Encyclopedia > Ambrose Bierce

  Article Content

Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (June 24, 1842 - 1913 or 1914) was an American satirist, litterateur, short story and ghost story writer and journalist, known as "Bitter Bierce".

Born in Ohio, Bierce enlisted in the Union Army[?] at the outset of the American Civil War and fought in several of its most important battles. He served as an advance scout, making topographical sketches of likely battlefields, and also participated in combat.

After the war he retired from the army at the rank of brevet Major, and in 1867 moved to San Francisco, where he worked for many years as a regular columnist and editorialist for William Randolph Hearst's newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner.

His short stories are considered among the best of the 19th century. He wrote of the terrible things he had seen in the war in such stories as "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" and "Chickamauga".

Bierce was reckoned as a master of "pure" English by his contemporaries, and virtually everything that came from his pen was notable for its judicious wording and economy of style. He wrote skillfully in a variety of literary genres, and in addition to his celebrated ghost and war stories he published several volumes of poetry and verse. His Fantastic Fables anticipated the ironic style of grotesquerie that turned into a genre in the 20th century. One of Bierce's most famous works is The Devil's Dictionary, originally a newspaper serialization, that offered an interesting reinterpretation of the English language in which cant and political double-talk were neatly lampooned.

Bierce's twelve-volume Collected Works were published in 1912. In October 1913 the septuagenarian went to Mexico, then in the throes of revolution, to join the army of Pancho Villa. His wrote a last letter on December 26, 1913 and was expecting to travel to the Battle of Ojinaga[?]. He disappeared and subsequent investigations to ascertain his fate were fruitless and his disappearance remains a mystery.

Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes[?] wrote Gringo Viejo (The Old Gringo), a fictionalized account of Bierce's disappearance that was later made into a movie with Gregory Peck in the title role.


Following are some examples from The Devil's Dictionary:

Accord, n. Harmony.
Accordion, n. An instrument in harmony with the sentiments of an assassin.
Bore, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.
Marriage, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.
Non-combatant, n. A dead Quaker.

External Links

E-texts of some of Ambrose Bierce's works:

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article

... the axis pushes against the lower rim of the groove. While the axis is slipping around inside the groove, the friction between the axis and the groove rims will accelerate ...

This page was created in 54.1 ms