Finley Peter Dunne: The Names of a Week


Today I’d like to return to Finley Peter Dunne and his Mister Dooley here, in a piece from Observations By Mister Dooley going over the news of the week. This should all sound extremely vivid if you’re well-versed in the daily news of 1902 (in July of 1902 when the campanille in Venice’s Piazza San Marco collapsed, an incident which brought a lot of attention to that rather famous one in Pisa, which hasn’t yet fallen down or over), but I don’t imagine that annotating every bit of this is necessary. It’s to me a marvelous way to see figures of the era, such as Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryant, and Whitelaw Reid as more vivid figures than just what history books give you; and if you don’t know the era.

“What’s goin’ on this week in th’ papers?” asked Mr. Hennessy.

“Ivrything,” said Mr. Dooley. “It’s been a turbylint week. I can hardly sleep iv nights thinkin’ iv th’ doin’s iv people. Th’ campinily at Venice has fallen down. ‘Twas built in 1604 be th’ Beezantiums an’ raystored in 1402 be th’ Dogs. It fell down because th’ foundations was weak, because th’ wind blew, because th’ beautiful figure iv th’ goolden angel on top iv it was fifteen feet high. It will be rebuilt or maybe not. Th’ king iv Italy has given thirty-three billion liars to put it up again, an’ siv’ral ladin’ American archytects have offered to do th’ job, makin’ an office buildin’ iv it. Th’ campinily was wan iv th’ proudest monymints iv Italy an’ was used as a bell-tower at times, an’ at other times as a gazabo where anny American cud take a peek at th’ gran’ canal an’ compare it with th’ Erie, th’ Pannyma an’ th’ dhrainage iv the same name.

“Th’ king iv England is betther. He’s off in his yacht. So ar-re Laking, Treves, Smith, Barlow, Jones, Casey, Lister, thank Hiven! A hard life is science. Th’ Hon’rable Joseph Choate is raycoverin’ more slowly. He still sobs occas’nally in his sleep an’ has ordhered all th’ undher sicreties to have their vermyform appindixes raymoved as a token iv rayspict f’r th’ sthricken nation. Th’ Hon’rable Whitelaw Reid is havin’ a cast iv his knee breeches made, which will be exhibited in New York durin’ th’ comin’ winter.

“Me frind, J. Pierpont Morgan, has been takin’ dinner with th’ Impror Willum. It is undherstud he will presint him to th’ Methropolytan Museem iv Art. There are said to be worse things there.

“Lord Salisberry has thrun up his job. Lord Salisberry was wan iv th’ grandest an’ mos’ succissful statesmen iv modhren times. He niver did annything. He is succeeded be his nevvew, Misther Balfour, if I get th’ name right, who has done less. It is expicted that Misther Balfour will have a good time. On rayceivin’ th’ congrathylations iv his colleague, Misther Chamberlain, he bought himsilf a rayvolver an’ took out a policy on his life.

“A lady down east woke her husband up to tell him there was a burglar in th’ house. Th’ foolish woman. They’se always burglars in th’ house. That’s what burglars are f’r, an’ houses. Instead iv argyin’ th’ pint in a loud voice, coughin’ an’ givin’ th’ burglar a chance to lave with dignity, this man got up an’ was kilt. Now th’ pa-apers with th’ assistance iv th’ officers iv th’ law has discovered that th’ lady took a boat ride with a gintleman frind in th’ summer iv sixty-two, that she wanst quarreled with her husband about th’ price iv a hat, that wan iv her lower teeth is plugged, that she wears a switch an’ that she weeps whin she sees her childher. They’se a moral in this. It’s ayether don’t wake a man up out iv a sound sleep, or don’t get out iv bed till ye have to, or don’t bother a burglar whin ye see he’s busy, or kill th’ iditor. I don’t know which it is.

“Willum Jennings Bryan is readin’ me frind Grover Cleveland out iv th’ party. He’s usin’ the Commoner to read him out. That’s a sure way.

“Mary MeLane has been in town. I didn’t see her, me place not bein’ a raysort f’r th’ young an’ yearnin’, an’ especially me duckin’ all lithry ladies iv whativer sex. Mary McLane is th’ author iv a book called: ‘Whin I am older I’ll know betther.’ Ye ought to read it, Hinnissy.

“Th’ Newport season is opened with gr-reat gayety an’ th’ aim iv rayturnin’ husbands is much more sure.

“Gin’ral Bragg fr’m up in Wisconsin has been gettin’ into throuble with our haughty allies, th’ Cubians, he writin’ home to his wife that ye might as well thry to make a whistle out iv a pig’s tail as a dacint man out iv a Cubian. Gin’ral Bragg will be bounced an’ he ought to be. He don’t belong in pollytics. His place is iditor iv a losin’ newspaper.

“Gov’nor Taft has been in Rome showin’ th’ wurruld how succissful, sthraightforward, downright, outspoken, manly, frank, fourteen ounces to th’ pound American business dalings can be again’ th’ worn-out di-plomacy iv th’ papal coort. Whin last heerd fr’m this astoot an’ able man, backed up be th’ advice iv Elihoo Root iv York state, was makin’ his way tow’rd Manila on foot, an’ siv’ral mimbers iv th’ colledge iv cardinals was heerd to regret that American statesmen were so thin they cudden’t find anything to fit thim in his thrunk.

“Cholera is ragin’ in th’ Ph’lippeens vice Gin’ral Jake Smith, raymoved.

“Th’ stock market is boomin’ an’ business has become so dull elsewhere that some iv th’ best known outside operators ar-re obliged to increase th’ depth iv th’ goold coatin’ on th’ brick to nearly an inch.

“Th’ capital iv th’ nation has raymoved to Eyesther Bay, a city on th’ north shore iv Long Island, with a popylation iv three millyion clams, an’ a number iv mosquitos with pianola attachments an’ steel rams. There day be day th’ head iv th’ nation thransacts th’ nation’s business as follows: four A.M., a plunge into th’ salt, salt sea an’ a swim iv twenty miles; five A.M., horse-back ride, th’ prisidint insthructin’ his two sons, aged two and four rayspictively, to jump th’ first Methodist church without knockin’ off th’ shingles; six A.M., wrestles with a thrained grizzly bear; sivin A.M., breakfast; eight A.M., Indyan clubs; nine A.M., boxes with Sharkey; tin A.M., bates th’ tinnis champeen; iliven A.M., rayceives a band iv rough riders an’ person’lly supervises th’ sindin’ iv th’ ambylance to look afther th’ injured in th’ village; noon, dinner with Sharkey, Oscar Featherstone, th’ champeen roller-skater iv Harvard, ’98, Pro-fissor McGlue, th’ archyologist, Lord Dum de Dum, Mike Kehoe, Immanuel Kant Gumbo, th’ naygro pote, Horrible Hank, t’ bad lands scout, Sinitor Lodge, Lucy Emerson Tick, th’ writer on female sufferage, Mud-in-the-Eye, th’ chief iv th’ Ogallas, Gin’ral Powell Clayton, th’ Mexican mine expert, four rough riders with their spurs on, th’ Ambassadure iv France an’ th’ Cinquovasti fam’ly, jugglers. Th’ conversation, we larn fr’m wan iv th’ guests who’s our spoortin’ iditor, was jined in be th’ prisidint an’ dealt with art, boxin’, lithrachoor, horse-breakin’, science, shootin’, pollytics, how to kill a mountain line, di-plomacy, lobbing, pothry, th’ pivot blow, rayform, an’ th’ campaign in Cubia. Whin our rayporther was dhriven off th’ premises be wan iv th’ rough riders, th’ head iv th’ nation was tachin’ Lord Dum de Dum an’ Sicrety Hay how to do a hand-spring, an’ th’ other guests was scattered about th’ lawn, boxin’, rasslin’, swingin’ on th’ thrapeze, ridin’ th’ buckin’ bronco an’ shootin’ at th’ naygro pote f’r th’ dhrinks–in short enjyin’ an ideel day in th’ counthry.

“An’ that’s all th’ news,” said Mr. Dooley. “There ye ar-re jus’ as if ye cud read. That’s all that’s happened. Ain’t I a good newspaper? Not a dull line in me. Sind in ye’er small ads.”

“Sure, all that’s no news,” said Mr. Hennessy, discontentedly. “Hasn’t there annything happened? Hasn’t anny wan been–been kilt?”

“There ye ar-re,” said Mr. Dooley. “Be news ye mane misfortune. I suppose near ivry wan does. What’s wan man’s news is another man’s throubles. In these hot days, I’d like to see a pa-aper with nawthin’ in it but affectionate wives an’ loyal husbands an’ prosp’rous, smilin’ people an’ money in th’ bank an’ three a day. That’s what I’m lookin’ f’r in th’ hot weather.”

“Th’ newspapers have got to print what happens,” said Mr. Hennessy.

“No,” said Mr. Dooley, “they’ve got to print what’s diff’rent. Whiniver they begin to put headlines on happiness, contint, varchoo, an’ charity, I’ll know things is goin’ as wrong with this counthry as I think they ar-re ivry naytional campaign.”

Author: Joseph Nebus

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

4 thoughts on “Finley Peter Dunne: The Names of a Week”

    1. Yeah, the Mister Dooley pieces are hard to read because of the dialect, although I’ve read that it’s apparently a pretty good transcription of working-class Irish for the time. I don’t know if that’s the current view among people who study dialects or whether that’s just what some enthusiastic biographer of Dunne said was so.

      Writing out dialects so extensively seems to have fallen out of fashion, replaced with just dropping in a few phonetically spelled words for flavor or reminders, in the past century. I think the last really important and successful place where I’d seen it was in Walt Kelly’s Pogo, which didn’t model any actual dialect too specifically. (Oh, I suppose there’s Al Capp’s Li’l Abner, which outlasted Pogo by a few years, but I don’t know what it was doing in the late 70s or whether it reflected any dialect but Capp’s own creation.)

      Like

      1. It has fallen out of fashion, which is why I’m expecting to see a comeback in the years to come. True, I had a bit of trouble wading thought it, but I didn’t have to be told outright he was Irish. That’s a strength of writing in dialect.

        Like

        1. Writing in dialect might make a comeback, although it seems like it’s going to be a hard sell, if for nothing else because there’s less of an audience used to reading dialect these days. But I’d like to think that good writing will always find an audience.

          Like

Please Write Something Funnier Than I Thought To

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.