Page:The Pathfinder of the Seas.djvu/61

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33
HE RESORTS TO THE PEN

what he might do in the future. He had begun then to think seriously of resorting to the pen, and after his return home this notion "to take to books and be learned" began to take more definite shape in his mind, though he was greatly discouraged at his ignorance and confused by the wilderness of subjects from which to choose. He did not, however, wish to give the impression that he was shirking active service; so he made application on March 14, 1840 to Secretary of the Navy Paulding for any duty which he could perform in his present condition, "service on crutches" as he expressed it. This, of course, was not granted him, and thus relieved temporarily from active service, he began the writing of his "Scraps from the Lucky Bag", a series of magazine articles which were soon to make his name very widely known.

In the summer of 1838, Maury had written five articles for the Richmond Whig and Public Advertiser under the nom de plume of "Harry Bluff, U.S. Navy". His feelings were at that time raw over the outcome of the Exploring Expedition, and in these fearless, straightforward articles he bitterly criticised the former Secretary of the Navy Dickerson for his inefficiency and called upon his successor, Secretary Paulding, to restore to the navy its former prestige. The appointment of Wilkes to command the expedition was handled without gloves. "There was", wrote Maury, "a cunning little Jacob who had campaigned in Washington a full term of seven years. More prodigal than Laban, you (Secretary of War, Joel R. Poinsett) gave him, for a single term, both the Rachel and the Leah of his heart. A junior lieutenant with scarcely enough service at sea to make him familiar with the common routine of duty on board a man-of-war, and with one or two short interruptions, a