The Ambrose Bierce Site



One of Ambrose Bierce's many acolytes, Herman George Scheffauer was a minor poet born in San Francisco in 1878. According to Bierce biographer Paul Fatout, Scheffauer was just seventeen when he met Bierce and became part of the California group that included George Sterling and Josephine McCrackin. Although Scheffauer was studying architecture, Bierce urged him to take up writing, and published some of Scheffauer's youthful verses (under the name Jonathan Stone) in "Prattle," Bierce's Hearst column. The hero-worshipping Scheffauer called Bierce "Thor" and "Magister."

When Scheffauer was twenty-one he published a poem titled "The Sea of Serenity," which was the basis for a hoax he and Bierce perpetrated in the literary supplement of Hearst's San Francisco Examiner on March 12, 1899. Bierce, introducing the poem, billed it as a lost, unpublished verse by Edgar Allan Poe. There was little public reaction, but Bierce didn't see the prank through. He announced that he was "off the paper," resigned, because Hearst's editors, whom Bierce called "fools, fakers, and freaks," had yellowed and mangled Bierce's column. (Actually he didn't formally quit until 1909.) So it fell to the supplement's editor, Carroll Carrington (who was in on the plot), to admit on April 9, 1899, that the poem wasn't written by Poe, but by Scheffauer.

Bierce later severed relations with Scheffauer over an alleged slight, telling the younger writer in a letter, "If in the future you are convinced that you have become different, and I am still living, my welcoming hand awaits you. And when I forgive I forgive all over, even the new offense."

Scheffauer, who published several books of verse, died a suicide after murdering his wife in Berlin in 1927.

A large collection of photos, the Herman George Scheffauer Photograph Album, is archived at the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley. These photos of Scheffauer with Ambrose Bierce (although one is suspect) are widely available on the Internet.
click images to enlarge

Scheffauer and Bierce

Scheffauer (r), George Sterling (l) but the man in the middle is almost certainly not Bierce, despite the caption

Schaueffer, Julie Miles, Bierce ca 1899

Scheffauer, Kitty Miles, Julie Miles, Bierce, unknown ca 1899

Bierce, Scheffauer ca 1899

Bierce, Kitty Miles, Julies Miles, Scheffauer ca 1899

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