ambrose bierce (1842 – 1914?)

ambroce bierce

Ambrose Gwinett Bierce was born  1842 in Ohio, the youngest of a large family. He left his family in 1857 to live in Indiana, he worked  for an abolitionist newspaper and then attended the Kentucky Military Institute for a year before – also his uncle and grandfather had had interest in the military. He made odd jobs until the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War in 1860, when he joined the army and fought in several key battles,  was seriously wounded in the head and escaped from capture. His war experiences influenced a lot his writings and are commonly seen as the source of his cynical realism. When he  quit the army, moved to  San Francisco in 1867, where he decided on a career in journalism. Self-taught, he soon gained him fame thanks to his acid wit. In 1871, he married  Mary Ellen (“Mollie”) Day, of one of the best families of San Francisco. The couple went to England where Bierce wrote his first three books: Nuggets and Dust (1872), The Fiend’s Delight (1873), and Cobwebs from an Empty Skull (1874). Back to San Francisco, in 1877, Bierce became the editor of The Argonaut, in 1881 joined the Wasp and in 1887 for the San Francisco Examiner. It was a period of great tragedies for the author: he separated from Mollie and one of his sons was killed in a duel over a woman. It followed  a period of great tragedies – he separated from Mollie that soon died, and two sons died  Bierce went on writing and publishing while as a writer he was getting more and more famous  with his books The Monk and the Hangman’s Daughter (1892), Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (1892), Black Beetles In Amber (1892), and Can Such Things Be? (1893), Fantastic Fables (1899),  Shapes of Clay (1903) and , Cynic’s Work Book (later the Devil’s Dictionary, 1906). Bierce became less and less involved in the world around him. The last volumes of the twelve-volume Collected Works set appeared in 1912, then he left journalism and went to Mexico. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Ambrose Bierce’s life was the end: he went  to war-torn Mexico during the rebellion led by Pancho Villa, sent out a final letter, and vanished. The last line of the last letter from Ambrose Bierce  dated December 26, 1913 was

“As to me, I leave here tomorrow for an unknown destination.”

The U.S government researches did not find any answer. There are mainly two theories : one  assumes that he really went go to Mexico; the other assumes he did not. Probably, after crossing into Mexico, Bierce was killed during the fighting of the war.

Perhaps the most convincing among the various stories is that of soldier-of-fortune Edward “Tex” O’Reilly who claims to have been contacted by , but he never met with him. He then heard that an American had been executed by Federal Troops while  he was searching for Villa’s troops. The other theories is based on the fact that Bierce did not go to Mexico, and committed  suicide. Other sources  state that Ambrose Bierce never existed at all or  that he retired into a hospital for the insane in Nappa. In 1915, there came reports that Bierce was actually in Europe fighting in France during World War I.

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