The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

IX. Minor Humorists

§ 7. Mr. Dooley

Political sarcasms like the foregoing, though frequently employed, have ordinarily been powerless to influence either the character of American politics or the fortunes of any particular politician. On the contrary, they have had, like Ford jokes, a certain advertising value, being considered less marks of discontent than the banter of satisfaction with which healthy Americans accompany their doings. Most unusual, therefore, is the spectacle of the national frame of mind changed in consequence of the work of a humorist. Yet that result may fairly be claimed for the “Dooleys” written by Finley Peter Dunne during the Spanish-American War. The American public, conscious of a chivalrous mission in the war, uncertain of the strength of the adversary, and angry at the bustling incompetence and greedy profiteering at home, lost its sense of humour. Its regeneration from the slough of perfervid earnestness was accelerated by the cool remarks of the Irish saloonkeeper of Archey Road, Chicago. As Mr. Dooley commented on the great charge of the army mules at Tampa with reflections on other jackasses, pictured the Cuban towns captured by war-correspondents and the Spanish fleet sunk by dispatch boats, celebrated General Miles’s uniform and the pugnacity of “Cousin George Dooley” (Admiral Dewey), the national fever cooled, and the nation, realizing its superfluous power, burst into saving laughter.

  • “We’re a gr-reat people,” said Mr. Hennessy, earnestly.
  • “We ar-re,” said Mr. Dooley. “We ar-re that. An’ th’ best iv it is, we know we ar-re.”
  • Mr. Dooley for some years continued to give his opinions on the men and affairs of peace with a shrewdness that recalls the pungent insight of Josh Billings and makes him one of the most quotable writers. Americans of the present generation are not likely to forget some of his sayings, least of all the remark of Father Kelly:

  • “Hogan,” he says, “I’ll go into th’ battle with a prayer book in wan hand an’ a soord in th’ other,” he says; “an’ if th’ wurruk calls f’r two hands, ’tis not th’ soord I’ll dhrop,” he says.