A Much Misunderstood Man
Selected Letters of Ambrose Bierce
Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz
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“The material in A Much Misunderstood Man represents a major addition to what is known about Bierce and has the possibility of changing the way he is read and understood. There has never been anything approaching an adequate edition of Bierce’s letters, so this volume is a very useful and important contribution to what we know about Bierce's personal life and opinions. This work is of considerable scholarly value.” —Lawrence I. Berkove, author of A Prescription for Adversity: The Moral Art of Ambrose Bierce
The binding thread throughout this edited collection of Ambrose Bierce’s letters is the argument that Bierce has been too often vilified as a cynical misanthrope. Joshi and Schultz believe that Bierce’s human side has been ignored by scholars, and they work here to rectify this oversight. The importance of this collection is underscored by the fact that no collection of Bierce’s letters has been published since 1922. This selection represents a sampling of nearly one-half million words of Bierce’s correspondence, which Joshi and Schultz are the first to gather and transcribe.
The letters reveal many sides of Bierce that he deliberately concealed in his literary work: the caring father who keenly felt the deaths of his two sons and took constant interest in the welfare of his only daughter; the literary giant of San Francisco who gathered around him a substantial cadre of disciples whose work he encouraged and meticulously criticized; the vigorous castigator of chicanery, hypocrisy, and injustice whenever he saw it; and the author of coyly flirtatious letters to a number of female correspondents. For the first time, a well-rounded picture of Bierce the man and writer emerges in his own words. The volume ends chillingly with Bierce’s last surviving letter, written from Chihuahua, Mexico, on December 26, 1913, which concludes: “As for me, I leave here tomorrow for an unknown destination.” Bierce was never heard from again.
The letters have been scrupulously edited from manuscript sources and exhaustively annotated to elucidate obscure historical, literary, and other references.
S. T. Joshi is an author and editor living in New York City. He most recently edited The Collected Fables of Ambrose Bierce. David E. Schultz is a technical writer who coedited The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary with S.T. Joshi.