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Stephen Leacock: A Reappraisal

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David Staines

The Historical Leacock

Ian Ross Robertson

Texte intégral

The author wishes to thank J. M. Bumsted, J. I. Cooper, A. R. Gillis, and M. Brook Taylor for their comments and suggestions

  • 1 Douglas Bush, “Stephen Leacock,” in David Staines, ed., The Canadian Imagination: Dimensions of a (...)

1 The objectives of this paper are to examine the work of Stephen Leacock as an historian of Canada; to define his role in Canadian intellectual history, aside from literary history per se; and to suggest the value to both historians and literary scholars of a holistic approach to him as an author and thinker. The examination of Leacock’s work as an historical writer will include an indication of its reputation among professional historians in the decades since his death. Several of his historical volumes have been aptly characterized by a literary critic as “very readable summaries of current knowledge and speculation,”1 and even his best-regarded monograph was highly conventional in interpretation. It will be argued that his weaknesses as an historian should be understood as a product of the pioneering era in which he wrote and the fact that he was always more writer than researcher. Placing Leacock in Canadian intellectual history will involve a survey of what other historians have written about him, particularly his social criticism, his imperialism, and his attitude towards economics as a discipline, and the links between these aspects of his thought and his humorous writing. The case for a holistic interpretation will be advanced primarily on two fronts. There will be an attempt to situate him more precisely than other intellectual historians have done within his contemporary Montreal milieu, with particular emphasis upon his association with The University Magazine and the Pen and Pencil Club. Secondly, it will be argued that in The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice (1920) Leacock made a serious contribution to two significant categories of thought in Canada: “red toryism” and, for want of a better term, social philosophy.

  • 2 See Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science, 10 (May 1944), 216-30. It might be noted, (...)
  • 3 Ralph L. Curry, Stephen Leacock: Humorist and Humanist (Garden City, N. Y.: Double-day, 1959), p. (...)

2Leacock the historian is not as well known as Leacock the political economist, and there are at least two important reasons for this. In the first place, in his academic career he belonged not to the History Department of McGill University, but to its Department of Political Economy, a fact reflected in the treatment accorded his death by the professional journals of the two disciplines in Canada. The Canadian Historical Review took no notice, while the Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science devoted fifteen pages to him.2 Secondly, none of his historical works became a standard book in its field, as did his successful university text, Elements of Political Science (1906), which was translated into nineteen languages.3

  • 4 See W.P.M. Kennedy, Editor’s Preface to Stephen Leacock, Mackenzie, Baldwin, LaFontaine, Hincks (L (...)
  • 5 Review of Historical Publications Relating to Canada, 19(1915), 15. A former professor of Canadian (...)
  • 6 Stephen Leacock, Canada: The Foundations of Its Future (Montreal: privately printed for the House (...)
  • 7 See Canadian Historical Review, 24 (March and September 1943), 56 and 306-308.

3But Leacock did write six books on Canadian history, the first four of which appeared in two pioneering series of Canadian historical studies. In 1907 he published Baldwin, LaFontaine, Hincks: Responsible Government, a volume in the “Makers of Canada” series, which was designed to recount Canadian history through the biographies of leading public figures. The theme of his monograph is evident from its subtitle. When the series was reissued in 1926 a revised edition, with William Lyon Mackenzie’s name added to the title, was prepared by W.P.M. Kennedy of the University of Toronto.4 Leacock also contributed to the highly readable “Chronicles of Canada” series, which was aimed at the general public. Of thirty-two volumes he wrote three, entitled, respectively, Adventurers of the Far North: A Chronicle of the Arctic Seas (1914), The Dawn of Canadian History: A Chronicle of Aboriginal Canada (1914), and The Mariner of St. Malo: A Chronicle of the Voyages of Jacques Cartier (1914). Leacock did not present these books as an original contribution to historical scholarship, but they did bear witness to his versatility as an author. In the words of the Review of Historical Publications Relating to Canada concerning The Dawn of Canadian History. “That a writer whose reputation has been acquired as a humorist and a teacher of political economy should have written a book in which a knowledge of geology, archaeology, ethnology, Scandinavian folk-lore, cartography, and navigation is required, can only be regarded as a tour de force.5 Aside from the revised “Makers of Canada” volume, Leacock did not produce another historical work until the last years of his life. In 1941 he published Canada: The Foundations of Its Future, a book perhaps most notable for its illustrations, under the sponsorship of the House of Seagram, which in his Foreword he described as “public-spirited.”6 A year later, on the 300th anniversary of the founding of Ville-Marie by Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve, there appeared Montreal: Seaport and City. Both volumes were discursive, opinionated, and lacking in new information; not surprisingly, they received damning reviews from professional historians writing in the Canadian Historical Review.7

  • 8 See J.M.S. Careless, “Frontierism, Metropolitanism, and Canadian History,” ibid., 35 (March 1954), (...)
  • 9 See J. M. Bumsted, “Historical Writing in English,” in William Toye, ed., The Oxford Companion to (...)
  • 10 See Jacques Monet, “Sir Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, 9 (Toronto: (...)

4Five of Leacock’s six historical volumes are popular or general in nature, and did not make any impact on the study or writing of Canadian history by professional historians. Although J.M.S. Careless’ landmark historiographical article, which appeared in the Canadian Historical Review thirty-two years ago, cited several dozen historians, Leacock was not among them.8 The index to Carl Berger’s award-winning book The Writing of Canadian History (1976) contained references to Leacock as humorist, political economist, and general man of letters—yet none to him as historian. When J. M. Bumsted surveyed the genres of historical work in English for The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature (1983), he did not mention Leacock, although he included sections on “the skilled amateur,” “the essay,” and “popular history.”9 Thus Leacock appears to be regarded by authorities on Canadian historiography as not having been a particularly significant historical writer. The one exception to the eclipse of his reputation as an historian is his “Makers of Canada” volume, Baldwin, LaFontaine, Hincks. It is included in the lists of sources for the Dictionary of Canadian Biography articles on LaFontaine, Hincks, and Baldwin, which were published in 1976, 1982, and 1985, respectively.10 Hence, in terms of scholarly impact, it is a significant piece of work.

  • 11 See Kenneth N. Windsor, “Historical Writingin Canada to 1920,” in Carl F. Klinck et al., eds., Lit (...)
  • 12 J. K. Johnson, “Upper Canada,” in D. A. Muise, ed., A Reader’s Guide to Canadian History, I: Begin (...)
  • 13 See G.G.S. Lindsey, William Lyon Mackenzie (Toronto: Morang, 1908). This book was not included in (...)
  • 14 Stephen Leacock, Baldwin, LaFontaine, Hincks: Responsible Government (Toronto: Morang, 1907), p. 9

5In the classification of Baldwin, LaFontaine, Hincks in terms of interpretative schools of Canadian historical writing, the fact that it is a “Makers of Canada” volume is relevant. The series as a whole is generally considered part of the so-called Whig tradition, which emphasizes political and constitutional questions, portrays history as a story of progress over time, and attributes exceptional merit to the principles of self-government embodied in the British constitution.11 There is frequently a readiness to make judgements of good and evil, and although there is often an explicit commitment to the values of freedom and individual liberty, adherents of the Whig approach have been known to become impatient or worse with doubters. A graphic example emerged as the “Makers of Canada” set was being put together. William D. LeSueur, the author writing on William Lyon Mackenzie, did not present the rebel as a man of unmitigated virtue, and indeed found merit in those whom the Whigs considered reactionaries. As a consequence, the publisher, G. N. Morang, who was committed to the Whig perspective, and the Mackenzie family, through lobbying and legal action, suppressed the account, which remained unpublished for seventy-one years after completion. Yet it must be noted that LeSueur’s manuscript was not a piece of crude invective, for as recently as 1982 an authority on Upper Canadian historiography declared it to be “the most balanced treatment of Mackenzie that we have.”12 Morang reassigned the task to a writer with a more acceptable point of view who was a grandson of the subject, and who simply revised a volume published in 1862 by his own father.13 In such a context, Leacock’s monograph was a relatively scholarly study. Leacock avoids painting the Family Compact in the darkest hues, and concedes that Tories like John Beverley Robinson could be men of integrity and patriotism. But he does share the general characteristics of the Whig approach. Early in the volume he states that in the Canadas during the twenty years after 1815 “the fact that the executive was not under the control of the representatives of the people constituted the main cause of complaint.”14 The primary focus is on the intricacies of parliamentary manoeuvring, with little examination of the linkages between political postures and social and economic forces.The admiration for British principles of self-government is open, and the portrait of Baldwin, LaFontaine, and Hincks as apostles of moderate reform is virtually unblemished; apparent inconsistencies or contradictions among the three reformers are rationalized. While neither definitive nor sophisticated by modern standards, nonetheless, for the period, the volume was a creditable contribution to Canadian historical literature, avoiding the excesses of the series and the school to which it belonged.

  • 15 Michiel Horn, “Academics and Canadian Social and Economic Policy in the Depression and War Years,”(...)
  • 16 Inside cover of The University Magazine, 6 (February 1907). Concerning Macphail’s breadth and its (...)

6Before I leave Leacock the historian, it is worth noting two related points which help to explain his absence from bibliographies and historiographical studies. In the first place, Leacock, like many other historical writers of his day, was doing pioneering work which, with increasing accessibility of sources and more professional training of historians, was bound to be superseded over time. Secondly, he belonged to a generation of intellectual generalists, men who spoke and wrote with confidence on a wide range of subjects. Historian Michiel Horn has observed that “the academic intellectual of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was likely to regard himself as a moral tutor to society, with a duty to state views on the large topics of the age.”15 This was a self-image which meshed well with the non-specialized nature of his research and writing. Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon was Leacock’s close friend and colleague at McGill, Andrew Macphail, a professor of the history of medicine who was also editor of The University Magazine, a quarterly of high standards whose declared purpose was “to express an educated opinion upon questions immediately concerning Canada; and to treat freely in a literary way all matters which have to do with politics, industry, philosophy, science, and art.”16 In addition to his own field of professional expertise, Macphail wrote on everything from literary criticism to feminism, including Canadian history. He was involved, as a contributor and one of eleven associate editors, in the third major series of historical volumes to be published in the early part of the century, Canada and Its Provinces: A History of the Canadian People and Their Institutions (23 vols., 1913-17). Men like Leacock and Macphail were not specialists, and wrote history not because they were historical researchers but because they were writers who recognized few boundaries between academic disciplines. Hence it would be surprising if their historical writings held up after generations of specialized modern scholars had been at work on Canadian history.

  • 17 Desmond Morton, A Short History of Canada (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1983), p. 158.

7So Leacock the historian does not receive much attention from Canadian historians today, either as a source or as a subject of study. What of Leacock in his other guises? If one begins with the most popular textbooks, the results are meagre. He is not mentioned in Donald Creighton’s Dominion of the North or Arthur Lower’s Colony to Nation, and he is only in William Morton’s Kingdom of Canada and Edgar McInnis’Canada: A Political and Social History by virtue of Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town. But three of these volumes were originally published in the 1940s and one in the early 1960s; of the four authors, three are deceased and the fourth retired in 1959 at the age of seventy. Thus the established textbooks are not reliable indicators of contemporary trends in Canadian historical writing. During the past fifteen to twenty years it has developed in many new directions: labour history, women’s history, business history, regional history, ethnic history, and so on. One of the earliest new approaches to understanding our past as a nation was intellectual history, which, in the Canadian field, received its first sustained attention in the 1960s and 1970s. As a consequence, there has been considerable research on Leacock as a commentator on current affairs, as an imperialist, as a social satirist, and as a social critic; there has also been an evident desire to establish connections among the various spheres of his activity. The results of this work may be reflected in major university-level textbooks sometime in the future. Indeed, the most recent one-volume survey, A Short History of Canada (1983) by Desmond Morton, departs from the practice of treating Leacock as a humorist or not at all. Morton mentions him as the author of The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, linking him to the reform impulse which seemed so strong for a brief period at the end of World War I. He brackets Leacock’s book with that of a slightly younger man, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Industry and Humanity (1918), as part of the contemporary questioning of the status quo ante bellum.17

  • 18 Frank Watt, “Critic or Entertainer: Stephen Leacock and the Growth of Materialism,” Canadian Liter (...)
  • 19 Ibid., p. 34.
  • 20 Ibid., p. 36.
  • 21 Ibid., p. 42.

8The first writer to attempt to tie together the humorous and the non-humorous strands in Leacock’s work was Frank Watt, a professor of English literature. In 1960 he published an essay entitled “Critic or Entertainer: Stephen Leacock and the Growth of Materialism.” Watt focused on Sunshine Sketches, Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich, and The Unsolved Riddle. He described Arcadian Adventures as Leacock’s “closest approach to sustained social criticism,”18 but argued that even in it he gave more attention to “incongruities within the life of the wealthy”19 than to contrasts between wealth and poverty. In other words, he was more concerned to amuse his readers than to infuse them with a sense of indignation. Watt also argued that The Unsolved Riddle constituted “primarily a critique of radical idealism, an attack on the socialist answer to the ‘riddle of social justice’.”20 This emphasis on the anti-socialist aspect of Leacock’s book may have arisen in part from one of the angles by which Watt approached the subject; his doctoral thesis, completed in 1957 at the University of Toronto, concerned “Radicalism in English-Canadian Literature since Confederation,” and it may not be surprising that, viewed from the perspective of the history of radical literature, the message of Leacock’s book would seem essentially negative. In any event, his conclusion was categorical: “Stephen Leacock was a part of the prospering materialistic civilization of which he wrote; he was sometimes its critic, but always its entertainer.”21

  • 22 Ramsay Cook, “Stephen Leacock and the Age of Plutocracy, 1903-1921,” in John S. Moir, ed., Charact (...)
  • 23 Ibid., p. 167.
  • 24 Ibid.

9A decade later, historian Ramsay Cook contributed an essay on “Stephen Leacock and the Age of Plutocracy, 1903-1921” to a festschrift honouring Creighton. Cook asserted the importance of understanding the period in question as a time of rapid economic development and social change; among its features were the large-scale movement of Canadians from country to city, and the amassing of unprecedented private fortunes by members of the economic élite. Referring to Sunshine Sketches and Arcadian Adventures, he wrote that Leacock “knew what was happening to Canada; he made it the subject of his two finest books.”22 Emphasizing this broad contemporary context and some of Leacock’s lesser-known works, Cook virtually turned Watt’s interpretation on its ear: “For the most part Canadian intellectuals appear to have rejoiced in this first age of affluence. But there were exceptions, and of these the most notable because of his later eminence as a humorist was Stephen Leacock.”23 He went on to argue that “some consideration of his political attitudes… provides an important element in an understanding of Leacock the humorist.”24 Thus he was both assigning a greater role for Leacock as a social critic than Watt had done, and asserting the relevance of Leacock’s politics to an appreciation of his humorous writing.

  • 25 Alan Bowker, ed., The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock: The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice a (...)
  • 26 Ibid., p. 6.
  • 27 Andrew Macphail, “The Navy and Politics,” The University Magazine, 12 (February 1913), 7.
  • 28 Cook, “Stephen Leacock and the Age of Plutocracy, 1903-1921,” in Moir, ed., Character and Circumst (...)
  • 29 Ibid., p. 167. The respected Review of Historical Publications Relating to Canada recommended Sunsh (...)
  • 30 Cook, “Stephen Leacock and the Age of Plutocracy, 1903-1921,” p. 177.
  • 31 See Bowker, ed., The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock, p. 135.
  • 32 See Cook, “Stephen Leacock and the Age of Plutocracy, 1903-1921,” p. 178.

10Cook argued that in Sunshine Sketches and Arcadian Adventures Leacock was describing contemporary Canadian society as he understood it—beset with materialism, parochialism, and unthinking political partisanship. These were also the problems he identified in such non-humorous writings as “Greater Canada: An Appeal,” an article which was reprinted from the April 1907 issue of The University Magazine and distributed widely. Leacock states that imperialism, which he defines as “the recognition of a wider citizenship,”25 is a countervailing force against narrowness of vision and preoccupation with self-interest. He declares that “the time has come to be done with this colonial business, done with it once and forever.”26 If Canada assumes her full responsibilities within the empire and becomes engaged in imperial government and defence, Canadians will be elevated in spirit. Money, the claims of the provinces, and the interests of the political parties will have less attraction. No one who has read “Greater Canada” can doubt that Leacock’s imperialism was of a piece with the viewpoint informing some of his humorous writing, as he makes evident his deep distaste for the same materialism at which he pokes fun in Sunshine Sketches and Arcadian Adventures. But Cook went further, suggesting that Sunshine Sketches has more of a critical edge than is commonly realized. The dominion election of 1911 preceded publication of the book by only a year, and featured what many regarded as prostitution of imperialism for partisan and transparently material ends. Macphail had declared in disgust that “this parade of holy sentiments for party purposes is like using sacramental dishes for the feeding of swine.”27 If the chapter in Sunshine Sketches on “The Great Election in Missinaba County” is read as a commentary on popular understanding of issues in 1911, Cook wrote, it “might well be viewed as one of Leacock’s most bitter satires, perhaps exceeding anything in Arcadian Adventures.28 Thus he “was more than just a funny man; at least some of the time he was a funny man with a serious purpose.”29 Cook was also convincing in his statement that within the spectrum of middle-class reform in Canada, The Unsolved Riddle displayed a “strong reformist tone”30 for its era. If governments had a right to conscript citizens for wartime military service, Leacock asserted, they also had an obligation to provide those same citizens with opportunity for employment in time of peace.31 This may not have been socialism, but it was, as Cook observed, a concept of state responsibility much more advanced than anything Canadians would experience in practical terms for a long time.32 Thus, judged within its context, The Unsolved Riddle was a highly progressive book—and probably not considered entertaining by those in power.

  • 33 Carl Berger, The Sense of Power: Studies in the Ideas of Canadian Imperialism, 1867-1914 (Toronto: (...)
  • 34 Richard Wilbur, The Bennett Administration 1930-1935, Canadian Historical Association booklet No. (...)
  • 35 Carl Berger, “The Other Mr. Leacock,” Canadian Literature, 55 (Winter 1973), 28; also see 23.

11One of Cook’s themes had been the relevance of Leacock’s imperialism to his fiction, and in The Sense of Power (1970) Carl Berger gave the ideology of Canadian imperialism its first extended analysis. He linked it with the Canada First movement of the immediate post-Confederation era, arguing that in the years prior to World War I it was a form of Canadian nationalism. Among the imperialist spokesmen he examined was Leacock, and like Cook, he detected “a coincidence between the underlying values in Leacock’s serious social commentary, his satire, and the ideas of Canadian imperialism.”33 He also noted Leacock’s association with R. B. Bennett’s New Deal broadcasts of 1935, which have been described as heralding the first “legislative assault on the corporate elite” of Canada.34 In a subsequent article in Canadian Literature, Berger noted the different faces of Leacock—humorist, political economist, controversialist—and, while maintaining that all were manifestations of the same set of values, gave close attention to the non-humorous side of his work. He carefully dissected Leacock’s imperialism, which he declared to be “inextricably intertwined with his social satire and his distaste for the perversions of Canadian politics…. For Leacock the imperial ideal meant a determined effort to accept the obligations of nationhood and to fulfill the promise of freedom.”35

  • 36 Leacock, Preface to Baldwin, LaFontaine, Hincks, p. ix.
  • 37 Berger, “The Other Mr. Leacock,” 31.

12Imperialism represented a continuation of the drive to expand the sphere of self-government of which Leacock had written in Baldwin, LaFontaine, Hincks; indeed, in the Preface to that volume he had described responsible government as “the corner-stone of the British imperial system.”36 But although his imperialism was based in part upon a positive commitment to the Whig ideals of “progress and liberty,” it was also, Berger pointed out, “rooted in a profound rejection of the country…. Imperialism was a means of escape—an escape from the stupefying preoccupation with materialism and the coils of partyism and race and religious wars into the higher uplands of wider activities and concerns.”37 In the mind of Leacock, who distinctly distrusted institutional and organizational remedies, imperialism was a spiritual purgative, and certainly could not be reduced to a political formula. It followed from its almost mystical quality that it could not be discredited in the eyes of adherents by exposure of weaknesses or impracticalities in particular schemes of imperial federation.

13In his article in Canadian Literature Berger also explored Leacock’s attitude towards the discipline of economics. Leacock was not a modern scholar in the sense of being committed to specialized research in particular sub-fields, and he was hostile towards the incursions of statistical methods. He did not conceive of economics as a tool of social engineering to be put in the hands of governments,

  • 38 Ibid., p. 24; also see Stephen Leacock, Preface to Hellements of Hickonomics in Hiccoughs of Verse (...)

and he remained dubious about economics as a body of solutions… Economics, he believed, was not a science; it was the name of a problem, the problem essentially of a socially just distribution of material goods and this was, in a profound sense, a moral and not a technical question… many of his stories were vehicles for expressing his social ideas and economic beliefs… the line between his so-called humorous stories and his serious work was blurred and indistinct.38

  • 39 Goodwin, who did not mention The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, went further: “Leacock was a h (...)

14So, as an economist, Leacock was a moralist, and a moralist with more than one avenue for diffusing his views.39 The focus of much of his writing prior to World War I was the dominant materialist ethic. The war formed a turning-point of sorts, prompting him to address the problem of social justice directly.

  • 40 Berger, “The Other Mr. Leacock,” 34.

For a brief moment, Leacock was inspired by the example of war-time regulation and a genuine humanitarianism, and he stood with many others on the brink of a new era. This enthusiasm and idealism, however, vanished in the early 1920’s. By the 1930’s he spoke less and less of a progressive movement of social control and more and more of the spectre of socialism and the dangers of restraint and regulation. The connecting link between his rejection of socialism in The Unsolved Riddle in 1920 and his writings of the 1930’s were those stories, published in the 1920’s, in which he made very clear his suspicion of restraint, restriction and regulation.40

15Thus Berger deepened Cook’s analysis by a closer inspection of Leacock’s imperialism and his approach to economics. Both historians argued that an examination of his serious writings was relevant to an interpretation of his humorous works. A reasonable inference would be that a complete understanding of his humorous works was impossible without taking into account his writings as a political economist and controversialist.

  • 41 Bowker, Introduction to The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock, p. xxxix. Evidence emerging in a (...)
  • 42 Bowker, Introduction to The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock, p. xviii.
  • 43 See ibid., pp. xxxiv, x-xi; Stephen Leacock, Elements of Political Science (Boston: Houghton Miffl (...)

16In the same year that Berger’s article appeared, Alan Bowker brought together a collection of writings entitled The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock: The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice and Other Essays (1973). The additional six essays, initially published between 1907 and 1919, dealt with imperialism (“Greater Canada: An Appeal”), education, feminism, prohibition, and the morality of social Darwinism. In an Introduction concerning Leacock’s career and writings, Bowker presented evidence reinforcing the arguments of Cook and Berger about his aversion to materialism, the nature of his imperialism, and the relevance of his social criticism to his best humour. He took issue with any tendency to reduce Leacock to a novelist manqué, a potential writer of great fiction seduced by the market-place into producing repetitious pap. “If we really want to understand him we must cease to fantasize about the novelist who might have been and concentrate our attention on the social scientist who was; for it was a social scientist, not an embryo novelist, who wrote Leacock’s best humour.”41 Bowker also emphasized the necessity of relating Leacock’s work to its time, the importance of his social criticism in itself, and the sincerity underlying it. Referring to The Unsolved Riddle, he wrote that it “was not a piece of hackwork for Leacock but a vitally important task which he performed to the best of his ability, and of which he was proud.”42 He traced the roots of its reformism back to the popular textbook, Elements of Political Science, which Leacock had published fourteen years earlier, and even to his graduate studies at The University of Chicago. Towards the end of the text, in looking to the future, Leacock had rejected both “Individualism” and “Socialism, and noted with apparent approval the trend in advanced industrial societies towards a strong regulatory state with responsibility for social services—which he would advocate vigorously in The Unsolved Riddle.43

  • 44 Bowker, Introduction to The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock, p. xxxv.
  • 45 Ibid., p. xxxii.
  • 46 Watt, “Critic or Entertainer: Stephen Leacock and the Growth of Materialism,” 40.
  • 47 Bowker, ed., The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock, p. 80.
  • 48 For evidence of recognition by Leacock that imperialism was in decline, see Elements of Political (...)

17Upon one significant point Bowker is mistaken. The city in Arcadian Adventures, described in his introduction as “wholly fictional,”44 was inspired by Montreal, whatever Leacock may have indicated to the contrary. To take only one example, but very close to home: the likeness between Plutoria University’s President Boomer, a hustling classicist enamoured with his commercial contacts and obsessed with the growth of “physical plant,” and McGill’s Principal William Peterson, a classicist with somewhat similar predilections, is too great to be entirely coincidental. Given this and other similarities, and painful memories of Orillia’s hostile response to being satirized in Sunshine Sketches just two years earlier, Leacock was only exercising reasonable prudence in disguising his model. This point would scarcely be worth mentioning had Bowker not claimed that Mariposa’s reality and the city’s imaginariness demonstrate that Leacock was still hopeful about Canadian society. The nature of and reason for this supposed optimism are not made clear, although it is reasonable to infer that Bowker means that the relatively innocuous “Mariposan” Canadians of the pre–World War I era could still escape the distasteful “Arcadian” future. If, on the other hand, the city is real and Canadian, and if, as Bowker concedes, the values of Mariposans are “fundamentally”45 the same as those of the city, then the picture changes somewhat, and Leacock’s social commentary becomes more intelligible as a totality. Holding conservative values, he was repelled by the materialism and lack of social solidarity in the urban environment where he worked. Yet from his knowledge of Orillia, where he had his summer home, he realized that the small town had adopted the mores of the metropolis and that Mariposans were dreaming the dreams of Arcadians. As Watt has written, “There is nothing admirable, nothing fine, nothing dignified, nothing sacred in Leacock’s portrayal of the little town…. The only virtues are its sunshine and its littleness, its failure to achieve the larger vices of modern industrial urbanism, hard as it tries to do so.”46 Leacock recognized that it was too late to return to a small-town past, and in The Unsolved Riddle he vehemently denounced the “false mediaevalism” which harped upon the virtues of former times.47 There could be no turning back. Once imperialism was dead—and World War I certainly destroyed Canadian imperialism as a vital force—the only means of regeneration was social reform.48

  • 49 Bowker, ed., The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock, p. 6.
  • 50 Ibid., p. 25.
  • 51 Ibid., p. 26.

18The six essays selected by Bowker to accompany The Unsolved Riddle indicate the range of Leacock’s non-humorous writing prior to 1920. “Greater Canada: An Appeal,” an enthusiastic endorsement of imperialism as a means towards the social and political cleansing of Canada, contains that element of Canadian self-assertion which was an integral part of indigenous imperialist ideology: “We must realize, and the people of England must realize, the inevitable greatness of Canada.”49 Three other essays drawn from The University Magazine deal with education, values, and social Darwinism. In one of these Leacock explores the apparent paradox of the dearth of great literature in America, a land where much formal education is going on. He finds part of the explanation in the educational system, which he compares unfavourably with that of Britain, and part in “the distinct bias of our whole American life towards commercialism.”50 So as not to be misunderstood by his readers, he reminds them at the outset that Canada is in America, and states explicitly that his comments on literature and education in the republic apply with at least equal force to the dominion. He associates commercialism with the acceptance of success as the most important criterion of appropriate conduct and with the downgrading of the old scale of absolute values. In American education these tendencies coalesce to result in organization along the lines of industrial mass production, with a corresponding emphasis upon the number rather than the quality of graduates. Perhaps most telling of all, Leacock thinks he discerns a third and deeper cause for the literary sterility of America: “It is possible that… literature and progress-happiness-and-equality are antithetical terms.”51 Put another way, the material comforts of early twentieth-century America may have removed the miseries and flagrant inequalities which inspired so much great literature in darker ages. This suggestion reveals an anti-modernist disposition to raise questions about the contemporary all-embracing acceptance of material progress. In the two other essays included in the collection, Leacock assails the reform movements of feminism and prohibition. For him, it is a man’s world and he must be allowed his drink. The views articulated in these essays are, in a broad sense, traditionalist; although the writing is sometimes highly rhetorical, the tendency towards heavy-handed didacticism is alleviated to some extent by irony and wit.

19It is appropriate that four essays in Bowker’s collection were published initially in a periodical edited by Macphail, who, if anything, was more thoroughgoing than Leacock in his traditionalism. Although nominally assisted by an editorial committee drawn from Mc Gill, the University of Toronto, and Dalhousie College, Macphail controlled The University Magazine from 1907 until its demise in 1920, excepting four years when he served overseas as a physician in the Canadian army. Many years later, Leacock, who had been a member of the editorial committee for the first two numbers in 1907, would recall:

  • 52 Stephen Leacock, “Andrew Macphail,” Queen’s Quarterly, 45 (Winter 1938), 449-50.

The magazine was to be conducted by some sort of board…. But it didn’t matter, for the ‘board’ was virtually swept aside by Andrew, as you brush away the chess pieces of a finished game…. After a meeting or two, the magazine became and remained Andrew Macphail. Like all competent men who can do a job and who know it, he had no use for co-operation.52

  • 53 See Ian Ross Robertson, “Sir Andrew Macphail as a Social Critic,” (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Unive (...)
  • 54 Archibald MacMechan, Head-waters of Canadian Literature (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1924), p (...)
  • 55 See Terry Copp, The Anatomy of Poverty: The Condition of the Working Class in Montreal 1897-1929 ( (...)
  • 56 Dalhousie University Archives, Archibald MacMechan Papers, Macphail to MacMechan, 2 April 1907.

20Macphail gave The University Magazine a sense of direction by contributing forty-three pieces of political comment and social criticism; in his mind it was an instrument for advancing “correct opinions,”53 which predicated the importance of moral rather than materialist values, and centred on a Canada that was rural, traditional, imperial in sentiment, and, aside from Quebec, overwhelmingly British in ethnic composition. Macphail and Leacock did not always agree about specific issues and elections, but they were at one in their general attitudes towards imperialism, modern education, materialist values, feminism, and prohibition. Hence The University Magazine was a natural forum for Leacock, and it would seem to have been an important one. Armed with a policy of paying contributors an average fee of twenty-five dollars, Macphail attracted the best writers from English-speaking Canada, along with some from elsewhere; the latter included such prestigious figures as Rudyard Kipling and André Siegfried. Archibald MacMechan, a member of the editorial committee, would later describe Macphail’s policy of always paying contributors as “revolutionary,”54 and for purposes of comparison it might be noted that in pre-war Montreal twenty-five dollars was more than double the average weekly wage earned by adult males employed in manufacturing.55 This put Macphail, an exacting editor, in a position to pick and choose among submissions; after his second number he told MacMechan, “It is not for what I put into the Magazine I take credit, it is for what I kept out. I had a bitter passage with two important personages.”56 Leacock evidently approved of his friend’s project, for he played a prominent part in carrying it out; with ten articles, he stood ninth on the list of contributors, ranked according to frequency of appearance between 1907 and 1920.

  • 57 See Sir Andrew Macphail Papers, in private possession, Macphail to James Mavor, 17 September 1913.
  • 58 University of Toronto Library, Rare Book Department, Sir Edmund Walker Papers, Macphail to Walker, (...)
  • 59 See Sonia Leathes, “Votes for Women,” The University Magazine, 13 (February 1914), 68-78; Andrew M (...)

21The appeal and influence of The University Magazine extended far beyond university common rooms, and thus it served as an important link for Leacock and other writers with the educated public at large. The combination of high editorial standards and conservative ideology found a significant audience. At a time when the academic population of Canada numbered in the hundreds and the general population was one-third that of today, the magazine attained a circulation of nearly 6,000, a figure no comparable Canadian quarterly has subsequently matched.57 A unique phenomenon in pre-war Canada by virtue of both its quality and its circulation, the magazine played a role similar to the journals of Goldwin Smith and Henri Bourassa: a non-partisan institution designed to influence public opinion in a particular direction. Macphail set out consciously to reach beyond the academic community, and in a letter soliciting an article from a Canadian businessman on February 1, 1907 he stated that he wished “to demonstrate that there is no gulf between university men and other intelligent men…. Our idea is to interest all intelligent men.”58 Although Macphail did not ban dissenting views—even publishing an article advocating female suffrage immediately preceding an attack of his own on feminism59—he placed his conservative imprint on The University Magazine as decisively as Smith and Bourassa marked The Week and Le Devoir with their respective agendas and personalities. He was his own most frequent contributor by a wide margin, and others high on the list, like MacMechan, Peterson, Maurice Hutton, and F. P. Walton, fitted in with the conservatism of Macphail and Leacock. Thus the magazine was the vehicle for a particular ideological current, conservative and imperialist.

  • 60 Stephen Leacock, “The Psychology of American Humour,” ibid., 6 (February 1907), 75.
  • 61 Stephen Leacock, “The University and Business,” ibid., 12 (December 1913), 544.

22In addition to contributing ten articles to The University Magazine, all between 1907 and 1914, and being a founding member of its editorial committee, Leacock became involved in the editorial management during World War I. He was for a year part of a four-man “local committee” of McGill faculty members formed to assume Macphail’s duties after his departure from Canada in 1915. Peterson, the driving force within the McGill group, instituted several changes, among them devoting about fifteen pages of each number to “Topics of the Day,” a series of brief commentaries on the war and other contemporary themes by individual editors or friends of the magazine. Leacock contributed several of these commentaries when on the committee, and some had a stridently anti-German tone. The articles he published in The University Magazine between 1907 and 1914, aside from the four collected by Bowker, concerned humour, education, and Canadian external relations, broadly defined. One was a humorous piece on the first newspaper in England and the birth of advertising; in another, “The Psychology of American Humour,” Leacock examined what he considered to be the one exception to America’s record of literary sterility. In the article he attributes this aberration from the norm to the intrinsically inspiring nature of American life and history, which American humour reflects. But he believes the “original impetus” of the genre to be “largely” a spent force, and given the state of education and letters in contemporary America, is pessimistic about the future.60 In “The University and Business” he attacks what he regards as the attempt to pass off “practical” courses of study as higher education, and affirms the value of a traditional academic program for even an aspiring businessman.61

  • 62 Ibid., 547.

The young man who has had a sound training in orthodox college studies is far better fitted to enter business than the boy who has been stuffed with the rigmarole of a bogus, commercial course. After all, the great aim of education is the acquirement of capacity, —not the ability to perform a particular mechanical thing in a particular way, but the power of turning upon any intellectual problem the full effort of a trained intelligence. It is just this power which the Arts course of a university ought to develop.62

  • 63 Stephen Leacock, “Canada and the Monroe Doctrine,” ibid., 8 (October 1909), 352.
  • 64 Stephen Leacock, “What Shall We Do About The Navy?” ibid., 10 (December 1911), 535.

23The articles on Canadian external relations concerned Canada and the Monroe doctrine, American neutrality after the commencement of World War I, and the naval question. In a lengthy essay Leacock denounces the supposed protection afforded Canada by the Monroe doctrine as “the purest fiction,”63 and in a very brief article gives vent to Canadian resentment over American neutrality. Writing about naval policy shortly after the election of 1911, he advocates “a united fleet,” in which Canada would participate by providing men and ships.64 This was consistent with the assertive sentiments expressed in “Greater Canada: An Appeal,” and quite distinct from the more cautious policy of financial “contributions” to the British fleet which Prime Minister Robert Borden would soon adopt.

  • 65 Leo Cox, Fifty Years of Brush and Pen: A Historical Sketch of the Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal (...)
  • 66 Andrew Macphail, “John McCrae: An Essay in Character,” in John McCrae, In Flanders Fields and Othe (...)
  • 67 Leacock, “Andrew Macphail,” 447; also see Stephen Leacock, Montreal: Seaport and City (Garden City (...)

24Since The University Magazine was an important dimension of Leacock’s intellectual life between 1907 and 1915, understanding the people surrounding it helps considerably to place him in his contemporary milieu. The magazine was always strongly linked with English-speaking Montreal, for six of the twelve most frequent contributors resided there. By 1908 six of the nine most frequent male contributors, including one in Kingston and one in Ottawa, belonged to the Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal. The membership and proceedings of that club, together with its ambiance as described by Leacock and Macphail, who first met there after Leacock’s election to the body in 1901, reveal something about the atmosphere in which Leacock developed as a writer. The group of artists and writers met on alternate Saturday evenings for the purpose of “Social enjoyment and Promotion of the Arts and Letters.”65 Among the members were Maurice Cullen, Robert Harris, William Van Home, Edmond Dyonnet, John McCrae, Louis Frechette, and William Henry Drummond. Each was expected to unveil or read an original piece of work for criticism once every month or six weeks. For Macphail it “was a home for the spirit wearied by the week’s work,”66 and Leacock later recalled “the kindly club, drawn up in a horseshoe of armchairs, the room darkened, and apparently getting darker all the time, listening to the measured tones of an essay-writer reading his essay.”67 Despite the occasionally somnolent character of their literary evenings, members of the club provided Macphail’s magazine with a valuable nucleus of writers around which to attract others, and from the beginning English-speaking Montreal was a prime source of contributors. If one widens the sample to include the forty-six who published four or more articles or poetry selections in The University Magazine, of the thirty-one who could be placed in 1907, the year Macphail took over the periodical, fifteen lived in Montreal. Among these fifteen, it is noteworthy that six belonged to the Pen and Pencil Club by 1911, eleven were members of the faculty or administration of McGill University, and three of the four who did not work at McGill were McGill alumni. Yet these data are not conclusive evidence of a parochialism centred on English-speaking Montreal, for among the fifteen Montreal residents, of the fourteen whose birthplaces can be determined, only four were born in Montreal; the remaining ten had come from other parts of Canada or from Britain. Within the entire group of forty-six, of the thirty-five whose birthplaces are known, only six were Quebec natives. Equally significantly, of the six Montreal residents among the twelve leading contributors, only two had been born in Quebec, and one of these, the philosopher J.W.A. Hickson, had attended three German universities, gaining his doctorate from Halle.

25Such institutions as The University Magazine, the Pen and Pencil Club, and McGill University, and the associated friendships and sense of common endeavour, played a vital part in shaping Leacock’s early career as a writer. This was a time when Montreal, the largest city in the dominion by a significant margin, could still lay claim to being the intellectual metropolis of English Canada as well as French Canada. Like any metropolis, it drew upon hinterland areas to supplement home-grown strengths, attracting to it such persons as Harris, Leacock, McCrae, and Macphail. The sense of Montreal’s centrality within Canada contributed to the seriousness with which the group around The University Magazine viewed themselves and their work. In an address to the University Club of Montreal, one of Leacock’s favourite haunts, Macphail stated that it was the business of university men to “tell the truth” about all current topics.

  • 68 Macphail Papers, Andrew Macphail, untitled address to the University Club, Montreal, n.d. [after 1 (...)

We are a class set apart. We have elevated ourselves into the exploiting, the parasite class…. But we can justify our existence by telling the truth even about ourselves…. It will not do any longer to stand by and declare that we are holy men who would be defiled by coming in contact with the world, preferring to sit in a well and gazing at the stars.68

  • 69 T. B. Bottomore, Social Criticism in North America (Toronto: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 19 (...)
  • 70 See Cook, “Stephen Leacock and the Age of Plutocracy, 1903-1921,” p. 181; Berger, “The Other Mr. L (...)
  • 71 Leacock, “Andrew Macphail,” 451-52.

26Men like Leacock and Macphail saw before them a world in a state of flux: women leaving their proper station in the family, educators losing sight of the very meaning of education, the American experiment in undisciplined liberty disintegrating, and Canadians, who lacked a clear sense of who they were, following false gods. In such a situation, the duty of the university professor outside the classroom was to continue seeking truth and attempting to replace confusion with a comprehensive understanding. What was to be done in Canada? Perhaps because of his own youthful experience with marginal farming, Leacock was not inclined to advocate a return to the past. His response was more complex, for he oscillated between imperialism, social criticism, and a retreat into satire, the last of which has been characterized as “a form of criticism practised by the impotent who know that they are impotent.”69 Indeed, none of the historians who have examined Leacock’s work closely since 1970 has claimed that it reflects a consistent point of view. Cook summed up Leacock’s social thought as eclectic, Berger stated that a striking and persistent feature was “the unresolved tensions in his outlook,” and Bowker’s account of his changing agenda suggested that he was something of a weather vane.70 Leacock’s comment in his obituary to Macphail that “I am certain that he never quite knew what he believed and what he didn’t”71 applied more to himself than to the deceased. Both were caught in a tremendous social upheaval involving the creation of a new industrial order and a basic shift in the balance between town and country. Macphail was remarkably consistent in his opposition to this change, with its attendant specialization of human functions. But Leacock accepted it, and in one important book, The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, attempted to outline the principles of equity that should underlie the new age.

  • 72 B. C. Parekh writes that “A philosophical understanding of an activity… points to its essential an (...)
  • 73 Bowker, ed., The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock, p. 142; also see pp. 140, 145.
  • 74 Ibid., p. 139.

27There is no need to comment at length on The Unsolved Riddle, for Watt, Cook, Berger, and Bowker have all dealt with it. But Leacock’s objectives and basic perspective should be noted since, despite his conscious effort at popularization, the book places him within a tradition which has always been in a distinct minority in Canadian intellectual history: that of dealing in a philosophical manner with fundamental social questions of one’s own time and place.72 Writing in the wake of World War I and the Winnipeg General Strike, he recognizes the shortcomings of the old individualist ethic and attempts to define a position between it and socialism. His purpose is to frame the outlines rather than the details of the future. He argues that governments should end unemployment, educate children, assist the aged and infirm, and in general prevent injustice through “intrusive social legislation.”73 Special emphasis is placed upon the fate of children: “every child of the nation has the right to be clothed and fed and trained irrespective of its parents’ lot.”74 Equality of opportunity is absolutely basic to his vision, and he affirms that if governments start at once with the children, within a generation the results will be dramatic. The means of financing the requisite measures would be the progressive income tax and taxes on profits and inheritances. Yet he does not argue that the state should control industry as a whole, and certainly does not advocate public ownership. Some of his most interesting passages are those in which he suggests a change in public opinion as to the relation between work and character.

  • 75 Ibid., p. 143. Also see J. Kushner and R. D. MacDonald, “Leacock: Economist/Satirist in Arcadian A (...)

The nineteenth century glorified work…. The ideal of society was the cheery artisan and the honest blacksmith, awake and singing with the lark and busy all day long at the loom and the anvil, till the grateful night soothed them into well-earned slumber. This, they were told, was better than the distracted sleep of princes.
The educated world repeated to itself these grotesque fallacies till it lost sight of plain and simple truths. Seven o’clock in the morning is too early for any rational human being to be herded into a factory at the call of a steam whistle. Ten hours a day of mechanical task is too long: nine hours is too long:… a working day of eight hours is too long for the full and proper development of human capacity and for the rational enjoyment of life.75

  • 76 Leacock, Elements of Political Science, 1921 ed., p. 398.

28In the 1921 edition of Elements of Political Science he strengthened his comments on the hours of labour. Noting that prior to the war, governments had tended to restrict their intervention in this respect to female and child labourers, he stated that the time had come to limit the working hours of adult males as well: “the statutory regulation of hours in general is quite within the scope of legislation. The matter is now rather one of expediency than of principle.”76

  • 77 See e.g. the writings of Gad Horowitz: “Conservatism, Liberalism, and Socialism in Canada: An Inte (...)
  • 78 See William Lyon Mackenzie King, Industry and Humanity: A Study in the Principles Underlying Indus (...)

29 The Unsolved Riddle, with its progressive ideas emanating from a notorious conservative, establishes yet another role for Leacock in the longer perspective of Canadian intellectual history. Many writers have asserted that there is common ground between conservatism and socialism; perhaps the most frequently cited similarities are an organic view of society, distrust of pure individualism, and willingness to use the state to assert the rights of society, as distinct from the interests of powerful individuals.77 When both ideologies have legitimacy within a political culture, a hybrid known as the “red tory” may emerge. An obvious Canadian example is the author of The Unsolved Riddle, for while rejecting Utopian socialism and laissez-faire liberalism, Leacock simultaneously advocated a remarkably comprehensive welfare state. In this respect he was considerably ahead of the political practice of his time: the state was to act as the guarantor of the rights of all, rather than simply the mediator among interests sufficiently powerful to enforce their right to be heard at the bargaining table. The latter concept of the state, combined with a vague sense of responsibility to the community as a whole, was as far as a contemporary liberal reformer, Mackenzie King, would go, even in print. The goals of state intervention in the writings of Leacock and King presented a noteworthy contrast. For King, in Industry and Humanity, the objective was the maintenance or restoration of social peace, and presumably, if a group was not sufficiently restive or important to threaten communal tranquillity, it would be left to its own devices.78 But Leacock’s The Unsolved Riddle revealed a vision of social solidarity which went beyond neutralizing menacing forces, for such groups as children, the aged, and the infirm could scarcely pose a significant danger to social peace. If examining the concept of the state is a useful means of differentiating between liberal and “red tory” reformers in the early part of this century, then Leacock is certainly in the latter camp and The Unsolved Riddle is a classic statement of that point of view.

  • 79 The proposed titles were “The Political Ideas of Stephen Leacock” and “The Public Mind of Stephen (...)

30The writing on Leacock by historians, which was published in the early 1970s, produced a consensus which may be characterized briefly. His historical publications, with one possible exception, are worthy of little attention; his imperialism is important and complex; and both it and his social criticism are relevant to his humour. Over the past twelve years no one has published an historical work focusing on Leacock, and over the past fifteen years at least two graduate students in history have abandoned proposed theses on him.79

  • 80 Leacock to LeSueur, 11 October 1906, cited in McKillop, ed., A Critical Spirit, p. 250; also see p (...)
  • 81 See Bush, “Stephen Leacock,” p. 126.

31The only historian since Cook, Berger, and Bowker who has presented new information on Leacock directly relevant to the concerns of this paper is A. B. McKillop, writing in 1977, whose research on LeSueur touched upon the editorial process lying behind Baldwin, LaFontaine, Hincks. As one of three editors for the “Makers of Canada” series, LeSueur was assigned Leacock’s manuscript. McKillop has revealed that there was substantial conflict, and even some bad feeling, over the proper interpretation of responsible government, with the editor pressing the author to be critical of the received version. LeSueur detected an apparent contradiction between Leacock’s conservative politics and his Whiggish approach to responsible government as an historical problem. He privately attributed this to pressure from the Deputy Minister of Labour, Mackenzie King, but the evidence McKillop presents on this point is not conclusive. It is equally likely that Leacock was following his own inclination when he chose “to stick to the beaten track and view the establishment of responsible government as a great triumph in our history.”80 This is consistent with Leacock’s generally casual approach to matters of historical accuracy. It is no exaggeration to state that contemporary topics like imperialism were much more important to him than the history of the middle decades of the last century, for he had a thoroughly contemporary mind and was not interested in the past for its own sake. He was a convinced and committed imperialist when he wrote Baldwin, LaFontaine, Hincks, and in his view responsible government was a step towards the devolution of political power within the British empire. Indeed, linking responsible government and imperial federation in a positive fashion assisted in legitimizing the latter.81 Given this perspective, why muddy the waters by casting doubt on the beneficial character of responsible government? But whatever considerations influenced Leacock’s treatment of responsible government, the facts remain that history was of secondary interest to him and that his role in Canadian history does not depend upon his record as an historian.

  • 82 See Zailig Pollock, “Stephen Leacock” and “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town,” in Toye, ed., The (...)
  • 83 J. L. Granatstein et. al., Twentieth Century Canada (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1983), pp. 243- (...)

32I would suggest, in conclusion, that there is room for an historian to write a monograph on Leacock, building on the consensus established in the early 1970s and placing him in his Montreal milieu and in the longer perspective of Canadian intellectual history. When such a work is written it may enrich the study of both Canadian history and Canadian literature, which have shown thus far in their general works little interest in the insights offered by the writers surveyed here, if one may judge by two important volumes which appeared in 1983.The articles in The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature on “Stephen Leacock” and “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town” display scant appreciation of the nature and relevance of Leacock’s imperialism, and the entry on Leacock himself, although treating The Unsolved Riddle, does not touch upon its positive reformist message foreshadowing the modern welfare state.82 Leacock fared no better at the hands of the five professional historians who produced the 440-page Twentieth Century Canada: the only reference to him in the index relates to a passage in which he is cited as an example of nativism.83 Perhaps, in the future, literary critics may examine Leacock’s non-humorous works more carefully and integrate their findings into a holistic interpretation of him. Historians at large, for their part, may recognize in him a writer who, as well as achieving an international reputation as a humorist, revealed much about the Canada of his time in his wide-ranging writings and, in The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, anticipated the development of the social service state which emerged almost a generation later.

Notes de fin

1 Douglas Bush, “Stephen Leacock,” in David Staines, ed., The Canadian Imagination: Dimensions of a Literary Culture (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1977), p. 126.

2 See Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science, 10 (May 1944), 216-30. It might be noted, however, that Leacock was cross-appointed in history and political science during the 1901-1902 session; see Stanley B. Frost, McGill University: For the Advancement of Learning, Volume II, 1895-1971 (Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1984), pp. 28-29.

3 Ralph L. Curry, Stephen Leacock: Humorist and Humanist (Garden City, N. Y.: Double-day, 1959), p. 71.

4 See W.P.M. Kennedy, Editor’s Preface to Stephen Leacock, Mackenzie, Baldwin, LaFontaine, Hincks (London and Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1926), p. vii; W. L. Grant, General Introduction to N. E. Dionne, Champlain (London and Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1926).

5 Review of Historical Publications Relating to Canada, 19(1915), 15. A former professor of Canadian history at McGill recalls from his acquaintance with Leacock in the late 1930s and the 1940s that “Leacock had one historical hobby—the Canadian Arctic. He was fond of talking about it to me and he had a considerable collection of books on the subject. He was greatly interested in the discovery of uranium, gold, and so on along Great Slave Lake. He had the books of… one of the pioneers of the Mackenzie valley exploitation” (J. I. Cooper to author, 5 January 1985).

6 Stephen Leacock, Canada: The Foundations of Its Future (Montreal: privately printed for the House of Seagram, 1941), Author’s Foreword, p. xxx.

7 See Canadian Historical Review, 24 (March and September 1943), 56 and 306-308.

8 See J.M.S. Careless, “Frontierism, Metropolitanism, and Canadian History,” ibid., 35 (March 1954), 1-21.

9 See J. M. Bumsted, “Historical Writing in English,” in William Toye, ed., The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1983), pp. 350-56.

10 See Jacques Monet, “Sir Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, 9 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976), p. 451; William G. Ormsby, “Sir Francis Hincks,” ibid., 11 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), p. 416; Michael S. Cross and Robert L. Fraser, “Robert Baldwin,” ibid., 8 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985), p. 59.

11 See Kenneth N. Windsor, “Historical Writingin Canada to 1920,” in Carl F. Klinck et al., eds., Literary History of Canada: Canadian Literature in English (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1965), pp. 215, 229-32; Carl Berger, The Writing of Canadian History: Aspects of English-Canadian Historical Writing, 1900-1970 (Toronto; Oxford University Press, 1976), p. 218.

12 J. K. Johnson, “Upper Canada,” in D. A. Muise, ed., A Reader’s Guide to Canadian History, I: Beginnings to Confederation (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), p. 154. Also see A. B. McKillop, ed., A Critical Spirit: The Thought of William Dawson LeSueur (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1977), Part IV; A. B. McKillop, Introduction to William D. LeSueur, William Lyon Mackenzie: A Reinterpretation (Toronto: Macmillan, 1979).

13 See G.G.S. Lindsey, William Lyon Mackenzie (Toronto: Morang, 1908). This book was not included in the revised version of the series published in 1926; material on Mackenzie was incorporated into Kennedy’s revision of Leacock’s volume.

14 Stephen Leacock, Baldwin, LaFontaine, Hincks: Responsible Government (Toronto: Morang, 1907), p. 9.

15 Michiel Horn, “Academics and Canadian Social and Economic Policy in the Depression and War Years,” Journal of Canadian Studies, 13 (Winter 1978-79), 3. Also see Berger, The Writing of Canadian History, p. 31.

16 Inside cover of The University Magazine, 6 (February 1907). Concerning Macphail’s breadth and its importance for understanding him as a writer, see Ian Ross Robertson, “Andrew Macphail: A Holistic Approach,” Canadian Literature, 107 (Winter 1985), 179-86.

17 Desmond Morton, A Short History of Canada (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1983), p. 158.

18 Frank Watt, “Critic or Entertainer: Stephen Leacock and the Growth of Materialism,” Canadian Literature, 5 (Summer 1960), 33.

19 Ibid., p. 34.

20 Ibid., p. 36.

21 Ibid., p. 42.

22 Ramsay Cook, “Stephen Leacock and the Age of Plutocracy, 1903-1921,” in John S. Moir, ed., Character and Circumstance: Essays in Honour of Donald Grant Creighton (Toronto: Macmillan, 1970), p. 164.

23 Ibid., p. 167.

24 Ibid.

25 Alan Bowker, ed., The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock: The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice and Other Essays (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973), p. 4.

26 Ibid., p. 6.

27 Andrew Macphail, “The Navy and Politics,” The University Magazine, 12 (February 1913), 7.

28 Cook, “Stephen Leacock and the Age of Plutocracy, 1903-1921,” in Moir, ed., Character and Circumstance, p. 176. Cook gave relatively little attention to Arcadian Adventures, presumably because its critical thrust is so undisguised.

29 Ibid., p. 167. The respected Review of Historical Publications Relating to Canada recommended Sunshine Sketches to its readers for its realism concerning politics in the small towns of Ontario; see 17 (1913), 111-12.

30 Cook, “Stephen Leacock and the Age of Plutocracy, 1903-1921,” p. 177.

31 See Bowker, ed., The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock, p. 135.

32 See Cook, “Stephen Leacock and the Age of Plutocracy, 1903-1921,” p. 178.

33 Carl Berger, The Sense of Power: Studies in the Ideas of Canadian Imperialism, 1867-1914 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970), p. 43.

34 Richard Wilbur, The Bennett Administration 1930-1935, Canadian Historical Association booklet No. 24 (Ottawa, 1969), p. 20; also see Berger, The Sense of Power, p. 196.

35 Carl Berger, “The Other Mr. Leacock,” Canadian Literature, 55 (Winter 1973), 28; also see 23.

36 Leacock, Preface to Baldwin, LaFontaine, Hincks, p. ix.

37 Berger, “The Other Mr. Leacock,” 31.

38 Ibid., p. 24; also see Stephen Leacock, Preface to Hellements of Hickonomics in Hiccoughs of Verse Done in Our Social Planning Mill (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1936), p. vi. An economist, Craufurd D. W. Goodwin, has described Hellements of Hickonomics as “a choleric little work… [which] turned out to be a crude ridicule in extremely poor taste”; see Canadian Economic Thought: The Political Economy of a Developing Nation 1814-1914 (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1961), p. 191.

39 Goodwin, who did not mention The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, went further: “Leacock was a humorist first and an economist only in name” (ibid., p. 196). He also believed Leacock to have been a better historian than economist; see ibid., p. 193, but also Bush, “Stephen Leacock,” p. 127. Surviving evidence suggests strongly that Leacock’s colleagues and students perceived him as a much better political scientist than economist, and one former student has expressed the opinion that Leacock used his economics classes to try out humorous material. See Robertson Davies, “Stephen Leacock,” in Claude Bissell, ed., Our Living Tradition, first series (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1957), pp. 131-32; David M. Legate, Stephen Leacock: A Biography (Toronto: Doubleday, 1970), pp. 53-54; H. Carl Goldenberg in Edgar A. Collard, ed., The McGill You Knew: An Anthology of Memories 1920-1960 (Don Mills, Ont.: Longman Canada, 1975), p. 49; Allan Anderson, comp., Remembering Leacock: An Oral History (Ottawa: Deneau, 1983), pp. 57-58.

40 Berger, “The Other Mr. Leacock,” 34.

41 Bowker, Introduction to The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock, p. xxxix. Evidence emerging in a recent oral history suggests a motive for Leacock to adopt a writing strategy calculated to maximize financial returns: to leave an estate sufficient to provide for his son Stephen Jr. (d. 1974), a dwarf who had serious personal and behavioural problems which resulted in, for example, his being banned from the University Club; see Anderson, comp., Remembering Leacock, pp. 28-32. Also see H. Carl Goldenberg to author, 12 April 1985.

42 Bowker, Introduction to The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock, p. xviii.

43 See ibid., pp. xxxiv, x-xi; Stephen Leacock, Elements of Political Science (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1906), pp. 361-63, 369, 378, 403, 406.

44 Bowker, Introduction to The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock, p. xxxv.

45 Ibid., p. xxxii.

46 Watt, “Critic or Entertainer: Stephen Leacock and the Growth of Materialism,” 40.

47 Bowker, ed., The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock, p. 80.

48 For evidence of recognition by Leacock that imperialism was in decline, see Elements of Political Science (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1921), pp. 279-81.

49 Bowker, ed., The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock, p. 6.

50 Ibid., p. 25.

51 Ibid., p. 26.

52 Stephen Leacock, “Andrew Macphail,” Queen’s Quarterly, 45 (Winter 1938), 449-50.

53 See Ian Ross Robertson, “Sir Andrew Macphail as a Social Critic,” (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Toronto, 1974), pp. 102, 104, 145, 193, 199.

54 Archibald MacMechan, Head-waters of Canadian Literature (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1924), p. 202.

55 See Terry Copp, The Anatomy of Poverty: The Condition of the Working Class in Montreal 1897-1929 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1974), p. 32.

56 Dalhousie University Archives, Archibald MacMechan Papers, Macphail to MacMechan, 2 April 1907.

57 See Sir Andrew Macphail Papers, in private possession, Macphail to James Mavor, 17 September 1913.

58 University of Toronto Library, Rare Book Department, Sir Edmund Walker Papers, Macphail to Walker, 1 February 1907.

59 See Sonia Leathes, “Votes for Women,” The University Magazine, 13 (February 1914), 68-78; Andrew Macphail, “On Certain Aspects of Feminism,” ibid., 79-91.

60 Stephen Leacock, “The Psychology of American Humour,” ibid., 6 (February 1907), 75.

61 Stephen Leacock, “The University and Business,” ibid., 12 (December 1913), 544.

62 Ibid., 547.

63 Stephen Leacock, “Canada and the Monroe Doctrine,” ibid., 8 (October 1909), 352.

64 Stephen Leacock, “What Shall We Do About The Navy?” ibid., 10 (December 1911), 535.

65 Leo Cox, Fifty Years of Brush and Pen: A Historical Sketch of the Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal (n.p., 1939), p. 3.

66 Andrew Macphail, “John McCrae: An Essay in Character,” in John McCrae, In Flanders Fields and Other Poems (Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1919), pp. 127-28.

67 Leacock, “Andrew Macphail,” 447; also see Stephen Leacock, Montreal: Seaport and City (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Doran, 1942), p. 311.

68 Macphail Papers, Andrew Macphail, untitled address to the University Club, Montreal, n.d. [after 1908].

69 T. B. Bottomore, Social Criticism in North America (Toronto: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1966), p. 58. Cf. Claude Bissell, “Haliburton, Leacock and the American Humourous Tradition,” Canadian Literature, 39 (Winter 1969), 19, where Leacock’s position is described as “individualistic and uncommitted.”

70 See Cook, “Stephen Leacock and the Age of Plutocracy, 1903-1921,” p. 181; Berger, “The Other Mr. Leacock,” 38; Bowker, Introduction to The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock, p. xix. Other commentators on Leacock have also noted his inconsistency. See Legate, Stephen Leacock, pp. 105-106; Donald Cameron, Faces of Leacock: An Appreciation (Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1967), pp. 17, 63.

71 Leacock, “Andrew Macphail,” 451-52.

72 B. C. Parekh writes that “A philosophical understanding of an activity… points to its essential and permanent features, and offers criteria for evaluating relevant practical proposals and actions—not, of course, in their specificity but in their general assumptions and orientation”; Parekh, “The Nature of Political Philosophy,” in Preston King and B. C. Parekh, eds., Politics and Experience: Essays Presented to Professor Michael Oakeshott on the Occasion of His Retirement (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1968), p. 181.

73 Bowker, ed., The Social Criticism of Stephen Leacock, p. 142; also see pp. 140, 145.

74 Ibid., p. 139.

75 Ibid., p. 143. Also see J. Kushner and R. D. MacDonald, “Leacock: Economist/Satirist in Arcadian Adventures and Sunshine Sketches, Dalhousie Review, 56 (Autumn 1976), 494-95.

76 Leacock, Elements of Political Science, 1921 ed., p. 398.

77 See e.g. the writings of Gad Horowitz: “Conservatism, Liberalism, and Socialism in Canada: An Interpretation,” Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science, 32 (May 1966), 143-71; “Tories, Socialists and the Demise of Canada,” Canadian Dimension, 2 (MayJune 1965), 12-15.

78 See William Lyon Mackenzie King, Industry and Humanity: A Study in the Principles Underlying Industrial Reconstruction (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973 ed.); H. S. Ferns, “The Ideas of Mackenzie King,” Manitoba Arts Review, 6 (Winter 1948-49), 11.

79 The proposed titles were “The Political Ideas of Stephen Leacock” and “The Public Mind of Stephen Leacock” (source: Register of Post-Graduate Dissertations in Progress in History and Related Subjects, an annual publication of the Canadian Historical Association).

80 Leacock to LeSueur, 11 October 1906, cited in McKillop, ed., A Critical Spirit, p. 250; also see pp. 251, 272, and n. 27 on p. 266.

81 See Bush, “Stephen Leacock,” p. 126.

82 See Zailig Pollock, “Stephen Leacock” and “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town,” in Toye, ed., The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, pp. 438-40, 777. Some early commentators recognized that The Unsolved Riddle was an important revelation of Leacock. See Peter McArthur, Stephen Leacock (Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1923), pp. 146-47, 149; Desmond Pacey, “Leacock as a Satirist,” Queen’s Quarterly, 58 (Summer 1951), 212-13. At the other end of the spectrum among literary critics is Davies with his repeated assertion that “Leacock’s importance to Canada rests solely upon the body of his work as a humorist”; see e.g. his “Stephen Leacock” in Bissell, ed., Our Living Tradition, first series, p. 132. Albert and Theresa Moritz, Leacock: A Biography (Toronto: Stoddart, 1985) was received too late for consideration in this article.

83 J. L. Granatstein et. al., Twentieth Century Canada (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1983), pp. 243-44. A reading of the volume reveals a second reference to him, which credits him with insight into the relationship between Canada and Britain between the world wars; see p. 322.

Auteur

Department of History
Scarborough College
University of Toronto

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