nothing annoys them more”

That was one of the first ‘sayings’ in a little chap book I purchased, I think it was in the souvenir shop at the home of Stephen Leacock.

It was many years ago, on one of our many family outings.

He used to have an estate up in Orillia and they’ve turned it into a museum of sorts.

It’s neat to see where he lived. He was such a disciplined writer. I think maybe he didn’t take his success as a writer for granted.

Whenever I think of that little chap book, I seem to associate it with his well-manicured lawns, a gravel drive and shrubs near the house.

The lawns sloped down towards the lake.

I’ve read a number of his stories. I remember the first one, was as a kid. The teacher was reading it to us and cracking up in the process though, at the time, I couldn’t figure out what was so funny.

The story was a mock pirate adventure, where the buccaneers swooped across the bow brandishing banana peels.

Later on, the captain told the first mate or someone, that the ship was sinking at a rate of one quarter inch per week and they had to abandon ship. So the two of them end up on a raft floating upon the ocean.

Things got desperate so they drew lots as to who would eat whom. It was all done in a very civilised manner. There was a picture in the book of a man in ragged captain’s clothing (or was it first mate’s clothing?) sucking on a long bone (it looked like a femur).

I can laugh at it now, as an adult, but the humour was lost on me as a kid.

It was the same with another story the teacher read us, The Sinking of the Mariposa Belle.

I think Stephen Leacock and Mark Twain were contemporaries.

There’s a similar bent to their type of humour. A dry wit an irony that, as an adult, I can really appreciate.

It’s the same kind of humour that Twain used when he wrote his book Puddinhead Wilson. The way Puddinhead got his name was when he first got to town there was an annoying dog doing something annoying and Mr. Wilson said something like, “If I owned half that dog, I’d shoot it.” The townsfolk thought that was the most idiotic thing to say. Who’d ever own half a dog? So they took to calling him Puddinhead because only a ‘pudding-head’ would say such a stupid thing.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard scholars talk much about Puddinhead Wilson. It’s definitely one of Twain’s least known books. Everybody raves about Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.

I made the mistake of reading Huckleberry Finn first. It was so exceptional that it spoiled me for Tom Sawyer. Tom wasn’t nearly as interesting as Huck! And yet several scenes in Huckleberry Finn also hearken back to that dry sort of humour.

When Huck deals with the King and the Duke, and when Tom wants to make Jim’s conditions in the prison cabin worse, are all pretty funny, now that I think of it. But when I read it as a child the humour was lost on me.

Come to think of it, I may have emulated Leacock and Twain’s style when I wrote my book, Silly Chicken. Hey, if you’re going to copy, copy from the best!

I made up a little quotation myself. I’m not sure if it’s as witty as “Forgive your enemies, there’s nothing that annoys them more.” But I think it’s pretty apt.

My saying is: “Always give your best advice. Your friends will appreciate it, and if they hate you enough, your enemies won’t take it.”

At least that’s been my experience with my enemies.

Plus, by always giving my best advice, my conscience is clear.