwer-Lytton's play The Lady of Lyons, as is Frederic Cowen's first opera Pauline (1876). Verdi rival Errico Petrella's most successful opera, Jone (1858), was based upon Bulwer-Lytton's The Last Days of Pompeii, and was performed all over the world until the First World War. Harold, the Last of the Saxons (1848) was the source for Verdi's opera Aroldo in 1857.
In 1831 Bulwer-Lytton became the editor of the New Monthly but he resigned the following year. In 1841, he started the Monthly Chronicle, a semi-scientific magazine. During his career he wrote poetry, prose, and stage plays; his last novel was Kenelm Chillingly, which was in course of publication in Blackwood’s Magazine at the time of his death in 1873.
Bulwer-Lytton's works of fiction and non-fiction were translated in his day and since then into many languages, including Serbian (by Laza Kostic), German, Russian, Norwegian, Swedish, French, Finnish, and Spanish. In 1879, his Ernest Maltravers was the first complete novel from the West to be translated into Japanese.
In Queensland, Australia the Brisbane suburb of Lytton is to be found on Bulwer Island which today is home to the Port of Brisbane. Also in Queensland on Moreton Island (Moorgumpin) is located another settlement by the name of Bulwer. The township of Lytton, Quebec (today part of Montcerf-Lytton) was named after him as was Lytton, British Columbia, and Lytton, Iowa. Lytton Road in Gisborne, New Zealand was named after the novelist. Later a state secondary school, Lytton High School, was founded in the road.
|year=(help) Full text at Internet Archive (archive.org)
|year=(help) Full text at Internet Archive (archive.org)
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament for St Ives
1831 – 1832
With: James Halse
| Member of Parliament for Lincoln
With: George Heneage to 1835
Charles Sibthorp from 1835
William Rickford Collett
Thomas Plumer Halsey
Sir Henry Meux, Bt
Hon. Thomas Brand
| Member of Parliament for Hertfordshire
1852 – 1866
With: Thomas Plumer Halsey to 1854
Sir Henry Meux, Bt 1847–59
Abel Smith 1854–57
Christopher William Puller 1857–64
Abel Smith 1859–65
Henry Surtees from 1864
Henry Cowper from 1865
| Secretary of State for the Colonies
The Duke of Newcastle
The Duke of Argyll
| Rector of the University of Glasgow
The Earl of Elgin
|Peerage of the United Kingdom|
|New creation|| Baron Lytton
Bulwer-Lytton is a surname, and may refer to:
Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton (1803–1873), novelist and politician
Rosina Bulwer Lytton (1802–1882), feminist writer and wife of Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton (1831–1891), statesman, poet and son of Edward Bulwer-Lytton and Rosina Bulwer Lytton
Victor Bulwer-Lytton, 2nd Earl of Lytton (1876–1947), politician
Neville Bulwer-Lytton, 3rd Earl of Lytton (1879–1951), military officer and artistBulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (BLFC) is a tongue-in-cheek contest, held annually and sponsored by the English Department of San Jose State University in San Jose, California. Entrants are invited "to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels" – that is, deliberately bad.
According to the official rules, the prize for winning the contest is "a pittance". The 2008 winner received $250, while the 2014 winners' page said the grand prize winner received "about $150".The contest was started in 1982 by Professor Scott E. Rice of the English Department at San Jose State University and is named for English novelist and playwright Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, author of the much-quoted first line "It was a dark and stormy night". This opening, from the 1830 novel Paul Clifford, continues:
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 first year of the competition attracted just three entries, but it went public the next year, received media attention, and attracted 10,000 entries. There are now several subcategories, such as detective fiction, romance novels, Western novels, and purple prose. Sentences that are notable but not quite bad enough to merit the Grand Prize or a category prize are awarded Dishonorable Mentions.Cardinal Richelieu (film)
Cardinal Richelieu is a 1935 American historical film directed by Rowland V. Lee and starring George Arliss, Maureen O'Sullivan, Edward Arnold and Cesar Romero. It was based on the 1839 play Richelieu by Edward Bulwer-Lytton depicting the life of the great seventeenth century French statesman Cardinal Richelieu and his dealings with Louis XIII.Der Bettelstudent
Der Bettelstudent (The Beggar Student) is an operetta in three acts by Carl Millöcker with a German libretto by Camillo Walzel (under the pseudonym of F. Zell) and Richard Genée, based on Les noces de Fernande by Victorien Sardou and The Lady of Lyons by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. However, the librettists added the element of combining love and politics to the French comedy plots. It premiered in Vienna in 1882. A German film adaptation, The Beggar Student, was directed by Georg Jacoby in 1936 and a West German film adaptation, The Beggar Student, was directed by Werner Jacobs in 1956.Edward Dickens
Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens (13 March 1852 – 23 January 1902) was the youngest son of English novelist Charles Dickens and his wife Catherine. He immigrated to Australia at the age of 16, and eventually entered politics, serving as a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from 1889 to 1894. He died in poverty at the age of 49.Ernest Maltravers (1920 film)
Ernest Maltravers is a 1920 British silent drama film directed by Jack Denton and starring Cowley Wright, Lillian Hall-Davis and Gordon Hopkirk. It is an adaptation of the 1838 novel Ernest Maltravers by Edward Bulwer-Lytton which had previously been made into an American film Ernest Maltravers in 1914.Eugene Aram (1924 film)
Eugene Aram is a 1924 British silent drama film directed by Arthur Rooke and starring Arthur Wontner, Barbara Hoffe and Mary Odette. It was based on the novel Eugene Aram by Edward Bulwer-Lytton which depicts the life of the eighteenth century criminal Eugene Aram.Eugene Aram (novel)
Eugene Aram is a melodramatic novel by the British writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton first published in 1832. It depicts the events leading up to the execution of Eugene Aram in 1759 for murdering his business partner.Leila; or, The Siege of Granada
Leila; or, The Siege of Granada is a historical romance novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton published in 1838.The novel is set in Granada, Spain at the end of the Middle Ages — beginning in the summer of 1491. It was originally published in an expensive form, with many engraved illustrations. The preface to the 1860 edition explains that the novel has been less popular than his other works of fiction due to the prejudice against literary works that are thought to owe their value, in part, to the illustrations.Money (play)
Money is a comic play by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. It was premièred at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, on 8 December 1840.Paul Clifford
Paul Clifford is a novel published in 1830 by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton. It tells the life of Paul Clifford, a man who leads a dual life as both a criminal and an upscale gentleman. The book was successful upon its release. It is the source of the famous opening phrase "It was a dark and stormy night..."Pauline (opera)
Pauline is an opera in four acts with music by the British composer Frederic H. Cowen to a libretto by Henry Hersee after The Lady of Lyons by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton, first performed by the Carl Rosa Opera Company 22 September 1876 at the Lyceum Theatre, London.Richelieu (film)
Richelieu is a 1914 American silent drama film directed by Allan Dwan and featuring Lon Chaney. The film is now considered to be lost. It is based on a play written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton.The Caxtons
The Caxtons: A Family Picture is an 1849 Victorian novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton that was popular in its time.The book was first serialized anonymously in Blackwood's Magazine from April 1848 to October 1849, and first published in novel form (in three volumes) in Britain in 1849. In the United States, it was serialized in Harper's Magazine (1850–53) and Littell's Living Age (1850-52).The novel was "instantly popular" in Britain and also sold 35,000 copies within three years of its release in the United States.The Lady of Lyons
The Lady of Lyons; or, Love and Pride, commonly known as The Lady of Lyons, is a five act romantic melodrama written in 1838 by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton. It was first produced in London at Covent Garden Theatre on 15 February 1838 and was revived many times over the rest of the 19th century. It was also adapted into two operas, and formed the part of the plot of an operetta.The Last of the Barons
The Last of the Barons is a historical novel by the English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton first published in 1843. Its plot revolves around the power struggle between the English King Edward IV and his powerful minister Earl of Warwick, known as "Warwick the kingmaker".
The King is portrayed as effeminate, capricious and licentious, in contrast with the Earl, shown as a distinguished warrior and politician, great patriot and affectionate father. Other historical figures that appear frequently in the text are Duke of Clarence, Duke of Gloucester (the future King Richard III), Marquess of Montagu, and Lord Hastings.
Romance and science in the Middle Ages are the secondary themes of the novel. They are explored through Sibyll, a beautiful young maiden, and her old father, Adam Warner. Sibyll, who is in love with Lord Hastings, is inseparable from her father throughout the story. Adam is a hypomanic natural philosopher working for many years to complete his invention, a mechanical device that is supposed to carry out functions of a modern steam engine. Persecuted, mistrusted, and misunderstood, he is forced to work as a royal alchemist.
The novel ends tragically with the defeat and death of Warwick at the Battle of Barnet.Vril
The Coming Race is a novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, published anonymously in 1871. It has also been published as Vril, the Power of the Coming Race.
Some readers have believed the account of a superior subterranean master race and the energy-form called "Vril", at least in part; some theosophists, notably Helena Blavatsky, William Scott-Elliot, and Rudolf Steiner, accepted the book as based on occult truth, in part. One 1960 book, The Morning of the Magicians, suggested that a secret Vril Society existed in Weimar Berlin. However, there is no evidence for the existence of such a society.Zanoni
Zanoni is an 1842 novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a story of love and occult aspiration. By way of introduction, the author confesses: "... It so chanced that some years ago, in my younger days, whether of authorship or life, I felt the desire to make myself acquainted with the true origins and tenets of the singular sect known by the name of Rosicrucians." A manuscript came into his hands written in the most unintelligible cipher, a manuscript which through the author's own interpretation became Zanoni.