The Life Of Ambrose Bierce Essay Research

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The Life Of Ambrose Bierce Essay, Research Paper Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was born on June 24, 1842 in Meigs County, Ohio to Marcus Aurelius Bierce and Laura Sherwood Bierce. He was a “naughty” child, but, when he was not out playing devilish pranks, he would surround himself with the books of his literature-loving father. To these, he once wrote, he owed “everything.” Family conditions were never comfortable and Ambrose Bierce left home at fifteen to become a printer’s devil for the Northern Indianian in Warsaw. This position he forfeited at seventeen when he was falsely accused of stealing money, and his family insisted that he enroll in the Kentucky Military Institute. Knowledge in army tactics and map reading gained there would aid him in the Civil War, into

which he enlisted in 1861, at nineteen years of age. As biographer Richard O’Conner wrote, “War was the making of Bierce as a man and a writer.” Surely this cannot be disputed, for it was in the war that Bierce was surrounded by the dead and the dying. From this grim experience Bierce would emerge — at twenty-three — a young man with a true understand of death and a destined writer truly capable of transferring the bloody, headless bodies and boar-eaten corpses of the battlefield onto paper (along with other, less gruesome qualities of war). Bierce’s war tales are considered by many to be the best writing on war, outranking his contemporary Stephen Crane (author of The Red Badge of Courage) and even Ernest Hemingway. When the war was over Bierce worked for the

Treasury Department for Reconstruction work in the south and also for the government for mapping unknown regions of the west. He then went to San Francisco where, denied a promised commission in the regular army, he decided on a literary career. While working as a night guard at the U. S. Mint, Bierce read voraciously in his spare time and developed a literary style of his own, “practicing” by producing several tracts intended to defend atheism. He also drew up a folio of cartoons mocking the platforms of both candidates for the 1867 election, which, when circulated among his fellow workers at the mint, gained the attention that led to their being sold and published by the respective candidates as “weapons” against the opponent’s campaign. But Bierce moved to the

written word as a means of self-expression, his first endeavors being at verse that was published in the Californian. Still dissatisfied, he attempted prose, and humorous, satirical articles and essays soon appeared in the Californian, the Atla California, the Golden Era, and the weekly News-Letter and California Advertiser. His first literary models were his contemporaries Brete Harte and Mark Twain, but, under the tutelage of James W. Watkins, editor of the News-Letter, he was introduced to the satire of Swift, Voltaire, Pope, and Juvenal. His style developed and perfected, Watkins loosed him on the world on December 5, 1868 by way of the News-Letter’s “Town Crier” page, which soon became entirely occupied by Bierce’s remarks and criticism. Mysteriously, Watkins left

for New York, leaving Bierce a newspaper editor at age 26. He stayed until March 9, 1872 completing 167 weekly columns. Bierce married in 1871 and, as a wedding gift from his father-in-law, spent a long honeymoon in England, where he was soon accepted into the “Fleet Street Gang” — a social pantheon of prominent authors, critics, editors, and “pub-crawlers.” He wrote and published essays for his friend James Mortimer’s Figaro (in which he appeared regularly in the column, “The Passing Showman”) and for the Fun, edited by his close friend, humorist Tom Hood. At the same time — in July, 1872 — J. C. Hotten published Bierce’s first book, The Fiend’s Delight, a collection of “Town Crier” columns and other material from the California papers. Although the