Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Edward Bulwer-Lytton

A carte-de-visite portrait of Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1802-1872), poet, novelist and playwright.

Few English writers are known by such a variety of names. He began life as plain Edward Bulwer, though he often called himself Edward Lytton Bulwer (Lytton being his mother’s maiden name and one of his several Christian names). He was knighted in 1837, and on his mother’s death in 1843 expanded his surname to Bulwer-Lytton, hence Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer-Lytton. Raised to the peerage in 1866, he was known thereafter as Lord Lytton. His son, with whom he is sometimes confused, was created the first Earl of Lytton in 1880.

One of the most accomplished authors of his day, he is marked above all by the versatility of his talents. His two dozen novels written over a 45-year career, tackle almost every genre popular with his contemporaries. They include historical romances, tales of magic and spiritualism, light novels of middle-class domestic life, novels of high-society, and philosophical novels about gifted young men seeking the meaning of life. In almost every instance he was immensely successful. ‘Everything he wrote’ remarked Edmund Gosse, ‘sold as though it were bread displayed to a hungry crowd. ‘

He also published ten plays, eleven volumes of poetry, two collections of essays, numerous short stories, a history of Athens, translations of Horace and Schiller, and a pioneering sociological study, England and the English (1833). He entered Parliament in 1831 as a Liberal, resigned ten years later, returned as a Tory in 1852, and in 1858 became Secretary of the Colonies. He was a lifelong friend of Charles Dickens, and is often remembered for persuading him to change the ending of Great Expectations. That he is not much remembered in his own right today would have surprised his contemporaries, for during the mid-nineteenth century he was widely regarded as England’s leading man of letters.

Photographed by the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company.


Code: 124299
© Paul Frecker 2023