Monday, 25 May 2020

Birthdays

My father would have turned 111 today – born under Edward VII and, as he used to claim, in uniform in both world wars (in the First, it was a sailor suit that he wore to wave a little flag at the passing troops).
Today is also the birthday (in 1888) of that fine character actor Miles Malleson, especially memorable as Dr Chasuble in the 1952 film of The Importance of Being Earnest, and as the poetically inclined hangman in Kind Hearts and Coronets (neither of which performances seems to be available on YouTube). I was surprised to learn (from Wikipedia) that the mild-mannered, multi-chinned Malleson was a red-hot socialist and pacifist, and very much one for the ladies.
And a third birthday today: Edward Bulwer-Lytton, born on this day in 1803. I've written about him before, but the magnificently awful opening sentence of his Paul Clifford always bears requoting:

'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.'

This was the sentence that inspired the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Prize for the worst opening sentence of the year. The 2019 winner was this, written by one Maxwell Archer:

'Space Fleet Commander Brad Brad sat in silence, surrounded by a slowly dissipating cloud of smoke, maintaining the same forlorn frown that had been fixed upon his face since he’d accidentally destroyed the phenomenon known as time, thirteen inches ago.'

Not bad. Well yes, bad of course – a worthy winner.  

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