Edward Bulwer-Lytton

The Lyttons, a Hertfordshire family, and the Lovelaces, an Oxfordshire family, have many literary connections and have had estates on Exmoor for a long time.

Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton (1803–1873) was a novelist, playwright, and politician. He was a popular writer of his day, who coined such phrases as "the great unwashed", "pursuit of the almighty dollar" and "the pen is mightier than the sword". Despite the popularity in his heyday, today his name is known as a byword for bad writing and his opening line “It was a dark and stormy night”has been a source of ridicule in modern times.

He was the youngest son of General William Earle Bulwer of Heydon Hall and Wood Dalling, and Elizabeth Barbara Lytton, daughter of Richard Warburton Lytton of Knebworth, Hertfordshire. He had two brothers, William (1799-1877) and Henry (1801-1872), afterwards Lord Dalling. In 1838 Bulwer, then at the height of his popularity, was created a baronet, and on succeeding to the Knebworth estate in 1843 added Lytton to his surname, under the terms of his mother’s will. His son,Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton (1831-1891) was viceroy of India from 1876 to 1880. His daughter, Lady Emily Lytton, married architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Robert became a well-known poet and author, writing under the pseudonym of Owen Meredith. His writings were based on the literature of foreign countries that he lived in as a diplomat. His godson, the critic and writerLytton Strachey, was named after him.

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton's literary career began in 1820, with the publication of his first book of poems, written at the age of fifteen, and spanned much of the nineteenth century. He wrote in a variety of genres, including historical fiction, mystery, romance, the occult and science fiction. In 1828 he attracted general attention with Pelham, an intimate study of the dandyism of the age that kept gossips busy in identifying the characters with the leading men of the time. By 1833, he had reached the height of his popularity with Godolphin, followed by The Pilgrims of the Rhine (1834), The Last Days of Pompeii (1834), Rienzi (1835), andHarold: Last of the Saxon Kings (1848). He also wrote stories of the occult, including The Haunted and the Haunters (1857) and Vril: The Power of the Coming Race. The latter was one of the first science fiction novels. Pelham had been partly inspired by Benjamin D'Israeli’s first novel and the two authors and politicians became friends.

The connection between the Earls of Lytton and the Earls of Lovelace came via Judith Blunt-Lytton, 16th Baroness Wentworth (1873–1957). She was the eldest daughter of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt and his wife, Lady Anne, a daughter of the 1st Earl of Lovelace and his mathematician wife, Ada, who had an Exmoor estate and residence at Ashley Combe at Porlock Weir. Wilfred Scawen Blunt was a well-known poet and diplomat. He was an eccentric and controversial figure but was highly regarded as a poet and writer. He had many friends in literary circles and founded the ‘Crabbet Club’for authors. Ada was the daughter of the poet Lord Byron. The Earl of Lovelace was a distant relative of the 17th century Cavalier poet Richard Lovelace. Judith spent most of her childhood in Egypt and the Middle East as her parents were buying Arabian horses for their Crabbet Arabian Stud. Her parents were great travellers and were fluent in several languages. As well as writing, they translated Arabic poems.

In 1899, Judith married Neville Stephen Lytton, the youngest son of the 1stEarl of Lytton and grandson of Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Her parents had been friends of the Earl. The marriage took place in Cairo, and they later moved into a house in the grounds of her parents' estate, Crabbet Park (near Crawley), filled with relics from Judith's great-grandfather, Lord Byron. The couple later had three children: Anthony, Anne (later known as Lady Anne Lytton) and Winifred (later known as Lady Winifrid Tryon).

In 1904, Judith's father made over the running of the Crabbet estate and stud to her. Two years later, her estranged parents divided the estate, Wilfrid living close by at Newbuildings Place, while Lady Anne maintained an estate and arab stud near Cairo. In 1917, Judith inherited her mother's barony of Wentworth and the latter's share of the Crabbet Stud passed to Judith's daughters. Judith became estranged from her husband, eventually divorcing him in 1923. Noel soon remarried, but Lady Wentworth never did, focusing on managing Crabbet Park until her death.

Lady Wentworth's former husband, Neville, had inherited his childless brother's earldom of Lytton in 1947, and on his own death in 1951, it passed to their only son, Anthony. Lady Wentworth had become estranged from her children since the divorce. She saw her son for the first time in thirty years on her deathbed in 1957 and her title also passed to him. Mary, widow of the 2nd Earl Lovelace, was childless and made Anthony her heir. Anthony became an economist and then administrator in Africa and post-war Italy and Austria, where he met Clarissa Palmer, whom he married. The couple then moved to Anthony’s Exmoor estate. Anthony’s eldest son, John, has now inherited the earldom and the Exmoor estate. His eldest son, Philip, is Viscount Knebworth.