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

By W. D. Puleston | Go to book overview

Chapter XXXIV Naval Administration

WITH a son in Columbia and two grown daughters at home, Mahan found his retired pay and inherited income insufficient to support the family. He became more and more dependent upon the returns from his writings. He was no ascetic, and the household never lacked the substantial comforts of life. There was usually a light wine with dinner, and whiskey and soda available on the sideboard. Mahan's own temperate habits made him regard total abstainers as fanatics. He enjoyed the theater but went only occasionally, and then preferably to comedy rather than tragedy, Gilbert and Sullivan rather than Grand Opera.

He preferred prose to poetry, and turned most readily to history and biography. Macaulay's vivid style attracted him, in spite of his Whiggish bias and frequent errors of fact. In general he preferred the accounts of the Tory historians, just as he was more often in accord with the Conservative party in England. In his later days most of his reading was dictated by his writings; he familiarized himself with Seeley, Stubbs, Ranke, Taine, Acton, Buckle, Delbrück, and others. For American history he depended upon his associates in the American Historical Association who advised him where books or source material could be obtained. Crawford was his favorite modern novelist. He liked Dickens and in his letters he sometimes subscribed to the philosophy of Samuel Weller. Individual novels from most of the classical English novelists were stocked on his shelves.

Palgrave Golden Treasury and the Sonnets of the Century and the Psalms of David seem to have satisfied his need for poetry. He had a genuine fondness for many of

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