Stephen Leacock

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You know, many a man realizes late in life that if when he was a boy he had known what he knows now, instead of being what he is he might be what he won't; but how few boys stop to think that if they knew what they don't know instead of being what they will be, they wouldn't be?

Stephen Butler Leacock Ph.D. FRSC (30 December 186928 March 1944) was a Canadian writer and economist.

Sourced[edit]

  • Lord Ronald said nothing; he flung himself from the room, flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions.
    • "Gertrude the Governess", Nonsense Novels (1911)
  • Special Correspondence. I learn from a very high authority, whose name I am not at liberty to mention, (speaking to me at a place which I am not allowed to indicate and in a language which I am forbidden to use)—that Austria-Hungary is about to take a diplomatic step of the highest importance. What this step is, I am forbidden to say. But the consequences of it—which unfortunately I am pledged not to disclose—will be such as to effect results which I am not free to enumerate.
    • The Hohenzollerns in America (1919)
  • Presently I shall be introduced as 'this venerable old gentleman' and the axe will fall when they raise me to the degree of 'grand old man'. That means on our continent any one with snow-white hair who has kept out of jail till eighty.
    • On achieving fame in Canada.
    • Three Score and Ten
  • The Lord said "Let there be wheat" and Saskatchewan was born.
    • My Discovery of America (1937)
  • With the thermometer at 30 below zero and the wind behind him, a man walking on Main Street in Winnipeg knows which side of him is which.
    • My Discovery of the West (1937)
  • It is to be observed that "angling" is the name given to fishing by people who can't fish.

Literary Lapses (1910)[edit]

  • I detest life-insurance agents: they always argue that I shall some day die, which is not so.
  • It takes a good deal of physical courage to ride a horse. This, however, I have. I get it at about forty cents a flask, and take it as required.
  • You know, many a man realizes late in life that if when he was a boy he had known what he knows now, instead of being what he is he might be what he won't; but how few boys stop to think that if they knew what they don't know instead of being what they will be, they wouldn't be?
  • The rushing of his spirit from its prison-house was as rapid as a hunted cat passing over a garden fence.
  • You frequently ask, where are the friends of your childhood, and urge that they shall be brought back to you. As far as I am able to learn, those of your friends who are not in jail are still right there in your native village. You point out that they were wont to share your gambols, If so, you are certainly entitled to have theirs now.
  • A barber is by nature and inclination a sport. He can tell you at what exact hour the ball game is to begin, can foretell its issue without losing a stroke of the razor, and can explain the points of inferiority of all the players, as compared with the better men that he has personally seen elsewhere, with the nicety of ta professional.

Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912)[edit]

  • Many of my friends are under the impression that I write these humorous nothings in idle moments when the wearied brain is unable to perform the serious labours of the economist. My own experience is exactly the other way. The writing of solid, instructive stuff fortified by facts and figures is easy enough. There is no trouble in writing a scientific treatise on the folk-lore of Central China, or a statistical enquiry into the declining population of Prince Edward Island. But to write something out of one's own mind, worth reading for its own sake, is an arduous contrivance only to be achieved in fortunate moments, few and far between. Personally, I would sooner have written "Alice in Wonderland" than the whole Encyclopaedia Britannica.
    • Preface
  • My parents migrated to Canada in 1876, and I decided to go with them.
    • On leaving England at age seven.
  • Of course, Pupkin would never have thought of considering himself on an intellectual par with Mallory Tompkins. That would have been ridiculous. Mallory Tompkins had read all sorts of things and had half a mind to write a novel himself—either that or a play. All he needed, he said, was to have a chance to get away somewhere by himself and think. Every time he went away to the city Pupkin expected that he might return with the novel all finished; but though he often came back with his eyes red from thinking, the novel as yet remained incomplete.

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