Finley Peter Dunne: The Paris Exposition

Finley Peter Dunne is a person I think of as forgotten, probably because you never hear about his fans anymore, although that’s probably just my ignorance talking. I’d be glad to hear I was wrong. In the late 19th and early 20th century he wrote a great many essays presented as the conversations of Mister Dooley, of Archey Road, barkeep and amateur sage.

Much of his writing is about the politics of the day, so if you aren’t up on just what the hot issues of 1905 were he might as well be writing in a foreign language, an impression not helped by his decision to write in dialect. But if you do carry on I think it’s rewarding, funny and with that humane, warm cynicism that’s so much easier to take.

In this entry, from Mister Dooley’s Philosophy, Mister Dooley is skeptical of the Paris Universal Exposition of 1900.

“If this r-rush iv people to th’ Paris exposition keeps up,” said Mr.Hennessy, “they won’t be enough left here f’r to ilict a prisidint.”

“They’ll be enough left,” said Mr. Dooley. “There always is. No wan has gone fr’m Arrchey r-road, where th’ voters ar-re made. I’ve looked ar- round ivry mornin’ expectin’ to miss some familyar faces. I thought Dorgan, th’ plumber, wud go sure, but he give it up at th’ las’ moment, an’ will spind his summer on th’ dhrainage canal. Th’ baseball season ‘ll keep a good manny others back, an’ a number iv riprisintative cit’zens who have stock or jobs in th’ wire mills have decided that ’tis much betther to inthrust their savin’s to John W. Gates thin to blow thim in again th’ sthreets iv Cairo.”

“But takin’ it by an’ large ’twill be a hard winter f’r th’ r-rich. Manny iv thim will have money enough f’r to return, but they’ll be much sufferin’ among thim. I ixpict to have people dhroppin’ in here nex’ fall with subscription books f’r th’ survivors iv th’ Paris exhibition. Th’ women down be th’ rollin’ mills ‘ll be sewin’ flannels f’r th’ disthressed millyonaires, an’ whin th’ childher kick about th’ food ye’ll say, Hinnissy, ‘Just think iv th’ poor wretches in th’ Lake Shore dhrive an’ thank Gawd f’r what ye have.’ Th’ mayor ‘ll open soup kitchens where th’ unforchnit people can come an’ get a hearty meal an’ watch th’ ticker, an’ whin th’ season grows hard, ye’ll see pinched an’ hungry plutocrats thrampin’ th’ sthreets with signs r-readin’: ‘Give us a cold bottle or we perish.’ Perhaps th’ polis ‘ll charge thim an’ bust in their stovepipe hats, th’ prisidint ‘ll sind th’ ar-rmy here, a conspiracy ‘ll be discovered at th’ club to blow up th’ poorhouse, an’ volunteers ‘ll be called on fr’m th’ nickel bed houses to protect th’ vested inthrests iv established poverty.”

“‘Twill be a chanst f’r us to get even, Hinnissy. I’m goin’ to organize th’ Return Visitin’ Nurses’ association, composed entirely iv victims iv th’ parent plant. ‘Twill be worth lookin’ at to see th’ ladies fr’m th’ stock yards r-rushin’ into some wretched home down in Peerary avenue, grabbin’ th’ misthress iv th’ house be th’ shouldhers an’ makin’ her change her onhealthy silk dhress f’r a pink wrapper, shovelin’ in a little ashes to sprinkle on th’ flure, breakin’ th’ furniture an’ rollin’ th’ baby in th’ coal box. What th’ r-rich needs is intilligint attintion. ‘Don’t ate that oatmeal. Fry a nice piece iv r-round steak with onions, give th’ baby th’ bone to play with, an’ sind Lucille Ernestine acrost th’ railroad thrack f’r a nickel’s worth iv beer. Thin ye’ll be happy, me good woman.’ Oh, ’twill be gran’. I won’t give annything to people that come to th’ dure. More har-m is done be indiscriminate charity than anny wan knows, Hinnissy. Half th’ bankers that’ll come to ye-er kitchen nex’ winter cud find plenty iv wurruk to do if they really wanted it. Dhrink an’ idleness is th’ curse iv th’ class. If they come to me I’ll sind thim to th’ Paris Survivors’ Mechanical Relief Association, an’ they can go down an’ set on a cake iv ice an’ wait till th’ man in charge finds thim a job managin’ a diamond mine.”

Mr. Hennessy dismissed Mr. Dooley’s fancy sketch with a grin and remarked: “These here expositions is a gran’ thing f’r th’ progress iv th’ wurruld.”

“Ye r-read that in th’ pa-apers,” said Mr. Dooley, “an” it isn’t so. Put it down fr’m me, Hinnissy, that all expositions is a blind f’r th’ hootchy-kootchy dance. They’ll be some gr-reat exhibits at th’ Paris fair. Th’ man that has a machine that’ll tur-rn out three hundhred thousan’ toothpicks ivry minyit’ll sind over his inthrestin’ device, they’ll be mountains iv infant food an’ canned prunes, an’ pickle casters, an’ pants, an’ boots, an’ shoes an’ paintin’s. They’ll be all th’ wondhers iv modhern science. Ye can see how shirts ar-re made, an’ what gives life to th’ sody fountain. Th’ man that makes th’ glue that binds ‘ll be wearin’ more medals thin an officer iv th’ English ar-rmy or a cinchry bicycle rider, an’ years afther whin ye see a box iv soap ye’ll think iv th’ manufacthrer standin’ up befure a hundhred thousan’ frinzied Fr-rinchmen in th’ Boss du Boloney while th’ prisidint iv th’ Fr-rinch places a goold wreath on his fair brow an’ says: ‘In th’ name iv th’ ar-rts an’ science, undher th’ motto iv our people, “Libertinity, insanity, an’ frugality,” I crown ye th’ champeen soapmaker iv th’ wurruld. [Cheers.] Be ye’er magnificint invintion ye have dhrawn closer th’ ties between Paris an’ Goshen, Indyanny [frantic applause], which I hope will niver be washed away. I wish ye much success as ye climb th’ lather iv fame.’ Th’ invintor is thin dhrawn ar-roun’ th’ sthreets iv Paris in a chariot pulled be eight white horses amid cries iv ‘Veev Higgins,’ ‘Abase Castile,’ et cethra, fr’m th’ populace. An’ manny a heart beats proud in Goshen that night. That’s th’ way ye think iv it, but it happens diff’rent, Hinnissy. Th’ soap king, th’ prune king, an’ th’ porous plaster king fr’m here won’t stir up anny tumult in Paris this year. Th’ chances ar-re th’ prisidint won’t know they’re there, an’ no wan’ll speak to thim but a cab dhriver, an’ he’ll say: ‘Th’ fare fr’m th’ Changs All Easy to th’ Roo de Roo is eighteen thousan’ francs, but I’ll take ye there f’r what ye have in ye-er pockets.'”

“The millyonaire that goes over there to see th’ piled up riches iv th’ wurruld in sausage-makin’ ‘ll take a look ar-round him an’ he’ll say to th’ first polisman he meets: ‘Gossoon, this is a fine show an’ I know yon palace is full to th’ seams with chiny-ware an’ washtubs, but wud ye be so kind, mong brav’, as to p’int out with ye-er club th’ partic’lar house where th’ houris fr’m th’ sultan’s harem dances so well without the aid iv th’ human feet?’ I know how it was whin we had th’ fair here. I had th’ best intintions in th’ wurruld to find out what I ought to have larned fr’m me frind Armour, how with th’ aid iv Gawdgiven machinery ye can make a bedstead, a pianola, a dozen whisk-brooms, a barrel iv sour mash whisky, a suit iv clothes, a lamp chimbly, a wig, a can iv gunpowdher, a bah’rl iv nails, a prisidintial platform, an’ a bur-rdcage out iv what remains iv th’ cow-I was detarmined to probe into th’ wondhers iv science, an’ I started fair f’r th’ machinery hall. Where did I bring up, says ye? In th’ fr-ront seat iv a playhouse with me eye glued on a lady iv th’ sultan’s coort, near Brooklyn bridge, thryin’ to twisht out iv hersilf.”

“No, Hinnissy, they’ll be manny things larned be Americans that goes to Paris, but they won’t be about th’ ‘convarsion iv boots into food, or vicey varsa,’ as Hogan says. An’ that’s r-right. If I wint over there ’tis little time I’d be spindin’ thryin’ to discover how th’ wondhers iv mechanical janius are projooced that makes livin’ so much more healthy an’ oncomfortable. But whin I got to Paris I’d hire me a hack or a dhray painted r-red, an’ I’d put me feet out th’ sides an’ I’d say to th’ dhriver: ‘Rivolutionist, pint ye-er horse’s head to’rds th’home iv th’ skirt dance, hit him smartly, an’ go to sleep. I will see th’ snow-plow show an’ th’ dentisthry wurruk in th’ pa-apers. F’r th’ prisint I’ll devote me attintion to makin’ a noise in th’ sthreets an’ studyin’ human nature.'”

“Ye’d be a lively ol’ buck over there,” said Mr. Hennessy, admiringly.'”Tis a good thing ye can’t go.”

“It is so,” said Mr. Dooley. “I’m glad I have no millyonaire rilitives to be depindent on me f’r support whin th’ show’s over.”

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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