Teddy Roosevelt Humor from Mr. Dooley (Finley Peter Dunne) in The Bully Pulpit

roosevelt_huntI’m rereading (print copy) and relistening to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, the audio version read by the incomparable (and, sadly, late) Edward Herrmann.

This part made me laugh out loud:

Roosevelt’s ability to countenance criticism in the interest of friendship also marked his relationship with the humorist Finley Peter Dunne.  Dunne’s weekly columns in the Chicago Times-Herald, featuring his adopted persona, the irreverent Irish bartender Martin Dooley, placed him among the nation’s most popular and influential literary figures.  Dunne later recalled that his “first acquaintance with Col. Roosevelt grew, strangely enough, out of an article that was by no means friendly to him.”

In the fall of 1899, a copy of The Rough Riders, Roosevelt’s wartime memoir, came across Dunne’s desk. “Mr. Dooley’s” book review in Harper’s Weekly mocked Roosevelt’s propensity for placing himself at the center of all the action: “Tis Th’ Biography iv a Hero be Wan who Knows. Tis Th’Darin’ Exploits iv a Brave Man be an Actual Eye Witness,” Mr. Dooley observes.  “If I was him, I’d call th’ book, ‘Alone in Cubia.”

[Roosevelt apparently loved this joke at his expense.]

“I never knew a man with a keener humor or one who could take a joke on himself with better grace,” Dunne recalled.  For years, Roosevelt told and retold the story of meeting a charming young lady at a reception: “Oh, Governor,” she said, “I’ve read everything you ever wrote.”

“Really! What book did you like best?”

“Why, that one, you know, Alone in Cuba.” 

(pp. 257-58; additional paragraphing added to facilitate web reading).

One thought on “Teddy Roosevelt Humor from Mr. Dooley (Finley Peter Dunne) in The Bully Pulpit

  1. Pingback: Biography Corner: Unsensationalizing Ted Hughes by Jonathan Bate | Donna M. Campbell

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