Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton PC (25 May 1803 – 18 January 1873), was an English politician, poet, playwright, and prolific novelist. He was immensely popular with the reading public and wrote a stream of bestselling novels which earned him a considerable fortune. But, like many authors of the period, his style now seems florid and embellished to modern tastes. He coined the phrases, "the great unwashed", "pursuit of the almighty dollar", "the pen is mightier than the sword", and the famous opening line, "It was a dark and stormy night."
Bulwer-Lytton's literary career began in 1820 - with the publication of a book of poems - and spanned the rest of the nineteenth 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).
Bulwer-Lytton admired Benjamin’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), 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 Haunted and the Haunters or The House and the Brain (1857), which is included in Isaac Asimov's anthology, Tales of the Occult. It also appears in the The Wordsworth Book of Horror Stories.
Bulwer-Lyton 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 birth 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 play, Money (1840), was produced at Prince of Wales's Theatre in 1872
Like a Star in the seas above,
Like a Dream to the waves of sleep-
Up-up-THE INCARNATE LOVE-
Away with your stories of Hades,
Which the Flamen has forged to affright us-
We laugh at your three Maiden Ladies,
Around-about-for ever near thee,
God-OUR GOD-shall mark and hear thee!
On his car of storm He sweeps!
Bow, ye heavens, and shrink, ye deeps!
In the veins of the calix foams and glows
The blood of the mantling vine,
But oh! in the bowl of Youth there glows