By Way of Introduction: The Problem

If you’re a Saki fan, then the chances are you own one of the following:

  1. Wordsworth Classics’ Collected Short StoriesWordsworth Saki Collected Stories Cover
  2. Penguin Popular Classics’ Complete Short StoriesPenguin Saki Complete Stories Cover

The latter is in fact the first part of Penguin’s Complete Saki, shorn of his two novels, the political sketches collected as The Westminster Alice and his plays.

Penguin Complete Saki Cover

This is no longer in print, Penguin perhaps having come to the conclusion that not many people are interested in reading anything other than the short stories. They have dropped the other works to create their ostensibly “new” edition, which in fact just reuses part of what they first typeset back in the 1970s.

And here we come to the nub of the problem.

These editions are no different to the 1945 Viking Press collection in my university library, which is itself a reprinting of a 1930 edition. In fact, every single edition I have looked at is exactly the same, comprising the four collections published during Saki’s lifetime, a posthumous collection (The Toys Of Peace) and a very short later collection (The Square Egg, 30 pages) rounding up what must have been missed the first time. If you believe most publishers, the Saki canon was complete by 1924.

This is not correct. Another couple of short prose pieces were included in Ethel Munro’s 1924 memoir of her brother. Since that time around 12 extra stories have been rediscovered. Six of these were published in A. J. Langguth’s 1981 biography (now out of print); a few more were made available by A Shot in the Dark (Hesperus, 2006). As far as I can make out, no one has ever reprinted ‘John Bull’s Christmas Tree’ (1902).

It’s pretty clear, then, that no edition can truthfully claim completeness. Even those publishers offering omnibus e-book editions seem to have just digitised old print editions.

To continue publishing a “complete” edition that’s not complete seems to me to be verging on an infringement of the Trade Descriptions Act. But how many book-buyers realise they’re being conned?

Although it would be nice to have all of Saki’s stories easily available, that’s not the main aim of this website. Rather, its purpose is to begin to address a second problem, namely, that none of the editions available have any critical apparatus. In particular, no annotated versions exist – this is true even of selections of the stories. Neither the Penguin nor the Wordsworth version provides any introduction, notes or suggestions for further reading. Yet with a social satirist such as Saki, explanatory notes are indispensable for appreciating the stories properly and indeed even for understanding some of the jokes. This becomes abundantly clear if you even have a brief look at the very first page of the first ‘Reginald’ story.

An annotated extract from Saki's story 'Reginald'

This website is going to publish some of the harder-to-obtain texts, properly annotated versions of others, selected excerpts, as well as information on Saki and links to other relevant sources or articles. H. H. Munro died in November 1916, and this project seems a fitting way to mark the upcoming hundredth anniversary.