Wednesday 24 June 2009

Bitter Bierce

Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

Positive, adj: Mistaken at the top of one's voice.

Present, n: That part of eternity dividing the domain of disappointment from the realm of hope.

Perseverance: A lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success.

Patriotism: Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of anyone ambitious to illuminate his name.

Philosophy: A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.

Just a few entries under the letter P in that sardonic masterpiece The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce - 'Bitter Bierce' - who was born on this day in 1842, the tenth of 13 children, on all of whom their father (Marcus Aurelius Bierce) bestowed names beginning with A. In 1913, while travelling with Pancho Villa's army in Mexico, Bierce became one of very few authors to disappear without trace. How we wish there were more...


  1. Terrific stuff! The 'perseverance' definition reminds me of my favourite Churchill quotation: 'Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm'. The wisdom inherent in this becomes evident as one gets older, I find.

  2. Philosophy: A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.

    I once wrote a very long blogpost saying more or less what Bierce said much better in 10 words.

    I see he's missing an entry for 'Science' though. How about:

    Science: The process of finding ever more specific ways of being wrong.

  3. "Gravitation, n. The tendency of all bodies to approach one another with a strength proportioned to the quantity of matter they contain—the quantity of matter they contain being ascertained by the strength of their tendency to approach one another. This is a lovely and edifying illustration of how science, having made A the proof of B, makes B the proof of A."

  4. The pedant's Apprentice.24 June 2009 at 13:37

    The old bugger is wrong in his science spiel, though. You can measure the mass of something without resorting to weighing it.

  5. Maybe he was shot by Patton.