Having returned to San Francisco, Bierce was soon the father of a third child, Helen. He resumed work as a writer, and in 1877 accepted a position as the editor of Argonaut.

At Argonaut, Bierce began his famous column "Prattle." Like his older "Town Crier" column, "Prattle" provided him with a forum for publishing his own poetry, quips, anecdotes, stories, and essays. He also used the space to identify and excoriate those men and women whose words, actions, and writing he objected to on moral or aesthetic grounds.

Bierce ended his stint at Argonaut in 1880, when in June he began an ill-fated job at Rockerville, South Dakota as the general manager of a Black Hills gold mining company. The hard-working and honest Bierce was disgusted by the corrupt legal system that oversaw the industry, and demoralized by the frequent deceptions and betrayals of others. The experience seems to have further soured him on the courts, the business world, and human nature at large.


Returning to San Francisco by the end of 1880, Bierce found a new position at the Wasp, where he continued his column "Prattle." Here he published or reprinted some of his Civil War writings and began publication of what would become The Devil's Dictionary.

During these years, continued asthma attacks at times forced Bierce to leave San Francisco and take up residence in hill resorts. His lengthy stay at one resort, Auburn, coincided with the growing emotional distance between Bierce and Mary.

For numerous reasons, Bierce left the Wasp in 1886. During his time at the journal, his talents as a serious writer had very nearly reached maturity. For about a year Bierce had no position to speak of, and found it difficult to place his work because of the enemies he had made as an outspoken and unforgiving social critic.