It was a dark and stormy night  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The cliché phrase "It was a dark and stormy night" was penned by Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton as the beginning of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. The phrase itself is now understood as a euphemism for a certain broad style of writing, characterized by a self-serious attempt at dramatic flair, the imitation of formulaic styles, an extravagantly florid style, redundancies, and run-on sentences. Bulwer-Lytton's original opening sentence serves as example:

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

The annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest was formed to ironically celebrate the worst extremes in this style. The contest is sponsored by the English Department of San Jose State University, in which the worst examples of "dark and stormy night" writing are recognized.

In film

"A dark and stormy night" is a common narrative cliché in horror and suspense films. Mad scientists like Dr. Frankenstein perform experiments under cover of the storm.

In popular culture

  • "The romance of the forest", written at the end of Eighteenth Century by Ann Radcliffe, master of the gothic best-seller, has the very similar phrase "The night was dark and tempestuous".
  • Andrea Camilleri's Il birraio di Preston is an experimental novel where each chapter begins with the (adapted) incipit of some famous novel or play. One of the chapters begins with a translation in Sicilian dialect of this line.
  • In both the 1997 Wordsworth Classic edition and Richard Pevear's 2006 translation of Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers, chapter 65 begins with this phrase. In the original French, the opening line of the chapter is C'etait une nuit orageuse et sombre, which is more precisely translated It was a stormy and dark night.
  • There are many variants of a linguistic conundrum, often told to children, one of which goes 'It was a dark and stormy night, and the brigands were in their den, and the Captain said to Antonio "tell us a story", and this is what he said. 'It was a dark and stormy night...
  • Ray Bradbury's novel, Let's All Kill Constance, starts with this line.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "It was a dark and stormy night" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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