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Volume 37, Number 2 (2012)

Sara Jeannette Duncan and Stephen Leacock: Two Master Satirists of Religion and Politics

September 4, 2013


There is no hard evidence that when he wrote Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912), Stephen Leacock had read Sara Jeannette Duncan’s The Imperialist (1904). In addition to circumstantial factors, however, internal evidence in the form of a tonal resemblance and key plot parallels — a bank robbery and a dominion election — suggests that Leacock had read Duncan. A comparative discussion of the novels throws into sharp relief not only the modulations of Leacock’s and Duncan’s satire, but also how Duncan’s liberal individualism contrasts suggestively with Leacock’s pragmatic conservatism. The striking similarities and engaging differences between the works suggest that the two authors would have had much to say to each other about the forces shaping Canadian life.