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Letters of Ambrose Bierce to Myles Walsh

 Collection
Identifier: US-14-06

Scope and Content

The collection of the letters of Ambrose Bierce to Myles Walsh consists of the correspondence to Elizabeth (Lily) Walsh and Myles Walsh from 1895-1911. Myles Walsh's sister, Lily, was a protege of Bierce and during her illness-and after her death in 1895-in young adulthood, the two men began writing to each other. Of the fifty-nine letters in the collection, the first two are addressed to Lily Walsh and the remaining fifty-seven are addressed to Myles Walsh. All fifty-nine of the letters are handwritten by Ambrose Bierce with nearly all of them autographed by the author as well. Typically, the letters are four pages each measuring 5" x 8" and totaling approximately 240 pages.

The majority of the letters cover Ambrose Bierce's life in the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, D.C. Topics discussed within the letters include the publication of many of Bierce's journalistic and fictional works; Myles Walsh's professional career as well as various forays into satirical writing; the death of Bierce's son, Leigh, and the illness of his daughter, Helen; Bierce's employment by William Randolph Hearst's newspaper publications; Bierce's asthmatic episodes; Bierce's travel experiences; and general life observations and comments.

Dates

  • 1895-1911

Creator

Language of Materials

The records are in English

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.

Biography of Ambrose Bierce, Elizabeth (Lily) Walsh, and Myles Walsh

Ambrose Bierce

An American editor, journalist, poet, satirist and writer, Ambrose Bierce was born in Meigs County, Ohio in 1842. He enlisted in Company C of the 9th Regiment, Indiana Volunteers in April of 1861 shortly after the outbreak of the American Civil War. The general experiences of war, while also seeing action in such historical battles as Chickamauga, Kennesaw Mountain, and Shiloh, aided in forming the basis for several of his now famous short stories ("Chickamauga" and "An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge") after the conclusion of the war in 1865.

Following a westward bound military expedition as an engineering attache, Bierce eventually settled in San Francisco in 1866. By 1868, he had been honorably discharged from the military and began contributing and editing material for a number of local newspapers and periodicals, gaining a reputation and the nickname "Bitter Bierce" for his wicked wit and humor.

Bierce married Marie Ellen ("Mollie") Day in 1871. Together they had three children: Day (1872), Leigh (1874), and Helen (1875). In 1888, Bierce separated from his wife, Mollie, after seventeen years of marriage when he found revealing letters written to her from a European admirer. To make matters worse for Bierce, in 1889, his son, Day, became involved in a love triangle that resulted in him shooting and killing his rival before turning the gun on himself. In 1901, Bierce buried his second son, Leigh, after he passed away from pneumonia as a result of alcohol abuse.

Bierce would spend much of the rest of his life gainfully employed (with a career often steeped in controversy) writing for the various newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst and publishing numerous books and short stories. A biting social critic, he was also well known for his encouragement of younger artists and writers such as Herman George Scheffauer, George Sterling, and Elizbeth (Lily) and Myles Walsh.

In 1913, at the age of 71, Bierce crossed over the Mexican border from Texas and disappeared without a trace. His disappearance remains a great mystery and one of the most famous in literary history.

Elizabeth (Lily) Walsh

Elizabeth (Lily) Walsh was born in 1872 in London, England. A deaf-mute girl, Lily initially caught the attention of Ambrose Bierce with her poetry and would later become his protege. Lily was sent to the Dr. Warring Wilkinson's school for the deaf (California Institution for the Deaf and the Blind) in Berkeley, California as a result of her condition and health. While at the school she was was cared for by Dr. C.W. Doyle and Harriet Hershberg (both individuals referenced throughout the "Bierce-Walsh" correspondence.) She died in October of 1895 and was laid to rest at Saint Marys Cemetery in Oakland, Alameda County, California.

Myles Walsh

Myles Walsh was born on November 15, 1874 in London, England. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1890 and married Louis Phinney Newman on June 30, 1903. Together the couple had four children (the first born, Lydia, is briefly mentioned in Letter #50). A college graduate, Myles chose the profession of accountant, working for such companies as the Casualty Company of America and the Niagara Fire Insurance Company. He died at the age of 93 on February 5, 1968 in Westwood, New Jersey.

Biographical / Historical

Elizabeth (Lily) Walsh

Elizabeth (Lily) Walsh was born in 1872 in London, England. A deaf-mute girl, Lily initially caught the attention of Ambrose Bierce with her poetry and would later become his protege. Lily was sent to the Dr. Warring Wilkinson's school for the deaf (California Institution for the Deaf and the Blind) in Berkeley, California as a result of her condition and health. While at the school she was was cared for by Dr. C.W. Doyle and Harriet Hershberg (both individuals referenced throughout the "Bierce-Walsh" correspondence.) She died in October of 1895 and was laid to rest at Saint Marys Cemetery in Oakland, Alameda County, California.

Myles Walsh

Myles Walsh was born on November 15, 1874 in London, England. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1890 and married Louis Phinney Newman on June 30, 1903. Together the couple had four children (the first born, Lydia, is briefly mentioned in Letter #50). A college graduate, Myles chose the profession of accountant, working for such companies as the Casualty Company of America and the Niagara Fire Insurance Company. He died at the age of 93 on February 5, 1968 in Westwood, New Jersey.

Extent

0.48 Linear Feet (1 box)

Overview

The collection is comprised of fifty-nine letters from Ambrose Bierce to Elizabeth (Lily) Walsh and Myles Walsh documenting the biographical details of the life of Ambrose Bierce. Typically, the letters are four pages each, and are signed by Bierce. They measure 5" x 8" and total approximately 240 pages.

Statement of Arrangement

The letters are arranged into chronological order.

Physical Location

Archives and Rare Books Library

Acquisition Information

Donated by Myles Walsh to the University of Cincinnati after World War II.
Title
Finding aid for the Letters of Ambrose Bierce to Myles Walsh
Status
Edited Full Draft
Author
Finding aid prepared by Michael L Tipton, ARB Intern
Date
2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Rare Books Library Repository

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