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Paul Clifford

Paul Clifford

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Paul Clifford is a novel published in 1830
1830 in literature
The year 1830 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*Amos Bronson Alcott marries Abby May.*Edgar Allan Poe takes up an appointment at the United States Military Academy, West Point....

 by English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 author Edward Bulwer-Lytton. It tells the life of Paul Clifford, a man who leads a dual life as both a criminal and an upscale gentleman. The book was successful upon its release.

Though "Clifford" is rarely read among the general reading public today, it contains one of the most widely-known openings in English literary history: "It was a dark and stormy night
It was a dark and stormy night
"It was a dark and stormy night" is an infamous phrase written by Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton at the beginning of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. The annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest uses the phrase as a signifier of purple prose...

." It is frequently invoked for its atmospheric and neo-Gothic description, often in the mystery, detective, horror, and thriller genres. Because of its Romantic qualities, it has likewise become a textbook example of purple prose
Purple prose
Purple prose is a term of literary criticism used to describe passages, or sometimes entire literary works, written in prose so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw attention to itself. Purple prose is sensually evocative beyond the requirements of its context...

.

"It was a dark and stormy night" is only the beginning of the full first sentence:

It was a dark and stormy night
It was a dark and stormy night
"It was a dark and stormy night" is an infamous phrase written by Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton at the beginning of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. The annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest uses the phrase as a signifier of purple prose...

; 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.

Allusions/references from other works


The opening of the book was the inspiration for San Jose State University's annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is a tongue-in-cheek contest that takes place annually and is sponsored by the English Department of San Jose State University in San Jose, California. Entrants are invited "to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels" – that is,...

, which celebrates the worst in English writing. The contest includes a "Dark and Stormy night" section, which is intended to find the worst introduction that can be made from the beginning of that sentence. The competition highlights literary achievements of the most dubious sort; "We want writers with a little talent but no taste," says San Jose State English Professor Scott Rice.

The line was also frequently parodied in Charles Schulz' Peanuts
Peanuts
Peanuts is a syndicated daily and Sunday American comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz, which ran from October 2, 1950, to February 13, 2000, continuing in reruns afterward...

comic strip
Comic strip
A comic strip is a sequence of drawings arranged in interrelated panels to display brief humor or form a narrative, often serialized, with text in balloons and captions....

 by showing Snoopy
Snoopy
Snoopy is an fictional character in the long-running comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz. He is Charlie Brown's pet beagle. Snoopy began his life in the strip as a fairly conventional dog, but eventually evolved into perhaps the strip's most dynamic character—and among the most recognizable...

 repeatedly starting a novel that starts with the first part of the opening sentence. The science fiction novel A Wrinkle in Time
A Wrinkle in Time
A Wrinkle in Time is a science fantasy novel by Madeleine L'Engle, first published in 1962. The story revolves around a young girl whose father, a government scientist, has gone missing after working on a mysterious project called a tesseract. The book won a Newbery Medal, Sequoyah Book Award, and...

by Madeleine L'Engle
Madeleine L'Engle
Madeleine L'Engle was an American writer best known for her young-adult fiction, particularly the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time...

 also borrows, in a somewhat subversive manner, the opening line.

In the book Two Years Before the Mast
Two Years Before the Mast
Two Years Before the Mast is a book by the American author Richard Henry Dana, Jr., published in 1840, having been written after a two-year sea voyage starting in 1834. A film adaptation under the same name was released in 1946.- Background :...

, Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
Richard Henry Dana Jr. was an American lawyer and politician from Massachusetts, a descendant of an eminent colonial family who gained renown as the author of the American classic, the memoir Two Years Before the Mast...

 recounts with enthusiasm his reading of Paul Clifford while at sea off the California coast.

It is also referenced in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Royale. The book the episode revolves around starts with the opening line.