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Category Archives: Leacock, Stephen

New Editor for The Mariposa NewsPacket

Well the first issue has gone to press, and is ready for distribution. And so this attempt to distribute to a wider audience it is attached as a pdf below. Letters to the ediot are welcome. Please consider joining the Leacock Associates.

NewsPacket Volume 40-1 (April 2013)

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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Leacock, Stephen

 

Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour

2013 Leacock Medal Short List Header

The Leacock Associates announced their short list of 5 aauthors for the 2013 Leacock Medal of Humour on 1 April 2013.. The winner will be announced at a luncheon at The Mariposa Inn in Orillia on 25 Apil 2013. Tickets are in short supply for this event ($25.00) Details at www.leacock.ca — Reserve your ticket(s) today.

Short List in alphabetical order by author:

Fallis, Terry: UP AND DOWN (McClelland&Stewart)

Goldstein, Jonathon: I’LL SEIZE THE DAY TOMORROW (Penguin)

Kaufman, Andrew: BORN WEIRD (Random House Canada)

Stocks, Cassie: DANCE GLADYS DANCE (Newset Press)

Whitehead, William: WORDS TO LIVE BY (Cormorant)

 

Pleasure, Volume 1, Number 1

[This is an example of a blurb entry that starts one place and goes another entirely through serindipity]

On a recent trip to Sauk City, I visited the home of August Derleth. I obtained a couple of old scraph books with material suitable for content in the August Derleth Newsletter, a quarterly journal of The August Derleth Society. In going through the material I found a number of advertising posters for Comic Strips from The King Syndicate of New York City. Auggie had preseumbable set this material aside to mount one day in one of the scrap books. The material was dated from 1944 through the 1950’s. There was also a also a pulp magazine entitled “Pleasure” Volume 1, Number 1 which is illustrated below and copyrighted in 1946. This was preseumbable an advertising copy, and who knows if the magazine ever got off the ground! Certainly I have never heard of it before — but that’s hardly a recommendation on its status.

I took the opportuntiy to peruse its contents, humorous cartoons, jokes, limericks, advice, advertising and of course the usual assortment of beautiful ladies, appropriately, yet provocatively dressed. I went through the table of contents and noted contributions by Elmer Davis, Dorothy Parker (2 pieces), Ogden Nash, S.J. Perelman and Stephen Leacock. I did not find the words “Sherlock Holmes.” (Not through lack of trying!)

Well, the next thing was to read the Stephen Leacock snippet entitled “My Hotel Breakfast.” I didn’t remember reading it before. I t was quintessential Leacock, and I wondered, well I must have read it! Leacock never wasted any of his writing, and it was undoubtedly buried in one of books of humour. After all he died in 1994, and this appeared in 1946. It was undoubtedly reused material — BUT — I did a word search on “My Hotel Breakfast” and also, a string of words in the first line of the piece,  in the Leaock electronic file that I compiled a couple of years ago now — not a single hit!

So my questions are 1) what happened after the appearance of Vol1, No.1 of Pleasure? 2) Is this an uncollected piece of Leacock writing? Or did he write many newspaper and magazine short pieces that he didn’t subsequently collect?

My Hotel Breakfast

Every morning when I sit down in a hotel dining-room to order breakfast, I spend twenty minutes in deep thought over the bill of fare.
   At the end of it I order bacon and eggs.

   Very often—in fact usually—I call the waiter into consultation as to what kind of a suitable, agreeable, more or less novel breakfast a man might profitably take. When he has done his talk, I order bacon and eggs.

   Sometimes I get the headwaiter in on it, and ask him questions about fish, I ask him how is his sole this morning, and he says it is most excellent.

   I ask him can he recommend his sea-bass, and he says he can.

   As a final and definite inquiry I ask him what about his bluefish, and when he says that his bluefish is delicious, I say to him, in that case will he kindly bring me some bacon and eggs.

   I have heard it said that liver and bacon makes a good breakfast: I knew a man once who said he had tried it.

   And I met one day a man on a train who said that a lamb chop is an excellent thing for breakfast: but when I asked him if he had tried it, he said that he had often meant to but that personally he always took bacon ‘ and eggs.

   In fact, I believe that they all do. At every hotel I see men sitting at the breakfast table with a bill of fare in front of them, thinking deeply, with a waiter standing behind them babbling about bluefish: and in the end I always hear the waiter say, “Bacon and eggs. Yes, sir.”

   Indeed my own opinion is that in all the big hotels they don’t really have anything else to eat in the place except bacon and eggs. They just write down all that stuff about bluefish to look well and to let the guests think. In reality there is only bacon and eggs.

   Yes they do say that Scotch oatcake and honey, is a nice thing for the breakfast table.

   Some day I certainly must try it.

  Or, no, to blazes with it. Let the Scotch eat it!

 

Leacock at the Bat

I just received my invitation in the mail to the annual Stephen Leacock Medal Awards Dinner. It is scheduled for June the 12th in Orillia at Geneva Park, and promises to be a worthwhile event. Over the past number of dinners I have prepared pamphlets with content which may be of interest to Leacock Fans, and distributed to each attendee at their place setting for dinner.

   There are presently four in the series: Two Elegies (2005); Random Rhymes (2006); The Shannon and the Chesapeake (2007); and A Scandal in Montreal (2008).

   I took 2009 off as I was simply too busy being retired to prepare one. I had planned to do one discussing the poem “Casey at the Bat.”  Now I’m glad I didn’t get around to it, because I now have new cover art by Charles Pachter.

   Carl Spadoni mentions in his Bibliography of Leacock, that he found an unattributed newspaper clipping from Montreal relating that Leacock had regailed the audience at a dinner speech with his own personalized version of “Casey at the Bat.” It was unclear from the article whether Leacock had recited E.L. Thayer’s version of the poem, or personalized it for Mariposa.

If you google “Casey at the Bat” you find and audio version with De Wolf Hopper reciting the poem, as he did 1,000’s of times in his acting career. I would speculate that Leacock undoubtedly heard Hopper recite the poem, and was inspired to do it himself.

Leacock was not known to play baseball, but he did pay Cricket, both in school and as a young adult.

Shortly after I retired I received a letter from Martin Gardner, of Annotated Alice fame, in which he congratulated me for the publication of The Complete Annotated Father Brown. I called him to discuss the project and compare notes, and he was also interested about republishing a number of his out of print books. One of these was a fourth edition of his The Annotated Casey at the Bat.

It seemed like a natural next step then for me to work on a Mariposa version of “Casey at the Bat” titled “Leacock at the Bat.”

Next, I was working with Charles Pachter, a Toronto pop culture artist, essentially Canada’s Andy Warhol to develop an image of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson, and this project is still very mcuh a work in progress. But in any case during the preliminary conversation, Charles mentioned that he had a cottage studio on Lake Simcoe located  a 20 minute drive from Orillia. I invited him to do an image of Leacock at the bat, but not baseball, but rather cricket, and I attach his creation for your consideration.

During the same visit, I also spotted two other Pachter images in the studio, and obtained permssion to use them as well. The one is for Raymond Souster’s next collection of poetry entitled Big Smoke Blues. The image itself is entitled “Tour de Force.” and it is neat image of a Moose on a tightrope in the shadow of Toronto’s CN Tower. The other is entitled “Bon Echo.” and it is illustrated elsewhere in this blog as the cover for Walt Whitman’s Canada.

So that’s the background, and now, all is left to me to redraft Thayer’s poem change Casey to Leacock, change the other characters to the Mariposa Rogues’ Gallery, and of course change the sport from Baseball to Cricket.

I also plan to include the revised version of Thayer’s poem as well as Martin Gardner’s introduction and footnotes in the pamphlet as well.

As far as 2011 Dinner goes, that’s already allocated — “The Innocence of Stephen Leacock” in which Stephen Leacock meets Father Brown, a pastiche by John Peterson.

A mysterious phenomenon, toward which Professional critics are usually oblivious, recurs constantly in the literary history of the United States. A man or woman, with no special talent for poetry, will put together some apparently run-of-the-mill stanzas and manage to get them printed in a newspaper or magazine. The poem is read and talked about. It is reprinted here and there. People cut it out to carry in a billfold, or pin on a bulletin board, or put under the glass top of a desk, or frame and hang on a wall. Thousands memorize it. Eventually it becomes so well known that it is hard to find a literate person who hasn’t read it. (Martin Gardner in his intrroduction to The Annotated Casey at the Bat)

  Just to recall to your memory I include E.L. Thayer’s originally published version of the poem here:

Casey at the Bat

A Ballad of the Republic, Sung in the Year 1888

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood four to two with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows3 did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;4
They thought if only Casey5 could but get a whack at that—
We’d put up even money now with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn6 preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,7
And the former was a lulu8 and the latter was a cake;9
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;10
And when the dust had lifted, and the men11 saw what had occurred,
There was Johnnie12 safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ‘twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher13 ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.14

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire15 said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.16
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted some one on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.17

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville18—mighty Casey has struck out.

 

In the Realm of Mariposa

In the beginning, Stephen Leacock self-published his first book of humour in 1911, and then wrote a book of humour almost every year until he died in 1942. He was employed as a Professor of Economics at McGill University, and lived on Côte de Neiges in Montreal. He spent his summers in Orillia in a home he built and rebuilt in 1928 on The Old Brewery Bay.

Like most other children of my generation I first learned of Leacock as the author of “My Financial Career.”

I enjoyed reading his other writings as an adult and decided to work towards “An Omnibus Edition of his Humour” This project was a very large one in the abstract, but each volume was easy enough to compile along the way.

I invited my friend Jean-Pierre (who I met in a stalled elevator in an apartment building in Manhatten some years ago. We were both rescued by the fire department ) to do some caricatures of Leacock and I append the results below.

leacock-cover2

by Jean-Pierre Cagnat

John Robert Colombo introduced me to Pete McGarvey, who has a superb radio voice, and a long time inhabitant of Orillia, and the author of some Leacock volumes himself, and his advice and guidance in my quest for Mariposa has been invaluable. Pete invited me to my first Leacock Medal Dinner at the Geneva Conference Centre in June of 2004, and the project continues up until the present.

leacock-frontispiece

by Jean-Pierre Cagnat