Paul Clifford

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For other people named Paul Clifford, see Paul Clifford (disambiguation).
Paul Clifford
Paul Clifford 1st ed.jpg
First edition title page
Author Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Novel
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 965
Text Paul Clifford at Wikisource

Paul Clifford is a novel published in 1830 by English 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.[1] It is the source of the famous opening phrase "It was a dark and stormy night;..."


Paul Clifford tells the story of a chivalrous highwayman in the time of the French Revolution. Brought up not knowing his origins and living an evil life, Paul Clifford is arrested for theft. The love of his life is Lucy Brandon. Brought before her uncle Judge Brandon, for the robbery, it is unexpectedly revealed that Clifford is Brandon's son. This revealed relationship complicates the trial but Judge Brandon tries Clifford and condemned him to death for his criminal behavior. Clifford escapes from jail and with his lover and cousin, Lucy, they make their way to America.[2]

Famous first words[edit]

Though Paul Clifford is rarely read among the general reading public today, it contains one of the most widely known incipits in English literary history: "It was a dark and stormy night." 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.

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

Appearance in other works[edit]


  1. ^ Bulwer-Lytton's Paul Clifford and Poe's tales
  2. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Moore, F., eds. (1905). "Paul Clifford". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead. 

External links[edit]