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The Suitable Surroundings

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"The Suitable Surroundings" (first published in the San Francisco Examiner of July 14, 1889, also published as part of Tales of Soldiers and Civilians) is a short story by 19th-century journalist, short-story writer and occasional horror-story author, Ambrose Bierce.

Of note in this story:

  • A pledge made between Charles Breede and James R. Colston. The details of this pledge are not uncovered but it is known that Breede 'performed his vow to [Colston]' by committing suicide and, following this act, 'death became an imperative obligation' for Colston, who intended to fulfil this obligation by likewise taking his own life. Colston suggests that the authorities, or those who lacked understanding of the pledge and its grounding, would consider the two of them mad.
  • A manuscript, consisting of 'some loose sheets of paper', given by Colston to Willard Marsh that Colston believed would kill Marsh and which did appear to be implicated in the latter's unpleasant death. Colston, a writer of, among other things, ghost stories and 'tragic tales', required that Marsh read the manuscript under the same conditions (indeed, an extreme form of the conditions) that Colston considered necessary and proper for the reading of a ghost story. The details proper of the manuscript are not devolved; what is devolved is something of the importance of the manuscript to Colston's imminent suicide together with an allusion to a visit he will make to Marsh following his death. Additionaly, it is further implied that the contents of the manuscript will be damning and ultimately fatal to Marsh, as they have been, or will soon be, to Colston. Following the death of Marsh, and the detention of Colston on grounds of insanity, the manuscript was destroyed such that no 'intelligible account' of it contents could be spread.


Discussion: Could 'the manuscript' be a version of the Play translated/developed by Breede and/or Colston?

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