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Ambrose Bierce was born on 24th June, 1842 in Meigs County, Ohio to Marcus Aurelius Bierce and Laura Sherwood Bierce. His parents instilled in him a deep love for books. He grew up in Kosciusko County, Indiana with his siblings. He left home at fifteen to become printer’s devil at a small Ohio newspaper.

Ambrose Bierce grew up to become a writer, satirist, journalist and editorialist. He fought at the Battle of Shiloh (1862), an experience that became a source of many of his short stories. He is famous for his short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. He was also known to be a source of inspirations and encouragement for many a young writer including poet George Sterling. In 1913, Ambrose Bierce travelled to Mexico to witness the Mexican Revolution from close quarters. By the end of same year, he disappeared without any trace and no subsequent investigation could throw any light of his whereabouts thereafter. His end, to this date, remains shrouded in mystery.

Here are some of the definitions from his satirical lexicon, The Devil’s Dictionary.

Apologize, v.i. To lay the foundation for a future offence.
Boundary, n. In political geography, an imaginary line between two nations, separating the imaginary rights of one from the imaginary rights of the other.
Calamity, n. A more than commonly plain and unmistakable reminder that the affairs of this life are not of our own ordering. Calamities are of two kinds: misfortune to ourselves, and good fortune to others.
Circus, n. A place where horses, ponies and elephants are permitted to see men, women and children acting the fool.
Destiny, n. [1.] A tyrant’s authority for crime and a fool’s excuse for failure. [2.] A force alleged to control affairs, principally quoted by erring human beings to excuse their failures.
Expectation, n. The state or condition of mind which in the procession of human emotions is preceded by hope and followed by despair.
Forgetfulness, n. A gift of God bestowed upon debtors in compensation for their destitution of conscience.
Ghost, n. The outward and visible sign of an inward fear.
Habit, n. A shackle for the free.
Handkerchief, n. A small square of silk or linen, used in various ignoble offices about the face and especially serviceable at funerals to conceal the lack of tears. The handkerchief is of recent invention; our ancestors knew nothing of it and intrusted its duties to the sleeve. Shakespeare’s introducing it into the play of “Othello” is an anachronism: Desdemona dried her nose with her skirt, as Dr. Mary Walker and other reformers have done with their coat-tails in our own day – an evidence that revolutions sometimes go backward.
Idleness, n. A model farm where the devil experiments with seeds of new sins and promotes the growth of staple vices.
Jealous, adj. Unduly concerned about the preservation of that which can be lost only if not worth keeping.
Land, n. A part of the earth’s surface, considered as property. The theory that land is property subject to private ownership and control is the foundation of modern society, and is eminently worthy of the superstructure. Carried to its logical conclusion, it means that some have the right to prevent others from living; for the right to own implies the right exclusively to occupy; and in fact laws of trespass are enacted wherever property in land is recognized. It follows that if the whole area of terra firma is owned by A, B and C, there will be no place for D, E, F and G to be born, or, born as trespassers, to exist.
Marvellous, adj. Not understood.
Mesmerism, n. Hypnotism before it wore good clothes, kept a carriage and asked Incredulity to dinner.
Painting, n. The art of protecting ¯at surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critic.
Patience, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.
Road, n. A strip of land along which one may pass from where it is too tiresome to be to where it is futile to go.
Year, n. A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments.

Painting by Jan Matejko (1862)

Matejko Stańczyk