Little Bits of History

The Cynic

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 24, 2010

Ambrose Bierce Circa 1866.

June 24, 1842: Ambrose Bierce, satirist, critic, short story writer, novelist, essayist, poet, editor, and journalist, is born in Meigs County, Ohio. He moved to Elkhart, Indiana while a teenager and served during the Civil War as an officer in the Ninth Regiment, Indiana Volunteers for the Union Army. He resigned from the Army as a brevet Major while in San Francisco. He remained there writing for several local newspapers and periodicals.

He moved to England and wrote from there for three years, moved back to the USA and moved around much of the western half of the country, writing in various venues. He worked for the Hearst Newspapers before eventually moving back to the East Coast. His biting wit along with his penchant for writing social criticism and satirical pieces led to controversy. He was given the nickname “Bitter Bierce” but did have a soft spot and lent encouragement to young writers.

He is best known for his non-fiction work, The Devil’s Dictionary. The dictionary consists of sarcastic or hypocritical definitions laced with political innuendo. Definitions were printed in his newspapers over time and they were first put into book form with the title of Cynic’s Word Book. In 1911, the book was republished with the current title.

At the age of 71 in October of 1913, Bierce left Washington DC to tour his old Civil War battlefields. By December, he was through Texas and on the way to El Paso. He traveled into Mexico which was in a state of revolution at the time. He joined Pancho Villa’s army as an observer in Ciudad, Juarez. It is known that he got as far as Chihuahua, Chihuahua and sent a letter to a friend dated December 26, 1913. He then vanished without a trace.

“CYNIC n. A blackguard whose faulty vision causes him to see things as they are, not as they ought to be.”

“RUM, n. Generically, fiery liquors that produce madness in total abstainers.”

“HOMICIDE, n. The slaying of one human being by another. There are four kinds of homocide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy, but it makes no great difference to the person slain whether he fell by one kind or another –the classification is for advantage of the lawyers.”

“Love: A temporary insanity curable by marriage.”

“Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate.” – all from Ambrose Bierce

Also on this day, in 1947 Kenneth Arnold spotted a UFO.