About It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

In 1830, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton began his new novel Paul Clifford with this sentence: “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.” To later generations, his words epitomized the overwrought style of his era, and his first line became memorable, though not in ways he would have enjoyed.

A famous cartoon beagle often uses the same opening as he attempts the Great American Dog Novel. And the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, sponsored each year by the English Department at San Jose State University, “challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.” Now, this game invites you to follow Bulwer-Lytton into the thorny thicket of Famous First Lines.

By the way, Lytton also wrote, "The pen is mightier than the sword."

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