12-18-1870

Saki aka H.H. Munro

On this date the British writer SAKI was born (d. 1916). Born Hector Hugh Monro, his witty and sometimes macabre stories satirized Edwardian society and culture. He is considered a master of the short story and is often compared to O. Henry and Dorothy Parker. His tales feature delicately drawn characters and finely judged narratives. “The Open Window” may be his most famous, with a closing line (“Romance at short notice was her speciality”) that has entered the lexicon.

His short stories are extraordinarily compact and cameo-like, wicked and witty, with cruelty and a powerful vein of supernatural fantasy. They deal, in general, with the same group of upper-class Britishers, whose frivolous lives are sometimes complicated by animals – the talking cat who reveals their treacheries in love, the pet ferret that is evil incarnate. A devotee of London’s Jermyn Street baths, it is reported, now that it has been revealed that Hector Hugh Monroe was Gay, his stories are being re-read as allegories of the torment of remaining bottled up in hypocritical English society. The stories are even more entertaining with this new knowledge. The nom de plume, “Saki” was borrowed from the cup bearer in The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

He never married. A J Langguth, in his biography, produces strong evidence to support the hypothesis that Munro was homosexual. Munro was guarded except in one or two of his stories and most of his readers would probably have been shocked had they known that his pen name refers to a cup bearer or beautiful boy and carries esoteric homoerotic connotations.