Quotes of the Day for 25 May 2005 – Bulwer-Lytton
Snoopy, the beagle from the comic strip Peanuts, occasionally tried his hand at writing. His attempts always started with "It was a dark and stormy night...", a riff on what is almost universally identified as the worst opening sentence in a fiction work in the English language. The year was 1830, the novel was "Paul Clifford", and the novelist was Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, born at London on this day in 1803. His florid passages may actually have represented the best of Victorian literature, but are tedious to modern readers. In small doses he could turn a fine phrase, these all first appeared in his work: "the pen is mightier than the sword", "the great unwashed", and "the almighty dollar". In other words, the quotes are better than the novels from which they have been excised. His continued fame is owed to Snoopy and an annual literary contest at San Jose State University, in which the awards go to those who can craft the worst opening sentences of hypothetical bad novels. If you've got a few minutes, those efforts are amusing.
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.
- opening sentence of Paul Clifford (1830)
The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it.
When a person is down in the world, an ounce of help is better than a pound of preaching.
No author ever drew a character consistent to human nature, but he was forced to ascribe to it many inconsistencies.
There is nothing so agonizing to the fine skin of vanity as the application of a rough truth.
In science, read, by preference, the newest works; in literature the oldest.
- All from Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, 1803 - 1873
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