Mahan: The Life and Work of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, U.S.N.

By W. D. Puleston | Go to book overview

Chapter IX Naval Academy--First Essay

During the summer of 1876 Commander Mahan was placed on furlough pay which reduced his salary to $1,150 a year, after twenty years' service in the Navy. His brother Dennis was given similar orders. The Mahan family believed they were being punished because Alfred had tried to improve conditions at the Boston Navy Yard. There is no official data to support this belief. Many other officers were similarly treated, In an effort to economize, Mahan took his family to Pau, France, in January, where Mrs. Mahan's parents were still living, and settled into "so quiet and uneventful a mode of life" that he could find no material for letter writing, even to Ashe. In this modest but pleasant environment his second daughter, Ellen Kuhn Mahan, was born on July 10, 1877.

During this stay in Europe, he made his first serious effort to write. Becoming interested in the architecture of the French cathedrals, and in the history of southern France, he spent much time touring the region and studying these subjects in the city library at Pau. He then wrote two article, which he illustrated with photographs. Both were rejected by the American publishers to whom he submitted them. The failure discouraged him, but Mrs. Mahan was convinced he coulod write and continually urged him to try again. He appeared to have a confirmed ambition to do so, and she had no difficulty in keeping it alive.

By September he managed to get ordered to duty as head of the Ordnance Department at the Naval Academy. His family joined him file next month in a large house, whose windows offered a splendid view of the Severn River which changed with the season and was a continual delight to

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