Bitter Bierce seems a fitting nickname for a man primarily known to us as a curmudgeonly old journalist. His oeuvre is made up of short stories, fables, journalism (mainly political), and a strange satirical dictionary which lists this as an entry:
- DICTIONARY, n.
- A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary, however, is a most useful work.
The railroad tycoons had borrowed 130 million dollars to build a transcontinental railroad, which they planned to not pay back by lobbying a particularly untoward congressman into passing a bill to forgive the debt. Bierce went after the congressman with his usual ferocity, writing article after article, pushing to the forefront an issue that congress and the railroad tycoons tried to sweep under the rug. It all led to one fantastic encounter on the steps of the capitol where Collis Huntington, a railroad tycoon, so annoyed at the press Bierce was bringing to the issue, told him to name his price. A crowd gathered as Bierce gave his reply:
"My price is one hundred thirty million dollars. If, when you are ready to pay, I happen to be out of town, you may hand it over to my friend, the Treasurer of the United States"
- DISTANCE, n.
- The only thing that the rich are willing for the poor to call theirs, and keep.
On a side note, the Bohemian Club is a legendary organization that has fallen into disrepair (or maybe always been that way). It is reported that Oscar Wilde went one year, well before Bierce, only to be abused the by the members. After he outdrank the lot of them, in great Oscar Wilde fashion, uttered: “I never saw so many well-dressed, well-fed business-looking Bohemians in my life."
- Future, n.
- That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.
"Good-bye — if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a gringo in Mexico—ah, that is euthanasia!"