He coined the now common phrases ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’, ‘the great unwashed’ and ‘the almighty dollar’ among novels, plays and volumes of verse.
He was Colonial Secretary when the British Empire was at its mightiest.
But for all his manifold achievements, Edward Bulwer-Lytton is rather unfairly remembered only for the opening line of his 1830 potboiler Paul Clifford, ‘It was a dark and stormy night’.
If you’ve ever seen Snoopy atop his kennel at his typewriter, trying to bash out the great American novel by starting with that line, you most likely didn’t think of the Brisbane bayside suburb of Lytton.
But the two are linked through the 19th century English politician and polymath.
Bulwer-Lytton – formally Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton – has towns named after him in Canada where he oversaw establishment of British Columbia.
Moreton Island boasts the township of Bulwer and the bay’s Bulwer Island is another tribute.
Lord Lytton was prolific with the pen, knocking out more than 30 novels, eight plays and several volumes of verse in between his duties as a Whig MP.
Many of his novels were turned into operas, including one by the famed Richard Wagner.
But despite this impressive output, his literary albatross forever will be ‘It was a dark and stormy night’, celebrated each year by the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, in which contestants try to pen the worst opening line for imaginary rubbish novels.
San Francisco writer Lisa Kuber took out the 2020 award with the impressively awful, ‘Her Dear John missive flapped unambiguously in the windy breeze, hanging like a pizza menu on the doorknob of my mind’.
Europeans found the area around what’s known today as Lytton through one of the oddest pieces of seamanship in recorded history.
In 1823 cedar cutters Pamphlett, Finnegan and Parsons tried to sail from Sydney to Illawarra, about 120km south, but ended up startlingly off-course in Moreton Bay.
With the help of the indigenous inhabitants, they explored inland to Goodna, becoming the first Europeans to see the Brisbane River.
When John Oxley turned up later in 1823 searching for a good place for a new penal colony, they led him to the river that was the basis for the European settlement the following year.
Lytton opened up with the first public auction of land in 1860.
Two decades on, Fort Lytton was built to guard against the threat of Russian invasion.
Later invaders came by air and were much welcomed.
From 1930, Lytton was the terminal airport for the first commercial passenger services between Brisbane and Sydney.
Flights were first conducted by the short-lived Australian National Airways, operated by three of Australia’s most famous aviators Charles Kingsford Smith, Charles Ulm and Scotty Allen.