Birthday: December 30, 1869
Quotes By Stephen Leacock
Died At Age: 74
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Born in: Swanmore, Hampshire, United Kingdom
Famous as: Canadian writer
Spouse/Ex-: Beatrix Hamilton
father: Peter Leacock
mother: Agnes Leacock
children: Stephen Lushington Leacock
Died on: March 28, 1944
place of death: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
education: College of the Sequoias
awards: 1937 - Governor General’s Award
Lorne Pierce Medal
1947 - Leacock Medal
Mark Twain medal
Stephen Butler Leacock was an English-born Canadian writer, teacher, political scientist and humorist. He was a polyglot having proficiency in English, French and German. Leacock’s stories are masqueraded with humor and mainly revolve around himself and his life-events. His works reflect a noticeable satirical element - a fine line between hilarity and absurdity. Leacock was always an educator and this trait was clearly visible in all his literary and creative pursuits. He efficiently combined pathos with satire and topped it with subtlety and irony. He always saw ‘humor’ as the ultimate expression of human kindness and progress and during ‘Great Depression’ he attempted to soothe the miserable souls through his writings. Leacock was traditionally conservative, which was clearly evident in his satiric norm and the way he valued the community over the individual. Although people disapproved of his dependency on a ‘lesser-known genre’, he remained devoted to his first love, humor.
Childhood & Early Life
Born to Peter Leacock and Agnes Butler, Stephen was the third of his parent’s eleven children. His family immigrated to Canada on account of banishment from manor house, and settled on a farm in Toronto, Ontario. He was just six at that time.
In 1878, under the influence of alcohol, his father abandoned the family and traveled west to Manitoba, along with his brother E.P. Leacock.
He was enrolled into an elite private school of Upper Canada College by his grandfather. In 1891, he received Bachelor of Arts degree from the University College, University of Toronto. In the same year, his first writing was published in ‘The Varsity’, a student newspaper of the University.
In 1903, he was awarded a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago where he studied economics and political science.
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In 1894, his first humorous story was published in a Canadian magazine. In the next few years he had published more than 30 stories in various Canadian and American magazines.
In 1903, he was appointed as a lecturer in Mc Gill University, Montreal. He became the head of the department of economics and political science in 1908, and served until his retirement.
In 1906, he published his first book, ‘Elements of Political Science’, which became a best-seller as soon as it arrived in the market.
Soon his other books followed namely ‘Literary Lapses’ (1910), ‘Nonsense Novels’ (1911), ‘Sunshine sketches of a little town’ (1912), ‘Arcadian adventures with the idle rich’ (1914), ‘The unresolved riddle of social justice’ (1919), ‘My discovery of England’ (1921), Economic prosperity in the British Empire’ (1930), ‘Humor: its theory and technique’ (1935), ‘My remarkable Uncle and other sketches’ (1942). Two of his books were published posthumously - ‘Last Leaves’ (1945) and ‘The boy I left behind me’ (1946).
He also published a series of articles in leading newspapers and magazines which earned him fame and reputation. ‘Economic prosperity in the British empire’ (1930) and ‘My discovery of the west’ (1937) were among his finest articles.
‘Elements of political science’ (1906) was regarded as his best-selling book throughout his career. It ascertained the connection between political science and the state which houses it.
‘Literary Lapses’ (1910) was his first collection of comic writings - it is considered to be an all-time classic. It is a collection of short stories strung together in the thread of wit, charm and delightfully wicked humor. It was an instant success since its first appearance and received critical acclaim too.
‘Nonsense Novels’ (1911) is a collection of brilliant satirical fables including the ghost story, the detective story, the rags-to-riches story, the adventure story, the shipwreck story et cetera. It is still regarded as worth many hours of joyous delight.
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‘The sunshine sketches of a little town’ (1912) contains a series of connected vignettes from every walk of life. It is considered to be one of the most lasting classics of Canadian humorous literature. It is popular for its universal appeal and was adapted in a television series in 1952 and 2012.
‘Arcadian adventures with the Idle Rich’ (1914) is another classic Canadian satire and certainly his funniest book. It was a big hit in North America at the time of its publication and was a great success. It satirizes the social events in a delightful prose and provides a glimpse of Montreal, a powerful city.
Awards & Achievements
In 1937, he was awarded the royal society of Canada’s ‘Lorne Pierce medal’ for his academic work and contribution to the Canadian Literature, particularly humor writing.
In 1937, he won the ‘Governor General’s award’ for his book, ‘My discovery of the West: A discussion of East and West in Canada’ which was based on his experience gathered as a lecturer on his tour to western Canada.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1900, he married Beatrix Hamilton, an aspiring actress and had a son named Stephen Lushington Leacock, from her.
His son’s growth was stunted from an early age due to lack of growth hormone. Consequently, his height never crossed the four foot mark. Although, Stephen tended his son with great care, there was a love-hate relationship between father and son.
In 1928, the success of his books allowed him to move to Old Brewery Bay in Orillia. He built a house there which was later converted into a museum and was declared as one of the ‘National historic sites of Canada’.
In 1946, ‘Stephen Leacock Associates Foundation’ was instituted. It was tasked to preserve his literary legacy and manage ‘Stephen Leacock memorial Medal for humor’. It is awarded to encourage Canadian humor writers. In the same year his unfinished autobiography, ‘The boy I left behind me’, was published posthumously.
In 1969, Canada post released a six cent stamp on the centennial of his birth, with his image on it. In the following year, the Stephen Leacock centennial committee raised a plaque at his English birthplace.
Many buildings in Canada were named after him, including the ‘Stephen Leacock building’ at McGill University, ‘Stephen Leacock public school’ in Ottawa, a theater in Keswick, and a school in Toronto.
He died of throat cancer and was buried in St George the Martyr Churchyard, Sutton, Ontario.
His book ‘My remarkable Uncle’ is a plain mockery of his uncle Edward Philip Leacock.