Bulwer Lytton Collection
"It was a dark and stormy night..." Famous now, almost solely for that marvelous opening phrase (the full sentence actually goes on for half a page in it's entirety and is worthy of James or Faulkner). In his time Bulwer Lytton was considered to be the equal of Scott and Dickens. He is another example of what scholars and antiquarian booksellers well know - the melancholy destiny of all but a few of the most famous writers in every age; oblivion. I started a collection of Bulwer 30 years ago for just that reason. I wanted to form a collection of books of an author who had been immensely popular in his time but who was not now greatly sought after by collectors. Therefore his books would still be available, with a large variety of secondary editions and I could hopefully buy over the long term without spending a fortune. Bulwer fit that bill almost perfectly. But like all such initially sound ideas, time proved my task much more difficult. The notion of inexpensive books ended almost immediately when a prominent American colleague offered a large lot of Bulwer first editions rebound in full morocco, which I naturally had to buy. And the common part didn't last much longer. But there was enough obscure, and sometimes mystifying material to afford a lengthy and always interesting search. Bulwer's fame, such as it is now, rests largely on "The Last Days of Pompeii", and the yearly contest run by an academic in California which offers a prize for the worst imaginary beginning sentence based on "It was a dark and stormy night..." And, of course not least the appropriation by Snoopy of that famous line in his philosophical meanderings while he plans his great novel.
Still, Bulwer is not without merit. Like many of his contemporaries who had to conform to the Victorian publishing format of three volumes, he is a bit wordy (seldom using one adjective when six can do) but one can still read him with amusement. Our collection includes books of his wife (whose divorce scandal aroused partisan passions from such persons as Byron and Harriet Beecher Stowe); his son's books, (who himself became a famous poet under the pseudonym "Owen Meredith" and is now noticed only by scholars of the period) and his brother Henry, a diplomat and historian. Bulwer Lytton's enormous fame is still reflected by the many collected editions of his books churned out in the late 19th century which are still fairly often encountered in bookstores and flea markets but many of his individual novels are not easy to come by.