BIERCE, AMBROSE GWINNETT Group of thirteen autograph letters signed to editor Silas Orrin Howes including a farewell letter before h...
. Washington: 5 July 1898 - 29 September 1913. Approximately 50 pp., of autograph letters from Bierce to Howes, mostly signed in full, each in the original mailing envelope. Together with some associated items including a 1915 letter from Bierce's daughter to Howes regarding Bierce's fate; A lengthy and interesting 1911 letter from A. M. Robinson to Howes, detailing the poor sales of Bierce's 1909 book Shadows on the Dial, and other Essays, edited by Howes; And a second letter from Robertson, an 1896 photograph (apparently printed slightly later) of Bierce. The Bierce letters in generally sound condition, with usual folds, a few of the thinner sheets with minor separations, one Robertson letter with separations to folds.
An intriguing and extensive archive written by Ambrose Bierce to his friend and editor, including the latest Bierce letter to come to auction before his enigmatic disappearance into the Mexican Revolution. "Bitter Bierce", the author of the eminently readable Devil's Dictionary, and of short stories including the oft-anthologized An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge, is perhaps best known for the mystery surrounding his death. In life, though, Bierce was the definition of the late nineteenth century literary American. Having fought for the Union at Shiloh, Bierce landed in San Francisco following post-war military expeditions across the great plains into the west. For many years, Bierce was a contributor to The Wasp and was one of the first regular columnists at Hearst's San Francisco Examiner. Bierce was sent to Washington, the period in which he penned these letters, to uncover the corruption in the Railroad Refinancing Bill (his reporting career was nearly ruined during this time by his controversial prediction of the McKinley assassination). A risk-taking cynic by nature, the 71 year old Bierce infuses the final letter in this correspondence with something akin to a death-wish. Dated September 29, 1913 Bierce begins writing Howes "This is to say good-bye", that he is leaving for San Antonio and thence "down to the Mexican border (perhaps at Laredo) seeking a chance to be shot or hanged. For I hold to my project of going through Mexico on horseback - an 'innocent bystander' in the war. Adios - God prosper you". ABPC reports no later Bierce letter sold at auction and the archive as a whole is considerably more extensive than any other group of his letters to come to auction in the past quarter-century. Bierce's last know letter is likely one dated December 26, 1913.
The earlier letters here deal with numerous literary issues and contain criticism of many works and authors of the time. The letters also document Bierce as a tutelary figure to the younger writer, a kindly role somewhat at odds with the cynical facade that Bierce projected in his writings. The penultimate letter here, from March 1912, discusses a possible move to California but has none of the grim tone of the final letter. The correspondence provides important insight on the man who would soon vanish into the maelstrom of the Mexican Revolution, becoming a literary legend in the process (the Carlos Fuentes novel The Old Gringo is based on Bierce). The 1915 letter from Bierce's daughter to Howes is sadly revealing as well, as she states "He wrote me just after he arrived in Laredo ... and how I hope he did get out of Mexico alive". Howes ultimately moved to New York and worked in Brentano's bookshop, his death was commemorated in a February 1918 essay by Vincent Starrett. An important group of Ambrose Bierce correspondence.
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