Ambrose Bierce's 
"The Devil's Dictionary"

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Ambrose Bierce was born on June 24, 1842 in Horse Cave Creek, Ohio, USA. Bierce's service in the Civil War provided him with material for some of his finest stories, and his disillusioned attitude, that coloured much of his writing. After the war he went to San Francisco where he worked as an editor while writing for various magazines, 1866-72. He also spent three years in London as an editor, 1872-75, when he published many stories.

Bierce returned to San Francisco as an editor and newspaper columnist, 1887-96. "Bitter Bierce" became the West Coast's leading literary arbiter. He later went to Washington, DC, as a correspondent for the Hearst newspapers, 1897-1909. In 1906, he published the "Cynic's Word Book" as a collection of his sardonic-ironic definitions. This work was later retitled "The Devil's Dictionary."

Never at ease in America, Bierce set off for Mexico in 1913, apparently in search of Pancho Villa, the Mexican rebel. It is not known exactly when or how Bierce died. Click here for more information about Bierce from these Interesting Ambrose Bierce Websites.

The following paragraphs are exerpted from Bierce's preface to "The Devil's Dictionary"
 
 

The Devil's Dictionary was begun in a weekly paper in 1881, and was continued in a desultory way at long intervals until 1906. In that year a large part of it was published in covers with the title The Cynic's Word Book, a name which the author had not the power to reject or happiness to approve.

Meantime, too, some of the enterprising humorists of the country had helped themselves to such parts of the work as served their needs, and many of its definitions, anecdotes, phrases and so forth, had become more or less current in popular speech. This explanation is made, not with any pride of priority in trifles, but in simple denial of possible charges of plagiarism, which is no trifle. In merely resuming his own the author hopes to be held guiltless by those to whom the work is addressed -- enlightened souls who prefer dry wines to sweet, sense to sentiment, wit to humor and clean English to slang.


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