Tuesday, 20 February 2001

Saki: Reginald (1904)

Edition: Penguin, 1982
Review number: 759

Monro's first collection of short stories is itself extremely short; twenty or so in under forty pages in this edition. Most of them are not really stories, but little anecdotes, providing context for a witty remark from effete, advanced and cynical Reginald. These include what is probably Saki's most famous phrase: "She was a good cook, as cooks go, and as cooks go, she went."

The purpose of these vignettes is to satirise society. This is done as much through the character of Reginald as it is through what he says and does. He is a product of high society, and yet something of an outsider in that he does not take it seriously. Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward are the kind of figures that Reginald brings to mind; Wilde was clearly an influence on Saki, and Coward, who wrote the introduction to this collected edition of his work, was an admirer.

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