Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 369
Reginald was Saki’s third book and, like The Westminster Alice, was a collection of the author’s satiric newspaper pieces. With Reginald, Saki greatly broadened the scope of his commentary on the social world of Edwardian Britain.
In many of the short sketches, Reginald and the anonymous narrator attend various social and cultural events, such as the theater, the Royal Academy of Art, or a garden party, and Reginald makes satirical comments to the narrator. In the style of Oscar Wilde and Max Beerbohm, most of his remarks are epigrammatic and often are quite biting.
In addition to social institutions, Munro also targeted for send-ups such topics as the empire, the fiscal question, the Boer War, religion, and peace poems. A good number of these topics are rather obscure to the modern reader, but Reginald’s commentary is still fresh because it pokes fun at such human traits as vanity, snobbishness, and hypocrisy.
“Reginald Goes to the Academy” provides an excellent example of how the stories work. In it, Reginald goes to the Royal Academy of Art, and he comments on various patrons and paintings. People at art museums look at the pictures, Reginald remarks, only when they have run out of conversation or if they want to avoid acquaintances. Noting that the Royal Academy is slow to admit painters, Reginald muses that one can see them arriving for years like “a Balkan trouble or a street improvement.” On the large size of so many academic paintings, he says, “by the time they have painted a thousand or so square yards of canvas, their work begins to be recognized.” Reginald also philosophizes about life: “To be clever in the afternoon argues that one is dining nowhere in the evening,” and “I hate posterity—it’s so fond of having the last word.”
These small sketches reveal Saki’s penchant for the amusing aside as well as the cutting remark. The pieces are delicate and rely heavily on literary style for their effect, which makes them difficult to paraphrase or summarize. Such clever ephemera, however, established Saki’s reputation for wit and insight and made him a model for later twentieth century satirical writers, such as Waugh and Wodehouse.
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