Leacock, Stephen


Stephen Butler Leacock (December 30, 1869 - March 28, 1944) was a British-Canadian writer and economist.

He was born in Swanmore, Hampshire, but at a young age he and his family moved to Canada. They settled on a farm in Egypt, Ontario. While the family had been comfortable in England, the farm was not a success and Leacock's family was quite poor. His father turned to alcoholism and became violent and morose. Because of his behaviour Stephen, at age seventeen, ordered him out of the house. His father left and never returned. Leacock, always of obvious intelligence, was sent to the elite Upper Canada College in Toronto, where he was top of the class and also popular. Leacock then moved to the University of Toronto, but because of financial difficulties he stayed there only a year. Abandoning his studies Leacock became a schoolteacher, a job he disliked immensely. He taught for ten years to support his family but finally in 1899 decided to resume his studies. He travelled to Chicago and attended the University of Chicago where he received a doctorate in Political Science. He moved from Chicago to Montreal where he became a lecturer and later head of the economics faculty at McGill University. During the summer months he lived in Orillia, Ontario where he kept a small farm.

Leacock's political theory, now all but forgotten, was very conservative. He opposed women's rights and disliked non-Anglo-Saxon immigration. He was, however, a supporter of social welfare legislation.

He published several works of political theory, but his greatest acclaim came as a writer of comedic fiction. His stories, first published in magazines in Canada and the United States and later in novel form became extremely popular around the world. It was said in 1911 that more people had heard of Stephen Leacock than had heard of Canada.

In 1947 the Stephen Leacock Award was created to recognize the best in Canadian literary humour.

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