First lines of famous works of literature

We’ve done best movie lines, worst movie lines and famous commercials. Can you identify these famous first lines?

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

“Call me Ishmael.”

“Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again.”

“Marley was dead, to begin with.”

“You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’; but that ain’t no matter.”

Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

“Call me Ishmael.”

Moby ****.

“Marley was dead, to begin with.”

Christmas Carol

“You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’; but that ain’t no matter.”

Huckleberry Fin.

I don’t know the rest.

“…However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighberhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Hey, I’m a guy who isn’t ashamed to admit that he reads this novel about once a year. In fact, I learned in a college lit. class that during the first World War Austen was considered an author for a male audience. Soldiers would be reminded of home and the women they fought for when reading the early nineteenth century novelists’ brilliant stories of love, courtship and propriety.

I’ll add two for someone else to try:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

and

“Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except the stray inexpressible few, that made him worth while.”

A Tale of Two Cities and This Side of Paradise I think is the source of the other quote although I’m not a big fan of Fitzgerald.

“Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York. Especially in 1912. Somber, as a word, was better. But it did not apply to Williamsburg, Brooklyn.” (okay, so it was more than one sentence!)

“Tom!”

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

“There once was a boy by the name of Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

“In the village of La Mancha the name of which I don’t care to recall, there lived not so long ago one of those gentlemen who always have a lance in the rack, an ancient buckler, a skinny nag, and a greyhound for the chase.”

Don Quixote (Cervantes)

“If music be the food of love, play on.”

“I had this story from one who had no business to tell it to me, or any other.”

“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”

“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, Douglas Adams. (The cultural elitists would have an aneurysm because I wasn’t sure about the first one)

The Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare.

“I had this story from one who had no business to tell it to me, or any other.”

Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

Here are some of my favourites:

On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. Bridge.

I encountered the school without warning, sandwiching the appointment between one at the Y and another at the Cerebral Palsy Clinic, where I had been many times before.

When Edward the First of England, in the year 1305, had cruelly put to death the Scottish champion Sir William Wallace, the bold asserter of Scottish independence, he imagined himself to be now secure in the possession of that kingdom.

Some more great first lines to identify:

Perhaps the most famous first line of all time, thanks to Charles Schultz and Snoopy:

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.

Mama died today.

A screaming comes across the sky.

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

Once upon a time there was a Martian named Valentine Michael Smith. [hint: Do you grok this thread?]

Off topic, but:

“If music be the food of love, play on” may be the most mis-used line in all Shakespeare: the speaker wants to overfeed and kill the appetite for love.

The software for this site won’t allow you to type the short version of the name ‘Richard’: how incredibly juvinile and puerile is that? It’s just sad, worse than when nuns would caution girls against patten leather, for fear it would reflect their pantys…

Ditto!

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.

Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Once upon a time there was a Martian named Valentine Michael Smith.

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (don’t like that book)

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

Incorrect - but very close. It’s The History of the Life and Death of the Great Warrior Robert Bruce, King of Scotland. Author unknown, printed in Glasgow, I’m not sure what year.

Can anyone guess my other two? :slight_smile:

Is it The Color Purple?

No, Albert Camus: The Stranger.

Try this one:
It was love at first sight.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

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