|Saturday, January 29, 2000||
THE world knew Stephen Leacock as an outstanding humorist, a warm and a wise teacher and a man who believed that the right of outspoken dissent was the free mans most precious heritage. He was actually so simple and straightforward that people found him to be a mass of complexities. He taught thousands of people to think and inspired them to gain knowledge.
Stephen Leacock was born in 1869, in Swanmore, near South-ampton, England. He spent his early childhood there. When he was around six years old, the family moved to a farmhouse near Simcoe Lake in Ontario, Canada. He received his Ph.D from the University of Chicago in 1903. He became a distinguished professor of political science in McGill University, Montreal. He emanated warmth while he gave his lectures. He loved young people and was determined to give them as much wisdom as he could. His methods of teaching were unconventional and often what he taught went beyond the text, bringing in the world right into the classroom. Unlike his critics, he did not relate teaching to exams, he taught the students to think, taught them to use their mind and not merely the thumb.
|Leacocks heart lay in humorous
writing. His talent for stirring laughter came from the
fact that he ridiculed many complexities of life,
including his own. His humour lacked malice and he good
humouredly conveyed whatever he wanted to. Intermittently
he plunged into politics but turned down the Cabinet
posts offered to him. He could not think of giving up his
teaching profession. He loved his wife and children, and
at the same time he was close to his students. He would
put away everything to help a former student or any young
individual struggling to go up the ladder of life.
Once a young woman approached him with a problem. She had a collection of illustrations but no written material for them. Usually the illustrator draws for the author, but in this case Leacock wrote a book to fit her drawings.
Stephen Leacock was also one of the first Canadians to qualify as "Pro-American British Imperialist". When he retired from McGill, his English friends requested him to return to England but Leacock preferred to stay on in the USA. He continued writing and produced some great pieces of writing. His collection or writings include short stories and essays that appeared in magazines and newspapers, Literary Lapses, parodies and biographies. He even wrote books related to political science, economics and literary criticism.
When throat cancer
attacked Stephen, thousands of his admirers wept in
grief. He had become too precious a man to be lost. He
died in 1944. He left behind an unfinished autobiography
titled The Boy I Left Behind Me. It was published
in 1946, after his death. Stephen Leacock was a great
writer, and a strong support to all young persons who
touched his life.
Some pithy comments by Leacock
"I am a Liberal Conservative, or, if you will, a Conservative Liberal with a strong dash of sympathy for the Socialist idea, a friend of Labour and a believer in Progressive Radicalism. I do not desire office but would take a seat in the Canadian Senate at five minutes notice."
Source: The Hohenzollerns in America (1919)
It has long been my custom in preparing an article of a humorous nature to go down to the cellar and mix up a half a gallon of myosis with a pint of hyperbole. If I want to give the article a decidedly literary character, I find it well to put in about half a pint of paresis. The whole thing is amazingly simple.
Source: Humour as I See it, Further Foolishness (1916)
The Americans come up
here and admire us for the way we hang criminals. They
sit in our club and say, "You certainly do hang
them, dont you!" My! theyd like to hang
a few! The day may be coming when they will. Meantime we
like to hang people to make the Americans sit up.
There are two things in ordinary conversation which ordinary people dislike - information and wit.
Source: Are Witty Women Attractive to Men, Last Leaves (1945)
Source: Education eating up life, Too Much College (1939)
But, in the wider sense, what I want to advocate is not to make education shorter, but to make it much longer - indeed to make it last as long as life itself.
Source: Too Much College (1939)
Source: "The Strenuous Age," Frenzied Fiction (1917)
It takes a great deal of physical courage to ride a horse. This, however, I have. I get it at about forty cents a flask, and take it as required.
Source: Literary Lapses