Strathroy Collegiate Institute


Stephen (Butler) Leacock was born in Swanmoor, Hampshire, on December 30, 1869, and came to Canada in 1876. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Strathroy Collegiate Institute, and the University of Toronto (B.A. 1891). He taught modern languages at Upper Canada College in Toronto from 1889 to 1899. Then he undertook graduate studies at the University of Chicago and obtained his PhD in 1903. He lectured at McGill University's Department of Economics and Political Science from 1903 to 1936, as chair of the department from 1908. In 1906 he published Elements of Political Science (Boston: Houghton; B-10 1058 Fisher Rare Book Library): it was successful and went into a new edition in 1921. He was known and loved, internationally, as a humorist. Literary Lapses: A Book of Sketches (1910), Nonsense Novels (1911), Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912), and Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich (1914) were just the first of his 40-odd popular books. In 1936, when he retired from McGill, he spoke out on the Great Depression, and the immense suffering it caused millions of Canadians, by publishing The Gathering Financial Crisis in Canada: A Survey of the Present Critical Situation and his only book of verse, on the same subject, Hellements of Hickonomics, in Hiccoughs of Verse Done in Our Social Planning Mill. The title of the second book plays with the title of his first book, the 1906 study on which his scholarly reputation was based. Politically, Leacock was a Conservative, but by 1936 he came to believe that the government should act in times of financial hardship to protect families. Leacock received many honours in his lifetime, including the Lorne Pierce Medal from the Royal Society of Canada and the Mark Twain Medal. He died of throat cancer on March 28, 1944. The Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour was established in his honour in 1947. See also Gerhard Richard Lomer's Stephen Leacock: A Check-list and Index of his Writings (Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1954; Z 8494 .L6); Albert Frank and Teresa Moritz, Leacock: A Biography (Toronto: Stoddart, 1985; PS 8523 E2Z78); and Stephen Leacock: A Reappraisal (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1986; PS 8523 E2Z8 Robarts Library).