“The young have aspirations that never come to pass, the old have reminiscences of what never happened.”
― Saki, ‘Reginald’
― Saki, ‘Reginald’
I don’t recall GB introducing me to many authors though I do remember learning a lot about British Constitution as he played tapes in the bedroom while learning about it for his A Level. But it was certainly he who told me about Saki (Hector Hugh Munro 1870-1916). I must have been about thirteen and GB eighteen when he began raving about Saki and ‘The Unbearable Bassington’. Not the foaming at the mouth type raving – just the being very enthusiastic type raving. As a result I picked up ‘The Square Egg and other stories’ and was equally hooked. I worked my way through many of his short stories. Even at that age I collected quotations and these were a couple of my favourites.
“There may have been many disillusionments in the lives of the medieval saints, but they would scarcely have been better pleased if they could have foreseen that their names would be associated chiefly with racehorses and the cheaper clarets.” (from ‘Reginald at the Carlton’)
“I'm living so far beyond my means that we may almost be said to be living apart." (from 'The Unbearable Bassington')
"Of whose intelligence in particular?" asked Tobermory coldly.
"Oh, well, mine for instance," said Mavis with a feeble laugh.
"You put me in an embarrassing position," said Tobermory, whose tone and attitude certainly did not suggest a shred of embarrassment. "When your inclusion in this house-party was suggested Sir Wilfrid protested that you were the most brainless woman of his acquaintance, and that there was a wide distinction between hospitality and the care of the feeble-minded. Lady Blemley replied that your lack of brain-power was the precise quality which had earned you your invitation, as you were the only person she could think of who might be idiotic enough to buy their old car. You know, the one they call 'The Envy of Sisyphus,' because it goes quite nicely up-hill if you push it.”
Sadly Munro was one of a number of authors who was killed in the trenches in World War One. There is an anthology by Tim Cross called "The Lost Voices of World War I: An International Anthology of Writers, Poets & Playwrights" with works by more than fifty authors who died in the four years of fighting in the Great War. It helps to make one aware of how much talent was lost when these young men died. To quote from a website on the subject 'Cross says, "A complete list of all poets, playwrights, writers, artists, architects and composers who died as a result of the First World War is an impossible task," but even so he has compiled a list of approximately 750 names. The list includes only people who had already accomplished something of note in their fields; we are left to ponder how many of the 9,000,000 young men lost in the war might have gone on to do great things in the arts, sciences, medicine, and politics.'
Only one week before the end of the war, whilst attempting to traverse the Sambre canal, the War Poet Wilfred Owen was shot and killed. The news of his death, on 4 November 1918, arrived at his parents' house in Shrewsbury on Armistice Day. For his courage and leadership in the October 1918 Joncourt action, Owen was awarded the Military Cross.