“In 1913, at the age of 71, Ambrose Bierce left for Mexico ‘with a pretty definite purpose, which, however is not a present disclosable.’ He was never heard from again. Thus vanished America’s greatest satirist in the classic tradition.
Since his disappearance, Bierce has been ‘rediscovered’ about a dozen times, and always with a sense of surprise that America could have produced such a man. But a second glance at his work always indicates that only America could have produced him. Writing in the tradition of Swift and Shaw, he nevertheless aims his barbs at the specifically American institutions of which he was so much a part. Impartially, but not indiscriminately, puncturing the sacred pomposities and cherished absurdities of American politics, business, religion, literature, and the arts. He is as much of the American humor tradition as Mark Twain, Will Rogers, or Fred Allen.
'The Devil’s dictionary’ reveals him in all his irreverent and sardonic splendor, japing mercilessly at our follies and self-delusions, with all the classical, epigrammatic perfection of language that was his hallmark. Hundreds of pointed definitions, maxims, apocryphal quotations, and satirical verses attest to the power of his delightful, incisive wit. Bierce will always remain the favorite of a small coterie of enthusiast, and of writers and speakers whom he supplies with, as H.L. Menken said, ‘some of the most gorgeous witticisms of the English language.’ But he deserves a wider audience. His is the sort of unhurried, thoughtful humor that lasts.”
– From the 1958 edition of The Devil’s Dictionary, Dover Publications, Inc., 180 Varick Street, New York, NY, 10014.
Your dose for December 31, 2008, from the “A” pages, is….:
Adder: n. A species of snake. So called for its habit of adding funeral outlays to the other expenses of living.