SOME famous persons are born in palaces and some in log cabins. Among the latter was Ambrose Bierce, born on June 24, 1842, to poor Ohio farmers; his father's name was, significantly enough, Marcus Aurelius. Though simple and formally uneducated, the family possessed a surprisingly good collection of informative books. Ambrose was a curious and intelligent boy who, when he learned to read, did not fail to utilize the unusual advantage in those days to have a small library at home.
Ambrose himself did not have much formal education. But he was growing intelligent, observant, of a critical disposition. Just as he reached maturity, the Civil War began. He quickly enlisted in the Ninth Indian Infantry regiment and fought heroically, saving the life of several wounded companions of his. On the conclusion of hostilities, Bierce went west to join his brother and to work with him in the San Francisco Mint. At the same time he embarked upon a journalistic career and developed caustic wit and unusual insight into social problems. His success with the readers resulted in his choice as editor of the News Letter. In addition, he contributed to a variety of other periodicals, giving his brilliant and startling ideas a somewhat morbid form. His first story, "The Haunted Valley," published at home ( 1871), was followed by several publications in England, where he went for a two years' visit; among them were The Fiend's Delight ( 1873) and Cobwebs from an Empty Skull ( 1874).
On his return home, Bierce contributed extensively to the satirical Wasp and conducted a highly influential Sunday column, called "Prattle," in the Examiner, a R. Hearst newspaper. For about a decade he was the best-known journalist on the Pacific Coast. Toward the end of the century, he went back east, to Washington, where he served as a correspondent for the New York American. His best thoughts during this period were gradually accumulated and finally published as the Devil's Dictionary ( 1906).
Though quite successful in his field, Bierce felt lonely, weary