Bierce’s satirical masterpiece, The Devil’s Dictionary, began as entries in his various San Francisco newspaper columns of the 1870s and 1880s. The definitions were first published in book form as The Cynic’s Word Book in 1908. An expanded version was published in 1911 as The Devil’s Dictionary, a title Bierce much preferred.
Bierce’s work in The Devil’s Dictionary is traditionally linked to classic satirists like Jonathan Swift. But in our time, Bierce, as a provocateur beholden to no one, bears a striking resemblance to Lenny Bruce, a comic arrested in San Francisco (nearly a century after Bierce began knocking out his definitions) for using certain Anglo-Saxon words that cry out for Bierceian definitions.
“Some of the most gorgeous witticisms in the English language.”
— H.L. Mencken