The ‘Reginald’ stories are some of Saki’s most satirical and allusive. Reading them is like listening to thrillingly bitchy conversation, beautifully expressed. But gossip, of course, is always more entertaining when one is in the know. Take this snide comment, for example:
the Beauwhistle aunt is credited with having passed the whole winter in Paris under the impression that the Humberts were a kind of bicycle
(Reginald at the Carlton)
This is clearly meant as a crushing dismissal of the poor woman in question, but what does it actually mean? Who or what were the Humberts, and why might someone mix them up with a bicycle?
Questions such as these were the reason I began researching the background to Saki’s short stories. The long-term plan is to provide them all with explanatory notes, but in the meantime the Favoriten Press has published Saki’s first two published collections Reginald (1904) and Reginald in Russia (1910) as an e-book and a real book. As well as notes on the manifold social, cultural, literary, political and historical references, there is an introduction setting Saki’s work in its historical content, a chronology of his life, and suggestions for further reading.