Paul Clifford

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Paul Clifford
Paul Clifford 1st ed.jpg
First edition title page
AuthorEdward Bulwer-Lytton
CountryUnited Kingdom
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
TextPaul 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, 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.

That revelation complicates the trial, but Judge Brandon tries Clifford and condemns him to death. Clifford escapes from jail. With his lover and cousin, Lucy, he makes his way to America.[2]

Famous first words[edit]

Although 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.


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

External links[edit]