Gentle Reader

I feel that we cannot simply pen a line such as “the maid screamed” (on which our present chapter ends) without explaining a little of the literary heritage of this line. It is, in fact, a deliberate quotation from a childhood favourite. The original work is by one Charles Shultz, ventriloquised via a well known canine character, who started a novelette in the following manner:

“It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed.”

This is in itself a literary nod to the famous, or possibly, infamous opening lines to the novel 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 housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

This is the work of one Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who should be very comfortable in these pages, being as he was a Victorian Novelist with a taste for the occult.

edward_bulwer_lyttonEdward Bulwer-Lytton, not Snoopy the Dog

In fact, this gentleman led a most interesting life, working as politician denounced by his own wife at the hustings, being offered (and refusing) the Greek throne and gifting us the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword”.

Perhaps it is one of those ironies of fate that leads him to be remembered most of all for the clunky and meandering sentence above. He gives his name to an annual competition in its honour whereby literary wags attempt to parody the style of the thing. Those who find themselves at a loss of what to do this Sunday evening may care to peruse it.

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest




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