"Elmer Gantry was drunk. He was eloquently drunk, lovingly and pugnaciously drunk."
Sinclair Lewis: Elmer Gantry (1926)Picture: AP
Of course there are Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice) and Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities), but also Jean Rhys (The Wide Sargasso Sea) and Ken Kesey (One Few Over the Cuckoo's Nest). I was especially taken with the above black and white photograph of Sinclair Lewis sitting at his typewriter dressed in a suit and tie. I guess the photo was not taken on Casual Friday.
Therefore, not to be outdone by The Telegraph, here is a sampling of first lines from books on my own shelves:
"Those privileged to be present at a family festival of the Forsytes have seen that charming and instructive sight -- an upper middle-class family in full plumage."
----The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
"I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of Ngong Hills."
----Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
"When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch."
----Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck
"On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays it was Court Hand and Summulae Logicales, while the rest of the week it was the Organon, Repetition and Astrology."
----The Once and Future King by T.H. White
"Had one been a Prime Minister there would be every reason for talking of one's first tooth and devoting a chapter or two to its effect upon the history of our times."
----Twenty-five by Beverley Nichols
"There were several promising-looking letters in the pile laid on Mrs. James Kane's virgin breakfast-plate on Monday morning, but having sorted all the envelopes with the air of one expectant of discovering treasure-trove, she extracted two addressed to her in hands indicative of either illiteracy or of extreme youth."
----Duplicate Death by Georgette Heyer
What first lines are lurking on your shelves?