Friday, March 18, 2011

Mightier Than the Sword, But Still Dependant on Who Wields It

Quill, n. An implement of torture yielded by a goose and commonly wielded by an ass. This use of the quill is now obsolete, but its modern equivalent, the steel pen, is wielded by the same everlasting Presence.

Ink, n. A villanous compound of tanno-gallate of iron, gum-arabic and water, chiefly used to facilitate the infection of idiocy and promote intellectual crime .... most generally and acceptably employed as a mortar to bind together the stones in an edifice of fame, and as a whitewash to conceal afterward the rascal quality of the material.

from Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary


Deborah Wilson said...

I haven't read "The Devil's Dictionary" yet, but I will around to it at some point this month. I have read many of Ambrose Bierce's short stories and listed him as featured pen on my blog this month.

Bierce was also a Union Soldier, he fought in the battle of Pickett's Mill during the Atlanta Campaign, which occurred only a few days after the Battle of New Hope Church.

After the War Between the States, Ambrose wrote The Crime at Pickett's Mill in which he stated that Union General Sherman committed a crime against his own men by not providing them with backup in the time frame that he was suppose to.

At Pickett's Mill, just like at New Hope Church, thousands of Union soldiers were killed in a matter of a few hours.

That said, I think Ambrose was an excellent writer. I've always wondered what really happened to him - he disappeared in 1913, [suppossedly was going to Mexico] and no one ever heard from him again.

But, Ambrose always did love a mystery [mysterious disppearances]!

David Hampton: said...

Thanks for the commment, Deborah. I have my students read "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" when studying American Lit, and excerpts from The Devil's Dictionary" (originally called The Cynic's World Book) but will have to check out some of his other short stories now that you mention it (I'll include him in my "summer" reading).

In the Dec. 23 & 30, 2002 issue of The New Yorker, Burkhard Bilger wrote an article about Joe Nickell, a paranormal and literary detective. He said that though legend holds that Bierce went to Mexico and never came back, Nickel argued that Bierce committed suicide in a canyon along the Colorado River the following year of his disappearance, using a German revolver that people knew he long carried for that purpose.

I agree, though, Bierce was such a dark humorist I think he would have rather his death be a mystery than for people to know for sure when and how he died, because he probably didn't want to give people that satisfaction!