It’s Confederation-Becomes-Official Day in Mariposa, also Prince-Edward-Island-Becomes-the-Seventh-Province Day, and British-North-American-Colonies-Divide Day. All these are important days in the formation of Canada, which remains a work in progress.

In case you need to be reminded, Mariposa is the capital of Conundropia. On public holidays the population flocks there in their thousands to take part in the celebratory conversations.

They celebrate July 1st, of course, but not as a birthday. Despite all that pressure from the media, politicians and people around them, they continue to hold the belief that Canada was not born, especially not on one particular day, but rather created, piece by piece and act by act, through the courage and hard work of politicians and their publics over dozens of decades.

The Conundropians believe that they cannot care for present and future if they do not take care of the past. That’s where the lessons are stored, in our memories of the past. They also like a good party. They have therefore organized their year into thirty or more civic celebrations, honouring the courageous political decisions of the past, around which they have built their mythology. They continue to add more as the story unfolds.

It’s not that they ignore the wars, rebellions, and upheavals that occur when politics break down, or the heroism they sometimes invoke. It’s just that they view them as tragedies or failures bearing death and destruction and thus poor excuses for a party. Both good things and bad things have happened in the story of this country, they say: Let’s celebrate the good things for 31 days in the year, working for more of them and fewer bad ones for the other 334¼.

The calendar of Canadian celebrations, in its current form, looks like this:

It is notable that they celebrate no Aboriginal Day, any more than they celebrate a British Day, or a French Day, or any other similar day. They are certainly not unware of the Aboriginal presence in the Canadian story, in all its diverse colours. They believe, however, that the act of political imagination and courage necessary, on all sides, to include them properly has not yet occurred. When it does it will be awarded its day, identified by its act as with all the rest.

The necessary imagination and courage will come, yes, from politicians, but also from their respective publics supporting and encouraging them to do what they know needs to be done. They will culminate in a political act recognizing that a reconciliation has occurred for practical purposes and that we can now go forward together. The Conundropians have no preconceived notion of what that act will be. That question remains one Unsolved Riddle among the many, although one of huge importance for the future of the country. In its wake will follow a host of other Unsolved Riddles arising from the need to keep it alive, in quality if not content very much like the Unsolved Riddles that flow out of acts of the primordial French and English, their descendants, and all the more recent arrivals from all the myriad lands of their origins.

So, today being Confederation-Becomes-Official Day, and British-North-American- Colonies-Divide Day, and Prince-Edward-Island-Becomes-the-Seventh-Province Day, and Monday being Québec-City-Founding Day, we wish the Mariposans and all Conundropians well in their celebrations which will extend for a full four days. And we wish them a speedy recovery in time for Manitoba-Becomes-the-Fifth-Province Day on the 15th.

 

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Exploring Conundropia: Leacock’s Land of Unsolved Riddles

In my previous post I called the country I was mapping for you Leacockland. I have decided not to go forward with that name. I suppose it’s all right to name a country after its first map-maker, but “Leacockland” is neither euphonious enough for my taste nor descriptive. This being a country of Unsolved Riddles, its constitution grounded in the General Theory thereof,  I have decided to call it Conundropia.

Conundropia, of course, comes from “conundrum”, a word which appears to be an unsolved riddle of its own, as nobody knows where it came from. It sounds like Latin, but is not.

Welcome to Conundropia, Land of Unsolved Riddles. Location: your surroundings, however you imagine them; Population: diverse; Gross Domestic Product: multifarious.

Foundational Documents: The General Theory of Unsolved Riddles; The Conundropiad (National Epic); The Declaration of Interdependence; The Constitution; The Charter of Liberalities and Optimisms.

Motto: Knowledge, Imagination, Good Will. (These are of course packed words, each one an unsolved, or at least only partly solved riddle.)

The Capital of Conundropia is, of course, Mariposa, the well-known, much misunderstood little town, perpetually asleep in the sunshine, or so it is said, bearing approximately the same relationship to The City, where things get done, as Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. I am talking about the relationship, not the cities. Mariposa is nothing like Jerusalem, either in fact or mythologically. I don’t know whether The City is like Tel Aviv; I have never been in Tel Aviv. I know The City well, however, in several manifestations. I have been in that other place called The City, which is the financial district of London, centre of the Empire. I even had an offer of a job there, many years ago, but turned it down. The City of Conundropia, however, is not the City of London.

The City has a name, of course, but nobody uses it.

Mariposa is the birthplace of The General Theory of Unsolved Riddles and hence mythologically vital. Hence its designation as The Capital. For you, and for everyone like you, it is the place where you learned to be human.

The City is the place of work, of action, of the machinery of government and business, of crowds and excitement, of demands and stress. Due to modern transportation and communication, The City reaches away out into The Country and may even have absorbed it.

The Country is the place, the physical place, you go to find relief from The City. It may be a farm, or a cottage, or a resort, or a retreat, or any spiritually similar kind of place. It could be a church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship. It could be the branch of a public library, or a club. It could be a park or a trail. It could be your home, or a room therein. If your home life is inescapably tumultuous it could even be your office or workplace, if you are among the fortunate who have workplaces of that kind. It is the place where The Rus can rule.

The Rus is the place where you imagine things were different, or are. If you came from a good place you remember it with nostalgia. If you came from a place like most places, with some good and some bad, you may pour over your memories the blessings of nostalgia, and conjure up only the good. If you came, or come from a bad place, it is the place you dream of being.

I have named these regions of Conundropia with reference to Stephen Leacock’s own experience, as I understand it. For him, Mariposa was Mariposa, the place he passed through briefly in his early years. I have no reason to believe that he viewed it with nostalgia, although he thought others might. His City was first Toronto, then Montreal, with the city of Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich thrown in. His Country was clearly the cottage in Orillia, and the University Club in Montreal. His Rus is, I believe, an unsolved riddle. It might be his British Empire, which was certainly not the real one. But I am sure it’s more complicated than that.

That leaves one more region, which I have called The University, which is the place where you learn to be wise, to the extent that you do. To a notable extent Leacock’s three universities — Toronto, Chicago, and McGill — were his Universities, and that’s how it should be. But I think perhaps his reading was more important. He was a tremendous reader, in several languages. I am not sure what kind of a listener he was — perhaps a good one, when he was listening. But I get the impression he tended to be more of a talker.

Perhaps reading should be dignified as the National Pastime of Conundropia.

More of all this anon.

 

Imagining a Fragmented, Incomplete and Inconclusive World

“This blog now has another companion: https://playstephenleacock.wordpress.com, and I am going to use both in the effort to tease out an “Appreciation” (Peter McArthur) of Stephen Leacock’s “extraordinarily commonplace” (J.M. Keynes) approach to social and economic justice, politics, and personal well-being. I am advocating a playful approach, because the ideas are slippery and elusive, even possibly absurd, but they may be the ideas we are fated to embrace, so that to approach them with humour, as he did, may be the only satisfactory state of mind.

I am going to use this blog in the search for an imaginative approach, the other for a more empirical-analytical one, based on Leacock’s immense body of written and spoken works and the extension of his data and experiences into the present. I will move everything to do with our Re-Tour to western Canada this fall into the Voyageur Storytelling web site, http://www.voyageurstorytelling.ca. I will send out notices of postings and changes on the Voyageur Storytelling Twitter account. Leslie looks after our Facebook page, and will regularly post notices, biographical notes, and bits of Leacock gossip, with pictures.

These five sites make up the social media presence of this, our Sesquicentennial project. When we launch forth on the Re-Tour itself, next October, we may add others to enrich the telling of its story.

Over the next week or two all these sites will be reorganized and cleaned up in order to serve their present purposes. Please bear with us in the meantime.

I invite you to imagine that you are flying into Leacockland and that the pilot is circling your aircraft so that you can see how it is laid out. There are no maps, because what is important about the area is its nature, not its geography. It is a mutable place, whose reality is not of any fixed kind, a place of “fragmentation, incompleteness and inconclusiveness” (Ed Jewiniski, a.k.a. Dr. J — see previous post). You will therefore recognize immediately the place of humour, and laughter, in contemplating such a landscape.

Over there, on the one hand, is Mariposa, a not-so-little town; over there, on the other, is The City where, most probably these days, you live, or in some suburb or satellite thereof. Over there in the misty distance is the place I will call The Rus, because I know some Latin too, although not as much as Stephen Leacock did, and have access to a great deal more. The Rus is the place you remember coming from, which may be The Farm, or The Village, or as in my case The Small Town, located in Canada or in some other country. Your Rus may even be The City, but if so it is the city of your memories, not the one you inhabit now. Much more distinctly, over there, and there, are two places you can escape, theoretically at least, from the conturbations of The City and the confoundations of The Rus. They are, in Leacockland, The Country, and The University.

Stephen Leacock described these places most elaborately, and the world that surrounds them, in his 1,498 pieces of writing (622 of which he gathered into his almost-annual collections), his 739 public lectures that we know about, and the 23 other books that he (or his literary executor) had published between 1903 and 1946. He died in 1944.

I am able to be so precise about these numbers because of the bibliographic labours of Carl Spadoni of McMaster University Library, and his assistant Sheila Turcon. I have created a database from what they provide, and am in a position to count whatever is in there, which so far consists of date of first publication (many pieces were published several times), title, type of work, place of first appearance, all appropriately coded, and some other notes and observations of interest. I am now adding, for each work, its subject (this list when compiled will be very wide), its field (economics, politics, history, humour, etc.) and its voice. The study of the Leacock voices and how they change over his lifetime, or even within a single work, will be particularly fascinating.

I will use the other blog to play with the data. In this one I want to explore Leacockland, starting with its constituent places and the people he put there, including himself, and then extrapolating them forward to see what they look like now. I would like to engage you, and great many other people, in that exploration, and I would like to find a way to include at least some of it in the performances and conversations we present next Fall on our Re-Tour.

Is it possible, I ask myself, and you, that The City is now all that we have, that it has absorbed Mariposa, The Rus, The  Country, The University, and even laughter itself? And is it possible that if we explore them thoroughly, as he described them for us, with humour and compassion, we may be able to recover them, or at least some of their essence?

I invite you most cordially to follow this blog and its companions and to take part in their conversations.

Stephen Leacock, J.M. Keynes and Professor Ed Jewinski

Now it is time for us to bear down again on the rediscovery of Stephen Leacock and his Mariposa, where we began. He has so much to offer in these confused and conflicted times, and people who can do what he did remain so rare, that we do ourselves an injury when we forget about him.

Memorials like the Leacock Museum in Orillia and the annual Stephen Leacock Medal keep him in our minds in important ways. But he gave much more to the people of his day, when they chose to pay attention, and his gift remains for us, in his writings and the story  of his life.

As with most wide-ranging commentators in any era, we do not need to pay attention to everything he said. Others have pointed out his “dark side”, or rather dark sides, which certainly showed themselves from time to time; the best we can say about them is that they were the dark sides of his times, and we have dismissed at least some of them. But I am finding that some even of these were perhaps not as dark as quotations out of context would suggest, and that his writings on these subjects can reveal considerable complexity. I will go into detail in subsequent letters.

We are a little prone these days to dwell on the dark sides of phenomena and ignore the illuminated and illuminating sides. Stephen Leacock showed a more than generous measure of those too, and they are worth understanding.

More than that, however, I am finding the content of his ideas on political, economic, social, environmental, and cultural matters less intriguing than the cast of mind he brought to their discussion. That is what I want to explore, understand, and communicate to you and more widely. I view him now primarily as a teacher, one who sought to encourage us to think and to discuss in certain ways, to serve not as a provider of ideas on important public questions, but as a catalyst.

When I studied chemistry, a long time ago, a catalyst was defined as an agent that brought about a reaction without itself being changed. Something along those lines anyway. Stephen Leacock cannot now be changed, because he has been dead for nigh on 73 years. I am not yet sure how much he changed in the 74 years of his life, when he was in a position to be more than a catalyst. Perhaps he never was more. Perhaps that was enough, gloriously enough.

I grew up with the humorist cast of Leacock’s mind, and revere it still. I began to discover the rest of it when I came across, and thought about, two phrases. The first came from the great economist John Maynard Keynes, who judged one of Leacock’s economic books to be “extraordinarily commonplace”. It seems clear enough on the surface that Keynes did not think the book worth publishing, and so it was treated by that publisher. But in my lexicon “extraordinary” and “commonplace” are antithetical words. Why did Keynes put them together? What was he trying to say? (See note (1) below.)

The second came from Professor Ed Jewinsky of Wilfrid Laurier University. He judged Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, considered by many to be Leacock’s masterpiece, as a “supreme achievement of fragmentation, incompleteness, and inconclusiveness.” Another antithesis! Most people, including myself, would not instinctively understand the book that way, but Professor Jewinsky, who had thought about the matter more than most and with more tools, did. (See note (2) below.)

If Stephen Leacock, Anglo-American Canadian professor in his time, is the Prophet of Inherent and Inescapable Antithesis, then is he perhaps a prophet for our time? I think he might be. And I think it possible that the importance he attached to laughter is part of his prophecy. And is Mariposa the home of his imagination? Maybe it is. Maybe I have been on the wrong tack about the place all along.

And so the exploration continues, and will as long as necessary.

Thank you for reading.

 

Sources of quotations:

(1) Keynes was hired by the MacMillan Company of England to read Economic Prosperity for the British Empire, submitted to them by Leacock in 1930. The book was published in England by Constable and Co. Ltd. It was previously published by MacMillan of Canada. Found in Carl Spadoni, A Bibliography of Stephen Leacock and other places.

(2) Professor Jewinsky’s conclusion comes from his article in Stephen Leacock: A Re-Appraisal, U of Ottawa Press, 1986 and available on-line.

Stephen Leacock Re-Tour 2017: Saganza #2: Oct 23 2016

Exactly a year from now we will begin a two-day festival where Stephen Leacock began his tour: in Thunder Bay, or Port Arthur and Fort William as it was (or they were) then. A “saganza”, by the way, is a stanza in a saga. This saga is in fact three sagas, unfolding in their distinctive ways in various places.

The first is the saga of Leacock’s 1936-37 Tour. Its first stanza appeared on this blog on September 22nd. You can scroll down to find it. The second is the just-beginning saga of our 2017 Re-Tour, unrolling day by day. The third is the multifarious saga of Stephen Leacock’s life, times and accomplishments, a very large saga that will take some time to recite.

In some future saganza I will explain why I think Stephen Leacock remains important. Many do not believe that he does, or that his importance if any is narrowly circumscribed. And perhaps it is if you take him out of context. But he was considered important in the context of his time and place. Our place is his place, and our time is proving to have some startling similarities. But more of that on some future occasion. Or possibly several of them.

What follows is the outline of our Re-Tour. The form of the whole Re-Tour is a “Litera-Tour”; its manifestation in each port of call is a “Leacock Litera-Tour Festival” or even perhaps a “Leacock Laughing Litera-Tour Festival” because whatever the substance of a Leacock appearance, laughing always came with it. So here we go, and if the whole idea appears laughable, well then, we’re off to a good start:

Friday and Saturday, October 20th and 21st, 2017: Launch Festival in Orillia. (Leacock set forth from Montreal and his route would have been via the CPR to Port Arthur. Orillia is on VIA Rail’s route (or rather Washago is) and has become the focal point for Leacockiana, being the place of his beloved summer home. For both these reasons we decided to start there.)

Monday and Tuesday, October 23rd and 24th: Thunder Bay

Wednesday, October 25th: Sioux Lookout (Leacock did not stop there, but nowadays the train does, and so will we, briefly)

Thursday to Sunday, October 26th to 29th: Winnipeg

Tuesday to Thursday, October 31st to November 2nd: Regina

Friday to Sunday, November 3rd to November 5th: Saskatoon

Tuesday to Friday, November 7th to November 10th: Edmonton

Saturday to Monday, November 11th to 13th: Calgary

Tuesday and Wednesday, November 14th to 15th: Medicine Hat

Saturday to Monday, November 18th to 20th: Vancouver

Wednesday to Saturday, November 22nd to 25th: Victoria

Monday and Tuesday, November 27th to 28th: back to Vancouver for the finale of the Re-Tour, as Leacock did.

We will be following Leacock’s footsteps as closely as train schedules allow, and spending about the same length of time in each place. Leacock made 32 appearances in his 10 ports of call; we expect to make about twice that many because we have formalized what must have been an important informal part of his tour. He was, after all, a celebrity, and would have been wined and dined, or more likely whiskeyed and dined, by prominent people in each of his ports of call. We do not expect the same, but will substitute what we are calling Leacock Talk Circles in the spaces between our performances. We will talk more about them, and about the other types of performance we have designed, in a subsequent saganza.

The next stage in our saga is to locate those organizations who hosted events or otherwise were Leacock’s partners in all his ports of call and ask them if they would like to be ours. We have already engaged the Leacock Museum and Leacock Associates in Orillia, and are delighted by their enthusiasm. We are working on events for that festival. We have also made contact with public libraries in all the other places, and are receiving most encouraging responses from them all, for which we are grateful.

As details emerge we will post them here, and in other places.

 

“My Discovery of the West”, Stephen Leacock’s 1936 Tour: Saganza #1

Late in 1936, after being forced to retire from McGill University, Stephen Leacock toured western Canada for six weeks, lecturing and entertaining audiences. He started in Port Arthur, Ontario (now part of Thunder Bay), and reached as far as Victoria, British Columbia. We know the details thanks to Carl Spadoni’s A Bibliography of Stephen Leacock and David Staines’ The Letters of Stephen Leacock. In outline, below is the story they tell. Unless otherwise stated it is likely that Leacock was the after-lunch or after-dinner speaker at events taking place in the hotel where he was staying.

November 25, 1936: Depart from Montreal

November 27, Port Arthur, Ontario. Prince Arthur Hotel. McGill Graduate Society Dinner: “Our Colleges and What They Stand For”. The local newspaper reported that Leacock turned “a barrage of sarcastic humour on sectional differences differences which threaten the Confederation of Canada”, and called for a re-confederation. How this all fitted into the title of his address remains obscure. Perhaps he did not stay on topic.

November 28, Fort William. Royal Edward Hotel. Men’s & Women’s Canadian Club lunch: “Canada and the United States”.

November 29 to December 4: Winnipeg. Royal Alexandra Hotel.

November 30: Women’s Canadian Club: “Literature at its Lightest, Latest and Most Foolish”.

December 1: University of Manitoba: “Education by the Yard”.

December 3: Winnipeg Press Club Dinner: “The Written Word” (off the record).

December 4: Men’s Canadian Club, Fort Garry Hotel: “When Can We Start the Next War?”

December 4: Women’s University Club, Fort Garry Hotel: “An Analysis of Humour”.

December 6 to 8: Regina. Hotel Saskatchewan

December 7: Women’s Canadian Club: “Literature and Progress”.

December 8: Men’s Canadian Club: “Brotherly Love Among the Nations”.

December 8: McGill Graduate Society: “The Value of Imbecility in Education”.

December 10 to 11: Saskatoon. Bessborough Hotel.

December 10: University of Saskatchewan: “Education by the Yard”.

December 11: Men’s & Women’s Canadian Club and McGill Graduates (and broadcast): “Murder at $2.50 a Volume and Love at $1.25”.

December 13 to 16: Edmonton. The Macdonald Hotel.

December 14: University of Alberta: “Recovery After Graduation”.

December 15: Political Science Club Students: “Is Adam Smith Dead?”

December 15: University of Toronto Alumni: “College As It Was and As It is”.

December 16: Men’s & Women’s Canadian Club and McGill Graduates: “Debit and Credit”.

December 16: Women’s Press Club and Canadian Authors Dinner: “The Theory of Comic Verse”.

December 17 to 18: Calgary. Hotel Palliser.

December 18: Canadian Club and Board of Trade (and broadcast): “Social Credit”.

December 18: Women’s Canadian Club: “Frenzied Fiction”.

December 18: McGill & Varsity (U of T) Graduates: reported as “Leacock Recalls Years at College”.

December 19: Medicine Hat. Cecil Hotel. Quota Club Dinner: “Hard Money, or Daniel in the Lion’s Den”.

December 21 to 28: Vancouver. Hotel Vancouver.

December 22: Men’s Canadian Club: “The New Economic World”.

December 24: Lunch at the Vancouver Club; speech, if any, unspecified.

December 28: Women’s Canadian Club: “Frenzied Fiction or Murder at Two Fifty a Volume and Love at One Twenty Five”.

December 28: Vancouver Board of Trade: “Social Credit and Social Progress: Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labour”.

December 29, 1936 to January 8, 1937: Victoria. Empress Hotel.

January 4: Canadian Club: “Economic Separatism in the British Empire”.

January 5: Women’s Canadian Club: “Humour As a Serious Manner”.

January 6: McGill Graduates Association: “Preserving College Traditions”.

January 7: Rotary Club: “How Soon Can We Start the Next War?”

January 7: Upper Canada College Graduates: “History of Upper Canada College”.

January 8: Victoria Teachers Association: “What I Don’t Know About Education”.

January 13, Vancouver: University of British Columbia: “Looking Back on College”

January 17: Arrive back in Montreal.

Stephen Leacock retired from lecturing early in 1937.

Leacock Greets the Spring in 1921

This piece appeared first in The Montreal Standard on April 2nd, 1921, and was reprinted several times by newspapers in the following years. It also appeared in Leacock’s 1923 collection of sketches called OVER THE FOOTLIGHTS, published in Toronto by S. B. Grundy, and the source of this copy. It illustrates very well the kind of writing (and editing, or lack thereof) that makes Leacock persistently both interesting and irritating.

—————————————————–

First Call for Spring

—or—

Oh, Listen to the Birds

I gather that Spring is approaching. I am not an observant man, but as the days go by, the signs begin to multiply. Even for me that means that spring is at hand.

I take this early occasion to notify the public of my opinion and to support it with collateral facts. I am anxious this year to be among the first in the field. Among the signs on which I base my views that spring is near, I may mention that I observe that the snow has gone : that the income tax declarations are being distributed at the post-office; and that the sign BOCK BEER is hung out at the Marshal Foch Café, formerly the Kaiserhoh.

Spring then is upon us. The first call for spring has come : and I should like to suggest that this year we meet it firmly and quietly and with none of the hysterical outburst that it usually provokes in people of a certain temperament. I refer to those unfortunate beings called “lovers of nature.”

Each year I have been pained to notice that the approach of spring occasions a most distressing aberration in the conduct of many of my friends. Beside my house, a few doors on the right, I have an acquaintance who is a Nature Man. All through the winter he is fairly quiet, an agreeable friendly fellow, quite fit for general society. I notice him, it is true, occasionally grubbing under the snow. I have once or twice seen him break off a frozen twig from a tree, and examine it. On one occasion, indeed, last winter he was temporarily unmanned by seeing a black bird (otherwise harmless) sitting on a bough. But for the most part his conduct during the colder weather is entirely normal.

Spring, however, at once occasions in my Nature friend a distressing disturbance. He seems suddenly to desire, at our every meeting, to make himself a channel of information as between the animate world and me. From the moment that the snow begins to melt, he keeps me posted as to what the plants and the birds and the bees are doing. This is a class of information which I do not want, and which I cannot use. But I have to bear it.

My Nature friend passes me every morning with some new and bright piece of information : something he thinks so cheery that it irradiates his face. “I saw a finch this morning,” he says. “Oh, did you,” I answer. “I noticed a scarlet tanager this afternoon,” says my friend. “You don’t say so!” I reply. What a tanager is I have never known : I hope I never shall. When my Nature friend says things of this sort all I can do is to acquiesce. I can’t match his information in any way. In point of ornithology I only know two birds, the crow and the hen. I can tell them at once either by their plumage or by their song. I can carry on a nature conversation up to the limit of the crow and the hen ; beyond that, not.

So for the first day or so in spring, I am able to say, “I saw a crow yesterday,” or “I noticed a hen out walking this morning.” But somehow my crow and hen seem to get out of date awfully quickly. I get ashamed of them and never refer to them again. But my friend keeps up his information for weeks, running through a whole gamut of animals. “I saw a gopher the other day,” he says, “guess what the little fellow was doing?” If only he knew it I’d like to break out and answer, “I don’t care what the Hades the little fellow was doing.” But, like every body else, I suppose, I have not the assurance or the cruelty to break in upon the rapture of the Nature Man. Some day I shall : and when I do, let him watch out.

My particular anger with these Nature Men such as my friend, springs, I think, from the singularly irritating kind of language that they use : a sort of ingratiating wee-wee way in which they amalgamate themselves, as it were, with nature. They really seem to feel so cute about it. If a wee hepatica peeps above the snow they think they’ve done it. They describe it to you in a peculiar line of talk almost like baby language. “What do you think I saw?” says the Nature Man. “Just the tiniest little shoot of green peeping from the red-brown of the willow!” He imitates it with his thumb and finger to show the way the tiny little shoot shoots. I suppose he thinks he’s a little bud himself. I really believe that my particular friend actually imagines himself in spring-time to be a wee hepatica, or a first crocus, or the yellow-underleaf of a daffodil.

And notice, too, the way in which they refer to colours; never plain and simple ones like red or black or blue; always stuff like “red-brown” or “blue-green.” My friend asks me if I have noticed the peculiar soft “yellow-brown” that the water fowl puts on in spring. Answer: No, I haven’t : I haven’t seen any water-fowl : I don’t know where you look for them and I didn’t know that they put anything on. As for “yellow-brown” I didn’t know that there was any such colour. I have seen a blue-black crow this year, and I have noticed a burnt-indigo-sepia hen : but beyond that I have not seen anything doing.

Worst of all, and, in fact, verging on paresis is the state of mind of the Nature Man in regard to the birds. When he speaks of them his voice takes on a particular whine. My Nature friend told me yesterday that he had seen two orioles just beginning to build a nest behind his garage. He said he “tiptoed” to the spot (notice the peculiar wee-wee language that these people use)—and then stood rooted there watching them. I forget whether he said “rooted” or “riveted” : on occasions like this he sometimes reports himself as one and sometimes as the other. But why on earth, if he is once fairly rooted does he become unrooted again?

I therefore wish to give this plain and simple notice, meant without malice : If any other of my friends has noticed a snowdrop just peeping above the edge of the turf, will he mind not telling me. If any of them has noticed that the inner bark of the oak is beginning to blush a faint blue-red, would he mind keeping it to himself. If there is any man that I know who has seen two orioles starting to build a nest behind his garage, and if he has stood rooted to the ground with interest and watch the dear little feathered pair fluttering to and fro, would he object to staying rooted and saying nothing about it?

I am aware that I ought long ago to have spoken out openly to my nature friends. But I have, I admit, the unfortunate and weak-minded disposition that forces me to smile with  hatred in my heart. My unhappy neighbour does not suspect that I mean to kill him. But I do. I have stood for all that tanager and oriole stuff that I can. The end is coming. And as for that hepatica just putting its tiny face above the brown of the leaf—well, wait, that’s all. Some day, I know it, I shall all of a sudden draw a revolver on my friend and say, “Listen. This has gone far enough. Every spring for many years you have stopped me in the street and told me of this nature stuff. And I have stood for it and smiled. You told me when the first touch of brown appeared on the underwing of the lark, and I let you say it. You kept me posted as to when the first trillium appeared from a pile of dead oak leaves under a brush-heap and I let you tell it to me and never said that all I knew of trilliums was in connection with the German reparations indemnity. But the thing is exhausted. Meet your fate as you can. You are going where the first purple-pink of the young rhododendron will be of no interest to you.”

I don’t want to appear surly. But I am free to admit that I am the kind of man who would never notice an oriole building a nest unless it came and built it in my hat in the hat room of the club. There are other men like me too : and the time has come when we must protect ourselves. There are signs of spring that every sensible man respects and recognizes. He sees the oysters disappear from the club bill-of-fare, and knows that winter is passing; he watches boiled new California potatoes fall from 25 to 10 cents a portion and realizes that the season is advancing. He notes the first timid appearance of the asparagus just peeping out of its melted butter : and he sees the first soft blush on the edge of the Carolina Strawberry at one-dollar-and-fifty cents a box. And he watches, or he used to watch, in the old day beyond recall, for the sign BOCK BEER TO-DAY that told him that all nature was glad.

These are the signs of spring that any man can appreciate. They speak for themselves. Viewed thus, I am as sensitive to the first call for spring as any of my fellows. I like to sit in my club with my fellow members of like mind and watch its coming and herald its approach.

But for the kind of spring that needs a whole text book of biology to interpret it, I have neither use nor sympathy.