A Cat of Tindalos

A Cat of Tindalos

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Mystery of Ambrose Bierce

"Good-bye. If you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags, please know that I think it is 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!" -Ambrose Bierce

Long before he met his, Ambrose Bierce wryly described the nature of death as “not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate.”

Toward the end of his life, Bierce had become completely disenchanted with this world. Having never reconciled with his wife (who sued him for divorce in 1904 and died in 1905), Bierce was miserable, having also outlived both of his sons (one died as a teenager as part of a lover’s triangle, and the other from pneumonia aggravated by alcoholism).

Alone and aging, “the thought of turning into a doddering old man waiting out his final years was reprehensible to him.” With the Mexican Revolution raging south of the border, the 71-year-old Bierce left, ostensibly to observe or participate in the war. His last letter was posted in Chihuahua, Mexico on December 26, 1913, after which there are no confirmed sightings.

Witty, prickly, bitter and brilliant, for 50 odd years, author and newspaperman Ambrose Bierce eloquently chronicled the latter half of the 19th, and first few years of the 20th, centuries. From moving descriptions of Civil War events, to scathing rebukes of the worst of the Gilded Age, all interspersed with tales of the supernatural, Bierce’s unique voice has left us with a body of work rivaled only by the greatest American writers. Yet despite his virtuosity with a well-turned phrase, perhaps the most enduring aspect of Bierce’s life is the way he died – because nobody knows for sure how he met his end.

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