Saki’s creepy stories revisited

img_0793SAKI was a pen name used by british writer Hector Hugh Munro (1870-1916) and he’s well-known for his short witty stories often depicting the upper-class and satirize the Edwardian society. Most of them come with a twist and slight touch of creepiness. His writing was influenced by Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll and Rudyard Kipling. Hector Hugh Munro was born 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. Saki was the son of Charles Augustus Munro, an Inspector General for the Indian Imperial Police, by his marriage to Mary Frances Mercer (1843–1872), the daughter of Rear Admiral Samuel Mercer. After the death of his mother (killed by a cow…) the Inspector General sent his children to live permanently in England. This was not going to be a happy time since the children was sent to live with their aunts. In the works of Saki there are several stories depicting aunts as evil, amoral individuals and usually they end up as dead.

AT THE AGE OF 43 he decided to join the Army although he was considered too old he was accepted. The First World War had just begun and he would die two years later in The Battle of the Ancre. His final words were: “Put that bloody cigarette out!” He was killed by a German sniper.

GABRIEL-ERNEST is the name of a short story published 1909. I remember as being included in an anthology about ghosts? I was about 10 and thought it was a very scary story! It depicts a teenaged werewolf who abduct and kills a number of children in a sleepy village. It’s also slightly gay-themed as the narrator come face to face with the young beast in the woods a rather incredibly dialogue appears between them. There are a number of great adaptations of Gabriel-Ernest online if you search the podcasts.

  • My favourite adaptation of Saki’s Gabriel-Ernest, from TLS Voices.
  • VARIOUS stories by SAKI published by Project Gutenberg.
  • Interested in Saki’s works? I recommend Delphi Classics on Saki.

Arthur Rackham’s illustrations to Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”

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Ligeia, short story published in 1838

Arthur Rackham (19 September 1867 – 6 September 1939) was an English book illustrator. When I was about 10-12 years I loved to read from Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination. I remember I borrowed it a couple of times from the local library. I cannot say I understood all of his stories at such a young age but I sure loved the dramatic art connected to them. Most of the time I would admire the paintings and read the additional description rather than the entire story. Many of these stories had illustrations made by Arthur Rackham. He made 12 colour illustrations for Poe’s tales in 1935 and several others in black/white.

Rackham was born in Lewisham, Kent and was one of 12 children. He worked as a clerk before getting accepted as a student (18yrs) at The Lambeth School of Art. Arthur Rackham is widely regarded as one of the leading illustrators from the ‘Golden Age’ of British book illustration which roughly encompassed the years from 1890 until the end of the First World War. During that period, there was a strong market for high quality illustrated books which typically were given as Christmas gifts. Many of Rackham’s books were produced in a de luxe limited edition, often vellum bound and sometimes signed, as well as a larger, less ornately bound quarto ‘trade’ edition. This was often followed by a more modestly presented octavo edition in subsequent years for particularly popular books. The onset of the war in 1914 curtailed the market for such quality books, and the public’s taste for fantasy and fairies also declined in the 1920s.

Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) is one of the most wellknown authors in American Literature and was quickly introduced to Europe through people like Charles Baudelaire who appreciated Poes’s writing. Many regard Poe as the father of the detective genre. I like some of his short stories and the poetry.

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The Fall of the House of Usher, first published in September 1839 in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine

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William Wilson, short story published in October 1839.
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The Oval Portrait, first published in April 1842.
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Cask of Amontillado, first published in 1846.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination contains only a small number of stories. Most editions include – “William Wilson” “The Gold Bug” “The Fall of the House of Usher” “The Masque of the Red Death” “The Cask of Amontillado” “A Descent into the Maelström” “The Pit and the Pendulum” “The Purloined Letter” “Metzengerstein” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” “The Tell-Tale Heart”.