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Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton by Henry William Pickersgill.jpgEdward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton, PC (25 May 1803 – 18 January 1873) was an English writer and politician. He was a friend of Alfred d'Orsay, comte d'Orsay.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton served as a Whig member of Parliament from 1831 to 1841 and a Conservative from 1851 to 1866. He was Secretary of State for the Colonies from June 1858 to June 1859, choosing Richard Clement Moody as founder of British Columbia. He declined the Crown of Greece in 1862 after King Otto abdicated. He was created Baron Lytton of Knebworth in 1866.[1][2] His marriage to the writer Rosina Bulwer Lytton broke down. Her detention in an insane asylum provoked a public outcry. Bulwer-Lytton's works sold and paid him well. He coined the phrases "the great unwashed", "pursuit of the almighty dollar", "the pen is mightier than the sword", and "dweller on the threshold", and the opening phrase "It was a dark and stormy night." Yet his standing declined and he is little read today. The sardonic Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, held annually since 1982, claims to seek the "opening sentence of the worst of all possible novels".[3][4][5][6]

Bulwer was born on 25 May 1803 to General William Earle Bulwer of Heydon Hall and Wood Dalling, Norfolk and Elizabeth Barbara Lytton, daughter of Richard Warburton Lytton of Knebworth House, Hertfordshire. He had two older brothers, William Earle Lytton Bulwer (1799–1877) and Henry (1801–1872), later Lord Dalling and Bulwer.[7] His father died and his mother moved to London when he was four years old. When he was 15, a tutor named Wallington, who tutored him at Ealing, encouraged him to publish an immature work: Ishmael and Other Poems. Around this time, Bulwer fell in love, but the woman's father induced her to marry another man. She died about the time that Bulwer went to Cambridge and he stated that her loss affected all his subsequent life.[7] In 1822 Bulwer-Lytton entered Trinity College, Cambridge, where he met John Auldjo, but soon moved to Trinity Hall. In 1825 he won the Chancellor's Gold Medal for English verse.[8] In the following year he took his BA degree and printed for private circulation a small volume of poems, Weeds and Wild Flowers.[7] He purchased an army commission in 1826, but sold it in 1829 without serving.[9] In August 1827, he married Rosina Doyle Wheeler (1802–1882), a noted Irish beauty, but against the wishes of his mother, who withdrew his allowance, forcing him to work for a living.[7] They had two children, Emily Elizabeth Bulwer-Lytton (1828–1848), and (Edward) Robert Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton (1831–1891) who became Governor-General and Viceroy of British India (1876–1880). His writing and political work strained their marriage and his infidelity embittered Rosina.[10] In 1833 they separated acrimoniously and in 1836 the separation became legal.[10] Three years later, Rosina published Cheveley, or the Man of Honour (1839), a near-libellous fiction satirising her husband's alleged hypocrisy.[10] In June 1858, when her husband was standing as parliamentary candidate for Hertfordshire, she denounced him at the hustings. He retaliated by threatening her publishers, withholding her allowance and denying her access to their children.[10] Finally he had her committed to a mental asylum,[10] but she was released a few weeks later after a public outcry.[10] This she chronicled in a memoir, A Blighted Life (1880).[11][12] She continued attacking her husband's character for several years.[13] The death of Bulwer's mother in 1843 meant his "exhaustion of toil and study had been completed by great anxiety and grief," and by "about the January of 1844, I was thoroughly shattered."[14][15] In his mother's room at Knebworth House, which he inherited, he "had inscribed above the mantelpiece a request that future generations preserve the room as his beloved mother had used it." It remains hardly changed to this day.[16] On 20 February 1844, in accordance with his mother's will, he changed his surname from Bulwer to Bulwer-Lytton and assumed the arms of Lytton by royal licence.[13] His widowed mother had done the same in 1811. His brothers remained plain "Bulwer". By chance Bulwer-Lytton encountered a copy of "Captain Claridge's work on the "Water Cure", as practised by Priessnitz, at Graefenberg", and "making allowances for certain exaggerations therein", pondered the option of travelling to Graefenberg, but preferred to find something closer to home, with access to his own doctors in case of failure: "I who scarcely lived through a day without leech or potion!".[14][15] After reading a pamphlet by Doctor James Wilson, who operated a hydropathic establishment with James Manby Gully at Malvern, he stayed there for "some nine or ten weeks", after which he "continued the system some seven weeks longer under Doctor Weiss, at Petersham", then again at "Doctor Schmidt's magnificent hydropathic establishment at Boppart" (at the former Marienberg Convent at Boppard), after developing a cold and fever upon his return home.[14] When Otto, King of Greece abdicated in 1862, Bulwer-Lytton was offered the Greek Crown, but declined.[17] The English Rosicrucian society, founded in 1867 by Robert Wentworth Little, claimed Bulwer-Lytton as their "Grand Patron", but he wrote to the society complaining that he was "extremely surprised" by their use of the title, as he had "never sanctioned such."[18] Nevertheless, a number of esoteric groups have continued to claim Bulwer-Lytton as their own, chiefly because some of his writings – such as the 1842 book Zanoni – have included Rosicrucian and other esoteric notions. According to the Fulham Football Club, he once resided in the original Craven Cottage, today the site of their stadium. Bulwer-Lytton had long suffered from a disease of the ear, and for the last two or three years of his life lived in Torquay nursing his health.[19] After an operation to cure deafness, an abscess formed in the ear and burst; he endured intense pain for a week and died at 2 am on 18 January 1873, just short of his 70th birthday.[19] The cause of death was unclear but it was thought the infection had affected his brain and caused a fit.[19] Rosina outlived him by nine years. Against his wishes, Bulwer-Lytton was honoured with a burial in Westminster Abbey.[20] His unfinished history Athens: Its Rise and Fall was published posthumously.

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