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Ambrose Bierce Correspondence File: Finding Aid
mssHM 7294-7308, mssHM 10100-10449, mssHM 10458, mssHM 24312-24315, mssHM 47545  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Related materials in the Huntington Library
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Ambrose Bierce Correspondence File
    Dates (inclusive): 1871-1913
    Collection Number: mssHM 7294-7308, mssHM 10100-10449, mssHM 10458, mssHM 24312-24315, mssHM 47545
    Creator: Bierce, Ambrose, 1842-1914?
    Extent: 373 items in 5 boxes
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens Manuscripts Department
    The Huntington Library
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2203
    Fax: (626) 449-5720
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection consists of letters written by American author and satirist Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) between 1871 and 1913, chiefly concerning the details of Bierce’s multi-volume Collected Works. A majority of the letters are written to the editor of that project, Walter Neale, as well as another of Bierce's editors, Silas Orrin Howes. The letters often contain discourse about the contents of the volumes, transportation of proofs, and deadlines.
    Language: English.


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. Ambrose Bierce Correspondence File, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    The letters were acquired from various resources including A.A.A., P.K. Foley, C.E. Goodspeed, and the Gable Collection.
    315 of the letters were received as the gift of Mark D. Savin, September, 1980.

    Biographical Note

    Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (1842-1914?) was an American author and satirist best remembered for his cynical collection of definitions known as The Devil’s Dictionary. Bierce also penned numerous short stories, often with supernatural themes (“The Damned Thing”), Civil War themes (“A Horseman in the Sky”), or a little of both (“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”). Bierce’s experience as a soldier no doubt influenced his writing, and he performed excellent service for the majority of the Civil War. After receiving a medical discharge in January 1865 for a head wound suffered during combat, Bierce began contributing essays and stories to California newspapers. William Randolph Hearst hired Bierce to write for the San Francisco Examiner in 1887, and Bierce gained notoriety thanks to his brutally cynical columns and editorials. After spending three years editing his Collected Works, Bierce traveled to Mexico to cover the rebellion of Pancho Villa. In 1914, shortly after arriving in Mexico, Bierce vanished without a trace. The circumstances surrounding his disappearance have remained a mystery.

    Scope and Content

    The Ambrose Bierce Correspondence File consists of letters written by Bierce between 1871 and 1913. Much of the letters are concerned with details of Bierce’s multi- volume Collected Works, and a majority are written to the editor of that project, Walter Neale. The letters contain discourse about the contents of the volumes, transportation of proofs, and deadlines.
    A good number of the remaining letters are written to Bierce contemporary Silas Orrin Howes (1867- 1918), who edited another collection of Bierce’s work, The Shadow on the Dial and Other Essays (1909). These letters are largely concerned with that book and the process of assembling and publishing the Collected Works, although personal details are also present.
    The File also contains twenty-three letters to the California author Charles Warren Stoddard (1843-1909). These letters are less business-oriented and more personal, detailing matters such as invitations to dinner and various relationships with literary figures of the era.
    Many of the letters feature examples of Bierce’s trademark dry wit. Writing to Howes on his birthday, Bierce comments “This is my birthday – I am 366 years old” (HM 7304). Apologizing to Neale for a long-winded reaction to criticism, Bierce writes “You happen to be standing in the channel of my verbal flood” (HM 10254). And, writing to Neale on December 26, 1909, Bierce says “I trust you had a Christmas. Fill in your own adjective” (HM 10275).
    Bierce was also prone to insightful quips, such as “The least one can do is what one commonly does” (HM 10237), “The conviction that all men are rogues is quite as disastrous to one’s interest as the conviction that no one is” (HM 10282), and “Good substitutes for truth are not so plentiful as some persons imagine” (HM 10207).
    Almost all the letters are autographed and signed, and some include the envelope.
    The File also contains an annotated printer’s copy of Volume VIII of Bierce’s Collected Works, which consists of “Negligible Tales” and “Kings of Beasts” (HM 10458).

    Related materials in the Huntington Library


    The letters are arranged chronologically.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  


    Bierce, Ambrose, 1842-1914? -- Archives.
    Authors, American -- Archives.
    Publishers and publishing -- United States -- Archives.
    Washington (D.C.)


    Letters (correspondence) -- United States.
    Manuscripts for publication -- United States.

    Added Entries

    Bartlett, W. C. (William Chauncey), 1818-1907.
    Howes, S. O. (Silas Orrin), 1867-1918.
    Neale, Walter, 1873-1933.
    Rutledge, Archibald, 1883-1973.
    Stoddard, Charles Warren, 1843-1909.
    Stone & Kimball.