Cover image for Bulwer Lytton : the rise and fall of a Victorian man of letters
Bulwer Lytton : the rise and fall of a Victorian man of letters
Mitchell, L. G. (Leslie George)
Publication Information:
London ; New York : Hambledon and London : Distributed in the U.S. and Canada by Palgrave Macmillan, [2003]

Physical Description:
xxi, 292 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes bibliographical references (p. [281]-287) and index.
Format :


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PR4931 .M58 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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An author with a European reputation, outselling Dickens, Edward Bulwer Lytton was ennobled and, on his death, buried in Westminster Abbey. His work included novels, poetry, plays, biographies and political commentaries. This biography was written to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth.

Author Notes

Authors Bio, not available

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Usually remembered only as the author of The Last Days of Pompeii, Edward Bulwer Lytton lives again in this vivid biography--published to mark the two-hundredth anniversary of his birth--as a writer whose novels once rivaled Dickens' in popularity. Mitchell challenges the neglect of Lytton with a compelling narrative of a life that once helped define both the center and the margins of Victorian culture. Though not attempting the critical exegeses typical of a literary biography, Mitchell does limn a remarkable writing career, notable both for its prolific output and for its astonishing influence. Most contemporary readers will marvel at how many Lytton novels they have never heard of--including Pelham, Eugene Aram, The Caxtons, and Night and Morning--once captured huge international audiences. Given that Lytton launched his career with novels notorious for their depiction of degeneracy, Mitchell finds it deeply ironic that post-World War I Britain rejected his works as expressions of Victorian respectability. Readers will see little of staid respectability in Lytton's bitter marital disputes and scandalous affairs, even less in his forays into spiritualism and the occult. Even in Lytton's political metamorphosis from Radical to Tory, Mitchell discerns no drift into complacency, but rather an unresolved quarrel with all forms of orthodoxy. Mitchell may not revive interest in Lytton's novels, but he has succeeded in capturing a complex personality. --Bryce Christensen Copyright 2003 Booklist

Choice Review

Heavily annotated and well researched with citations from diaries and letters in various collections, this study moves not chronologically through Lytton's life but according to topics: e.g., "Rosina" provides overlong details about Lytton's belligerent relations with his wife, herself a novelist. This procedure leads to repetition. The aim of this biography is somewhat unclear. A prolific popular novelist (e.g., Last Days of Pompeii, Lucretia, Kenelm Chillingly) from the 1830s into the 1970s, Lytton shrewdly played up to his readership even while claiming to despise British popular taste. Starting with Newgate criminal fiction, he moved into family sagas, historical fiction, and later the "metaphysical" novel of spiritual idealism. He was also prominent in public life. Mitchell asserts that Lytton's work is unjustly neglected, and certainly A Companion to the Victorian Novel, ed. by William Baker and Kenneth Womack (CH Jun'02), has only limited passing references to him. But even Mitchell does not discuss his novels critically though he does refer to characters and cites passages. For any literary assessment, Erwin M. Eigner's The Metaphysical Novel in England and America (CH, Oct'78) is still the best source. ^BSumming Up: Optional. Graduate and research collections. R. E. Wiehe emeritus, University of Massachusetts at Lowell