Ambrose Bierce


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the life and works of Ambrose Bierce, for the American Literature classroom

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Ambrose Bierce

  1. 1. Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) His personal and nihilistic motto was “Nothing Matters.” (from "Death is not the end," wrote Ambrose Bierce, "there remains litigation over the estate." "Bitter Bierce," as he was often called, was an unapologetic misanthrope who loathed humanity and took pleasure in deflating every inspiring myth or optimistic sentiment with a sharp comment.
  2. 2. With what anguish of mind I remember my childhood, Recalled in the light of a knowledge since gained; The malarious farm, the wet, fungus grown wildwood, The chills then contracted that since have remained. (from Bierce wrote about his early years: Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
  3. 3. (from After serving in the Civil War -- and seeing up close the depths to which man could sink -- he became a journalist in San Francisco infamous for cutting one-liners and put-downs. He is famous for his short stories of war, horror, and the West (“Occurrence on Owl Creek Bridge”) as well as The Devil’s Dictionary. Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
  4. 4. The Devil’s Dictionary (selections) by Ambrose Bierce 1911 An irreverent collection of definitions and quotes
  5. 5. The Devil’s Dictionary selections) by Ambrose Bierce 1911 An irreverent collection of definitions and quotes POLITENESS, n. The most acceptable hypocrisy. ABSURDITY, n. A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion. BORE, n.: A person who talks when you wish him to listen. BRAIN: an apparatus with which we think we think.
  6. 6. October 1913, at the age of seventy-one, Bierce decided to quit the United States and observe the Pancho Villa revolution in Mexico. Before leaving, he wrote the following letter to his niece Lora ("Carlt" is her husband, Carlton): Dear Lora, I go away tomorrow for a long time, so this is only to say good-bye. I think there is nothing else worth saying; therefore, you will naturally expect a long letter. What an intolerable world this would be if we said nothing but what is worth saying! And did nothing foolish -- like going into Mexico and South America. (from Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
  7. 7. I'm hoping that you will go to the mine soon. You must hunger and thirst for the mountains -- Carlt likewise. So do I. Civilization be dinged! -- It is the mountains and the desert for me. Good-by -- if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart his life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico -- ah, that is euthanasia! With love to Carlt, affectionately yours, Ambrose (from Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
  8. 8. Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) Odd & Interesting facts: <ul><li>As a Union soldier during the Civil War, he was wounded in the temple. The bullet lodged within his skull behind his left ear. </li></ul><ul><li>He worked for a while at the U.S. Mint. </li></ul><ul><li>He tried his luck in the mining business in the Dakota Territory without success. </li></ul><ul><li>His son, Day, killed a rival suitor of a 16-year-old girl and eventually was killed in a duel in 1889. Bierce's other son, Leigh, died of pneumonia at the age of 26. Another account has his sons dying one by suicide after a failed love affair, and the other from acute alcohol intoxication. </li></ul><ul><li>Bierce claimed that he kept the ashes of his sons on his writing desk in a cigar-box. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1910, Bierce engaged in what became a legendary drinking bout with Jack London at a club in Sonoma County, California. </li></ul><ul><li>Two of his stories have been transformed into short operas. </li></ul><ul><li>He was good friends with Mark Twain. </li></ul><ul><li>His California home has been turned into a Bed & Breakfast, the Ambrose Bierce House, with rooms renting at $200+ a night. </li></ul><ul><li>Bierce's distant relative, Paul Bierce, has written some fiction in the style of his ancestor. </li></ul>Various sources
  9. 9. Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) The End Late in 1913, at the age of seventy-one, Bierce retired from writing and went to Mexico where he vanished mysteriously. &quot;I am going away to South America, and have not the faintest notion when I shall return,&quot; he wrote to Samuel Loveman on September 10, 1913. From Chihuahua he posted a letter which was his last. According to one explanation Bierce did not go to Mexico at all but, instead, committed suicide in the Grand Canyon. One wild story tells that he was held captive by a tribe of Brazilian Indians. (