“Do you know the characteristic wine of Madeira?…I do not know whether Leacock ever drank Madeira himself – he was very much a Scotch-whisky man – but I enjoy Madeira greatly, and I never drink it without thinking of Leacock, who was sometimes dry, sometimes sweet, but who always leaves upon the tongue a hint of brimstone…”
In his witty and illuminating introduction, which takes up the first third of the book, Robertson Davies invites us to join him in a Feast of Stephen. Davies’ selection of fifteen pieces from Leacock’s less familiar works presents the humorist as a true, broad, and sympathetic interpreter of Canadian life, as a man who may have lacked self-knowledge and sensitive insight into the feelings of others, but “whose best work was the outpouring of genius.” All shades of Leacock’s writing are represented here, from the “brilliant nonsense which made some critics liken him to Lewis Carroll,” to his occasional attacks of “aggressive Lowbrowism.” Together in all their diversity, Davies’ selections pay tribute to the gifts of exuberance, originality, and slightly malicious truth with which Leacock so entertainingly extends our vision.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About Stephen Leacock
Stephen Leacock was born in Swanmore, Hampshire, England, in 1869. His family emigrated to Canada in 1876 and settled on a farm north of Toronto. Educated at Upper Canada College and the University of Toronto, Leacock pursued graduate studies in economics at the University of Chicago, where he studied under Thorstein Veblen.
Even before he completed his doctorate, Leacock accepted a position as sessional lecturer in political science and economics at McGill University. When he received his Ph.D. in 1903, he was appointed to the position of lecturer. From 1908 until his retirement in 1936, he chaired the Department of Political Science and Economics.
Leacock’s most profitable book was his textbook, Elements of Political Science, which was translated into seventeen languages. The author of nineteen books and countless articles on economics, history, and political science, Leacock turned to the writing of humour as his beloved avocation. His first collection of comic stories, Literary Lapses, appeared in 1910, and from that time until his death he published a volume of humour almost every year.
Leacock also wrote popular biographies of his two favourite writers, Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. At the time of his death, he left four completed chapters of what was to have been his autobiography. These were published posthumously under the title The Boy I Left Behind Me.
Stephen Leacock died in Toronto, Ontario, in 1944.
About Robertson Davies
Robertson Davies was born and raised in Ontario and was educated at a variety of schools, Upper Canada College, Queen’s University, and Balliol College, Oxford. He had three successive careers: first as an actor with the Old Vic Company in England; then as publisher of the Peterborough Examiner; and most recently as a university professor and first Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto, from which he retired in 1981.
He was without doubt one of Canada’s most distinguished men of letters, with over thirty books to his credit, among them several volumes of plays, as well as collections of essays, speeches, and belles lettres. As a novelist he gained fame far beyond Canada’s borders, especially for his Deptford trilogy, Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of Wonders, and for his last five novels, The Rebel Angels, What’s Bred in the Bone, The Lyre of Orpheus, Murther & Walking Spirit, and The Cunning Man.
His career was marked by many honours: he was, for example, the first Canadian to become an honorary Member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada, and Honorary Fellow of Balliol, and received an honorary D.Litt. from Oxford.
Robertson Davies passed away in 1995.