The Fiend's Delight, by Ambrose Bierce


. . . . When a favourite dog has an incurable pain, you “put him out of his misery” with a bullet or an axe. A favourite child similarly afflicted is preserved as long as possible, in torment. I do not say that this is not right; I claim only that it is not consistent. There arc two sorts of kindness; one for dogs, and another for children. A very dear friend, wallowing about in the red mud of a battle-field, once asked me for some of the dog sort. I suspect, if no one had been looking, he would have got it.


. . . . It is to be feared that to most men the sky is but a concave mirror, showing nothing behind, and in looking into which they see only their own distorted images, like the reflection of a face in a spoon. Hence it needs not surprise that they are not very devout worshippers; it is a great wonder they do not openly scoff.


. . . . The influence of climate upon civilization has been more exhaustively treated than studied. Otherwise, we should know how it is that some countries that have so much climate have no civilization.


. . . . Whoso shall insist upon holding your attention while he expounds to you things that you have always thriven without knowing resembles one who should go about with a hammer, cracking nuts upon other people’s heads and eating the kernels himself.


. . . . There are but two kinds of temporary insanity, and each has but a single symptom. The one was discovered by a coroner, the other by a lawyer. The one induces you to kill yourself when you are unwell of life; the other persuades you to kill somebody else when you are fatigued of seeing him about.


. . . . People who honour their fathers and their mothers have the comforting promise that their days shall be long in the land. They are not sufficiently numerous to make the life assurance companies think it worth their while to offer them special rates.


. . . . There are people who dislike to die, for apparently no better reason than that there are a few vices they have not had the time to try; but it must be confessed that the fewer there are of these untasted sweets, the more loth are they to leave them.


. . . . Men ought to sin less in petty details, and more in the lump; that they might the more conveniently be brought to repentance when they are ready. They should imitate the touching solicitude of the lady for the burglar, whom she spares much trouble by keeping her jewels well together in a box.


. . . . I once knew a man who made me a map of the opposite hemisphere of the moon. He was crazy. I knew another who taught me what country lay upon the other side of the grave. He was a most acute thinker-as he had need to be.


. . . . Those who are horrified at Mr. Darwin’s theory, may comfort themselves with the assurance that, if we are descended from the ape, we have not descended so far as to preclude all hope of return.


. . . . There is more poison in aphorisms than in painted candy; but it is of a less seductive kind.


. . . . If it were as easy to invent a credible falsehood as it is to believe one, we should have little else in print. The mechanical construction of a falsehood is a matter of the gravest import.


. . . . There is just as much true pleasure in walloping one’s own wife as in the sinful enjoyment of another man’s right. Heaven gives to each man a wife, and intends that he shall cleave to her alone. To cleave is either to “split” or to “stick.” To cleave to your wife is to split her with a stick.


. . . . A strong mind is more easily impressed than a weak one: you shall not as readily convince a fool that you are a philosopher, as a philosopher that you are a fool.


. . . . In our intercourse with men, their national peculiarities and customs are entitled to consideration. In addressing the common Frenchman take off your hat; in addressing the common Irishman make him take off his.


. . . . It is nearly always untrue to say of a man that he wishes to leave a great property behind him when he dies. Usually he would like to take it along.


. . . . Benevolence is as purely selfish as greed. No one would do a benevolent action if he knew it would entail remorse.


. . . . If cleanliness is next to godliness, it is a matter of unceasing wonder that, having gone to the extreme limit of the former, so many people manage to stop short exactly at the line of demarcation.


. . . . Most people have no more definite idea of liberty than that it consists in being compelled by law to do as they like.


. . . . Every man is at heart a brute, and the greatest injury you can put upon any one is to provoke him into displaying his nature. No gentleman ever forgives the man who makes him let out his beast.


. . . . The Psalmist never saw the seed of the righteous begging bread. In our day they sometimes request pennies for keeping the street-crossings in order.


. . . . When two wholly irreconcilable propositions are presented to the mind, the safest way is to thank Heaven that we are not like the unreasoning brutes, and believe both.


. . . . If every malefactor in the church were known by his face it would be necessary to prohibit the secular tongue from crying “stop thief.” Otherwise the church bells could not be heard of a pleasant Sunday.


. . . . Truth is more deceptive than falsehood, because it is commonly employed by those from whom we do not expect it, and so passes for what it is not.


. . . . “If people only knew how foolish it is” to take their wine with a dash of prussic acid, it is probable that they would-prefer to take it with that addition.


. . . . “A man’s honour,” says a philosopher, “is the best protection he can have.” Then most men might find a heartless oppressor in the predatory oyster.


. . . . The canary gets his name from the dog, an animal whom he looks down upon. We get a good many worse things than names from those beneath us; and they give us a bad name too.


. . . . Faith is the best evidence in the world; it reconciles contradictions and proves impossibilities. It is wonderfully developed in the blind.


. . . . He who undertakes an “Account of Idiots in All Ages” will find himself committed to the task of compiling most known biographies. Some future publisher will affix a life of the compiler.


. . . . Gratitude is regarded as a precious virtue, because tendered as a fair equivalent for any conceivable service.


. . . . A bad marriage is like an electric machine: it makes you dance, but you can’t let go.


. . . . The symbol of Charity should be a circle. It usually ends exactly where it begins-at home.


. . . . Most people redeem a promise as an angler takes in a trout; by first playing it with a good deal of line.


. . . . It is a grave mistake to suppose defaulters have no consciences. Some of them have been known, under favourable circumstances, to restore as much as ten per cent. of their plunder.


. . . . There is nothing so progressive as grief, and nothing so infectious as progress. I have seen an acre of cemetery infected by a single innovation in spelling cut upon a tombstone.


. . . . It is wicked to cheat on Sunday. The law recognises this truth, and shuts up the shops.


. . . . In the infancy of our language to be “foolish” signified to be affectionate; to be “fond” was to be silly. We have altered that now: to be “foolish” is to be silly, to be “fond” is to be affectionate. But that the change could ever have been made is significant.


. . . . If you meet a man on the narrow crossing of a muddy street, stand quite still. He will turn out and go round you, bowing his apologies. It is courtesy to accept them.


. . . . If every hypocrite in the United States were to break his leg at noon to-day, the country might be successfully invaded at one o’clock by the warlike hypocrites of Canada.


. . . . To Dogmatism the Spirit of Inquiry is the same as the Spirit of Evil; and to pictures of the latter it has appended a tail, to represent the note of interrogation.


. . . . We speak of the affections as originating in instinct. This is a miserable subterfuge to shift the obloquy from the judgment.


. . . . What we call decency is custom; what we term indecency is merely customary.


. . . . The noblest pursuit of Man is the pursuit of Woman.


. . . . “Immoral” is the solemn judgment of the stalled ox upon the sun-inspired lamb.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51