Quotes by Saki

Saki Biography

Saki 1870-1916

Using ‘Saki’ as a pseudonym, Hector Hugh Munro was a British writer and journalist whose flippantly witty, mischievous and sometimes macabre stories satirized Edwardian society’s social pretentions, cruelty and stupidity.

Besides his short stories, which were first featured in newspapers before being collected into published volumes, he wrote a full-length play and numerous novels, many of them fantasising about historical possibilities such as the German invasion of the UK.

Hector Hugh Munro was born on 18 December 1870 to Charles and Mary Munro, in Akyab, British Burma, which was then still part of the British Raj, and was governed from Calcutta under the authority of the Viceroy of India. His father was an Inspector General for the Indian Imperial Police.

In 1872, after the death of Munro’s mother, Charles Munro sent his children, Ethel and the two-year-old Hector, home to England, to be raised by their grandmother and paternal maiden aunts, Charlotte and Augusta, in a strict and puritanical household in Pilton, a village near Barnstaple in Devon.
At the age of 12 the young Hector Munro was educated at Pencarwick School in Exmouth and then as a boarder at Bedford School.

In 1887, after his retirement, his father returned from Burma, and embarked upon a series of European travels with Hector and his sister.

When he was 23, Hector followed his father into the Indian Imperial Police and was posted to Burma, but successive bouts of fever meant his return home after only fifteen months.

In 1896, he decided to move to London to make a living as a writer.

Munro started his writing career as a journalist for newspapers such as the ‘Westminster Gazette’, the ‘Daily Express’, the ‘Morning Post’, and magazines such as the ‘Bystander’ and ‘Outlook’.

His first book ‘The Rise of the Russian Empire’, a serious historical study modelled upon Edward Gibbon’s ‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’, appeared in 1900, under his real name, but proved to be something of a false start.

He also tried short story writing and then moved into the world of political satire in 1900 with a collaboration with Francis Gould who produced the sketches and Munro wrote the text accompanying them, using the pen-name ‘Saki’ for the first time. The series, ‘Alice in Westminster’, lampooned political figures of the day and was published in the Liberal ‘Westminster Gazette’.

In 1902 he moved to the Tory party supporting ‘Morning Post’, to work as a foreign correspondent and was sent to the Balkans and then to Russia, where he witnessed to the 1905 revolution in St Petersburg. He then went on to Paris, before returning to London in 1908. Meanwhile he had become a well known writer with an established income. His compilation of stories which had appeared in the ‘Westminster Gazette’, ‘Reginald’, had been published in 1904 and he was kept busy writing sketches for the ‘Morning Post’ and the ‘Bystander’. Further stories followed – ‘Reginald in Russia ‘, ‘The Chronicles of Clovis’ , and ‘Beasts and Super-Beasts’ in 1914, along with many other short stories which appeared in newspapers. He also produced two novels, ‘The Unbearable Bassington’ and ‘When William Came’. His stories are written in a cynical style studded with epigrams and with well-contrived plots, often turning on practical jokes or surprise endings. In some stories he predates Roald Dahl in the darkly sinister plots and the final denouement of revenge for his heroes.

At the start of the First World War Munro was 43 and officially over-age to enlist, but he refused a commission and joined the 2nd King Edward’s Horse as an ordinary trooper. He later transferred to the 22nd Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, in which he rose to the rank of lance sergeant. More than once he returned to the battlefield when officially still too sick or injured. In November 1916 he was sheltering in a shell crater near Beaumont-Hamel, France, during the Battle of the Ancre, when he was killed by a German sniper. Munro has no known grave.

Much of Saki’s work contrasts the conventions and hypocrisies of Edwardian England with the ruthless, but straightforward life-and-death struggles of nature.

  • He is one of those people who would be enormously improved by death.


    Cynicism, Death

  • In bygone days we had local wars always at our doors as it were; if one wanted a life of boot and saddle and licence to kill and be killed, those who wish to see life had a decent opportunity for seeing death at the same time.


    Adventure, Soldiers, War

  • Every bullet finds a billet.


    Death, Guns, War

  • What is everybody's tragedy is nobody's tragedy.


    Society, Tragedy

  • Under a despotic sway, people are as submissive as molluscs involved in a glacial epoch.


    Despotism, Dictators, Submission

  • Some of the wealthiest people have curiously cramped views on the subject of gifts.When people grow gradually rich, their requirements and standard of living expand in proportion, while their present giving instincts often remain in the undeveloped condition of their earlier days.


    gifts, Parsimony, Wealth

  • When one is confronted with a problem like letting someone know what you would like for a present, all one's ideas vanish, one doesn't seem to have a desire in the world.


    Generosity, gifts, Indecision

  • Her senses leaped into alertness like those of a terrier suddenly exchanging a bored drowsiness for the lively anticipation of an immediate rat hunt.


    Anticipation, Excitement, Stimulation

  • When one is sixteen one talks of things being impossible which are merely uncongenial.


    Opinion, Society, Youth

  • How little the loss of one's self-respect affects one when one has gained the esteem of the world.


    Fame, Self-Esteem, Self-respect

  • He was one of those human hors d'oeuvres that stimulate the public appetite for sensation without giving it much to feed on.


    Character

  • He was hedged around with the cold brutality genius expects rather than excuses in her children; he never forgave and those who served him careful that there should be little to forgive.


    Arrogance, Character, Genius

  • A husband who adds a roving dismissed disposition to a settled income is a mixed blessing. It is one thing to go to the end of the world, but it is quite another thing to make oneself at home there.


    Adventure, Home, Travel

  • Hors d'oeuvres always remind me of one's childhood, wondering what the next course is going to be like – and during the rest of the menu wishing one had eaten more of the hors d'oeuvres.


    Childhood, Food

  • Womanly intuition stops short at claret.


    Taste, Wine

  • I think she must be very strictly brought up, she so desperately anxious to do the wrong thing correctly.


    Manners, Society

  • Her frocks are built in Paris but she wears them with a strong English accent.


    Fashion, Style

  • The reason one's elders know comparatively little is because they have to learn so much that they acquired by way of education before we were born.


    Education, Knowledge, Learning

  • No German can see a plat brought in for someone else without being possessed of a great fear that it represents a more toothsome morsel or better money’s worth than what he has ordered for himself.


    Envy, Food, Germany, Restaurants

  • He was described after their marriage is one of life’s natural bachelors.


    Bachelors, Marriage

  • If you frequent the more expensive hotels of Europe, you must be prepared to find in whatever country you may chance to be staying, a depressingly international likeness between them all


    Holidays, Hotels, Sameness, Travel