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Ambrose Bierce

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Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining profit without individual responsibility.
Logic: The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.
Who never doubted, never half believed. Where doubt is, there truth is - it is her shadow.
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.
Sweater, n.: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly.
Lawsuit: A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.
Politeness, n: The most acceptable hypocrisy.
Bore, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.
Perseverance - a lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success.
Ocean: A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills.
Quotation, n: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.
Brain: an apparatus with which we think we think.
Photograph: a picture painted by the sun without instruction in art.
To be positive is to be mistaken at the top of one's voice.
Pray: To ask the laws of the universe to be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.
Erudition - dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull.
Beauty, n: the power by which a woman charms a lover and terrifies a husband.
Patience, n. A minor form of dispair, disguised as a virtue.
History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.
Marriage, n: the state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all, two.
Education, n.: That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.
Faith: Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.
Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate.
Future. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.
All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher.
Admiration, n. Our polite recognition of another's resemblance to ourselves.
An egotist is a person of low taste - more interested in himself than in me.
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.
The covers of this book are too far apart.
Childhood: the period of human life intermediate between the idiocy of infancy and the folly of youth - two removes from the sin of manhood and three from the remorse of age.
Abstainer: a weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure.
The gambling known as business looks with austere disfavor upon the business known as gambling.
Revolution, n. In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment.


Curiosity, n. An objectionable quality of the female mind. The desire to know whether or not a woman is cursed with curiosity is one of the most active and insatiable passions of the masculine soul.
Mad, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence.
The hardest tumble a man can make is to fall over his own bluff.
Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt.
Love: A temporary insanity curable by marriage.
Bride: A woman with a fine prospect of happiness behind her.
Conservative, n: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others.
War is God's way of teaching Americans geography.
Cynic, n: a blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be.
There are four kinds of Homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy.
Doubt is the father of invention.
Life - a spiritual pickle preserving the body from decay.
Philosophy: A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.
Happiness: an agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another.
Destiny: A tyrant's authority for crime and a fool's excuse for failure.
Insurance - an ingenious modern game of chance in which the player is permitted to enjoy the comfortable conviction that he is beating the man who keeps the table.
Optimism - the doctrine or belief that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly.
When you doubt, abstain.
Prejudice - a vagrant opinion without visible means of support.
Belladonna, n.: In Italian a beautiful lady; in English a deadly poison. A striking example of the essential identity of the two tongues.
Telephone, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.
Edible - 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.
Success is the one unpardonable sin against our fellows.
Cabbage: a familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man's head.
Coward: One who, in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs.
Dawn: When men of reason go to bed.
Vote: the instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.
Liberty: One of Imagination's most precious possessions.
The small part of ignorance that we arrange and classify we give the name of knowledge.
Suffrage, noun. Expression of opinion by means of a ballot. The right of suffrage (which is held to be both a privilege and a duty) means, as commonly interpreted, the right to vote for the man of another man's choice, and is highly prized.
Witticism. A sharp and clever remark, usually quoted and seldom noted; what the Philistine is pleased to call a joke.
Confidante: One entrusted by A with the secrets of B confided to herself by C.
To apologize is to lay the foundation for a future offense.
Litigant. A person about to give up his skin for the hope of retaining his bones.
Heaven lies about us in our infancy and the world begins lying about us pretty soon afterward.
Battle, n., A method of untying with the teeth a political knot that would not yield to the tongue.
Painting, n.: The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather, and exposing them to the critic.
Clairvoyant, n.: A person, commonly a woman, who has the power of seeing that which is invisible to her patron - namely, that he is a blockhead.
Women in love are less ashamed than men. They have less to be ashamed of.
Jealous, adj. Unduly concerned about the preservation of that which can be lost only if not worth keeping.
Wit - the salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out.
Laziness. Unwarranted repose of manner in a person of low degree.
Spring beckons! All things to the call respond; the trees are leaving and cashiers abscond.
Divorce: a resumption of diplomatic relations and rectification of boundaries.
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.
Litigation: A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.
Friendless. Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.
Day, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent.
Ambition. An overmastering desire to be vilified by enemies while living and made ridiculous by friends when dead.
Learning, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious.
Religion. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.
Egotist: a person more interested in himself than in me.
Forgetfulness - a gift of God bestowed upon debtors in compensation for their destitution of conscience.
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.
Saint: A dead sinner revised and edited.
Admiral. That part of a warship which does the talking while the figurehead does the thinking.
A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it.
Prescription: A physician's guess at what will best prolong the situation with least harm to the patient.
Eulogy. Praise of a person who has either the advantages of wealth and power, or the consideration to be dead.
Bigot: One who is obstinately and zealously attached to an opinion that you do not entertain.
Consult: To seek approval for a course of action already decided upon.
Mayonnaise: One of the sauces which serve the French in place of a state religion.
The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them up.
Genius - to know without having learned; to draw just conclusions from unknown premises; to discern the soul of things.
Patriotism. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name.
Compromise, n. Such an adjustment of conflicting interests as gives each adversary the satisfaction of thinking he has got what he ought not to have, and is deprived of nothing except what was justly his due.
Architect. One who drafts a plan of your house, and plans a draft of your money.
In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, intelligence is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office.
Present, n. That part of eternity dividing the domain of disappointment from the realm of hope.
Famous, adj.: Conspicuously miserable.
Experience - the wisdom that enables us to recognise in an undesirable old acquaintance the folly that we have already embraced.
Eloquence, n. The art of orally persuading fools that white is the color that it appears to be. It includes the gift of making any color appear white.
Dog - a kind of additional or subsidiary Deity designed to catch the overflow and surplus of the world's worship.
Creditor. One of a tribe of savages dwelling beyond the Financial Straits and dreaded for their desolating incursions.
Enthusiasm - a distemper of youth, curable by small doses of repentance in connection with outward applications of experience.
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.
Immortality: A toy which people cry for, And on their knees apply for, Dispute, contend and lie for, And if allowed Would be right proud Eternally to die for.
Sabbath - a weekly festival having its origin in the fact that God made the world in six days and was arrested on the seventh.
Academe, n.: An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught. Academy, n.: A modern school where football is taught.
Experience is a revelation in the light of which we renounce our errors of youth for those of age.
Doubt begins only at the last frontiers of what is possible.
A man is known by the company he organizes.
Meekness: Uncommon patience in planning a revenge that is worth while.
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.
Inventor: A person who makes an ingenious arrangement of wheels, levers and springs, and believes it civilization.
Backbite. To speak of a man as you find him when he can't find you.
Debt, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver.
Irreligion - the principal one of the great faiths of the world.
Land: A part of the earth's surface, considered as property. The theory that land is property subject to private ownership and control is the foundation of modern society, and is eminently worthy of the superstructure.
Ability is commonly found to consist mainly in a high degree of solemnity.
It is evident that skepticism, while it makes no actual change in man, always makes him feel better.
Absurdity, n.: A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion.
Positive, adj.: Mistaken at the top of one's voice.
Ardor, n. The quality that distinguishes love without knowledge.
Amnesty, n. The state's magnanimity to those offenders whom it would be too expensive to punish.
Alien - an American sovereign in his probationary state.
Duty - that which sternly impels us in the direction of profit, along the line of desire.
Ambidextrous, adj.: Able to pick with equal skill a right-hand pocket or a left.
Rum, n. Generically, fiery liquors that produce madness in total abstainers.
I believe we shall come to care about people less and less. The more people one knows the easier it becomes to replace them. It's one of the curses of London.
Fork: An instrument used chiefly for the purpose of putting dead animals into the mouth.
I never said all Democrats were saloonkeepers. What I said was that all saloonkeepers are Democrats.
Bacchus, n.: A convenient deity invented by the ancients as an excuse for getting drunk.
Anoint, v.: To grease a king or other great functionary already sufficiently slippery.
Genealogy, n. An account of one's descent from a man who did not particularly care to trace his own.
Barometer, n.: An ingenious instrument which indicates what kind of weather we are having.
Incompatibility. In matrimony a similarity of tastes, particularly the taste for domination.
Historian - a broad-gauge gossip.
Abscond - to move in a mysterious way, commonly with the property of another.
Absence blots people out. We really have no absent friends.
We submit to the majority because we have to. But we are not compelled to call our attitude of subjection a posture of respect.
Trial. A formal inquiry designed to prove and put upon record the blameless characters of judges, advocates and jurors.
Fidelity - a virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed.
Calamities are of two kinds: misfortunes to ourselves, and good fortune to others.
A total abstainer is one who abstains from everything but abstention, and especially from inactivity in the affairs of others.
Deliberation, n.: The act of examining one's bread to determine which side it is buttered on.
The slightest acquaintance with history shows that powerful republics are the most warlike and unscrupulous of nations.
Impiety. Your irreverence toward my deity.
Consul - in American politics, a person who having failed to secure an office from the people is given one by the Administration on condition that he leave the country.
Impartial - unable to perceive any promise of personal advantage from espousing either side of a controversy.
Convent - a place of retirement for women who wish for leisure to meditate upon the sin of idleness.

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