Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

On the Front Line of Life - Stephen Leacock: Memories and Reflections, 1935-1944

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

On the Front Line of Life - Stephen Leacock: Memories and Reflections, 1935-1944

Article excerpt

Alan Bowker (ed.), On the Front Line of Life - Stephen Leacock: Memories and Reflections, 1935-1944 (Dundurn Press: Toronto, 2004), 264 pp. Cloth. $29.00. ISBN 1-55002-521-X.

Alan Bowker provides a perceptive biographical introduction to Stephen Leacock's life, aimed at an audience of a general readership, from which this reviewer learned of Leacock's high-profile role in making speeches against the anti-isolationism of North America in the mid-1930s. Bowker contends that Leacock's essay style had transformed from witty, deft turns of phrase to a more folksy (though disciplined and focused) approach by the 1930s, which is borne out when juxtaposed with essay and speech extracts from 1914-44 in Leacock on Life (Gerald Lynch (ed.), 2002). Bowker's introduction to essays spanning 1935-44 complements Carl Spadoni's literary and historiographical introduction in his monumental, A Bibliography of Stephen Leacock (1998) (reviewed in BJCS, 14:1, 1999).

'Life on the Old Farm' is preoccupied with a perennial Leacock theme of the inadequacy of the school teaching system, and decries the false enticement of prairie farming: in the glory of 'getting land for a song . . . he forgets he cannot sing' (p. 71). The similarly biographical, 'My Remarkable Uncle' ('E.P.') provides a wonderful, episodic portrait of a gentleman conman businessman and politician of the highest (dis)order. Compared with school teaching, several essays extol the values and life of the college professor, though he is concerned that the introduction of 'college girls' brings the danger of diverting his 'dusty old professors' from Machiavelli to marriage (p. …

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