Mr Dooley on ‘Keeping Lent’


A post by Mike Peterson at The Daily Cartoonist made me aware of this piece by Finley Peter Dunne, part of his Mister Dooley series. So here’s a bit from the 1899 collection Mr Dooley in the Hearts of his Countrymen.


Mr Dooley: Keeping Lent.

Finley Peter Dunne

Mr McKenna had observed Mr Dooley in the act of spinning a long, thin spoon in a compound which reeked pleasantly and smelt of the humming water of commerce; and he laughed and mocked at the philosopher.

“Ah-ha,” he said, “that’s th’ way you keep Lent, is it? Two weeks from Ash Wednesday, and you tanking up.”

Mr Dooley went on deliberately to finish the experiment, leisurely dusting the surface with nutmeg and tasting the product before setting down the glass daintily. Then he folded his apron, and lay back in ample luxury while he began: “Jawn, th’ holy season iv Lent was sent to us f’r to teach us th’ weakness iv th’ human flesh. Man proposes, an’ th’ Lord disposes, as Hinnissy says.

“I mind as well as though it was yesterday th’ struggle iv me father f’r to keep Lent. He began to talk it a month befure th’ time. ‘On Ash Winsdah,’ he’d say, ‘I’ll go in f’r a rale season iv fast an’ abstinince,’ he’d say. An’ sure enough, whin Ash Winsdah come round at midnight, he’d take a long dhraw at his pipe an’ knock th’ ashes out slowly again his heel, an’ thin put th’ dhudeen up behind th’ clock. ‘There,’ says he, ‘there ye stay till Easter morn,’ he says. Ash Winsdah he talked iv nawthin but th’ pipe. ”Tis exthraordinney how easy it is f’r to lave off,’ he says. ‘All ye need is will power,’ he says. ‘I dinnaw that I’ll iver put a pipe in me mouth again. ‘Tis a bad habit, smokin’ is,’ he says; ‘an’ it costs money. A man’s betther off without it. I find I dig twict as well,’ he says; ‘an’, as f’r cuttin’ turf, they’se not me like in th’ parish since I left off th’ pipe,’ he says.

“Well, th’ nex’ day an’ th’ nex’ day he talked th’ same way; but Fridah he was sour, an’ looked up at th’ clock where th’ pipe was. Saturdah me mother, thinkin’ to be plazin to him, says: ‘Terrence,’ she says, ‘ye’re iver so much betther without th’ tobacco,’ she says. ‘I’m glad to find you don’t need it. Ye’ll save money,’ she says. ‘Be quite, woman,’ says he. ‘Dear, oh dear,’ he says, ‘I’d like a pull at th’ clay,’ he says. ‘Whin Easter comes, plaze Gawd, I’ll smoke mesilf black an’ blue in th’ face,’ he says.

“That was th’ beginnin’ iv th’ downfall. Choosdah he was settin’ in front iv th’ fire with a pipe in his mouth. ‘Why, Terrence,’ says me mother, ‘ye’re smokin’ again.’ ‘I’m not,’ says he: ”tis a dhry smoke,’ he says; ”tisn’t lighted,’ he says. Wan week afther th’ swear-off he came fr’m th’ field with th’ pipe in his face, an’ him puffin’ away like a chimney. ‘Terrence,’ says me mother, ‘it isn’t Easter morn.’ ‘Ah-ho,’ says he, ‘I know it,’ he says; ‘but,’ he says, ‘what th’ divvle do I care?’ he says. ‘I wanted f’r to find out whether it had th’ masthery over me; an’,’ he says, ‘I’ve proved that it hasn’t,’ he says. ‘But what’s th’ good iv swearin’ off, if ye don’t break it?’ he says. ‘An’ annyhow,’ he says, ‘I glory in me shame.’

“Now, Jawn,” Mr Dooley went on, “I’ve got what Hogan calls a theery, an’ it’s this: that what’s thrue iv wan man’s thrue iv all men. I’m me father’s son a’most to th’ hour an’ day. Put me in th’ County Roscommon forty year ago, an’ I’d done what he’d done. Put him on th’ Ar-rchey Road, an’ he’d be deliverin’ ye a lecture on th’ sin iv thinkin’ ye’re able to overcome th’ pride iv th’ flesh, as Father Kelly says. Two weeks ago I looked with contimpt on Hinnissy f’r an’ because he’d not even promise to fast an’ obstain fr’m croquet durin’ Lent. To-night you see me mixin’ me toddy without th’ shadow iv remorse about me. I’m proud iv it. An’ why not? I was histin’ in me first wan whin th’ soggarth come down fr’m a sick call, an’ looked in at me. ‘In Lent?’ he says, half-laughin’ out in thim quare eyes iv his. ‘Yes,’ said I. ‘Well,’ he says, ‘I’m not authorized to say this be th’ propaganda,’ he says, ‘an’ ’tis no part iv th’ directions f’r Lent,’ he says; ‘but,’ he says, ‘I’ll tell ye this, Martin,’ he says, ‘that they’se more ways than wan iv keepin’ th’ season,’ he says. ‘I’ve knowed thim that starved th’ stomach to feast th’ evil temper,’ he says. ‘They’se a little priest down be th’ Ninth Ward that niver was known to keep a fast day; but Lent or Christmas tide, day in an’ day out, he goes to th’ hospital where they put th’ people that has th’ small-pox. Starvation don’t always mean salvation. If it did,’ he says, ‘they’d have to insure th’ pavemint in wan place, an’ they’d be money to burn in another. Not,’ he says, ‘that I want ye to undherstand that I look kindly on th’ sin iv’—

“”Tis a cold night out,’ says I.

“‘Well,’ he says, th’ dear man, ‘ye may. On’y,’ he says, ”tis Lent.’

“‘Yes,’ says I.

“‘Well, thin,’ he says, ‘by ye’er lave I’ll take but half a lump iv sugar in mine,’ he says.”