Finley Peter Dunne's Slavin Contra Wagner

Finley Peter Dunne was a columnist for the Chicago Evening Post.  From 1893 to 1906 he published over 700 articles featuring Mr. Martin Dooley, a philosophical Irish saloon-keeper who was never without an opinion on world events.  Politicians such as McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, robber barons like Rockefeller and Carnegie, and the press itself, as it covered events such as the Spanish-American War and the Boer War, were on the receiving end of Mr. Dooley’s homespun but very pointed wit.  Many of Dunne’s articles, with a few changes of name and venue, would apply just as well today, 100 years later.  Probably the closest modern equivalent as satire is Gary Trudeau’s comic strip Doonesbury.  However, the newspaper column allowed Dunne a much more leisurely method of building up to his most telling points than does a four panel comic strip.

Like Trudeau, Dunne frequently turned his attention to social trends.  In this selection, he describes how the upwardly mobile Irish in America gradually abandoned their traditional music to blend in with what was considered socially acceptable at the time.  Luckily, not all the Irish-Americans followed this trend.  At the same time that Dunne was writing, Chicago police chief Francis O’Neill was assembling his famous collection of Irish tunes.  (Notice the association of traditional music with the police in the article.)  However, this change was certainly one of the currents in the Irish-American community at the time.  It also sheds some light on the attitude that supported the body of Irish-American song such as “My Wild Irish Rose”, “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”, and the like.  The authoritative work in this area is William H. A. Williams’ ’Twas Only an Irishman’s Dream (Univ. of Illinois Press, 1996).

Writing in dialect was very common at the period that Dunne was writing.  This can be seen also in the works of authors such as Dickens.  Some have suggested that in those days before radio or television, reading aloud was a popular entertainment.  Whatever the reason, the speech of the many immigrants who made up the America of the early 1900s was frequently portrayed, both in print and on stage, at the time.

I've tried to reproduce Dunne's punctuation as exactly as I can. However, I've discovered that it really only works properly in Microsoft Explorer. So if you don't see a double quotation mark here ”, click here to go to the alternative version.


Slavin contra Wagner


   “Ol’ man Donahue bought Molly a pianny las’ week,” Mr. Dooley said in the course of his conversation with Mr. McKenna.  “She’d been takin’ lessons fr’m a Dutchman down th’ street, an’ they say she can play as aisy with her hands crossed as she can with wan finger. She’s been whalin’ away iver since, an’ Donahue is dhrinkin’ again.

   “Ye see th’ other night some iv th’ lads wint over f’r to see whether they cud smash his table in a frindly game iv forty-fives.  I don’t know what possessed Donahue. He niver asked his frinds into the parlor befure.  They used to set in th’ dining-room ; an’, whin Mrs. Donahue coughed at iliven o’clock, they’d toddle out th’ side dure with their hats in their hands.  But this here night, whether ’twas that Donahue had taken on a dhrink or two too much or not, he asked thim all in th’ front room, where Mrs. Donahue was settin’ with Molly.  ‘I’ve brought me frinds,’ he says, ‘f’r to hear Molly take a fall out iv th’ music-box,’ he says.  ‘Let me have ye’er hat, Mike,’ he says. ‘Ye’ll not feel it whin ye get out,’ he says.

   “At anny other time Mrs. Donahue’d give him th’ marble heart.  But they wasn’t a man in th’ party that had a pianny to his name, an’ she knew they’d be throuble whin they wint home an’ tould about it.  ‘’Tis a mel-odjious insthrument,’ says she.  ‘I cud sit here be the hour an’ listen to Bootoven and Choochooski,’ she says.

    “‘What did thim write ? ’ says Cassidy.  ‘Chunes,’ says Donahue, ‘chunes.  Molly,’ he says, ‘fetch ’er th’ wallop to make th’ gintlemen feel good,’ he says.  ‘What’ll it be, la-ads ?’ ‘D’ye know “Down be th’ Tanyard Side ” ?’ says Slavin.  ‘No,’ says Molly.  ‘It goes like this,’ says Slavin. ‘A-ah, din yadden, yooden a-yadden, arrah yadden ay-a.’  ‘I dinnaw it,’ says th’ girl.  ‘’Tis a low chune, annyhow,’ says Mrs. Donahue.  ‘Misther Slavin ividintly thinks he’s at a polis picnic,’ she says.  ‘I’ll have no come-all-ye’s in this house,’ she says.  ‘Molly, give us a few ba-ars fr’m Wagner.’ ‘What Wagner’s that ?’ says Flanagan.  ‘No wan ye know,’ says Donahue; ‘he’s a German musician.’ ‘Thim Germans is hot people f’r music,’ says Cassidy.  ‘I knowed wan that cud play th’ “Wacht am Rhine” on a pair iv cymbals,’ he says. ‘Whisht!’ says Donahue. ‘Give th’ girl a chanst.’

    “Slavin tol’ me about it. He says he niver heerd th’ like in his born days.  He says she fetched th’ pianny two or three wallops that made Cassidy jump out iv his chair, an’ Cassidy has charge iv th’ steam whistle at th’ quarry at that.  She wint at it as though she had a gredge at it. First ’twas wan hand an’ thin th’ other, thin both hands, knuckles down; an’ it looked, says Slavin, as if she was goin’ to leap into th’ middle iv it with both feet, whin Donahue jumps up.  ‘Hol’ on!’ he says. ‘That’s not a rented pianny, ye daft girl,’ he says. ‘Why, pap-pah,’ says Molly, ‘what d’ye mean?’ she says.  ‘That’s Wagner,’ she says.  ‘’Tis th’ music iv th’ future,’ she says.  ‘Yes,’ says Donahue, ‘but I don’t want me hell on earth.  I can wait f’r it,’ he says, ‘with th’ kind permission iv Mrs. Donahue,’ he says. ‘Play us th’ “Wicklow Mountaineer,”’ he says, ‘an’ threat th’ masheen kindly,’ he says.

    ‘She’ll play no “Wicklow Mountaineer,”’ says Mrs. Donahue.  ‘If ye want to hear that kind iv chune, ye can go down to Finucane’s Hall,’ she says, ‘an’ call in Crowley, th’ blind piper,’ she says.  ‘Molly,’ she says, ‘give us wan iv thim Choochooski things,’ she said. ‘They’re so ginteel.’

    “With that Donahue rose up. ‘Come on,’ says he.  ‘This is no place f’r us,’ he says.  Slavin, with th’ politeness iv a man who’s getting even, turns at th’ dure.  ‘I’m sorry I can’t remain,’ he says.  ‘I think th’ wurruld an’ all iv Choochooski,’ he says.  ‘Me brother used to play his chunes,’ he says—‘me brother Mike, that run th’ grip ca-ar,’ he says.  ‘But there’s wan thing missin’ fr’m Molly’s playin’,’ he says. ‘And what may that be ?’ says Mrs. Donahue.  ‘An ax,’ says Slavin, backin’ out.

“So Donahue has took to dhrink.”

      Finley Peter Dunne
      Mr. Dooley: on Ivrything and Ivrybody
      selected by Robert Hutchinson
      Dover Publications, New York, 1963
      pp. 79-81



Finley Peter Dunne's Slavin Contra Wagner

Finley Peter Dunne was a columnist for the Chicago Evening Post.  From 1893 to 1906 he published over 700 articles featuring Mr. Martin Dooley, a philosophical Irish saloon-keeper who was never without an opinion on world events.  Politicians such as McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, robber barons like Rockefeller and Carnegie, and the press itself, as it covered events such as the Spanish-American War and the Boer War, were on the receiving end of Mr. Dooley's homespun but very pointed wit.  Many of Dunne's articles, with a few changes of name and venue, would apply just as well today, 100 years later.  Probably the closest modern equivalent as satire is Gary Trudeau's comic strip Doonesbury.  However, the newspaper column allowed Dunne a much more leisurely method of building up to his most telling points than does a four panel comic strip.

Like Trudeau, Dunne frequently turned his attention to social trends.  In this selection, he describes how the upwardly mobile Irish in America gradually abandoned their traditional music to blend in with what was considered socially acceptable at the time.  Luckily, not all the Irish-Americans followed this trend.  At the same time that Dunne was writing, Chicago police chief Francis O'Neill was assembling his famous collection of Irish tunes.  (Notice the association of traditional music with the police in the article.)  However, this change was certainly one of the currents in the Irish-American community at the time.  It also sheds some light on the attitude that supported the body of Irish-American song such as "My Wild Irish Rose", "When Irish Eyes are Smiling", and the like.  The authoritative work in this area is William H. A. Williams' 'Twas Only an Irishman's Dream (Univ. of Illinois Press, 1996).

Writing in dialect was very common at the period that Dunne was writing.  This can be seen also in the works of authors such as Dickens.  Some have suggested that in those days before radio or television, reading aloud was a popular entertainment.  Whatever the reason, the speech of the many immigrants who made up the America of the early 1900s was frequently portrayed, both in print and on stage, at the time.


Slavin contra Wagner


   "Ol' man Donahue bought Molly a pianny las' week," Mr. Dooley said in the course of his conversation with Mr. McKenna.  "She'd been takin' lessons fr'm a Dutchman down th' street, an' they say she can play as aisy with her hands crossed as she can with wan finger. She's been whalin' away iver since, an' Donahue is dhrinkin' again.

   "Ye see th' other night some iv th' lads wint over f'r to see whether they cud smash his table in a frindly game iv forty-fives.  I don't know what possessed Donahue. He niver asked his frinds into the parlor befure.  They used to set in th' dining-room ; an', whin Mrs. Donahue coughed at iliven o'clock, they'd toddle out th' side dure with their hats in their hands.  But this here night, whether 'twas that Donahue had taken on a dhrink or two too much or not, he asked thim all in th' front room, where Mrs. Donahue was settin' with Molly.  'I've brought me frinds,' he says, 'f'r to hear Molly take a fall out iv th' music-box,' he says.  'Let me have ye'er hat, Mike,' he says. 'Ye'll not feel it whin ye get out,' he says.

   "At anny other time Mrs. Donahue'd give him th' marble heart.  But they wasn't a man in th' party that had a pianny to his name, an' she knew they'd be throuble whin they wint home an' tould about it.  ''Tis a mel-odjious insthrument,' says she.  'I cud sit here be the hour an' listen to Bootoven and Choochooski,' she says.

    "'What did thim write ? ' says Cassidy.  'Chunes,' says Donahue, 'chunes.  Molly,' he says, 'fetch 'er th' wallop to make th' gintlemen feel good,' he says.  'What'll it be, la-ads ?'  'D'ye know "Down be th' Tanyard Side" ?' says Slavin.  'No,' says Molly.  'It goes like this,' says Slavin. 'A-ah, din yadden, yooden a-yadden, arrah yadden ay-a.'  'I dinnaw it,' says th' girl.  ''Tis a low chune, annyhow,' says Mrs. Donahue.  'Misther Slavin ividintly thinks he's at a polis picnic,' she says.  'I'll have no come-all-ye's in this house,' she says.  'Molly, give us a few ba-ars fr'm Wagner.' 'What Wagner's that ?' says Flanagan.  'No wan ye know,' says Donahue; 'he's a German musician.' 'Thim Germans is hot people f'r music,' says Cassidy.  'I knowed wan that cud play th' "Wacht am Rhine" on a pair iv cymbals,' he says. 'Whisht!' says Donahue. 'Give th' girl a chanst.'

    "Slavin tol' me about it. He says he niver heerd th' like in his born days.  He says she fetched th' pianny two or three wallops that made Cassidy jump out iv his chair, an' Cassidy has charge iv th' steam whistle at th' quarry at that.  She wint at it as though she had a gredge at it. First 'twas wan hand an' thin th' other, thin both hands, knuckles down; an' it looked, says Slavin, as if she was goin' to leap into th' middle iv it with both feet, whin Donahue jumps up.  'Hol' on!' he says. 'That's not a rented pianny, ye daft girl,' he says. 'Why, pap-pah,' says Molly, 'what d'ye mean?' she says.  'That's Wagner,' she says.  ''Tis th' music iv th' future,' she says.  'Yes,' says Donahue, 'but I don't want me hell on earth.  I can wait f'r it,' he says, 'with th' kind permission iv Mrs. Donahue,' he says. 'Play us th' "Wicklow Mountaineer,"' he says, 'an' threat th' masheen kindly,' he says.

    'She'll play no "Wicklow Mountaineer,"' says Mrs. Donahue.  'If ye want to hear that kind iv chune, ye can go down to Finucane's Hall,' she says, 'an' call in Crowley, th' blind piper,' she says.  'Molly,' she says, 'give us wan iv thim Choochooski things,' she said. 'They're so ginteel.'

    "With that Donahue rose up. 'Come on,' says he.  'This is no place f'r us,' he says.  Slavin, with th' politeness iv a man who's getting even, turns at th' dure.  'I'm sorry I can't remain,' he says.  'I think th' wurruld an' all iv Choochooski,' he says.  'Me brother used to play his chunes,' he says—'me brother Mike, that run th' grip ca-ar,' he says.  'But there's wan thing missin' fr'm Molly's playin',' he says. 'And what may that be ?' says Mrs. Donahue.  'An ax,' says Slavin, backin' out.

"So Donahue has took to dhrink."

      Finley Peter Dunne
      Mr. Dooley: on Ivrything and Ivrybody
      selected by Robert Hutchinson
      Dover Publications, New York, 1963
      pp. 79-81



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