AMBROSE BIERCE TAKES ON THE RAILROAD: THE JOURNALIST AS MUCKRAKER AND CYNIC, Daniel Lindley. Copyright © 1999 by Daniel Lindley. Reproduced with permission of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., Westport, CT.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In 1999, Daniel Lindley published Ambrose Bierce Takes on the Railroad: The Journalist as Muckraker and Cynic (Praeger Publishers). The book argues that Bierce’s identity as a journalist has not attracted the scholarly attention it deserves. “Nearly all his published writing,” Lindley suggests, “may be considered journalism in a sense, since practically all of it, including fiction, articles, columns, aphorisms, parodies, commentary, and other work, originally appeared in newspapers or magazines.” Specifically, Lindley seeks to conflate Bierce with one particular mode of journalism – muckraking.
That Bierce was a muckraker, albeit an unlikely one not only in style but in time and place, is the argument of this work. Part of its task will be to define muckraking, perhaps not as easy a chore as it seems. Like geographic boundaries, definitions can be arbitrary and can shift over time. But a definition of the salient traits of the muckrakers who followed Bierce’s most active period in journalism by only a decade helps place him in that tradition.
In Chapter Eight, “The Funding Bill and Beyond,” Lindley explores Bierce’s role in the defeat of the Railroad Funding Bill sponsored by Collis P. Huntington. Sent to Washington in 1896 by his employer, William Randolph Hearst, Bierce launched a literary campaign against Huntington and the corrupt Southern Pacific Railroad. Lindley observes that while in Washington, Bierce “became, in essence, a daily reporter rather than the weekly columnist he had been for so long.” Yet even as he “was achieving what appeared to be his greatest journalistic success, Bierce was becoming even less enchanted with journalism. . . . [His] greatest newspaper success also became in a sense his greatest newspaper defeat.” According to Lindley, Bierce’s “increasing disgust with Hearst’s editors and methods and his refusal to continue writing at times suggest that even as he was attacking the railroad, he was becoming suspicious of the motives for those attacks.”
For the password to read Lindley ’s chapter on the Funding Bill, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Lindley Chapter” in the subject line. The excerpt will be made available to readers via a .pdf file.
Copyright © 2008
The Ambrose Bierce Project and Penn State University. All rights