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Arthur Meighen.


The absent-minded prime minister

Arthur Meighen, Canada's ninth prime minister, was by all accounts a brilliant man. His capacity to recall facts and figures astounded his political colleagues. His skill at parliamentary debate and his ability to destroy opponents with unassailable logic and eloquent argument impressed all who heard him speak in the House of Commons. Meighen was passionate about language and literature. Shakespeare was his favourite author and a tribute he once gave to the greatest English author included 150 lines of quotation, all delivered from memory.

Although Meighen could remember quotes from Hamlet and King Lear, things like umbrellas, overshoes and dinner invitations constantly escaped him. He once arrived in the House of Commons still wearing his bedroom slippers!

Fashion was completely inconsequential to Arthur Meighen. He wore an old green overcoat for so many years that a group of colleagues decided they could look at it no longer. The threadbare garment was stealthily thrown off the train, while Meighen and some fellow M.P.s were travelling to Ottawa. The coat was found by a railway worker and noting Meighen's name on the inside, he returned it to the owner. Unaware that the coat was even missing, Meighen received it with delight and continued to wear it for several more years, much to the bewilderment and dismay of those who had conspired to overthrow the overcoat!

Source: Canada's Prime Ministers, 1867 - 1994: Biographies and Anecdotes. [Ottawa]: National Archives of Canada, [1994]. 40 p.

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