Saturday, August 22, 2015

XXV.

"It was a dark and stormy night..."


These famous words are the opening line from the first paragraph of the 1830 English novel entitled, Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. The novel tells the life of Paul Clifford, a man who leads a dual life as both a criminal and an well-to-do gentleman.


"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."



In actuality, the very first paragraph of the novel are NOT those exact words, but are the third stanza from a poem, written by George Crabbe, called The Parish Workhouse.   Crabbe was one the earliest of English realistic poets, called the "poet of the poor." In this case, Edward Bulwer-Lytton uses the third stanza of Crabbe's poem, after which he begins the famous line, "It was a dark and stormy night....":

"Say ye, oppressed by some fantastic woes,

Some jarring nerve that baffles your repose;

Who press the downy couch while slaves advance

With timid eye, to read the distant glance;

Who with sad prayers the weary doctor tease,

To name the nameless ever-new disease;

Who with mock patience dire complaints endure,

Which real pain and that alone can cure:

How would ye bear in real pain to lie,

Despised, neglected, left alone to die?

How would ye bear to draw your latest breath

Where all that’s wretched paves the way for death?"

Much debate still rages on as to whether Edward Bulwer-Lytton was a literary genius or simply a mediocre novelist.  Bulwer-Lytton's great-great-great grandson, defended his ancestor, stating that the writer is believed,

"to have been the first person to have penned a cliché was a mark of genius". He said that Bulwer-Lytton invented a raft of sayings we still use today, including "the pen is mightier than the sword", "the great unwashed" and "the almighty dollar"." - theguardian.com




Bulwer-Lytton also wrote the following novels:


Eugene Aram (1832) 


Godolphin (1833) 


The Last Days of Pompeii (1834) 


Leila: or The Siege of Granada (1838) 


Zanoni (1842) 


The Last of the Barons (1843) 


The Caxtons (1849) 


Vril (1871)



And, let us never forget Snoopy's parody....
..."and suddenly, a shot rang out!"



Here is the full first paragraph of 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 house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness. Through one of the obscurest quarters of London, and among haunts little loved by the gentlemen of the police, a man, evidently of the lowest orders, was wending his solitary way. He stopped twice or thrice at different shops and houses of a description correspondent with the appearance of the quartier in which they were situated, and tended inquiry for some article or another which did not seem easily to be met with. All the answers he received were couched in the negative; and as he turned from each door he muttered to himself, in no very elegant phraseology, his disappointment and discontent. At length, at one house, the landlord, a sturdy butcher, after rendering the same reply the inquirer had hitherto received, added, "But if this vill do as vell, Dummie, it is quite at your sarvice!" Pausing reflectively for a moment, Dummie responded that he thought the thing proffered might do as well; and thrusting it into his ample pocket, he strode away with as rapid a motion as the wind and the rain would allow. He soon came to a nest of low and dingy buildings, at the entrance to which, in half-effaced characters, was written "Thames Court." Halting at the most conspicuous of these buildings, an inn or alehouse, through the half-closed windows of which blazed out in ruddy comfort the beams of the hospitable hearth, he knocked hastily at the door. He was admitted by a lady of a certain age, and endowed with a comely rotundity of face and person."



Denise Goodwin 8/22/15

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