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Stephen Leacock

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1989. 211pp, paper, $5.95
ISBN 0-7710-9966-5. (New Canadian Library series). CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by Jo Anna Burns Patton.

Volume 17 Number 5
1989 September

Leacock's Arcadian Adventures, reprinted in 1989, is a collection of eight humorous stories poking fun at the "idle rich." All stories revolve around the inhabitants of the Mausoleum Club on Plutoria Avenue, the "best residential street in the city." A typical club of the 1900s, men would meet for lunch, make deals, sell stocks, trade merger stories, drink whisky and soda, comment on one's latest acquisition, and discuss local gossip. Women were welcome, by invitation only. The characters Leacock created are familiar to many of us, and reappear in many of the stories creating a sense of continuity. As an example of the characterization, in the first story, "A Little Dinner with Mr. Lucullus Fysche," Mr. Fysche, president of several companies and director of a savings company, is preparing to have lunch with a visiting Duke, whom he plans to approach for money. What he is told, in the nick of time, is that the visiting Duke is almost penniless. What one is treated to then is a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour as both men prepare for the same thing. Perhaps my favourite character was Mr. Peter Spillikins, who, for awhile, attended Plutoria University. Mr. Spillikins, though not a "good" student, was a "wonderful person who only saw "wonderful" things. He described his physics class as a "wonderful study" in which he got five per cent, "but by jove! I had to work for it."

In reviewing this book, two main issues occurred to me: 1. What could I say about this book (or Leacock's writing) which had not already been said? Nothing. 2. How appropriate would this book be for today's high school student? Not as easy to answer. In terms of looking at Leacock's writing, according to the critics, Sunshine Sketches might be a better example-Leacock's humour is more witty and less bitter. Although there are some humorous descriptions in Arcadian Adventures, there are also some disturbing ones, for example, Mr. Newberry commenting to Mr. Spillikins about using dynamite on a new road. Unfortunately he blew up two Italian workers and with no remorse simply says, "Hardy fellows, the Italians." However as a study of the era, this title could be useful for discussion.

This particular edition has a one-page biography on Leacock and an afterword by Gerald Lynch, who offers an educational critique of the Arcadian Adventures. For the sake of maintain­ing a Canadian literature collection, this is a useful addition but by no means Leacock's best work.

Jo Anna Burns Patton, Miss Edgar's & Miss Cramp's School for Girls, Westmount, Que.
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