“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.

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