Thursday, April 7, 2016

Ambrose Pierce (for Ambrose Bierce)

Aubrey Beardsley is the seemingly "gay one" who drew flamboyant pen and ink caricatures of erotic and "decadent" figures, and also the one I've been inclined in the past to confuse or conflate with Ambrose Bierce. (Note, for the record, that neither of these "AB" blood brothers' surnames starts with the letter P, which will nonetheless be the source of all of our typo troubles today.) Bierce, who was born in 1842 in a log cabin in Ohio, and Beardsley—thirty years later in Brighton, England—were also, despite some obvious dissimilarities (the former was a journalist and writer, the latter a graphic artist), akin in certain ways. Ambrose Bierce brought a sardonic viewpoint to his work: he wrote the satirical lexicon The Devil's Dictionary in 1906; his nickname was "Bitter Bierce"; and his motto was "Nothing matters." Beardsley had a similar outlook and, although his career was unfortunately short (he died at age 25), he was considered the Oscar Wilde of the Art Nouveau world. We found three cases of "Ambrose Pierce" in OhioLINK, and 21 in WorldCat. You can also search these terms without the quotation (or other truncation) marks for additional hits, but watch out for legitimate cases of two separate people. Minus quotes, there were 41 in OhioLINK and 196 in WorldCat.

(Pencil drawing of Ambrose Bierce by F. Soule Campbell, from the first volume of The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce, 1909, and Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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