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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Finley Peter Dunne (1867–1936)

Avarice and Generosity

From “Observations of Mr. Dooley”

“I NEVER blame a man f’r bein’ avaricyous in his ol’ age. Whin a fellow gits so he has nawthin’ else to injye, whin ivrybody calls him ‘sir’ or ‘mister,’ an’ young people dodge him an’ he sleeps afther dinner, an’ folks say he’s an ol’ fool if he wears a buttonhole bokay, an’ his teeth is only tinants at will an’ not permanent fixtures, ’tis no more thin nach’ral that he shud begin to look around f’r a way iv keepin’ a grip on human s’ciety. It don’t take him long to see that th’ on’y thing that’s vin’rable in age is money, an’ he pro-ceeds to acquire anything that happens to be in sight, takin’ it where he can find it, not where he wants it, which is th’ way to accumylate a fortune. Money won’t prolong life, but a few millyons judicyously placed in good banks an’ occas’nally worn on the person will rayjooce age. Poor ol’ men are always older thin poor rich men. In th’ almshouse a man is decrepit an’ mournful-lookin’ at sixty, but a millyonaire at sixty is jus’ in th’ prime iv life to a friendly eye, an’ there are no others.

“It’s aisier to th’ ol’ to grow rich thin it is to th’ young. At makin’ money a man iv sixty is miles ahead iv a la-ad iv twinty-five. Pollytics and bankin’ is th’ on’y two games where age has the best iv it. Youth has betther things to attind to, an’ more iv thim. I don’t blame a man f’r bein’ stingy anny more thin I blame him f’r havin’ a bad leg. Ye know th’ doctors say that if ye don’t use wan iv ye’er limbs f’r a year or so ye can niver use it again. So it is with gin’rosity. A man starts arly in life not bein’ gin’rous. He says to himsilf, ‘I wurruked f’r this thing an’ if I give it away I lose it.’ He ties up his gin’rosity in bandages so that th’ blood can’t circylate in it. It gets to be a superstition with him that he’ll have bad luck if he iver does annything f’r annybody. An’ so he rakes in an’ puts his private mark with his teeth on all th’ movable money in th’ wurruld. But th’ day comes whin he sees people around him gettin’ a good dale iv injyemint out iv gin’rosity, an’ somewan says: ‘Why don’t ye, too, be gin-rous? Come, ol’ green goods, unbelt, loosen up, be gin-rous.’ ‘Gin’rous?’ says he. ‘What’s that?’ ‘It’s th’ best spoort in th’ wurruld. It’s givin’ things to people.’ ‘But I can’t,’ he says. ‘I haven’t annything to do it with,’ he says. ‘I don’t know th’ game. I haven’t anny gin’rosity,’ he says. ‘But ye have,’ says they. ‘Ye have as much gin’rosity as anny wan if ye’ll only use it,’ says they. ‘Take it out iv th’ plasther cast ye put it in an’ ’twill look as good as new,’ says they. An’ he does it. He thries to use his gin’rosity but all th’ life is out iv it. It gives way undher him an’ he falls down. He can’t raise it fr’m th’ ground. It’s ossyfied an’ useless. I’ve seen manny a fellow that suffered fr’m ossyfied gin’rosity.

“Whin a man begins makin’ money in his youth at annything but games iv chance he niver can become gin’rous late in life. He may make a bluff at it. Some men are gin’rous with a crutch. Some men get the use of their gin’rosity back suddenly whin they ar-re in danger. Whin Clancy the miser was caught in a fire in th’ Halsted Sthreet Palace Hotel he howled fr’m a window: ‘I’ll give twinty dollars to anny wan that’ll take me down.’ Cap’n Minehan put up a laddher an’ climbed to him an’ carrid him to th’ sthreet. Half-way down th’ laddher th’ brave rayscooer was seen to be chokin’ his helpless burdhen. We discovered aftherward that Clancy had thried to begin negotyations to rayjooce th’ reward to five dollars. His gin’rosity had become suddenly par’lyzed again.

“So if ye’d stay gin’rous to th’ end, niver lave ye’er gin’rosity idle too long. Don’t run it ivry hour at th’ top ov its speed, but fr’m day to day give it a little gintle exercise to keep it supple an’ hearty an’ in due time ye may injye it.”