IT IS hard to think of last leaves or last anything by Stephen Leacock. He is now so much a part of the cultural heritage of North America that he seems at once newest of the new and oldest of the old. America has been laughing with him for decades and is likely to go on laughing for a long time to come. He wrote enough things in his seventyfive full and useful years to leave a residue of undated stuff (one of his favorite words) at the popular reading level, and a lot of Leacock philosophy and common-sense commentary on mankind in general at the thinker’s level.
He was always surprising his readers. They never knew just what to look for next. They were sure only of his wit. For he was not simply a writer of sketches. One of his best books was My Remarkable Uncle; one of the most unex pected, a fine history of the city of Montreal. And now, a year and a half after his death, we have Last Leaves —a surprise in quality. Last literary things frequently prove nothing beyond the fact that they should never have been published in the first place. Not so with these. They all add up to as diversified and delightful a collection as one Leacock follower, at least, has ever laughed himself sick through. Oddly enough, it is also about as good an introduction to the old master as one could wish. There is no odor of finis about it; absolutely nothing of the tired old man. For having read it. you may step less grimly into the atomic age which opened for business last summer
What does it offer? Well, a brief, intimate, and endearing portrait of Mr. Leacock (don’t miss it) by his niece, Barbara Nimmo; somo straight humor in the best tradition on witty women, Izaak Walton, walking (as funny as they come), and automobiles; a number of Leacock social studies, sound, amusing, and relevant; some excellent reflections on Canada, Britain, and the United States; and in particular (and not for the specialist) a brace of discerning and sensible examinations of Lewis Carroll and W. S. Gilbert. If none of all this appeals to you, I shall quote what Uncle Stephen once said to the young hired man on his Canadian farm: “Bring me a piece of ice, a small piece about the size of your brain.”