Edward Bulwer-Lytton Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer (later, on inheriting his mother’s estate, to be called E. G. E. L. Bulwer-Lytton, and later still, E. G. E. L. B. L., first Baron Lytton) was the third and last son of General William Bulwer and his wife Elizabeth Barbara Lytton, the heiress of Knebworth. Both of his parents were descendants of ancient families. Bulwer’s early education was erratic but intensive. He read widely and deeply in the notable library of his maternal grandfather, Richard Warburton Lytton, and instead of attending a public school, he was placed with a tutor at Ealing. In 1822, Bulwer went up to Cambridge. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1826 and a master of arts in 1835. His university awarded him an honorary doctor of laws in 1864.

Having finished his education, Bulwer led the life of traveler and man of fashion. He toured the Lake District and Scotland and frequented the most exclusive circles of society in London and Paris. Handsome, elegantly dressed, proficient at all the fashionable sports and pursuits, he was one of the great dandies of England’s “age of cards and candlelight.” Like many another literary gentleman of his day, Bulwer had been dazzled by the glamour and notoriety of the late Lord Byron, and he made the mistake of embarking on a curious romance with one of Byron’s former mistresses, the mentally unbalanced Lady Caroline Lamb. This liaison led him to a yet worse error: In 1827, he married Lady Caroline’s protégée Rosina Doyle Wheeler, a lovely but volatile Irishwoman, against the wishes of his mother, on whose inclinations all of his financial prospects rested.

As short of income as they were lavish in their tastes, the young couple had to rely on Bulwer-Lytton’s pen to pay their bills. It proved dependable....

(The entire section is 730 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111207681-Bulwer-Lytton.jpg Edward Bulwer-Lytton Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton came from a prominent family; his father was General William Earle Bulwer and his mother, Elizabeth Barbara Lytton, had been a great heiress. After his father died in 1807, his mother moved the family from their estate in Norfolk to London. Bulwer’s mother wished to send him to Eton, but he preferred and was permitted to have his education under tutors who prepared him for Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took bachelor’s and master’s degrees and graduated in 1826. Later, both his own university and Oxford granted him honorary degrees. Long before leaving the university, Bulwer established himself as a dandy in London and published poetry written in a flamboyant, Byronic fashion. In 1825, he was awarded the Chancellor’s medal for poetry, but he does not seem to have had a serious intention of becoming a writer, much less of earning a living by his pen. In his late teens, he fell in love with a young woman whose father forced her into an early marriage with another man; her subsequent death left a deep impression on Bulwer.{$S[A]Lytton, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, first earl of;Bulwer-Lytton, Edward}

In August, 1827, Bulwer married a beautiful but poor young Irish woman named Rosina Doyle Wheeler. His mother, who was bitterly opposed to the match, stopped her son’s allowance. Finding himself without an income, Bulwer turned to writing and within the year had published his first novel, Falkland. His first great success came with Pelham in 1828, a novel that many people read with the hope of identifying the originals of the characters whom Bulwer had drawn from the world of the fashionable in England. With the publication of Pelham, Bulwer acquired a great popular reputation; thereafter, his novels sold readily, and his poetry, though it was undistinguished, found readers. From this time on, he wrote one or two novels a year. Individually, his novels did not sell as widely as those of his most prominent competitors, William Makepeace Thackeray and Charles Dickens, but his total output was certainly as popular as theirs, possibly more so. Bulwer had no choice but to write, for he and his wife lived extravagantly, but he often wrote under great pressure. In addition, he found time to enter politics, successfully standing for Parliament on a reform ticket in April, 1831. He...

(The entire section is 961 words.)