What do you think of when you hear “It was a dark and stormy night”?
Snoopy is more famous for this opening line than Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton. His 1830 novel Paul Clifford opened with this line. There is also much more to the sentence and to me it is a great opening line when you read the entire sentence. Today the opening line is parodied and belittled, but how many have actually read this opening line?
Here is the first page of the volume of Paul Clifford that I was able to track down through inter-library loan. Each of the chapters have a quote, but these should not be considered the opening line. Who reads the quotes anyway? I want the story.
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.
Doesn’t it sound much better with the entire sentence?
I really enjoyed reading Paul Clifford. The book was about a young man who due to circumstances in life was set upon a life of crime. He lives the life of a gentleman and at the same time is a highwayman.
There is an interesting plot twist where a startling revelation is made about Paul and the judge that he is brought before when he is caught. However, I will not give away the plot since I know that everyone reading this will want to find a copy to read themselves 🙂
Actually Paul Clifford is not well known or frequently read. It has only 66 ratings on Goodreads.
The book by Bulwer-Lytton that is most popular on Goodreads is The Last Days of Pompeii which has over 1,500 ratings. I of course had read this book as it was on Mr. Hill’s Novel List. If you want a great historical novel about Pompeii, I recommend this book to you.
Edward Bulwer-Lytton is also known for coining the phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword”. Although the concept of words being greater than a sword is much older, he was first with the pen and the sword.
Will you still think of Snoopy when you hear this opening line?