By Hector Hugh Munro.
Published by Wordsworth Classics, this is a collection of 135 short stories by Munro, omitting only one (The East Wing) which was found in 1946. The stories really are short, being about three or four pages in length on average and dangerously more-ish so that it’s not hard to glut yourself on them, and find that such excess leads to a loss of appetite. I ended up reading one or two before going to bed or I might still have been reading the book on and off for months to come.
Munro populated his stories, which typically mock Victorian and Edwardian society, with a cast of oddly named characters such as Arlington Stringham, Mrs Packletide, and Blanche Boveal. The only constant throughout many of these tales is Clovis Sangrail, either in a starring role or in a cameo. The stories often centre around social gatherings which seldom seem complete without the presence of an aunt or at least a duchess or an aunt who’s also a duchess or a duchess who’s someone’s aunt.
Probably the most noticeable theme from a 21st century perspective is Munro’s anti-feminist sentiments. At least two stories (Hermann the Irascible – The Story of the Great Weep and The Gala Programme) are specifically mocking the Suffragette movement to which there are other incidental references scattered throughout several stories. Possibly Munro’s antipathy towards the movement has something to do with his upbringing by two dreadful aunts just as Sredni Vastar is the sort of story I could imagine writing in the absence of palpable revenge under similar circumstances.
I wouldn’t be surprised if others who have read Munro’s stories have wished that they could write as well with such apparent ease.
If I could’ve chosen how I’d read these stories, I would’ve asked for them to be delivered about half a dozen at a time each month for a couple of years. Together in a single volume, Munro’s stories can be a bit overwhelming because of their deceptive brevity.