"Lord bless my sowl," said Mr. Dooley, "childher is a gr-reat risponsibility, a gr-reat risponsibility. Whin I think iv it, I praise th' saints I niver was married, though I had opporchunities enough whin I was a young man, an' even now I have to wear me hat low whin I go down to Cologne Street on account iv th' Widow Grogan."
Interesting. Mr. Dooley, the fictional Will Rogers of his day, never married, yet his creator, Finley Peter Dunne, was married 34 years and had four children whose early life was dominated by him and his fame.
It is also interesting, and too bad, that today one has to explain who Mr. Dooley was. At the height of his fame, in the decades before World War I, Finley Peter Dunne was one of America's best-known names. Hobnobbed with Churchills and Roosevelts, Barrymores and Whitneys. Belonged to the best clubs. Was caricatured either in his own form or in Mr. Dooley's by James Montgomery Flagg and other famed artists of the day.
Some of Mr. Dooley's best-remembered aphorisms, minus the daunting brogue:
"No matter whether the Constitution follows the flag or not, the Supreme Court follows the election returns."
"Trust everybody - but cut the cards."
"Miracles are laughed at by a nation that reads 30 million newspapers a day and supports Wall Street."
"Many a man that couldn't direct you to the drugstore on the corner when he was 30 will get a respectful hearing when age has further impaired his mind."
"There are no friends at cards or world politics."
Dunne always claimed Mr. Dooley was merely a sideline in his life, which took him from a series of writing and editing jobs on Chicago newspapers to the editorship of Collier's. But he kept publishing the essays, turned out seven booksful of them, and owed his way of life to the crusty saloonkeeper. And he kept living in the style to which Mr. Dooley had accustomed him right up to his death in 1936, decades after the bubble had burst. A great clubman, a man of warm and bibulous friendships, a man complete unto himself.
What would it be like to be Finley Peter Dunne Jr.?
"Being the son of a famous father was probably the same as being the son of any successful man," said Dunne Jr., who at 74 can call himself distinctly successful if not famous. Probably he's not even as well-known as his brother Phillip who, unencumbered with the celebrated three-handled name, is a writer and director in Hollywood, with such writing credits as "The Rains Came," "How Green Was My Valley," "The Robe" and many other films.
It was Philip who said in a book about his father, "When I was a boy, I never knew that Finley Peter Dunne was famous. He was merely my father."
Philip also rejected the idea that "celebrities somehow differ from the rest of us," but his older brother was not so sure about that.
Peter Dunne Jr.'s own career has taken him from a newspaper background similar to his father's, in New York and Boston rather than Chicago, and after a stint in the Army Air Force during World War II he founded the American Graduate School of International Management in Arizona.
Later he headed the International Schools Foundation and moved on to the Society of Development and Peace in Geneva. His interest in bringing peoples of the world together led him to a campaign in Washington to build a Temple of Understanding, which would encourage mutual respect among the religions of the world. He lives here now on Capitol Hill.
A plan to build the temple on the Potomac fell through for lack of money, and his group now is trying to sell the land. Dunne also edits a biennial magazine, Insight, written from various religious viewpoints. He is working now on a book on the principles of economics.
Being an eldes child is a special problem in any family, and psychiatrists have written more than one book on the subject. For Peter Dunne Jr., time has more or less solved the difficulty, and today his name is pretty much what he makes of it.
But his life is still full of reverberations.
One notes the career in religion, which has taken him all over the world, recently to the Middle East for meetings with the leaders of three important sects. "We get along with the Catholics too," he added. "The Vatican is our greatest ally."
For Dunne Sr., the Catholic church was something to be left behind in the Irishness of his Chicago upbringing.
"It just wasn't in the cards for us kids to become Catholic," his son said. "My father never went to mass."
That doesn't sound like a docile footstep-follower. On the other hand, there is the career in journalism, which started almost the day Dunne graduated from Harvard in 1925 and continued into the Herbert Bayard Swope era on the New York World, where Dunne wrote color stories celebrated for their wit. He had a column on the theater that brought him into the world of Broadway.
Later he went to Hollywood where, like his brother who had preceded him, he wrote scripts.
"In 1934 my father took me to California," Peter Dunne recalled, "and we went on the Superchief, in style. The first time we went into the dining car he handed the headwaiter $20 right away. That was how he was."
The lifestyle is another thing he has inherited from his father, who lived the way Scott Fitzgerald dreamed: the French servants, the sons off at Middlesex (one of those schools which Mr. Dooley couldn't help describing as "a siminary for young Englishmen born in America"), the place at Southampton, where he helped found the famed National golf club, the endless rounds from Palm Beach to Maine, the thick-carpeted clubs with their deep leather armchairs and whispering majordomos, bastions of a time gone by.
Peter Dunne Jr. belongs to the Metropolitan Club - "I got my membership here because my father had one" - which is something straight out of Peter Arne, a high-ceilinged mansion of muffled conviviality where it is hard enough to find a man not wearing dark suit and vest, let alone a woman, and you write down your lunch order while you're having drinks in the hushed study.
A 1925 photo shows the darkly handsome eldest son sitting, slightly apart from the rest of the family, together with them but subtly stating independence.
"My father was domineering," he said. "But I was not domineered. We were often at loggerheads. As a father, I would say he was inattentive" - the word came after careful thought - "but loving. With my mother I'd say they had a good offensive-defensive alliance."
The celebrated humorist wrote with precision and style himself and was always a bit touchy about being confused with Dooley. He was proudest of being a newsman and editor, his son said, but he never could make dealines.
"He was always late with his copy, and he'd be furious with himself and everyone else, would roar at anybody who made a sound in the house when he was making up for lost time. Sunday he'd stay up all night writing in longhand (with increasing frustration for the humor came harder with the years), and then I'd get up at 6 to make the train for New York. This was when we were at Southampton, I was to take the copy to the Wheeler Syndicate.
"My father would be after me: 'You're going to be late. You're going to miss the train.' Of course, the thing had been due the previous Thursday."
A passionate man, Finley Peter Dunne, and a man who set great store by friendships. His son, more reticent, more austere perhaps, nevertheless has the same knack, quietly cordial, nodding at a dozen people in his club, chatting with the maitre d'. One senses the years of struggle that gave him the freedom the enjoy his famous father.
"We ended on cordial relations," he said. "The nicest thing he ever told me was about my own writing: 'You've got an incurable disease, Peter.' he said. "You're a born humorist.'"