Ambrose 'Bitter' Bierce was immortalised by The Devil's Dictionary. His series of satirical definitions and irreverent aphorisms first appeared from 1881 to 1886 in the columns of a provincial newspaper, impaling the sacred cows of civilised life - and much else besides - upon the spikes of his own mordant wit.
From Birth ('the direst of all disasters') to Death ('the golden goal attained'), via Love ('a temporary insanity curable by marriage'), Faith ('belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel') and Hope ('Desire and expectation rolled into one'), Bierce couches his barbs in a language with echoes of Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde. He was also a master of spoof verse and prose, his powers of invention ably demonstrated in the gallery of 'sources' for his definitions. Father Gassalasca Jape, Noramy Oof, Venable Strigg and Gat Huckle are just a few of Bierce's more whimsical creations.
First published in book form as The Cynic's Word Book in 1906, to the kind of universal indifference that Bierce would have found rather reassuring - his motto was 'nothing matters' - The Devil's Dictionary nevertheless became a true classic, its popularity such that many of its anecdotes became part of everyday parlance, its influence extending to the great satirists and wits of the 20th century, among them Thomas Pynchon and Groucho Marx. God may have given us the gift of language, but the Devil kept all the best lines.
Read more about the life and work of Ambrose Bierce
Review by everlong951 on 18th Jan 2013
"I purchased this book for my English teacher when did a close analysis of a few of his definitions. Bierce is without a doubt one of my favorite writers and the book looks superb! "
Review by anon on 14th Sep 2012
"I’ve been dipping in and out of this quite frequently so, sadly, it’s my first Folio Edition to be losing its ‘New Book’ smell. Ambrose Bierce is, without a doubt, sheer brilliance. Written ba..." [read more]