Alfred Thayer Mahan and the might of seapower, James Baldwin on the role of the artist, and the clerihew: newsletter, August 11, 2023

August 11, 2023 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: baseball, fiction, history, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,845) on Friday, August 11, 2023.

The limerick has been a part of my very limited poetry knowledge for as long as I can remember, but I have just recently encountered the clerihew. That is a four-line, semi-nonsense poem that usually is biographical. That is, it centers around the life and work of someone, and though it may seem nonsensical, it actually contains a kernel of truth about that person.

The clerihew was invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley, an early 20th century journalist and mystery novelist. (I will have a full article on him in a few weeks. Bentley published a book of clerihew titled Biography for Beginners. It begins with this clerihew:

Sir Christopher Wren

Said, “I am going to dine with some men.

“If anybody calls

“Say I am designing St. Paul’s.”

So, just to see if I could do it, I decided to write one or two of my own. Here’s one of my efforts:

Portrait artist John Singer Sargent
Would often receive a large hint
From famous and rich clients who would say,
“I know how I look. Don’t paint it that way.”

You may want to try this yourself. If you come up with something you want to share, send it along. WARNING: Writing clerihews might become addictive.

Meanwhile, have a great and literate weekend.


Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,887 subscribers and had a 38.2 percent open rate; 11 persons unsubscribed.

Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement, and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.


The widespread influence of Alfred Thayer Mahan

One of the most influential books of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783. 

This seminal work by Alfred Thayer Mahan, a United States Naval officer and historian, meticulously traced the development of naval warfare over two centuries. 

Published in 1890, the book garnered widespread attention, setting Mahan apart from his contemporaries due to his profound understanding of naval strategy and global naval history, bolstered by his position as a respected professor at the United States Naval Academy.

In 1892, Mahan followed up with The Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1793 to 1812, further solidifying his reputation as a leading authority in naval affairs. These works arrived at a crucial juncture when European powers were grappling with the realization that the 20th century would see them vying for supremacy and encountering conflicts that could reshape their empires. 

The British Empire, in particular, was often lauded for its maritime strength, with its naval prowess becoming a focal point of envy and emulation for other rising powers, like Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm.

Mahan was born in 1840 at West Point, New York, where his father was a professor at the United States Military Academy, and an expert on fortifications. He went to an Episcopal college preparatory school in Maryland, and eventually studied at Columbia University.

Mahan entered the United States Naval Academy, much to the consternation of his father, and graduated second in his class in 1859. As an Annapolis graduate, he received several commissions during the Civil War, but he did not distinguish himself as a seagoing officer. Several times vessels under his command were involved in collisions, and Mahan understood that his place in the world was probably not among the smoky, noisy, and confusing steamships of his day.

He first became a lecturer in naval history and tactics at the Naval War College in 1865. His extensive research and study of naval power’s history convinced him of the paramount importance of dominating the seas to ensure military supremacy and preserve empires. To achieve this, he advocated for the construction of large battleships, emphasizing their head-to-head confrontation with enemy fleets.

Large mighty fleets could not only bring home military victories, but they could also wreak economic havoc on enemy nations—or so Mahan argued. In addition, the large battleship was something that a nation could point to with great pride, and fleets of those ships promoted patriotic feelings of might and security.

Despite the profound impact of Mahan’s works on military minds worldwide, notably in Germany, where 8,000 copies of his books were distributed among naval officers, critics argued that his theories were overly fixated on sea power and inadequately accounted for other forms of warfare. Moreover, his historical perspective limited his recognition of the changing nature of naval technology, notably the rise of submarine warfare, which emerged as a decisive force after the publication of his books.

Mahan’s vision of large naval battles where large battleships pounded one another into submission was easily countered by the British navy in World War I simply because the British refused to participate in such battles.

Mahan died in late 1914 and was thus unable to see how his theories played out in real warfare.

Still, Mahan’s contributions to the understanding of naval power and strategy were monumental, shaping military thinking for decades. While his ideas faced criticism for their singular focus on sea power and lack of balance with other forms of warfare, his legacy endures, with subsequent scholars and strategists building upon his ideas to address the evolving challenges of modern naval warfare. 

Mahan’s influence was far-flung and undoubtedly increased American stature in the widening dangers of the 20th century.


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.”


James Baldwin on the role of the artist

Perhaps the primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid: the state of being alone. Most of us are not compelled to linger with the knowledge of our aloneness, for it is a knowledge that can paralyze all action in this world. There are, forever, swamps to be drained, cities to be created, mines to be exploited, and children to be fed. None of these things can be done alone. But the conquest of the physical world is not man’s only duty. He is also enjoined to conquer the great wilderness of himself. The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.


G.K. Chesterton: The Incredulity of Father Brown: The Ghost of Gideon Wise

G.K. Chesterton’s retiring, priestly detective, Father Brown, is well-known to modern readers and viewers mainly through a series of television adaptations of his character. Chesterton, who died in 1936, was one of the chief public intellectuals of his day, and his output as an author is astounding: 4,000 essays, 80 books, several hundred poems, and numerous plays. (See the JPROF post: G.K. Chesterton: Everything about him was big, including his ‘colossal genius’.)

Many of his Father Brown stories first appeared in magazines and then were gathered into several volumes of collections. During these weeks of the long summer months, we are presenting you with easy access to the Father Brown stories in one of the collections, The Incredulity of Father Brown.

These stories take about an hour to read or listen to.

This week’s story is “The Ghost of Gideon Wise.”

The Ghost of Gideon Wise

Listen to this story here on

FATHER BROWN always regarded the case as the queerest example of the theory of an alibi: the theory by which it is maintained, in defiance of the mythological Irish bird, that it is impossible for anybody to be in two places at once. To begin with, James Byrne, being an Irish journalist, was perhaps the nearest approximation to the Irish bird. He came as near as anybody could to being in two places at once: for he was in two places at the opposite extremes of the social and political world within the space of twenty minutes. The first was in the Babylonian halls of the big hotel, which was the meeting place of the three commercial magnates concerned with arranging for a coal lock-out and denouncing it as a coal-strike, the second was in a curious tavern, having the facade of a grocery store, where met the more subterranean triumvirate of those who would have been very glad to turn the lock-out into a strike—and the strike into a revolution. The reporter passed to and fro between the three millionaires and the three Bolshevist leaders with the immunity of the modern herald or the new ambassador.

Continue reading “The Ghost of Gideon Wise”


Group giveaways for August

Kill the Quarterback and Murder Most Criminous are part of several group giveaways this month:

A Thrill a Minute (Aug. 1-22)

Blood Tingling Reads

Edge-of-Your-Seat Thrills: Enter to Claim the Best Mystery & Suspense Books

August Cozy Mystery Freebies

Each of these giveaways includes more than 20 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors.


True Spies: A fascinating look into the world of espionage

Espionage and its associated tradecraft occurs daily in just about every corner of the globe. The players are not just governments. They involve all types of organizations—political, industrial, and even religious—and the motivations of those involved range from mundane to profound. Not surprisingly, there are a number of good podcasts that take a deep dive into this murky world.

One of the best is True Spies, a production of the Spyscape podcast channel. Here is how True Spies describes itself:

True Spies takes you inside the world’s greatest espionage and detective operations. Our hosts Hayley Atwell, Vanessa Kirby and Sophia Di Martino talk to the real spies behind the missions. What do they know? What are their skills? And what would you do in their position? We explore and investigate real life thrillers, mysteries and crimes – stories that prove truth is stranger than fiction! These stories cover lies, murder, theft, sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. You’ll meet experts from the top intelligence agencies including FBI, CIA, MI5, MI6 (SIS), KGB, GRU, Mossad and many others. You’ll discover characters who spied because of money, ideology, coercion or just plain old ego. And, if you’d like to dig deeper into the world of secrets, and test your own secret intelligence skills, head over to for articles, games, experiences, puzzles and videos. 

If you’re interested in true stories of espionage, this podcast is worth a good, long look.


Check out last week’s newsletter

Bill G.: I have some comments about your reference to the Pharaoh who was threatened by the Israelites. It was the growing numbers of Israelites that threatened the Egyptians. Obviously Egyptian wives were choosing to have a smaller family while Israeli wives were having much larger families.

So it is interesting that, in modern times, it is the Israeli women who are choosing to have smaller families while Palestinian women are having much larger families. The Israeli leaders of the country’s democracy worry that, one day, there will be more Palestinian voters than Israeli. The Israeli solution was to encourage Jews around the world to emigrate to Israel, promising them jobs and pensions. This is how the government manages to keep an Israeli majority in elections.


Here in America, we see the same situation as census data predict that soon the country’s majority will be non-white. White families are having fewer children while black and brown people are having more children. Because America cannot invite white Europeans into the country, the Pharaohs of America are trying to restrict the voting rights of minority citizens.

So I find it interesting that this trend of having small or large families become a motivation for leaders to try to artificially control their grip on power and this problem goes all the way back to the Pharaoh’s confrontation with Moses.

Finally . . .

This week’s pen and ink: Masonic lodge

Best quote of the week:

There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind. Hannah Senesh, poet, playwright, and paratrooper (1921-1944)

Pray-as-you-go podcast

If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.

If you are interested in reading scripture, either the Old Testament, the New Testament, or both, you might be interested in the videos, commentary, and podcast of the The people who work on this site have done some deep and thoughtful reading of the Bible, and the videos they have produced (generally shorter than 10 minutes) are both entertaining and enlightening. They view the Bible as a single entity with a single purpose, and their approach is both delightful and refreshing.

Helping those in need

Earthquakes in Turkey, fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee: disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.

It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).

When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief ( is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: David Ignatius and the understandable espionage novel, Obama’s stand against book banning; newsletter, August 4, 2023



Get a FREE copy of Kill the Quarterback

Get a free digital copy of Jim Stovall's mystery novel, Kill the Quarterback. You will also get Jim's newsletter and advanced notice of publications, free downloads and a variety of information about what he is working on. Jim likes to stay in touch, so sign up today.

Powered by ConvertKit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *