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on 24 November 2011
Ambrose Bierce, who mysteriously disappeared during a reported expedition to link up with Pancho Villa, left the world two great gifts: his beautiful short story "An Incident at Owl Creek Bridge" and "The Devil's Dictionary", this little volume of his definition of words and terms that reveal to the reader the full thrust of Bierce's clear-eyed vision of all that was wrong in the US and all that ought to be made right.

"The Devil's Dictionary" should be, if not at every man's bedside, then at least have pride of place on that little shelf beside his w.c. where inspirational works are left for the greater edification of he who there takes his restful ease.
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on 3 January 2014
This was a gift for a friend - I have the exact same edition, and this way I can refer to the exact page if I want to point something up. The Devil's Dictionary is a unique book - not simply 'humour', it is wise and pointed as well as funny. How does anybody live without it?
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on 11 April 2013
I am a long time admirer of Ambrose Bierce and this book is a must read for any middle aged (or aspiring) cynic. Well worth reading. Bierce gives a rollicking account of what people really mean when they say things, that is every bit as valid in modern society as it was when written!
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on 10 October 2014
Dry, witty, sour. Full of the kind of quotes you want for your after-dinner speech. Some less funny than others, but worth it nonetheless.
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on 6 August 2015
...a serious thought provoker.
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on 4 August 2013
I'd always wanted to read Ambrose Bierce's work having heard excerpts from it in the past. It doesn't disappoint although some of his definitions are now somewhat dated and refer to events which we do not now recognise.
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on 7 January 2016
Amusing read, worth the effort.........
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on 30 January 2015
Great book great bargain
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on 31 August 2014
Hilarious. Beautifully illustrated edition.
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Last week I was watching an episode of Lewis in which a character described politics as a "strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles". Although he indicated that the thought wasn't original, he didn't have time to mention that he was quoting from this collection of epigrams. Its author has been described as a Yankee Oscar Wilde, although his nickname - "Bitter Bierce" - suggests that the theme of his writing was less varied and more cynical than that of that warm-hearted, legendary wit.

A book like this is made to be read and quoted piecemeal - in fact, reading it all the way through is rather like trying to ingest a crate of lemons - so the best way to give some idea of its contents is to simply quote a few of the (many) definitions that remained in my mind after reading it:

Backbite: To speak of a man as you find him when he can't find you.

Peace: In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.

Effect: The second of two phenomena which always occur together in the same order. The first, called a Cause, is said to generate the other - which is no more sensible than it would be for one who has never seen a dog except in the pursuit of a rabbit to declare the rabbit the cause of a dog.

Congratulation: The civility of envy.

Absurdity: A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion.

Wedding: A ceremony at which two persons undertake to become one, one undertakes to become nothing, and nothing undertakes to become supportable.

Exile: One who serves his country by residing abroad, yet is not an ambassador.

Christian: One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.

And finally:

Quotation: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another. The words erroneously repeated.

People who like this sort of thing will find (in the words of Abraham Lincoln) this is the sort of thing they like. I do, although, as noted above, a little goes a very long way. Reading too much of it at one sitting will cause you to muse upon the disappointments and frustrations in the author's life, which are helpfully discussed in a little introduction to this edition. It also contains the searing, savage pen-and-ink illustrations of Ralph Steadman, which gives rise to perhaps the most ironic (though - given Bierce's sardonic view of the world - entirely characteristic) thing about the book - to wit, a comment on its back cover by Raymond Briggs which reads, in its entirety:

"A superb book. Steadman has always been one of my heroes."
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