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Finley Peter Dunne and Mr. Dooley

Finley Peter Dunne and Mr. Dooley: The Chicago Years

Charles Fanning
Copyright Date: 1978
Pages: 302
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130js9b
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    Finley Peter Dunne and Mr. Dooley
    Book Description:

    Finley Peter Dunne, American journalist and humorist, is justly famous for his creation of Mr. Dooley, the Chicago Irish barkeep whose weekly commentary on national politics, war, and human nature kept Americans chuckling over their newspapers for nearly two decades at the beginning of this century. Largely forgotten in the files of Chicago newspapers, however, are over 300 Mr. Dooley columns written in the 1890s before national syndication made his name a household word. Charles Fanning offers here the first critical examination of these early Dooley pieces, which, far better than the later ones, reveal the depth and development of the character and his creator.

    Dunne created in Mr. Dooley a vehicle for expressing his criticism of Chicago's corruption despite the conservatism of most of his publishers. Dishonest officials who could not be safely attacked in plain English could be roasted with impunity in the "pure Roscommon brogue" of a fictional comic Irishman. In addition, Dunne painted, through the observations of his comic persona, a vivid and often poignant portrait of the daily life of Chicago's working-class Irish community and the impact of assimilation into American life. He also offered cogent views of American urban political life, already dominated by the Irish as firmly in Chicago as in other large American cities, and of the tragicomic phenomenon of Irish nationalism.

    Mr. Fanning's penetrating examination of these early Dooley pieces clearly establishes Dunne as far more than a mere humorist. Behind Mr. Dooley's marvelously comic pose and ironic tone lies a wealth of material germane to the social and literary history of turn-of-the century America.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6261-4
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 CHICAGO BACKGROUNDS The Genesis of Mr. Dooley
    (pp. 1-36)

    ON FEBRUARY 24, 1890, the United States Congress crowned Chicago the archetypal American city by appointing her hostess for the national celebration of the four-hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. On April 30, 1893, one year behind schedule, President Grover Cleveland and Chicago Mayor Carter H. Harrison officially opened the World’s Columbian Exposition, a fairyland extravaganza of plaster and whitewash in Jackson Park on the shores of Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, that sunny spring of self-congratulation was followed by the worst winter of poverty, homelessness, and starvation in the city’s history—the “Black Winter” of 1893–1894,...

  5. 2 MR. DOOLEY IN BRIDGEPORT The Creation of a Community
    (pp. 37-66)

    PETER DUNNE’s deep and various rendering of Irish-American city life in the 1890s has never been sufficiently acknowledged, mostly because he chose not to republish the bulk of this material in his Dooley collections. An examination of the original newspaper pieces, however, reveals that, by accretion of weekly essay on weekly essay, a whole picture emerges. Bridgeport in the nineties blossoms as a self-contained culture, rich and intensely communal, complete with its private pantheon of heroes and a rigid social hierarchy rooted in place, family, and occupation. A true ghetto, this south side nucleus of the Irish-American working class community...

  6. 3 MR. DOOLEY IN BRIDGEPORT The Dissolution of a Community
    (pp. 67-104)

    BECAUSE Mr. Dooley and his creator were, respectively, immigrant and first-generation Americans, the sum of those weekly columns between 1892 and 1900 is a unique firsthand account of the process of assimilation into American city life of a large ethnic group. As an immigrant community, Bridgeport was culturally unstable, and the Dooley pieces help us to chart the forces for change within such a community, as well as the often painful effects of the breakdown of the tenuous balance between old and new that its members attempted to strike. Dunne’s vantage point in the 1890s is particularly revealing, for those...

  7. 4 THE IRISH IN AMERICAN POLITICS The View from Archer Avenue
    (pp. 105-138)

    POLITICAL life provided the most visible and controversial career opportunities for the Irish in American cities in the late nineteenth century. Between the Famine time of the 1840s and the turn of the century, over three million Irishmen came to America, and the 1890 census showed an all-time high of 1,872,000 Americans of Irish birth. The combination of numbers, linguistic and organizational talents, previous experience as political underdogs under British rule, and a ghetto community cohesive both ethnically and religiously made for success in city politics.² The most obvious product was the urban machine, a tightly woven network of single-minded...

  8. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  9. 5 CATHLEEN NI HOULIHAN IN CHICAGO Dunne & Irish-American Nationalism
    (pp. 139-172)

    THE QUESTION of the political connection between Ireland and Great Britain is a desperately thorny problem, snarled into the Irish identity since Henry II landed near Waterford in 1171, and unfortunately as compelling today as it was in the 1890s. The American contribution to the movement to free Ireland has always been a confused and confusing, a tragicomic business: taken far too grimly by fanatic adherents, too easily mocked from outside, and impossible to assess to the satisfaction of all. There was, first of all, the pain of the struggle itself: seven hundred years of bungled conspiracies, abortive or disastrous...

  10. 6 FROM BRIDGEPORT TO MANILA Mr. Dooley Becomes a National Sage
    (pp. 173-216)

    MR. DOOLEY did not wake from uneasy dreams to find himself suddenly changed into a national sage. His timely satiric illuminations of American folly in the Spanish-American War marked the final step in what was a gradual transformation from spokesman and chronicler of the Chicago Irish community to commentator on the affairs of America and the world. In fact, a three-stage progression to his ultimate role is observable in a chronological reading of all the Chicago pieces.

    Mr. Dooley’s interests had never been narrowly parochial. From the beginning he was a habitual reader of “th’ pa-apers,” commenting on national and...

  11. 7 CONCLUSION
    (pp. 217-248)

    I HOPE that the preceding chapters have established that in Mr. Dooley’s Chicago years there emerged a coherent body of work, essentially different from his performances after 1900 as a national figure, and worthy of interest on its own. In concluding, I want first to summarize the strengths and limitations of the Dooley form and some of the influences upon its invention. It would be foolish to deny that Dunne was limited by his chosen form: a weekly newspaper column of roughly 750 words is too slight and too time-serving ever to constitute crafted literature of the first rank. The...

  12. APPENDIX: An Annotated Chronology of Dunne’s Dialect Pieces in the Chicago Evening Post
    (pp. 249-256)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 257-281)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 282-286)