Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice

December 28, 2003|By Michael Pakenham

The Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce. 192 pages. $15.95.

Compiling years of lines from columns he wrote for the Hearst newspapers, Bierce -- one of the extraordinary characters of 19th-century American literature -- published the first edition of The Devil's Dictionary in 1906. It covered the letters A through L. By 1911 he completed the alphabet, and subsequent editions have been adored and detested, heaped with praise and damned for cynicism. This newest edition is gloriously illustrated by Ralph Steadman. For anyone not already familiar, among my many favorite entries are: "Glutton, n. A person who escapes the evils of moderation by committing dyspepsia." And "Pray, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy." Not to mention "Zeal, n. A certain nervous disorder afflicting the young and inexperienced. A passion that goeth before a sprawl."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.