Finley Peter Dunne (July 10, 1867–April 24, 1936) was a Chicago-based U.S. author, writer and humorist. He wrote Mr. Dooley in Peace and War in 1898. "Mr. Dooley" became one of the first nationally syndicated newspaper features. Set in a South Side Chicago Irish pub, Mr. Dooley, the owner and bartender, would expound upon political and social issues of the day, using the thick verbiage and accent of an Irish immigrant. Dunne's sly humor and political acumen won the support of President Theodore Roosevelt, a frequent target of Mr. Dooley's barbs.
Peter Finley Dunne was born in Chicago on July 10, 1867. He was educated in the Chicago public schools (graduating from high school last in his class), then began his newspaper career in Chicago as a newspaper reporter/editor for the Chicago Telegram in 1884, at age 17. He was then with the Chicago News 1884-88, Chicago Times 1888, Chicago Tribune 1889, Chicago Herald 1889, Chicago Journal 1897. Originally named Peter Dunne, to honor his mother, who had died when he was in high school, he took her family name as his middle name some time before 1886, going by PF Dunne, reversed the two names in 1888, for Finley P. Dunne, and later used simply the initials, FP Dunne. His sister, Amelia Dunne Hookway, was a prominent educator and high school principal in Chicago; the former Hookway School was named in her honor.
The first Dooley articles appeared when he was chief editorial writer for the Chicago Post and for a number of years he wrote the pieces without a byline or initials. They were paid for at the rate of $10 each above his newspaper pay. In 1898, he wrote a Dooley piece that celebrated the victory of Commodore George Dewey over the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay--and this piece attracted national attention. Within a short time, weekly Dooley essays were syndicated across the country.
In 1899, under the title Mr Dooley in Peace and War, a collection of the pieces was brought out in book form, received rave reviews from the critics, and was on the best seller list for a year. Dunne, then 32, became a national literary figure.
Selections from Dooley were read at meetings of the presidential cabinet. Theodore Roosevelt was a fan, despite the fact that he was one of Dunne's favorite targets. When Roosevelt published his book, The Rough Riders, Dunne wrote a tongue-in-cheek review and the nation roared. Roosevelt wrote to Dunne: "I regret to state that my family and intimate friends are delighted with your review of my book. Now I think you owe me one; and I shall expect that when you next come east you pay me a visit. I have long wanted the chance of making your acquaintance."
The two finally met at the Republican Convention in 1900, where Roosevelt gave him a news scoop--he would accept the nomination as vice presidential candidate. In later years, Dunne was a frequent guest for dinner and weekends at the White House.
Dunne wrote more than 700 Dooley pieces. About 1/3 of them were printed in eight books, with their era of influence ending with the start of World War I. He left Chicago after Dooley became popular and lived in New York where he wrote books and articles and edited the American Magazine, Metropolitan Magazine and Collier's Weekly, and was a beloved figure in club and literary circles. He died in New York on April 24, 1936.
His wife, Margaret Abbott, was the daughter of the Chicago Tribune's book reviewer, Mary Ives Abbott, a newspaper woman and novelist who associated with the prominent families of the time in Chicago-the Potter Palmers, the Chatfield-Taylors, etc. She had a sort of literary salon dedicated to encouraging young Chicago writers, among whom was Dunne. Her husband had been a merchant in Calcutta before his death. She also had a son, Sprague. Mary Ives Abbott died in 1904.
Margaret Abbott was one of the first women golfers, having begun play in 1897 as a member of the prestigious Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois. She won the first Olympic gold medal for women's golf at the second Olympiad in Paris in 1900 -- thus becoming the first American woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal. That same summer, she also won the women's golf championship of France.
On December 10, 1902, Margaret Ives Abbott was married to Dunne at her mother's home in New York. She continued to play golf while she and Dunne were raising their four children. She died in 1955, perhaps never realizing that she was America's first women's Olympic champion.
Dunne was a charter member of a social circle of Chicago writers who frequently lampooned and competed with their New York City colleagues in pranks and outlandish stunts. He coined numerous political quips over the years. He is perhaps best known today as the originator of the aphorism "politics ain't beanbag".
Dunne was a friend of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), with whom he played billiards, smoked cigars and drank. He was a member of Twain's "Damned Human Race Luncheon Club".
He coined the word "southpaw" for a left-handed baseball pitcher while covering sports in Chicago in the 1880s. Home plate in the Chicago ball park was then to the west, so that a left-handed pitcher released the ball from the "paw", or hand, on the south side. The word soon came to describe any left-hander. (QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson ).
As a journalist in the age of "muckraking journalism", Dunne was aware of the power of institutions, including his own. Writing as Dooley, Dunne once wrote the following passage cautioning against the power of the newspapers themselves:
- "Th newspaper does ivrything f'r us. It runs th' polis foorce an' th' banks, commands th' milishy, controls th' ligislachure, baptizes th' young, marries th' foolish, comforts th' afflicted, afflicts th' comfortable, buries th' dead an' roasts thim aftherward".
From which, somewhat ironically, journalism took only a few lines as their own and stood these up as their raison d'etre. Specifically, "The business of a newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable". The expression has been borrowed and altered in many ways over the years. Clare Booth Luce employed a variation of it in a memorable tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt. Several religious leaders (including one Archbishop of Canterbury) have called it the goal of religion.
And a version showed up in a memorable line delivered by Gene Kelly in a great newspaper movie, Stanley Kramer's 1960 film, Inherit the Wind. Kelly (E. K. Hornbeck) says, "Mr. Brady, it is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable".
According to an article in the November 5, 2006 edition of the New York Times, he coined the truism, often wrongly attributed to Tip O'Neill, that "all politics is local."
Other Famous or Interesting Quotes from Finley Peter Dunne
(Translated from the Irish brogue into modern English)
- "A fanatic is a man who does what he thinks the Lord would do if He knew the facts of the case."
"Trust everybody, but cut the cards."
"A man that would expect to train lobsters to fly in a year is called a lunatic; but a man that thinks men can be turned into angels by an election is a reformer & remains at large."
"An appeal is when you ask one court to show its contempt for another court."
"There is one thing to be said in favor of drink, and that is that it has caused many a lady to be loved that otherwise might have died single."
"Most vegetarians look so much like the food they eat that they can be classified as cannibals."
"Swearing was invented as a compromise between running away and fighting." "You can lead a man up to the university, but you can't make him think."
"Minds are like parachutes; they only function when open."
"Alcohol is necessary for a man so that now and then he can have a good opinion of himself, undisturbed by the facts."
"Among men, Hennessy, wet eye means dry heart."
"Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable."
"The best husbands stay bachelors; they're too considerate to get married."
"Many a man that could rule a hundred million strangers with an iron hand is careful to take off his shoes in the front hallway when he comes home late at night."
"Freedom is like drink. If you take any at all, you might as well take enough to make you happy for awhile."
"High finance isn't burglary or obtaining money by false pretenses, but rather a judicious selection from the best features of those fine arts."
"A man has more fun wishing for the things he hasn't got than enjoying the things he has got."
"I wonder why you can always read a doctor's bill and you never can read his prescription."
"One of the strangest things about life is that the poor, who need money the most, are the very ones that never have it."
"When the American people get through with the English language, it will look as if it had been run over by a musical comedy."
"If you go to the zoo, always take something to feed the animals, even if the signs say 'Do Not Feed Animals'. It wasn't the animals that put them signs up." - Made popular by Forrest Gump
"Like most poets, preachers, and metaphysicians, he burst into conclusion at a spark of evidence."
"A lie with a purpose is one of the worst kind, and the most profitable."
"The first thing to have in a library is a shelf. From time to time, this can be decorated with literature. But the shelf is the main thing."
"No matter whether the Constitution follows the flag or not, the Supreme Court follows the election returns."
- Mr. Dooley in Peace and in War (1898)
- Mr. Dooley in the Hearts of His Countrymen (1899)
- Mr. Dooley's Philosophy (1900)
- Mr. Dooley's Opinions (1901)
- Observations by Mr. Dooley (1902)
- Dissertations by Mr. Dooley (1906)
- Mr. Dooley Says (1910)
- Mr. Dooley on Making a Will and Other Necessary Evils (1919)
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