"It was a dark and stormy night" (1930; 1965 "pup fiction")

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Sat May 6 14:47:14 UTC 2006

I'm about to write a short story, I'm eating the peanuts that I'd bought  for 
my three-week honeymoon in Greece and Turkey tomorrow, and all I can  think 
about is: "It was a dark and stormy night."
The phrase was popularized by Edward Bulwer-Lytton's PAUL CLIFFORD (1930),  
and I suppose Fred Shapiro has that. Does Fred have Snoopy's "pup fiction" from 
It appears that "it was a dark and stormy night in winter" was the standard  
start to a story in the 1820s, and there would be a mysterious stranger at the 
 door, and so on. The oft-reprinted Dutch short tale, "Jan Schalken's Three  
Wishes," dates before 1830 and seems to have popularized "dark and stormy  
    Author _Lytton,  Edward Bulwer Lytton, Baron, 1803-1873._ 
+bulwer+lytton+baron+1803-1873/-2,-1,0,B/browse)    Title Paul Clifford.   
Imprint New York, Printed by J. & J. Harper,  1830.
The phrase, "It was a dark and stormy night", made famous by comic  strip 
artist _Charles M. Schulz_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_M._Schulz) , was 
 originally penned by _Victorian_ 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_era)  novelist _Edward  Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton_ 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bulwer-Lytton,_1st_Baron_Lytton)  to begin his _1830_ 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1830)  novel, _Paul  Clifford_ 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Clifford) . The phrase itself is now understood as a _shorthand_ 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shorthand)  for a certain broad  style of writing, 
characterized by a self-serious dramatic flair, an attempt to  imitate formulaic 
styles, an extravagantly florid style, and _run-on sentences_ 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Run-on_sentence) .  Bulwer-Lytton's original opening sentence 
serves as example: 
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.
—_Paul Clifford_ (http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/7735) , available  for free 
via _Project  Gutenberg_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Gutenberg) 
Although anyone can write in this style, achieving the worst effects  takes 
skill. Thus the annual _Bulwer-Lytton  Fiction Contest_ 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulwer-Lytton_Fiction_Contest)  was formed, sponsored by the English 
Department of _San Jose State  University_ 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Jose_State_University) , in which the worst examples of "dark and stormy night" 
writing  are recognized. The winning sentence of the 2002 contest, written by 
Rephah Berg  of _Oakland,  California_ (http://en
.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oakland,_California) , explores the theme of troubled love: 
On reflection, Angela perceived that her relationship with Tom had  always 
been rocky, not quite a roller-coaster ride but more like when the  toilet-paper 
roll gets a little squashed so it hangs crooked and every time  you pull some 
off you can hear the rest going bumpity-bumpity in its holder  until you go 
nuts and push it back into shape, a degree of annoyance that  Angela had now 
almost attained.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Dark_and_stormy_night&action=edit&section=1) ]
In popular culture
In the _Peanuts_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peanuts)  comic strip by 
_Charles M. Schulz_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_M._Schulz) , the  
character _Snoopy_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snoopy)   was often shown to be 
starting yet another of many novels with the canonical  phrase. 
In _The  Royale_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Royale_(TNG_episode)) , an 
episode of _Star Trek:  The Next Generation_ 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_The_Next_Generation) , the phrase appears as the opening line to the  
fictitious novel _Hotel  Royale_ 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hotel_Royale&action=edit) . 
_A Wrinkle in Time_ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Wrinkle_in_Time)   begins 
with this line.
The Saturday Magazine: Being in Great Part a  Compilation From the British 
Reviews, Magazines, and Scientific Journals  (1821-1822). Philadelphia: Jun 8, 
1822. Vol. 2, Iss. 23; p. 518 (9 pages) 
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain beat furiously against the walls  of 
the hovel, which was now the habitation of the once prosperous  Fairfield.
Family Vis. Philadelphia Recorder (1823-1831). Philadelphia: Jan 15, 1825.  
Vol. 2, Iss. 94; p. 326 (1 page) 
It was on a dark and stormy night in winter, that a solitary traveller  
alighted at the door of a well frequented tavern in a populous city.
The Worcester Magazine and Historical Journal (1825-1826).  Worcester: Oct 1, 
1825. p. 216 (4 pages) 
First page:
Thus the story goes: one dark and stormy night in winter, as Jan Schalken  
was sitting with his good-natured buxom wife by the fire, he was awakened from a 
 transient doze by a knocking at the door of his hut.
THE WANDERER.  Emerald and Baltimore Literary Gazette (1828-1829).  
Baltimore: Jan 24, 1829. Vol. 2, Iss. 41; p. 25 (2 pages) 
First page:
It was a dark and stormy night, several months after...(illegible)
_Comic  4 -- No Title_ 
Chicago Tribune (1963-Current  file). Chicago, Ill.: Jul 15, 1965. p. D1 (1 
LINUS: This was a good book, Charlie Brown...
LINUS: I like an author who is versatile.
CHARLIE BROWN: I know what you mean...
CHARLIE BROWN: Of course, some authors become successful simply by  
developing a formula...all their stories follow a certain pattern.
SNOOPY (typing): It was a dark and stormy night.
_Pup  Fiction_ 
Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file).  Chicago, Ill.: Jul 18, 1965. p. 22 (1 
We have heard of pulp fiction, but never of pup fiction, until Snoopy took  
to his typewriter in the "Peanuts" strip and immediately began to score in the  
Chicago Tribune (1963-Current  file). Chicago, Ill.: Jul 22, 1965. p. 14 (1 
Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file).  Chicago, Ill.: Jul 31, 1965. p. S10 (1 
Great Tales of Terror  from Europe and America: Gothic Stories of Horror and 
Romance  1765-1840, Gollancz  (London), 1972 
(Including: "Introduction" by Peter  Haining. GERMANY: "The New Melusina" by 
Johann von Goethe, "The Ghost-Seer, or  The Apparitionist" by JF von Schiller, 
"The Harp" by Karl Theodor Korner, "The  Wild Huntsman! Or The Demon's 
Skeleton Chase" by Gottfried August Burger, "The  Bride of the Grave" by Johann 
Ludwig Tieck, "The Field of Terror" by Baron de la  Motte Fouqué, "The Bottle-Imp" 
by Johann Karl August Musaus, "The Spectre  Barber" by anonymous, "The 
Cremona Violin" by ETA Hoffman, "The Fatal Marksman"  by Johann August Apel, "The 
Devil's Ladder" by Alois Wilhelm Schreiber, "The  Hall of Blood" by Professor 
von Kramer. FRANCE: "The Witch of Eye" by Francois  Baculard D'Arnaud, "The 
Unholy Compact Abjured" by Charles Pigault-Lebrun, "The  Wandering Jew's Sentence" 
by Eugene Sue, "The Parricide Punished" by anonymous,  "Louise, or The Living 
Spectre" by anonymous Jan Schalken's Three Wishes" by anonymous,  "Maredata 
and Giulo, or The Ocean Spirit" by anonymous, "Valdrwulf, or The Fiend  of the 
Moor" by anonymous. AMERICA: "Rip Van Winkle" by a legend, "Memoirs of  
Carwin, The Biloquist" by Charles Brockden Brown, "The Adventure of the German  
Student" by Washington Irving, "The Christmas Banquet" by Nathaniel Hawthorne,  
"The Strange Guests" by anonymous, "Hugues, the Wer-Wolf" by Sutherland Menzies, 
 "The Possessed One" by anonymous, "Ben Blower's Story" by Charles Hoffman, 
"The  Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe, "Shadow, a Parable" by Edgar 
Allan  Poe.) 

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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