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Finley Peter Dunne

I don’t remember where or when I first heard of  Finley Peter Dunne but although it apparently was a long time ago and I don’t remember the circumstances surrounding my knowledge of him, the name keeps bobbing to the top of my memory.

Although I like the name “Finley Peter Dunne” on its own, the Irish origin of the name does not do my fascination with him justice.  It’s his writing which will not let him disappear from my old membranes.

Finley Peter Dunne died before I was born, 1936, but he had a decent run at it for 68 years.  He was born and reared in Chicago, not a bad thing...in 1867.

Finley was a slow starter graduating last in his high school class, but he went on to a vocation not requiring much education, journalism.

Finley must have loved his mother who passed away while he was still in high school because he added her family name, Finley, to his simple given name of Peter.

Finley Peter must have felt some pressure from his sister’s success as an educator and high school principal in Chicago because he made himself famous as a newspaper columnist.

Although Theodore Roosevelt was often the butt of his columns, the President was known to read his column aloud to his cabinet members.

Finley Peter seems to have bounced around from newspaper  to newspaper in Chicago until while working for the Chicago Post he hit upon Mr. Dooley who was the voice of Mr. Dunne’s observations on politics, ethics, human foibles, and life in general.

Mr. Dooley, the voice Dunne chose, was an uneducated Irish immigrant barkeep who spoke his mind freely with the deepest of Irish brogues.

The Irish brogue may be a little difficult for contemporary readers, but it’s well worth the effort.  For example, “Hogan tells me that wan iv th’ first
things man done afther he’d larned to kill his neighborin’ animals, an’ make a meal iv wan part iv thim and a ves iv another, was to begin to mannyfacther lithrachoor, an’ it’s been goin’ on up th’ prisint day.”  This translates as, “Hogan tells me that one of the first things man did after he learned to kill his neighboring animals, and make a meal of one part of them and a vest of another, was to begin to manufacture literature.”  The translation was as easy as pie for me, but you must remember I once translated between an older Chez gentleman and a young African American understanding each perfectly.

If you care to give his essays a go, go to Read Central.com.  You’ll find a number of brief pronouncements by Mr. Dooley there.  If you’re interested in books by or about Mr. Dunne, go to Amazon. If you are not much of a reader, I suggest you go to “Mr. Dunne and Mr. Dooley: A Bartender is Born  or “Mr. Dooley: The Need for Modesty Among the Rich  orMr. Dooley and Julius Caesar.”

Perhaps your appetite for Finley Peter will be whetted a bit by a few of his quotations:


“The only good husbands stay bachelors.  They’re too considerate to get married.”

“Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

“One of the strangest things about life is that the poor, who need the money the most, are the ones that never have it.”

“Thee ain’t any news in being good.  You might write the doings of all the convents in the world on the back of a postage stamp, and have room to spare.”

“Don’t jump on a man unless he is down.”

“Vice is a creature of such hideous mien…that the more you see it the better you like it.”

“Alcohol is necessary for a man so that he can have a good opinion of himself, undisturbed by the facts.”

Finley had a son who also entered the writing business but fell among bad friends and became a screenwriter.

Well, perhaps these few moments scribbling down a few words about the great Finley Peter Dunne and his alter ego Mr. Dooley will for some time keep them from interrupting my ease as I’ve passed them on to you. 

Good luck.