Mr. Dooley is a publican in Chicago, an Irish immigrant who has worked his way up from navvy to bar owner and dispenser of beer through hard work and, one may presume, the favor of the Cook County Democratic Party. Mr. Dooley dispenses his observations on life, world events, and other events to his foil, Mr. Hennessey, in a thick Irish brogue which is best comprehended by reading said observations aloud, for Mr. Dooley is the fictional creation of Chicago newspaperman Finley Peter Dunne and would be long dead by now if he ever actually existed.

Dooley is perhaps best remembered for his sneering comment to Hennessey regarding the Philippines that "...scarce two weeks ago, ye knew not whither they was islands or canned goods" and his energetic descriptions of his Cousin George's naval adventures, but in truth Mr. Dooley In Peace And War, the first of the eight collections of these remarkable essays, is chock full of this kind of ethnic humor. This is worth remarking on because we don't see much ethnic humor any more, and with 90% of the jokes we're just as well off. The remaining parts being 9% Chris Rock, the occasional Mexican comedian sticking it to his fellow Chicanos, and 1% for the late Leo Rosten and his epic collection of Jewish humor, The Joy of Yiddish.

While Mr. Dooley is amusing and entertaining enough, I also found the tales interesting for their look at life among the working-class Irish of the 1890s and early 1900s, an age sufficiently remote from our own experiences as to be practically a medieval fantasy, only without the magicians. This is an age when the automobile and the electric light bulb (to say nothing of the telephone) were practically unknown, life was hard, families were large, and workers glad to get a job at $1.50/day for ten hours' work. There is slapstick, but also somber slices of life in the tales told by Mr. Dooley, and for me, more poignant because people like these were my paternal ancestors.

While Dunne's books are all out of print, most of them are available from Project Gutenberg, and I can't recommend them enough.


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