Other Literary Forms
Edward Bulwer-Lytton was one of the most versatile and prolific writers of a far-from-laconic age. Though he held the stage during the late 1830’s as the foremost contemporary English playwright, Bulwer-Lytton was more generally known in his own day for his novels, which gained an international readership. Today, what reputation remains to this once celebrated Victorian writer rests on a handful of his twenty-odd novels. Bulwer-Lytton the fiction writer was deft in many veins. Among his works are witty and elegant society novels, the best being Pelham: Or, The Adventures of a Gentleman (1828); the so-called Newgate novels, dealing with the dark impulses of the criminal mind, such as Eugene Aram (1832); historical romances, such as the famous The Last Days of Pompeii (1834); metaphysical works in the Bildungsroman tradition of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, including Ernest Maltravers (1837) and its sequel Alice: Or, The Mysteries (1838); and even, at the end of his life, a precursor of utopian science fiction, The Coming Race (1871). Bulwer-Lytton, who despite his aristocratic background was obliged to support himself through his literary labors, also wrote short stories, his best piece being “The Haunted and the Haunters” (1857), and poetry, including The New Timon (1846), now chiefly remembered for having provoked Alfred, Lord Tennyson; and King Arthur (1848-1849, 1870). His England and the English (1833), a multifaceted study of pre-Reform Bill England, remains one of the most insightful social histories of early nineteenth century British culture, politics, education, and manners.