"War is God's way of teaching Americans geography."
Who doesn't like a good Ambrose Bierce quote?
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (June 24, 1842 – 1914?) was an American editorialist, journalist, short-story writer and satirist. Today, he is best known for his short story, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and his satirical dictionary, The Devil's Dictionary.
The sardonic view of human nature that informed his work – along with his vehemence as a critic – earned him the nickname, "Bitter Bierce." Despite his reputation as a searing critic, however, Bierce was known to encourage younger writers, including the poet, George Sterling and the fiction writer, W. C. Morrow.
In 1913, Bierce traveled to Mexico to gain a firsthand perspective on that country's ongoing revolution. While traveling with rebel troops, the elderly writer disappeared without a trace.
Here's sixty of our favorites from the Bitter One.
- "Conservative - a statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from a Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others."
- "Acquaintance. A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to."
- "We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over."
- "Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage."
- "Future. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured."
- "A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms agains himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it."
- "Revolution, n. In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment."
- "All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher."
- "There are 4 kinds of homicide; felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy."
- "Calamities are of two kinds: misfortunes to ourselves, and good fortune to others."
ALSO at DBKP: DBKP Library of Quotations
- "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography."
- "Abstainer - a weak man who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure."
- "Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret."
- "Forgetfulness - a gift of God bestowed upon debtors in compensation for their destitution of conscience."
- "Abscond - to move in a mysterious way, commonly with the property of another."
- "Sweater, n.: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly."
- "Absurdity, n.: A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion."
- "Marriage, n: the state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all, two."
- "Admiration, n. Our polite recognition of another's resemblance to ourselves."
- "Philosophy: A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing."
- "AMNESTY, n. The state's magnanimity to those offenders whom it would be too expensive to punish."
- Bierce book review: "The covers of this book are too far apart."
- "An egotist is a person of low taste - more interested in himself than in me."
- "Bigot: One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain."
- "Bore, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen."
- "Coward: One who, in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs."
- "Destiny: A tyrant's authority for crime and a fool's excuse for failure."
- "Doubt, indulged and cherished, is in danger of becoming denial; but if honest, and bent on thorough investigation, it may soon lead to full establishment of the truth."
- "Edible, adj.: Good to eat, and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm."
- "Happiness: an agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another."
- "I never said all Democrats were saloonkeepers. What I said was that all saloonkeepers are Democrats."
- "Lawsuit: A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage."
- "Alliance - in international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other's pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third."
- "Love: A temporary insanity curable by marriage."
- "History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools."
- "Telephone, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance."
- "The slightest acquaintance with history shows that powerful republics are the most warlike and unscrupulous of nations."
- "What is a democrat? One who believes that the republicans have ruined the country. What is a republican? One who believes that the democrats would ruin the country."
- "What this country needs what every country needs occasionally is a good hard bloody war to revive the vice of patriotism on which its existence as a nation depends."
- "Who never doubted, never half believed. Where doubt is, there truth is - it is her shadow."
- "Women in love are less ashamed than men. They have less to be ashamed of."
- "Let me tell you what a writer is. A writer takes comprehensive views, holds large convictions, makes wide generalizations. A writer's not English, Mexican, or American. A writer's not a woman nor a man. A writer's not Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, nor snake worshipper.
To local standards of right and wrong a writer's civilly indifferent. In the virtues, a writer's concerned only with general expediency. A writer doesn't waste time focusing on fixed moral principles that aren't yet before the court of conscience. Happiness discloses itself to a writer as the end and purpose of life, and art and love are the only means to a writer's happiness. A writer is free of all doctrines, theories, etiquettes, and politics. To a writer, a continent doesn't seem long, nor a century wide.
And a writer has ever present consciousness that this is a world of...fools and rogues, blind with superstition, tormented with envy, consumed with vanity, selfish, false, cruel, cursed with illusions, and frothing mad."
- "As records of courts and justice are admissible, it can easily be proved that powerful and malevolent magicians once existed and were a scourge to mankind. The evidence (including confession) upon which certain women were convicted of witchcraft and executed was without a flaw; it is still unimpeachable.
The judges' decisions based on it were sound in logic and in law. Nothing in any existing court was ever more thoroughly proved than the charges of witchcraft and sorcery for which so many suffered death. If there were no witches, human testimony and human reason are alike destitute of value."
- "Learning, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious."
- "Vote, v. The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country."
- "Woman would be more charming if one could fall into her arms without falling into her hands."
- "You are not permitted to kill a woman who has wronged you, but nothing forbids you to reflect that she is growing older every minute. You are avenged 1440 times a day."
- "Certain old men prefer to rise at dawn, taking a cold bath and a long walk with an empty stomach and otherwise mortifying the flesh. They then point with pride to these practices as the cause of their sturdy health and ripe years; the truth being that they are hearty and old, not because of their habits, but in spite of them. The reason we find only robust persons doing this thing is that it has killed all the others who have tried it."
- "Children who have proven themselves to be incorrigible by the age of twelve should be quickly and quietly beheaded, lest they grow to maturity, marry, and perpetuate the likeness of their being."
- "I keep a conscience uncorrupted by religion, a judgment undimmed by politics and patriotism, a heart untainted by friendships and sentiments unsoured by animosities."
- "Miss: A title with which we brand unmarried women to indicate that they are in the market. Miss, Misses (Mrs.) and Mister (Mr.) are the three most distinctly disagreeable words in the language, in sound and sense. Two are corruptions of Mistress, the other of Master. If we must have them, let us be consistent and give one to the unmarried man. I venture to suggest Mush, abbreviated to MH."
- "Day, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent."
- "PRESIDENCY, n. The greased pig in the field game of American politics."
- "I think that a young state, like a young virgin, should modestly stay at home, and wait the application of suitors for an alliance with her; and not run about offering her amity to all the world; and hazarding their refusal. Our virgin is a jolly one; and tho at present not very rich, will in time be a great fortune, and where she has a favorable predisposition, it seems to me well worth cultivating."
- "The small part of ignorance that we arrange and classify we give the name of knowledge."
- "Lawyer: One skilled in circumvention of the law."
- "Immigrant: An unenlightened person who thinks one country better than another."
- "Liar: A lawyer with a roving commission."
compiled by Mondo Frazier
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* Ambrose Bierce Quotes
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