THE TOWN CRIER
No writer connected with the Far-Western frontier has given rise to more bizarre stories and conflicting theories than Ambrose Gwinnett ("Almighty God") Bierce, known to posterity as Bitter Bierce. Was he a social-minded editor who set about reform with a trenchant pen backed by a six-shooter, or merely a selfish misanthrope who gained sadistic pleasure in breaking butterflies on the wheel? Was he a soft-hearted sentimentalist who mocked at a world which hurt him too much, an idealist who turned bitter because he could not find the perfection he craved, or a wit who was spoiled by early adulation and adopted the satiric pose as his most effective role? Were his many idiosyncrasies, such as his refusal to eat spinach, his loathing of dogs, and his fondness for skulls as desk ornaments, simply acts in a show which culminated dramatically in one of the best-staged disappearances of modern times? Or was he a strange, powerful genius whose talent fell on fallow ground because he was unfortunately born into a society that would not stomach satiric medicine?
Though critics are even today by no means agreed on the intrinsic value of Ambrose Bierce's literary output, they unite in recognizing him as one of the first American writers to por