The author admits that he ought to know better
October 19, 2014 1:03 PM   Subscribe

Nonsense Novels by Stephen Leacock. Hat tip to Kate Beaton's tumblr, where Nonsense Novels is also available as a pdf download from the NYRB, with an introduction by Daniel Handler.

Containing such thrilling tales as

Maddened by Mystery: or, The Defective Detective
"Sir," said the young man in intense excitement, "a mystery has been committed!"

"Ha!" said the Great Detective, his eye kindling, "is it such as to completely baffle the police of the entire continent?"

"They are so completely baffled with it," said the secretary, "that they are lying collapsed in heaps; many of them have committed suicide."



"Q." A Psychic Pstory of the Psupernatural
"What I mean is," said Annerly, "do you believe in phantasms of the dead?"

"Phantasms?" I repeated.

"Yes, phantasms, or if you prefer the word, phanograms, or say if you will phanogrammatical manifestations, or more simply psychophantasmal phenomena?"



Guido the Gimlet of Ghent: A Romance of Chivalry
IT was in the flood-tide of chivalry. Knighthood was in the pod.

The sun was slowly setting in the east, rising and falling occasionally as it subsided, and illuminating with its dying beams the towers of the grim castle of Buggensberg.



Gertrude the Governess: or, Simple Seventeen
When Gertrude was seventeen her aunt had died of hydrophobia.

The circumstances were mysterious. There had called upon her that day a strange bearded man in the costume of the Russians. After he had left, Gertrude had found her aunt in a syncope from which she passed into an apostrophe and never recovered.

To avoid scandal it was called hydrophobia. Gertrude was thus thrown upon the world. What to do? That was the problem that confronted her.



A Hero in Homespun: or, The Life Struggle of Hezekiah Hayloft
Next he applied for a job as a telegrapher. His mere ignorance of telegraphy was made the ground of refusal.


Sorrows of a Super Soul: or, The Memoirs of Marie Mushenough (Translated, by Machinery, out of the Original Russian.)
As he passed I leaned from the window and threw a rosebud at him.

But he did not see it.

Then I threw a cake of soap and a toothbrush at him. But I missed him, and he passed on.



Hannah of the Highlands: or, The Laird of Loch Aucherlocherty
At least once in every generation a McWhinus or a McShamus had been shot, and always at the turn of the Glen road where it rose to the edge of the cliff. Finally, two generations gone, the McWhinuses had been raised to sudden wealth by the discovery of a coal mine on their land. To show their contempt for the McShamuses they had left the Glen to live in America. The McShamuses, to show their contempt for the McWhinuses, had remained in the Glen. The feud was kept alive in their memory.


Soaked in Seaweed: or, Upset in the Ocean (An Old-fashioned Sea Story.)
Captain Bilge, with a megaphone to his lips, kept calling out to the men in his rough sailor fashion:

"Now, then, don't over-exert yourselves, gentlemen. Remember, please, that we have plenty of time. Keep out of the sun as much as you can. Step carefully in the rigging there, Jones; I fear it's just a little high for you. Tut, tut, Williams, don't get yourself so dirty with that tar, you won't look fit to be seen."



Caroline's Christmas: or, The Inexplicable Infant
John Enderby showed all the passion of an uncontrolled nature. At times he would reach out for the crock of buttermilk that stood beside him and drained a draught of the maddening liquid, till his brain glowed like the coals of the tamarack fire before him.

"John," pleaded Anna, "leave alone the buttermilk. It only maddens you. No good ever came of that."

"Aye, lass," said the farmer, with a bitter laugh, as he buried his head again in the crock, "what care I if it maddens me."


The Man in Asbestos: An Allegory of the Future
It seemed unfair that other writers should be able at will to drop into a sleep of four or five hundred years, and to plunge head-first into a distant future and be a witness of its marvels.
posted by Hypatia (10 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Stephen Leacock Museum
Leacock on Wikipedia

"In the early part of the 20th century he was the most widely read English-speaking author in the world."

The Leacock Memorial Medal for Canadian humour writing.
posted by chavenet at 1:29 PM on October 19, 2014


Stephen Leacock was one of Groucho Marx's favorite authors. It's hard to get a better endorsement than that. One of my favorites, from "Frenzied Fiction," is "My Revelations As a Spy".

"Us Spies or We Spies--for we call ourselves both--are thus a race apart. None know us. All fear us. Where do we live? Nowhere. Where are we? Everywhere. Frequently we don't know ourselves where we are. The secret orders that we receive come from so high up that it is often forbidden to us even to ask where we are. A friend of mine, or at least a Fellow Spy--us Spies have no friends --one of the most brilliant men in the Hungarian Secret Service, once spent a month in New York under the impression that he was in Winnipeg. If this happened to the most brilliant, think of the others."
posted by Longtime Listener at 2:29 PM on October 19, 2014


I love Nonsense Novels. The sheer density of wit is astonishing for 1911; you don't really see its like again until the Marx Brothers peaked.
posted by Iridic at 2:33 PM on October 19, 2014


1911????!!!!!! Holy moly. This is so good.

Again Hezekiah moved on. In a few moments he met a man whose tall black hat, black waistcoat and white tie proclaimed him a clergyman.

"Good sir," said Hezekiah, "can you tell me——"

The clergyman pounced upon him with a growl of a hyena, and bit a piece out of his ear. Yes, he did, reader. Just imagine a clergyman biting a boy in open daylight! Yet that happens in New York every minute.


100lols
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:12 PM on October 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


Don't forget what is probably his most famous line, quoted by Theodore Roosevelt among others, from Gertrude The Governess, "Lord Ronald said nothing; he flung himself from the room, flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions."
posted by dannyboybell at 4:15 PM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh I love Stephen Leacock. My favourite is the one about the Going Concern fundraising scheme to replace the church roof (which the vicar lit on fire, when in a drunken despairing state realising he would never escape the town).

The sunshine sketches were dramatised for TV and are on CBC TV here.
posted by chapps at 4:54 PM on October 19, 2014


John Enderby showed all the passion of an uncontrolled nature. At times he would reach out for the crock of buttermilk that stood beside him and drained a draught of the maddening liquid, till his brain glowed like the coals of the tamarack fire before him.

"John," pleaded Anna, "leave alone the buttermilk. It only maddens you. No good ever came of that."

"Aye, lass," said the farmer, with a bitter laugh, as he buried his head again in the crock, "what care I if it maddens me."


This is just brilliant.
posted by clockzero at 5:07 PM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just Kindled the heck out of Leacock, for the low low price of nothing. Thanks!
posted by uosuaq at 7:32 PM on October 19, 2014


Brilliant. How have I never heard of him?
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:23 PM on October 19, 2014


Q. got serialized in the paperbacks of A Series of Unfortunate Events and they fit so well. It was not explicitly stated to be a parody; its purpose was clearly to make smart kids go, 'hang on a fucking second'.
posted by BiggerJ at 11:48 PM on October 19, 2014


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