But back to Bulwer-Lytton, the thing that always struck me about the line that set off this bad-writing cult -- "It was a dark and stormy night" -- is that there's nothing wrong with it. It tells us that a) It was night; b) It was dark (nighttime isn't always dark, if there are lamps, or moonlight); c) There was a storm. The line is part of an opening sentence that, in the fashion of the time, is rather long:
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 house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
But I still don't see the problem with it; it's a long sentence, but it doesn't waste words: each word has a descriptive function and tells us something we need to know to picture the scene that's being described. And this analysis of the opening chapter of that novel, Paul Clifford, strikes me as pretty pedantic, like Mark Twain's nit-picking analysis of Fenimore Cooper, only not as clever.
B-W gets picked on, basically, because he was a successful Victorian-era novelist who didn't achieve the status of an all-time classic, which makes him a convenient target for everything the modern era didn't like about Victorian prose. As this page makes clear, there's often not a lot of difference between the prose of Bulwer-Lytton and the prose of Dickens. But Dickens is a classic, and his run-on sentences and tongue-twisting diction and weird grammar and syntax are not fair game in the way that they are in the prose of Bulwer-Lytton (a good and entertaining novelist, but not a great one).
The thing that irritates me about picking on this kind of prose writing is that it's based on an ideal of prose-writing, and particularly prose-writing in fiction, that I find very limited. Run-on sentences aren't allowed? But the long sentences in Victorian novels have a function; the sentences are not long just because the writer couldn't be bothered to put in a period or exclamation point, but rather, they are long because they carry the reader through the progression of the author's thoughts; particularly in descriptive passages, a long sentence conveys an unbroken picture of the scene, whereas a series of short sentences seems choppy and breaks up the description. The author uses highfalutin' phrases instead of saying the same thing in simpler terms? But if we all use the simple term to describe something, we'll be describing it in the same terms as someone else. The insistence of the prose-pedants, like Orwell, on "plain English" may be appropriate for non-fiction writing, but carried into fiction writing, it becomes a recipe for cookie-cutter prose and undescriptive descriptions. Instead of laughing at the over-ripeness of Victorian prose, maybe we could consider the possibility that post-Victorian prose isn't ripe enough?