The phrase had earlier been used by Washington Irving in his 1809 “A History of New York”.3 Its status as a catchphrase for bad writing comes from the opening sentence of Bulwer-Lytton’s novel Paul Clifford:
Evaluations of the opening sentence
Writer’s Digest described this sentence as “the literary posterchild for bad story starters”.4 On the other hand, the American Book Review ranked it as No. 22 on its “Best first lines from novels list”.5
I see nothing wrong with that paragraph. Too many like the slimmed down prose which I find spare and nearly colorless.