Stephen Leacock Re-Tour Strikes Owen Sound

by Paul Conway, Voyageur Storytelling
Friday, October 6th, 2017
Stephen Leacock’s narrators are frequently being struck. “It struck me with a thrill of indescribable terror that Annerly had seen Q.” “Then it suddenly struck me that of the figures on the street, all had looked alike.” Not to mention more physical kinds of striking, as by sausages, bananas, lightning, etc.
If the audiences at our two events in Owen Sound yesterday were struck by anything except the brilliance and funny of the man, they gave no evidence. They laughed and clapped and joined in the singing and generally carried on in a most gratifying way. We were struck again, as we often have been, by what extraordinarily nice people come to our performances.
Not that everything went entirely smoothly. We were putting on a pair of firsts, both designed for our impending (a Leacock word) Re-Tour of western Canada. The whole idea began when we were struck by the coincidence (as Leacock’s characters often are) that 2017 is exactly the 81st anniversary of Stephen Leacock’s only visit to western Canada. He had reached the age of 67 in a long and brilliant speaking career without venturing west of the Lakehead.
The fact that this year also celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation, not to mention the 147th of Manitoba’s entry thereinto, the 146th of British Columbia’s, and the 112th of Saskatchewan’s and Alberta’s, made for a whole series of numerological coincidences, too striking to ignore.
In the afternoon we held a “Talk-and-Tell” where we unrolled for the first time our hypothesis about Stephen Leacock’s General Theory of Unsolved Riddles. It permeates his writing from his 1903 Ph.D. thesis on The Doctrine of Laissez-Faire, which launched his career as a political economist, through several striking books both academic and humorous, until it leaped into full view in The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice in 1920. Our participants seemed struck by the ingenuity and plausibility of the hypothesis.
Then in the evening we performed, for the first time, our new storytelling concert, called “A Field of Mariposies”. A “mariposie”, in our vernacular, is a story (or song, or poem) by or about Stephen Leacock.
Leslie and I were not, if the truth be told, quite as polished as we like to be, and as we trust we will be when the Re-Tour actually launches on October 20th, in Orillia. But that didn’t seem to matter to this audience, many of them familiar with our work. “We love it,” said one to Leslie afterwards, “when you two make mistakes.” How striking is that?
We did not expect to find Leacock’s ghost hovering about on this occasion, because as far as we know he never came to Owen Sound—never came closer than Meaford, in May of 1917, on behalf of Belgian Relief.
His spirit was there, however, in the generosity and laughter of the audience, and the quite respectable collection of his books in the Owen Sound and North Grey Union Public Library, all arranged in display by the staff in the entrance-way to the hall.
We were struck by the reality that Stephen Leacock may be largely forgotten in some circles, but not there, not last night.

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