Paul Clifford

For other people named Paul Clifford, see Paul Clifford (disambiguation).
Paul Clifford

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, 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

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.  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Paul Clifford". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
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