‘Scandal is merely the compassionate allowance which the gay make to the humdrum.’
View the world of Edwardian society through the jaundiced eyes of Clovis Sangrail and Reginald, Saki's deliciously louche anti-heroes.
Richard Crowest brings these darkly witty stories to life in a series of free, professionally produced readings, available exclusively from Corvidae.
The series began in July 2007, and new stories are added regularly. You can download or listen to individual stories on this page, or subscribe to the podcasts using the links below.
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"I usually listen to speaking books as I drop off to sleep in bed... I've had to stop that habit with the Clovis, though. I don't go to sleep because I keep startling myself awake by guffawing into the pillows. Top stuff!" Alex Rieneck
"Beautifully read. Wonderfully acted." Bruce Dow
A Century of Saki, Leicester Square Theatre, Monday 14 November 2016, 7pm
On the centenary of his death in the trenches of the Somme, an evening of Saki’s best stories, read live by Richard Crowest
Box office: tel 020 7734 2222 | Book tickets
Press release (PDF)
- Foreword - Hector Hugh Munro – “I have always looked forward to the romance of a European war…” A portrait of Saki, his beliefs and his attitude to World War I, by his friend Rothay Reynolds.
- The Toys of Peace – “Once back at the Louvre and the girls are mine!”
- Louise – “If you say things like that, quite loud, in a Tube lift, they always sound like epigrams.”
- Tea – “If one’s soul was really enslaved at one’s mistress’s feet how could one talk coherently about weakened tea?”
- The Disappearance of Crispina Umberleigh – “He got a message one day telling him that his wife had been kidnapped and smuggled out of the country.”
- The Wolves of Cernogratz – “When one has nothing left to one but memories, one guards and dusts them with especial care.”
- Louis – “… all that Lena will find when she comes home late in the afternoon will be a placidly defunct Louis.”
- The Guests – “… any one will admit that it was an embarrassing predicament to have your only available guest-room occupied by a leopard…”
- The Penance – “Beast!”
- The Phantom Luncheon – “Are you going to start with caviare? I am!”
- A Bread and Butter Miss – “Bread and Butter wins! Good old Bread and Butter.”
- Bertie‘s Christmas Eve – “In the course of half an hour or so everything that it was permissible to say about Bertie had been said some dozens of times.”
- Forewarned – “Never, in any novel that she had read, had a defenceless young woman been confronted with a situation like this.”
- The Interlopers – “A man stood one winter night watching and listening, as though he waited for some beast of the woods to come within range of his vision, and, later, of his rifle.”
- Quail Seed – “‘We might be living in the Arabian Nights,’ said Miss Fritten, excitedly.”
- Canossa – “‘And may the Lord have mercy on the poll…’”
- The Threat – “‘In the process of recapture the birds learned a quantity of additional language which unfitted them for further service in the Suffragette cause.’”
- Excepting Mrs. Pentherby – “‘The hand that rocks the cradle rocks the world, in a volcanic sense.’”
- Mark – “‘A friend of mine said only the other day that he would as soon think of going into the tropics without quinine as of going on a visit without a couple of Mark Mellowkents in his kit-bag.’”
- The Hedgehog – “‘I sometimes think these garden-parties are a mistake.’”
- The Mappined Life – “‘We are just so many animals stuck down on a Mappin terrace…’”
- Fate – “There are occasions when one must take one’s Fate in one’s hands. Rex took the lamp in his.”
- The Bull – “Now, the man of pigments was going to be shown a real picture, a living model of strength and comeliness.”
Released on 14 November 2016, the centenary of Saki’s death on the Somme.
- Reginald in Russia – “I always refused to learn Russian geography at school,” observed Reginald; “I was certain some of the names must be wrong.”
- The Reticence of Lady Anne – “As a rule Lady Anne’s displeasure became articulate and markedly voluble after four minutes of introductory muteness.”
- The Lost Sanjak – “Any one who has valeted a dead Salvation Army captain in an uncertain light will appreciate the difficulty.”
- The Sex That Doesn’t Shop – “Agatha apparently has an idea that blotting-paper is only sold in small quantities to persons of known reputation, who may be trusted not to put it to dangerous or improper uses.”
- The Blood-Feud of Toad-Water – “Thus all communication between the households was sundered. Except the cats.”
- A Young Turkish Catastrophe - in Two Scenes – “Ali had wasted little effort on election literature, but had been heard to remark that every vote given to his opponent meant another sack thrown in the Bosporus.”
- Judkin of the Parcels – “And Judkin was even as these others; the wine had been suddenly spilt from his cup of life…”
- Gabriel-Ernest – ‘“Flesh,” said the boy, and he pronounced the word with slow relish…’
- The Saint and the Goblin – ‘The goblin was too well bred to wink; besides, being a stone goblin, it was out of the question.’
- The Soul of Laploshka – ‘Laploshka was one of the meanest men I have ever met, and quite one of the most entertaining.’
- The Bag – ‘Major Pallaby was a victim of circumstances, over which he had no control, and of his temper, over which he had very little.’
- The Strategist – ‘Rollo faced the company with a smile that he imagined the better sort of aristocrat would have worn when mounting to the guillotine.’
- Cross Currents – ‘To be beyond reproach was one thing, but it would have been nicer to have been nearer to the Park.’
- The Baker’s Dozen – ‘“We can’t wait indefinitely for one of the children to take after a doubtfully depraved great aunt.”’
- The Mouse – ‘… he proceeded with violent haste to extricate himself partially and the mouse entirely from the surrounding casings of tweed and half-wool.’
- Reginald – “I did it - I who should have known better...”
- Reginald on Christmas Presents – “Unlike the alleged Good Woman of the Bible, I’m not above rubies.”
- Reginald on the Academy – “To die before being painted by Sargent is to go to heaven prematurely.”
- Reginald at the Theatre – “That is the worst of a tragedy,” he observed, “one can’t always hear oneself talk.”
- Reginald's Peace Poem – “I'm afraid I shall have to drop the aasvogel.”
- Reginald's Choir Treat – “The most virtuous women are not proof against damp grass.”
- Reginald on Worries – “I think she must have been very strictly brought up, she’s so desperately anxious to do the wrong thing correctly.”
- Reginald on House Parties – “There's such a deadly sameness about partridges; when you’ve missed one you’ve missed the lot...”
- Reginald at the Carlton – “The Duchess ate an anchovy in a shocked manner...”
- Reginald on Besetting Sins: The Woman Who Told the Truth – “The cook was a good cook, as cooks go; and as cooks go she went.”
- Reginald’s Drama – “Wolves in the first act, by Jamrach.”
- Reginald on Tariffs – “Mrs. Nicorax says I have no delicacy; she hasn’t forgiven me about the mice.”
- Reginald’s Christmas Revel – “I privately wished that the bears would win sometimes on these occasions; at least they wouldn’t go vapouring about it afterwards.”
- Reginald’s Rubaiyat – “She said it wasn’t Persian enough, as though I were trying to sell her a kitten whose mother had married for love rather than pedigree.”
- The Innocence of Reginald – “Youth,” said the Other, “should suggest innocence.” “But never act on the suggestion.”
Photograph by Tony Meech
- The She-Wolf – White Fang meets White Mischief...
- Laura – Petty vindictiveness is stronger than death.
- The Boar-Pig – In which Mrs Stossen attends a party, and Matilda makes a killing.
- The Brogue – In which the Mullets lose a horse and gain a son-in-law.
- The Hen – In which Mrs Sangrail commits a social faux-pas and Clovis performs a miracle.
- The Open Window – In which the restfulness of romance is greatly over-estimated.
- The Treasure Ship – In which the Duchess of Dulverton discovers that gold diggers make poor treasure seekers.
- The Cobweb – For Hallowe’en, an atmospheric tale of death foretold.
- The Lull – There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to... sleepless nights.
- The Unkindest Blow – In which the aristocracy learns a trick or two from the working masses.
- The Romancers – In which a scrounger is treated to a story that beggars belief.
- The Schartz-Metterklume Method – In which the children get an education the parents will never forget.
- The Seventh Pullet – One should always have something sensational to say in the train.
- The Blind Spot – "Clear soup is a more important factor in life than a clear conscience."
- Dusk – All washed up? Perhaps a cake of soap might help.
- A Touch of Realism – In which Lady Blonze learns to be careful what she wishes for.
- Cousin Teresa – Blame it on the Borzoi.
- The Yarkand Manner – “No one is a hero to one's own office-boy”.
- The Byzantine Omelette – A socialist socialite discovers that you can‘t make an omelette without breaking a strike.
- The Feast of Nemesis – In which Clovis puts the case for a season of ill will.
- The Dreamer – If department stores are temples of commerce, it's always respectful to cover your head.
- The Quince Tree – ‘I think to have a quince tree and not to make quince jam shows such strength of character.’
- The Forbidden Buzzards – or… Clovis and the Art of Defensive Matchmaking.
- The Stake – You can always bet on a good meal at Mrs Attray’s. Or at least, you could...
- Clovis on Parental Responsibilities – “Her view of life seems to be a non-stop run with an inexhaustible supply of petrol...”
- A Holiday Task - One’s memory often plays tricks. Sometimes on other people…
- The Stalled Ox - Art exists in seeing the unexpected in the everyday: an ox in a morning room, for instance…
- The Story-teller - A stranger on a train spins a good yarn. Horribly good…
- A Defensive Diamond - Beauty is truth, and truth is optional.
- The Elk - Bertie might rescue Dora from the elk, but who can rescue Bertie from his grandmother?
- Down Pens - Thanks… but no thanks.
- The Name Day - “In a railway accident, things become very dear…”
- The Lumber Room - In which Nicholas meets the Evil One, and his “aunt” becomes acquainted with the rainwater tank.
- Fur - Present. Tense.
- The Philanthropist and the Happy Cat - In which charity begins at home, and ends in a tea shop.
- On Approval - In which an artist's reputation rests upon what he eats.
Beasts and Super-Beasts artwork by Liz Dixon
- Esmé – Clovis lends a grudging ear as the Baroness relates a hunting story with a difference.
- The Match-Maker – Clovis finds ultimate spiritual fulfilment in the unselfishness of an oyster, and announces his plans for his Mother's third marriage.
- Tobermory - If you can talk to the animals - and they can talk to you - it's time to reach for the strychnine.
- Mrs Packletide's Tiger – Envy, envy, burning bright...
- The Stampeding of Lady Bastable - Clovis finds a revolutionary way of avoiding an unpleasant stay at the Bastables' country seat.
- The Background - Beauty may be only skin deep, but what about art?
- Hermann the Irascible - A Story of the Great Weep - An alternative history of the Suffragette movement, where the cat-and-mouse act is replaced by the cat-and-cream act...
- The Unrest-Cure* - When Clovis overhears a railway passenger lamenting his humdrum life, he wates no time in devising a remedial program - or should that be pogrom?
- The Jesting of Arlington Stringham - The quest for domestic harmony is no joking matter...
- Sredni Vashtar - Saki's darkest tale, a stark warning to all domineering guardians not to go ferreting around where they're not wanted...
- Adrian - A Chapter in Acclimatization - ‘One can discourage too much history in one's family, but one cannot always prevent geography.’
- The Chaplet - If music be the food of hatred...
- The Quest - Clovis braves hysterical parents and Christian Scientists in his search for hollandaise.
- Wratislav - Baa baa black sheep - have you any conscience?
- The Easter Egg - A seemingly innocent story with a bleak and bitter twist in the tail - one with startling pre-echoes of an event that would lead ultimately to Saki's own death, along with millions upon millions of others. Perhaps its real tragedy, though, lies in the way it highlights how little has changed in the last century.
- Filboid Studge - The Story of a Mouse that Helped - Credit Crunch for breakfast, anyone?
- The Music on the Hill - Beware of horned beasts in autumn time.
- The Story of St Vespaluus - Honey for the Prince?
- The Way to the Diary - in which the Brimley Bomefields find an aunt - and lose a fortune.
- The Peace Offering - in which the Baroness plans an entertainment, and Cassandra foretells disaster - with a little help from Clovis.
- The Peace of Mowsle Barton - The peace and quiet of the countryside is like a duck pond - calm and tranquil on the surface, but with secrets hidden in its murky depths...
- The Talking-Out of Tarrington - in which Clovis covers his aunt’s escape with a peach of a story.
- The Hounds of Fate They're in the trees. They're coming.
- The Recessional - in which Clovis pens an ode and Mrs Packletide finally bests Loona Bimberton.
- A Matter of Sentiment - "Lady Susan disapproved of racing. She disapproved of many things; some people went as far as to say that she disapproved of most things."
- The Secret Sin of Septimus Brope - What dark impulses lurk in the breast of the editor of the Cathedral Monthly?
- Ministers of Grace - The Duke of Scaw is on the side of the angels - but whose side are the angels on?
- The Remoulding of Groby Lington - A man is known by the company he keeps.
* A note about The Unrest-Cure
Some have suggested that the subject matter of The Unrest Cure indicates that Munro was anti-Semitic. I would strongly argue exactly the opposite. The whole point of the story is that Clovis’s fictional pogrom is an affront to the moral values of any reasonable human being. It is Huddle's horrified reaction to “Prince Stanislaus”’s news that should guide our view of what Munro saw as the accepted order of the world. The fact that Huddle asks “Do you mean to tell me there's a general rising against them?” sadly shows that there was an undercurrent of anti-Semitism in British society at the time, but the plot of The Unrest Cure depends entirely on Huddle - and the reader - finding such an idea utterly reprehensible. It is a hideous irony that the twentieth century was later to be blotted in a way far more horrific than even Clovis could have imagined, but the gruesome idea at the heart of this tale does not mean that Munro, or those who continue to enjoy his stories, share any of the views of Clovis’s monstrous imaginary bishop.
The Ghost Stories of E F Benson - a rather different style of story from another great 20th-century social satirist.