Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, a Rosicrucian and occultist, wrote a number of books involving mysterious characters with supernatural abilities and longevity influenced by Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer and Bulwer-Lytton's friend Godwin's St. Leon. The title of his first novel, Falkland, is in homage to the central character of Godwin's Caleb Williams. Bulwer-Lytton's story The Haunters and the Haunted was described by H.P. Lovecraft as one of the best short haunted-house tales ever written. He was also a great admirer of Byron, and even courted his former mistress Lady Caroline Lamb for a time.

Bulwer-Lytton's estranged wife Rosina, incensed by his brutal treatment of her, wrote the novel Chevely in which he figures as a villain. It was rumoured that Collins' book The Woman in White, about an evil baronet who contrives to have his wife locked up in a madhouse, was inspired by the actions of Bulwer-Lytton who had had Rosina seized and sent to an insane asylum the previous year. She wrote to Collins: I know a villain, and have one in my eye at this moment that would far eclipse anything that I have read of in books. Don't think that I am drawing upon my imagination. The man is alive and constantly under my gaze. In fact he is my own husband. Eventually they were separated and the unfortunate Rosina died in poverty and was buried in an unmarked grave.

Thackeray savagely satirized his play The Sea Captain; or, The Birthright in his The
Yellow Plush Papers

Although today known for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which awards prizes for bad opening sentences (Paul Clifford is the novel that opens It was a dark and stormy night) Bulwer-Lytton was, in his lifetime, arguably the most successful and influential novelist in England.

Wagner based an opera on his novel Rienzi, The Last of the Tribunes. After reading Rienzi, Poe wrote: There may be men now living who possess the power of Bulwer -- but it is quite evident that very few have made that power so palpably manifest. Indeed we know of none. The opera also had a profound effect on the young Adolf Hitler. In that hour it began, he was to say later.

The Coming Race, an early science-fiction work, with its superman race the Vril-ya, descended from the same ancestors as the great Aryan family, from which in varied streams has flowed the dominant civilization of the world, spawned an occult secret society known as the Vril Society or Luminous Lodge. The Vril Society's philosophy and swastika symbol were absorbed by the Nazi party.

The Coming Race also prompted Samuel Butler's utopian Erewhon and was likely an influence on H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines as well as inspiring the brand name Bovril.

Bulwer-Lytton's novel Paul Clifford with its criminal protagonist was the first of the Newgate school of crime fiction: Ainsworth's Jack Sheppard was a direct descendent. This was to influence the detective fiction of Collins and the underworld milieus of his friend Dickens. The latter respected Bulwer-Lytton's opinion enough to change the ending of Great Expectations on his advice.

The sacrifice of Dickens's hero in A Tale of Two Cities was inspired by the similar sacrifice in Zanoni. We are indebted to the super-villain Arbaces of The Last Days of Pompeii for many evil geniuses since, from Conan Doyle's Moriarity to present day comic book crime lords.

Bulwer-Lytton's ancestral home, Knebworth was filmed as Wayne Manor in Tim Burton's Batman.

Gothic Labyrinth
Gothic Labyrinth