Amborse Bierce

"Death is not the end," wrote Ambrose Bierce, "there remains litigation over the estate." "Bitter Bierce," as he was often called, was an unapologetic misanthrope who loathed humanity and took pleasure in deflating every inspiring myth or optimistic sentiment with a sharp comment. After serving in the Civil War -- and seeing up close the depths to which man could sink -- he became a journalist in San Francisco infamous for cutting one-liners and put-downs. In October 1913, at the age of seventy-one, Bierce decided to quit the United States and observe the Pancho Villa revolution in Mexico. Before leaving, he wrote the following letter to his niece Lora ("Carlt" is her husband, Carlton.)

Ambrose Bierce Bids Farewell
to his Niece Lora

"Civilization be dinged! -- It is the mountains and the desert for me."

      Dear Lora,

      I go away tomorrow for a long time, so this is only to say good-bye. I think there is nothing else worth saying; therefore you will naturally expect a long letter. What an intolerable world this would be if we said nothing but what is worth saying! And did nothing foolish -- like going into Mexico and South America.

      I'm hoping that you will go to the mine soon. You must hunger and thirst for the mountains -- Carlt likewise. So do I. Civilization be dinged! -- It is the mountains and the desert for me.

      Good-by -- 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 his life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico -- ah, that is euthanasia!

      With love to Carlt, affectionately yours,


Lora received another short letter from Bierce on November 6 of that same year, reporting that he was in Laredo, Texas. The letter concluded: "I shall not be here long enough to hear from you, and don't know where I shall be next. Guess it doesn't matter much. Adios, Ambrose." She never heard from him again, and his death remains a mystery.

"The Day We Die"
"...the wind comes down to take away our footsteps."